Wednesday, October 12, 2011

TV Ratings Race - ESPN At Kansas


Update: ESPN got a 2.3 overnight TV rating according to our friends at the Sports Business Journal. That is the same as the fourth race in the 2010 chase held in Fontana, CA. That will probably dip NASCAR below 4 million viewers when final ratings come out on Tuesday afternoon.

Update #2: Final TV rating grew to 3.1 cable households, allowing the total viewer number to top 4 million total. That is pretty stout up against the NFL.

We are getting some very interesting and thoughtful comments from readers, so this will continue as the lead story. I hope you will add your opinion to the conversation as well. Thanks.


Once again ESPN faced up to another race that centered around fuel mileage and little passing. Pit stops and race strategy were at a premium from start to finish.

Nicole Briscoe hosted a pre-race show that included one Sprint Cup Series driver in the Infield Pit Studio. If there was any doubt that Carl Edwards is going to be joining the NASCAR on ESPN telecast team in 2012, it should have been erased by that appearance.

Rusty Wallace and Brad Daugherty are often times more amusing than informative these days. Brad is the cheerleader and Rusty tries his best to address issues in the sport selected for him well in advance. Wallace and Daugherty did not look very happy that Carl Edwards was once again invading their territory.

Allen Bestwick knew early on this was going to be a race of survival. He changed from calling the laps to leading discussions on various topics and working the pit reporters and Tim Brewer on issues. There was little racing except on restarts and no accidents. It had that familiar smell.

After a Nationwide Series telecast that featured all kinds of changes, the Cup telecast stayed true to the script. Tight shots from the start and coverage that jumped from one car to another made it tough to watch. "Hyper-tight" is apparently here to stay.

Kudos to the pit reporters who have worked very hard in the last two races climbing up to talk with the crew chiefs as the race is going on. That is the perspective that is needed with this type of racing. Learning why decisions were made is super.

Petree was on his game and his analysis has been sharper this season than ever before. He has been with ESPN from the start and is a veteran of all these changes. Jarrett worked well, but Petree continues to set the pace in the TV booth.

A late caution allowed for some drama and a final dash to the finish. A Jimmie Johnson win sets-up some good stories for the media this week. A ten minute post-race left time for a solid set of interviews. ESPN left the air on time.

This post will serve to host your opinion of the ESPN coverage of the Sprint Cup Series race from Kansas Speedway. To add your comment, just click on the comments button below. Thanks for stopping by.

46 comments:

Buschseries61 said...

A very horrid race from laps 20-206 featuring the standard ESPN problems. The long green flag run bored ESPN, which bored the viewers at home.

ESPN & the drivers woke up and made the final 60 laps fun to watch. ESPN covered Jeff Gordon's problems and the finish of the race nicely. The post-race had plenty of interviews.

Jonathan said...

Yeah JD its a damn SHAME and im getting tired of this S*#T from ESPN! Whats going on here yesterdays Nationwide race was awsome all around great everything, then we get to today and ESPN gives us a crap broadcast from the same race track! Why is this??????? Whats the reason behind this? It just dosent make any logical sense...

AncientRacer said...

@Buschseries61:

Ditto

I'll only add I found the race boring mostly (if I am honest with myself) because it was a domination race with the wrong person dominating.

I know this is a true statement because I am never bored when KYBU dominates a race.

Maybe someone will park Weasley as KYBU did to someone in Homestead last year with his superb sacrifice block that ended Kyle's season in a literal ball of flame.

I should not wish for such things. I should be more sportsman like. I should. Maybe I will be able to tomorrow. Not today. Cannot be that way today.

Tim S. said...

Based on the live blog from Saturday, I regretted missing the race. Based on the live blog from Sunday, I am thrilled that I did not even turn on my TV.

saltsburgtrojanfan said...

Does ESPN realize that they will continue to lose viewers if they continue their horrid coverage.

sue said...

