Thursday, March 1, 2012

Showtime Suspends NASCAR TV Show

It was January of 2010 during the Charlotte Media tour when Michael Waltrip ramped-up the drama a bit before confirming that he was going to join Showtime's new sports TV series called Inside NASCAR.

Waltrip's previous run on a NASCAR talk-show had been pretty impressive. The Monday night show on SPEED had various titles, but always presented an hour of original content and discussion about the sport that had been missing from TV on weekdays. After more than a decade on the air, the network had cancelled the latest version in 2009.

Despite only having about 17 million total pay subscribers, Showtime jumped into NASCAR with both feet. Major cable sports TV networks have over 80 million subscribers, but Showtime wanted to get into the NASCAR business. The sport's own NASCAR Media Group would provide the studio and production for the Charlotte-based show, but there was going to be an even bigger twist.

After years of struggling with Internet, cell phone and Video on Demand issues, Inside NASCAR was going to kick open the door to shared NASCAR TV programming.

This from Sports Business Journal reporter Michael Smith in late January of 2010 updating the original announcement:

"Showtime's new weekly Inside NASCAR show will be available via the Internet and mobile phone, which required clearance from NASCAR's rights holders in that space," reported Smith.

"The NASCAR Media Group, which manages those multimedia rights, had to clear the broadcast of Inside NASCAR with its TV, web and mobile partners before giving final approval for the new show."

Finally, a NASCAR TV series that could skip across all kinds of online and mobile platforms and get directly to the fans. In addition, Showtime said the series would be made available on the Showtime Video On Demand (VOD) channels on cable systems. Any way you sliced it, this was groundbreaking television.

It made sense, showing this program first to Showtime subscribers on Wednesday nights, then making it available to NASCAR fans via non-traditional platforms for distribution. What a great way to introduce Showtime to potentially new subscribers.

Unfortunately, it didn't take long for something to smell a little fishy. On January 26 of 2010, Showtime answered some questions about the new series. Their answers sounded very different from the original press release put out by NASCAR.

"Showtime Throws NASCAR A Curveball" was the TDP column that followed. Click on the title to read the column.

Via email, a Showtime rep commented on three key topics. First, the series would not be made available via mobile phones. Second, the reason for that was none of the content on Showtime was available by mobile phone. Finally, the only content posted on the Internet would be "teases" of the show. In reality, the only way to see Inside NASCAR was to subscribe to Showtime.

Despite these puzzling developments, the first season of Inside NASCAR went into production. The Wednesday night shows were played to the small number of Showtime subscribers nationwide who cared to watch sports.

After only one season of producing a high-end weekly hour of NASCAR TV, the network sliced the program to thirty minutes in 2011. It was clear that the return on the significant financial investment needed to produce this caliber of show was not working.

Last night, Showtime aired a one hour special Inside NASCAR focusing on the Daytona 500. This was the kick-off episode of season three. Showtime's PR release talked about the wonderful Daytona 500 and promoted exclusive scanner audio of Juan Montoya right before his fiery accident. But there were also some other words in the release.

"Regular weekly episodes will return in early September, the week before the final Race to the Chase event at Richmond International Speedway."

After only two full seasons, Showtime has suspended the Inside NASCAR show with a promise to return in six months. This is the same company that promised mobile phone distribution, Internet streaming and VOD availability of the very same product.

If Showtime decides to opt out completely after this season, the possibility exists that the NASCAR Media Group could shop this series to a national cable sports network. Currently, the NBC Cable Sports Network (the former VERSUS), the new CBS Sports Network (formerly CBS College Sports Net) and Discovery's Velocity network are actively seeking sports programming.

In the meantime, NASCAR fans who took the original advice of Showtime and subscribed to the service to see Inside NASCAR on Wednesdays in racing season are left in a lurch. This year, Showtime is one and done with NASCAR and has posted a "We will return in September" sign on the door.

Unfortunately, the network's track record of fulfilling promises where NASCAR fans are concerned is a little bit short of satisfactory.

We welcome your comments on this topic. To add your opinion, just click on the comments button below. Thank you for taking the time to stop by The Daly Planet.


sue said...

Well it seemed that it was doomed from the beginning. Big ideas that never materialized.

SnowdogBob said...

I have showtime and devour NASCAR info from the internet and sirius all day long, but never found a reason to tune into the program. The only thing that would get me to watch a magazine show would be long form interviews with NASCAR legends and behind the scenes with it's current stars, News is something I already get in a number of other formats long before NMG can package it up and put it on the air.

DaveM4210 said...