Was laughing today as the bspn talking points must have been Jimmie, Jimmie and more Jimmie. From the gushing during the prerace to throughout the race everything was Jimmie Jimmie and more Jimmie. BSPN must have loved the outcome. Unfortunately with the domination by
5 time many of us turned the station.

Anonymous said...

Nothing new with the Espn coverage today. Really a boring race. It would have stunk to high heaven if it weren't for the phony cautions. Brad,Rusty and Nicole are only good for 'bathroom breaks' for Andy and DJ. Just terrible reporting lap times and 2 vs 4 tire change for the key players throughout the race. Don't expect anything better for the remaining races. Will probably get even worse with a lot of overkill.

GinaV24 said...

boring race, boring coverage, boring chase. Oh look the 48 was the story today. yawn.

SD80MAC said...

BORRRRing!!! I thought for a while I was watching an F1 follow-the-leader race. Too few lead changes and just a tiny bit more action behind the leaders. Alan Bestwick, Andy Petree and Nicole Briscoe helped by providing what I thought was pretty good commentary on a lackluster race.

The highlight of the day for me was a pre-race tweet from Pete Pistone saying there was a possibility of more short track races being added to the NCWTS schedule.

Roland said...

The race was boring, the coverage lacked enough energy to keep me involved. I spaced out and spent the whole race on the laptop not paying attention. They say Carl Edwards had a big comeback, hell I didnt even know he was behind. It was just an dismal race.

Since I didnt pay attention to the coverage much, youd think I wouldnt have much to complain about. Wrong. Theres a few for sure. Jamie Little is terrible at interviews. And yes I know the victory lane microphone problem aint her fault. Every interview she does makes me cringe cause #1 she repeats her questions and #2 her questions are silly and #3 she makes lots of factual errors.

I mentioned it during the Nationwide race, but song choices for the buffer music going to break is atrocious. They even played some weird techno/pop stuff today. Lunacy.

And speaking of breaks there was a crap ton in the 2nd half of the race. They were in nonstop during green flag pit stops and several cautions. We spent half the second half in nonstop. Ridicoulous.

I enjoy Charlotte (despite its hideous yellow walls) so Ill be back next week ready to go.

John in Chico said...

Had our former pit crew over at the house today with the race on the big 55" and Race buddy on another monitor. Never paid attention to the race until the 24 went up in somke.
Caught the last two laps and got what we needed and reading the comments we didn't miss a thing.
We watched the Saturdays race(s) and the Jekyll and Hyde thing raised it's ugly head and instead of broadcasting a race today we got Hyper-tight shots that are totally unrelated and do nothing to tell the stroy. I thought that's what the show is about, tell the story.

sbaker17 said...

Tim S. said...
Based on the live blog from Saturday, I regretted missing the race. Based on the live blog from Sunday, I am thrilled that I did not even turn on my TV.

October 9, 2011 6:52 PM

Apparently the "S" is short for Smart

Garry said...

I wish NASCAR wouldn't have a bye week this late in the season. What's that? Oh. I was just informed that NASCAR did have a race yesterday. I tought I was watching paint dry.....

Michael Stoffel said...

Sunshine and 75 on an October Sunday afternoon? Sorry, NASCAR at Kansas loses that one.
I can't imagine anyone really bothering with watching, unless you're a shut-in.

MRM4 said...

Buschseries61 is dead on. The race was boring and ESPN was bored with it. Also, another fail for having Carl Edwards in the infield studio after the race when he was basically a non-factor all day.

Anonymous said...

ESPN coverage makes me miss Eli Gold and Glenn Jarrett on the old TNT network.

Ziggy said...

I watched the 1st 50 laps, turned down the sound for the next 200 laps, read the newspaper, then watched the last 17 laps. A typical cookie-cutter yawner with very little action.

Maybe they can bring in Bill Murray to add additional color to the commentary. At least he has experience in "Ground Hog Day" scenarios.

Anonymous said...

It was a really boring race. I got tired of hearing about JJ all day and it seemed like AB was zeroed in on JG and talked about him constantly. Most of the drivers don't know what real racing is and the media really doesn't either, it seems. Both drivers and announcers get mad and say so and so should or should have moved over. Heck, when would a real racer do that? There were a lot of drivers in the show that were never shown or mentioned. Even the scroll at top cut them off sometimes and that is very annoying. I totally dislike this time of year for watching whereas most of the year I can tolerate it.

Fed UP said...

Lets say that yesterday was a very productive day. I painted while listening to the tv occassionaly. IMO, Kansas and the rest of the tracks to come, except Talledega and Martinsville suffer from the same fate...boring, long races with fuel mileage the usual outcome.
I feel for bad for ESPN, I do...how can you make follow the leader exciting?

Sally said...

It really is puzzling how ESPN can cover the NNS race on Saturday and do such a fantastic job, then fall flat on their race on Sunday. By just covering the racing as it happened on Saturday, the kept me informed and interested the entire race. On Sunday, it was all about the 'chase', the few teams they chose to cover, and tight shots of individual cars hat do nothing to keep my interest in the race. It's hard to believe that the same network produced both programs.

fbu1 said...

After a few decades of being a race fan, I've sort of returned to my own roots. In the bad old days, one had to wait for the next issue of Road & Track to see if Dan Gurney did well or if Phil Hill finished ahead of Stirling Moss. My local newspapers didn't consider racing to be a sport worthy of coverage.

While still a race fan, I decided last spring that I had better things to do than schedule my life around racing broadcasts, especially when the coverage was so bad. I grew tired of the amped up hype and the forced enthusiasm of the various pre-race shows. Actual sports journalism is trumped by sponsor or network plugs and softball interviews. With the exception of Speed, the actual race coverage is consistently awful. IMHO, I consider the chase to be an artificial construct that compliments ESPN's insistence on following a pre-determined script So, I have not watched a whole race since April.

Perhaps all of the blather appeals to the desired under thirty demographic, but I find the lack of consistently good information to be shameful, especially when the networks have so many techie toys to play with. So, rather than allowing myself to get riled up, I stopped watching everything but the last few laps of the race. I glance at the live leaderboard on the 'net to keep track of the laps and tune into the race with 20 - 30 laps to go. Within the time frame of the descending laps, I congratulate myself for skipping the poor coverage.

If there was something interesting that I may have missed, I check my favorite racing sites, here and Jayski, to be informed. Shades of waiting for the Road & Track report.

old97fan said...

The race was boring except for restarts. Not ESPn's fault. The tight shots were back making it more boring. ESPN's fault Unlike previous races where others led and weren't on camera due to lack of action, we had a Hendrick driver out front so the camera stayed on the leader lap after lap. ESPN's fault and hypocrisy. Been watching racing since 1970 when I was a boy, both open wheel and Nascar on those rare occasions that it was replayed on one of the sports programs. Quit watching F1 about mid 90's. Quit watching Indy Car (except Indy 500) about the time of the CART lunacy. And after 40 years am about to follow a lot of my friends and quit watching Nascar. If something doesn't change with Nascar AND the coverage, I'm going to be out of here.

fsbk9 said...

Who is doing the pre-race commercial that was talking about good and great? I loved the comment that good celebrates with champagne and great drinks champagne like coffee. I saw a similar commercial last week before the race. The guy is sitting in the stands and takes off his sunglasses as he delivers his commentary. I need a copy of the commercial for a presentation. Can anyine help me out?

Kenn Fong said...

J. D.,

I only saw about 90 seconds of Sunday's Chase race, and from your comments and those of the Planeteers, I didn't miss much. Looks like the Stepford Driver is on track (hee hee) to win another Championship. Ho Hum. Watching paint dry is more exciting than listening to the Stepford Driver in his carefully scripted uncontroversial comments spoken in monotone.

Between the baseball playoffs and the NFL, I've got lots to occupy my time.

West Coast Kenny
Alameda, California

Daly Planet Editor said...

fsbk9, that is actor Ron Perlman.

Jake said...

I am a HUGE Jimmie Johnson fan and I love the fact that he has dominated the series for 5 years.... BUT the chase is extremely boring to watch on TV. If changes are not made to the chase format I will not watch next year. JJ will probably win 6 in a row but it's not fun to watch anymore.

KoHoSo said...

So many excellent and insightful comments above...I really cannot add to them as far as pointing out the foibles of what was presented to us.

All I will say is that I was really going to try to make it through all of the 2011 Cup races before deciding if NASCAR was worth my time anymore after 41 years of being a devoted fan. After what I saw at Kansas, I'll be lucky if this deteriorating love affair makes it past Martinsville.

Anonymous said...

I still keep up with nascar, but quit watching the races on espn due to the sorrow camera work. I know this has been said over and over, but who goes to a race and watches just one or two cars through binoculers? espn will have to produce a season of good races before I would trust them enough with my time again. nascar - I still hate your playoff, cookie cutter gas milage tracks, and car of trash. JD, love this site - thanks. MC

Anonymous said...
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Vicky D said...

This race once laps in and when the cars strung out got boring it was hard on the guys in the booth since not much was going on. I also have enjoyed AP I think DJ needs a pick me up sometimes. AP mentions pit stops and whether he thinks 2 or 4 tires will work better. Maybe Charlotte will be a more exciting race and higher viewership.

Stick with the Biff said...

if Ron Perlman had more of a 'leading man' face, everyone would know his name; heck of an actor. He wouldn't be in some TV show about a motorcycle gang.

anyways...even though it's not a ratings dip, it does look really sad. Of course, Kansas is nearly as boring as Cali so that doesn't help.

Kenny, you crack me up. Stepford Driver.

Garry said...

IMO, Kansas should NEVER have had a second date, and I'll go another step further: They should NEVER have any dates. Mile and a half tracks were built by the sponsors. If a camera follows a car around the track, it's essentially a 45 to 50 second commercial for them. Yawn. But there's a casino! Wow! That improved the racing! Clowns....

Buschseries61 said...

Sad ratings news JD. ABC/ESPN went from about 6 million viewers every week in the 2008 Chase to barely 4 million a week now in the 2011 Chase. The network lost two million viewers in three years.

It's not all ESPN's fault. For the second season in a row, ESPN lost nearly a million viewers once the Chase began. 4 races into the Chase, I have not felt the fun or intensity that NASCAR thought the Chase would provide.

I'm sure another round of finger pointing should start soon.

Anonymous said...

I am noticing that many HDTV television broadcast cameras have a remote pan, tilt and zoom feature via RS-232 cable and servo motor. My questions are: Is this a feature that did not exist/was not used in the pre-HDTV era? Has control of the zoom moved from the cameraman to the production truck? Is this to blame for the irresponsible use of the camera zoom feature during NASCAR telecasts?

OSBORNK said...

The race looked more like a tire test or a practice session than a race. If thre had not been the fake debris cautions, I think JJ would have lapped the field. Does anyone else wonder how a car can be so vastly superior to every other car in the field and still be legal?

bowlalpo said...

This will make me sound like I watch the races for the wrong reasons, but one of the "problems" is that the cars and tires are manufactured too well. Very few engine failures (sorry Jeff) and very few wrecks, almost no multi-car crashes this season. Not that I want to see them, and that does speak to the talent of the drivers. When they get it a little sideways, they usually straighten it out.

The lack of attrition by the leaders is augmented by the start-and-parks. I watched and listened to many races four years ago and earlier where the announcers would be quick to state that "all 43 cars that started this race are still on-track." Those extra 7 or 8 cars that the leaders don't have to negotiate provide a much clearer track.

Finally, I sense a feeling of "unionization" of the chase drivers as they do all they can to NOT rub while they race. Maybe I'm seeing it all wrong, or maybe that's the only thing TV is showing me.

The chase points battle is close, but it isn't great, unlike the Camping World Truck Series, where the points battle is both close and great.

For NSCS, like many, I'm waiting for Talladega and Martinsville to see if what I call this "pseudo-intensity" will continue.

Anonymous said...

Just wanted to come & say I've been making full use of the online NASCAR presence & NOT regular TV, so far this Chase I've only used RaceBuddy, twitter & WatchESPN to follow live action. I also subscribe to Trackpass. For me, RaceBuddy is THE BEST by far & away, I really love "riding" with the cars & seeing a whole race from that perspective right through Victory Lane when a featured driver wins!! Maybe it's the novelty which I'm sure will wear off but not yet! From what I've seen of the ESPN telecast via online, I feel for you who don't do these other options. I too am BAFFLED AS **** that the NNS race presentation is good & the Cup bad.

glenc1 said...

I hesitate to say this, but I think Bowlalpo has a point. They've become too good. I thought they had talked about making tires that wear more...obviously it's a fine line, we don't want another Brickyard fiasco. I don't care so much about seeing drivers wrecking each other, but let's face it, it does create a bit more action when they do. And that also goes to having so many wide 1 1/2 to 2 mile tracks that have so much room it's easier to stay away from each other. More short tracking would fix that, but I'm not holding my breath. I don't mind fuel mileage so much--to be honest, I think it's kind of exciting waiting to see who runs out of gas, but it gets old after so many. I expected the 'boom' to wear off, but I thought it would 'level off', not keep dropping. I don't think TV coverage is helping. There aren't many who seem to think that showing close ups of a couple of cars at a time is a good thing. ESPN has fixed a lot of the coverage issues, but that is still bad. And I really think Rusty & Brad are completely superfluous.

I haven't been blogging much during races since I've been multitasking with football. But I don't think much has changed.

Zetona said...

I agree entirely with Bowlalpo, and would like to add that the current car compounds the tire wear and start-and-park issues with its aero push, which keeps the cars some distance apart, and its unflappability: it is much more difficult to spin one of these cars out than the old-model cars, which you could spin out with nothing less than a tap from behind or having a car to your outside. Being hard to spin out is a GOOD THING, but it's gone too far. Combined with the lack of tire wear, it means very few cars even get noticeably loose on their own, even on worn tires, let alone spin out and cause a caution. And until we can figure out an aero package that eliminates aero push, more cautions are probably the best way to spice up the racing.

As for the TV ratings, they're going up, which is great. I feel like this season got a lot of momentum from its first half, with great stories like first-time winners, wild finishes and Junior's resurgence. I hope the fan interest doesn't dwindle because of these boring 1.5-miler races, and I really hope someone other than Jimmie wins the championship and provides a different storyline to keep everyone excited during the offseason.

Jonathan said...

Great to hear the ratings are up! Wonder how this Saturday night on ABC will do! Going to be interesting

I do wonder how much better that ratings would be if the broadcast was actually good. The Kansas race sucked in terms of coverage

Jonathan said...

Oh and Zetona the 1.5 mile tracks do provide great racing... the thing is ESPN seems to not want to show us that when it comes to the Sprint Cup. Zetona did you get to watch Saturdays Nationwide race from Kansas the same 1.5 mile track they raced on Sunday?

Well the race was awsome from start to finish... But they were showing the great battles all throughout the field and it was great. On sunday however it was back to the hyper tight camera work and that will make any race boring I dont care what track there on.

In my book there is not one "boring" race on the schedule... Yeah I may like some more than others but when you put 43 Nascar cars on any size track im going to be interested thats all

AncientRacer said...

What glenc1 offered about the drivers having become "too good" is interesting, but allow me to twist the light just a bit to add, I think, another aspect.

The Cup drivers are good. There is no question about it. As a group they are the best drivers our sport has ever had and individually they are better than nearly any of the (stock car or truck) drivers out there. If you want objective proof of that look at what happens when KYBU or Harvick or Edwards or Bwad, etc. go "slumming" (no whacks, please that's a joke) in the other series.

But the drivers must be taken in their own time frame. The Grand National, or Winston, or whatever top series drivers have always been the best of their respective day. Over a half century of watching them has taught me at least this fact.

What I think is wrong is the fetish NASCAR has with parity. Identical cars, highly restrictive rules, etc. all of which leads to homognenization and kills innovation. Gone are the days of Junior Johnson's "secret" engine. Nowadays Junior would be sitting on indefinite suspension permanently and so would a bunch of other guys from the day.

In my perfect world "boys have at it" would encompass the mechanics of the sport as well as the on-track part and it would begin with running the stock sheet metal of the model you are driving. If that is not as areo as possible, tough. Figure something out. Same with engines, drive trains or whatever. Let stock cars be stock cars.

My Daddy who was in the rocket business fell in love with NASCAR because he fell in love with the geniuses like Junior Johnson. He used to say that NASCAR was like what he and his colleagues did. When the needed to invent something for spaceflight they went and invented it. Like teflon, for example. And if it was useful it found its way into society in general. The same thing used to bhe true of stock cars. The things the "good ole boys" would invent to win races had a way of finding their way into the cars we drive --and the saying "win on Sunday, sell on Monday" had meaning.

This applies to the manufacturers, too. I think of the days when Mopar kept coming up with ever more innovative power plants. Then they made them stop. Would we, I wonder, even have hemis if not for Stck Car racing? Maybe or maybe not.

I sometimes, like now, sit and wonder, just what Chad Knaus might come up with if he were allowed to, but as it stands I will never know. "Oh! No!" the parity bugs will say. "It would be worse than now! He would win all the time forever!" Not so. Voldemort is, in my mind, dang close to being a genius of the old school, but his stuff would get copied and improved upon. There is always someone out there younger and faster as the gunfighters said -- and from that kind of innovation would come, I believe, better racing -- and I personally would benefit as some of those innovations eventually found their way to my car.

glenc1 said...

.... that was a very good analysis, AR, but I'm just afraid the horse is out of the barn and he's not going back in.

I do find it interesting though--people who compare the NFL & MLB and NASCAR. I've actually heard racing analysts question why people dislike the 48 team when they loved the domination of the Yankees or the Patriots...and I thought, 'huh?' I *hated* those teams, lol. I don't like one team winning all the time; I've just always been a fan of the underdog.

But Chad & the 48 team are doing exactly what they're supposed to do, and yes, I agree, they are masters at manipulating the parity to their advantage. I guess I just gave up on the idea of 'stock cars' long ago...I just can't see them every going back. I would like to see, and many have mentioned this, NASCAR loosen up the reins on some areas to allow for creativity. Less structure on the templates, perhaps.

BTW...there are *indeed* 'boring' races, Jonathan, not necessarily blaming the tracks. Perhaps before your time, but back in 1999 Dale Jarrett won a race at Michigan from the pole. I think maybe there were no cautions, or minimal ones. And even *Dale* (probably much to the horror of NASCAR) said in VL that he knew it probably wasn't very exciting for the fans. If the driver recognizes the occasional boring race, so can we. Sometimes it isn't just the bad camera work. I personally expect this, just as there are boring games in other sports. Not every one is going to be a barn burner. I just think it's wrong to completely ignore the possibility.

Garry said...

I think NASCAR inflated the numbers to justify having races at Yawnsas Speedway.

Anonymous said...

I believe Mad Mikie's spin on the numbers is a lot more accurate of what is going on in the live of nascar. bzf does not have a clue. Good thing he was born into it.

I am with AR all the way. MC

robbiejr said...

I wish someone would find out why TV viewership is up this year, especially in the face of the NFL. Somewhere, there's got to be a reason for this. And please, don't go to NASCAR or Brian France for an explanation. I'd rather here it from other sources. Think that's possible, Mr, Daly?