This is a shame. Or not. If NMG can sell the show to CBS, NBC or Velocity, it will get more viewers. I don't have and never have had Showtime. Or HBO or Cinemax, and I don't do pay VOD.. I never understood the reasoning for the show on a limited subscriber base subscription channel. I always liked the old show with IIRC, Allen Bestwick, Michael Waltrip, Ken Schrader and Johnny Benson. With the shenanigans that ESPN is pulling with NASCAR Now, I think there is a need for another weekly roundtable talk show about the past weekend's races. I hope one of the mentioned networks will quickly scoop it up and run with it. All three of them has the ability to rerun it various times during the week at different times, which I think will be a big improvement, especially if the bring back the old format and stars ( and yes, I know Bestwick can't be part of it).

Give it another chance with a network more people have, NMG@

Anonymous said...

Just a bad idea from the start. At this time, there are not enough people that can afford to spend money on a pay for view show. But the haves do not see that most people do not have spare money for non-essentials in this country, so they make decisions based on the belief everyone is like them across America. As for me, why do I want to watch (and pay for) another show that offers more fluff and toes and sells the nascar mantra? MC

Anonymous said...

What a shame. Their "Behind the Wheel" segments were outstanding. Hearing the uncensored raw emotions of the drivers was something to which I looked forward each week.

ddsbstrb said...

How can we all possibly get by, without this half-hour of Waltrip?

Oh, sorry, I forgot we now get a full Sunday afternoon of both of them [JAWS & the other one!]

Anonymous said...

Showtime has some of the best programming on television. Shows such as Dexter, Shameless, Californication, and Inside The NFL play to large audiences every week. Bottom line, if the show is worth watching people will watch it

AncientRacer said...

ddsbstrb said...
How can we all possibly get by, without this half-hour of Waltrip?


Veri Words: "iseek rreguvis" Man, am I ever getting some winners lately. This phrase is, I believe, a line from Star Wars, Part VII: The Rise and Fall of King Jar-Jar

RPM said...

"What a shame. Their "Behind the Wheel" segments were outstanding. Hearing the uncensored raw emotions of the drivers was something to which I looked forward each week."

My sentiments exactly. I really like the first season of Inside NASCAR. I was already a Showtime subscriber so it was a bonus for me. People complaining about it being on a pay network always struck me as odd. Nobody complains about Real Sports being on HBO or Inside the NFL being on Showtime. It was just additional programming available for fans.

I hope somebody picks this show up and it retains it's unfiltered opinions. I doubt we will continue to hear unfiltered audio, tho. Any show that doesn't force Chris Meyers to act like an uninformed Bozo is alright with me.

Anonymous said...

Nascar fans are cheap.......I don't care what people say, blah blah blah ecomony this economy that....nascar fans these days want everything for free and can't believe they would dare charge for ANYTHING. That old speed show people was so boring and dry I'm surprised the panel members didn't fall asleep while taping it! I love inside nascar but people gotta realize that ratings for weekly nascar shows have always been terrible, yes even IWC! Nobody but super hardcores watched it much like this show

Dannyboy said...

Last year as part of my first contract with DirecTV, I got a year of free Showtime. "Great!" I said to myself, "Now I can watch Inside NASCAR". It was the first season of 30 minute shows. As I usually DVRed it, I found myself ffwd-ing thru most of the race highlights since I'd already seen RH and NN, if not the race. Nevertheless, I was really impressed with the "NFL Films"-quality of the production. My main reason for watching was the discussions among the panelists, especially when there were differing opinions. These provided some real insight into how things can be viewed differently by different people, even those who are "Inside NASCAR".

My free subscription is about to run out, and I was not planning on renewing it, since the rest of Showtime programming consists largely of really bad movies that nobody ever heard of.

I guess now that it has been "suspended", I'll not be missing anything. Thanks, Showtime!

Dot said...

I have Showtime and didn't watch Inside nascar often. I didn't like the set, format(and again with the suits) or the hosts. My favorite part though was Behind The Wheel. When I did watch it, I'd FF all but that. I too, hope that part of it gets shown somewhere.

Why is it that the ball sports have many shows (even during their off season) and we can't get one good one? Oh wait, we used to have one good one, until SPEED cancelled it. I still miss the boys on Mondays.

toomuchcountry said...

Noticed the 2012 Darlington race is now just shown as the Southern 500 on the track's website + many others. On, its titled as the "Darlington 500". I believe it was known as the Southern 500 Presented By Showtime the last 2 years. Not sure if the Showtime race sponsorship was a year-to-year deal or not. But its clear they've backed away from the sport. Wouldn't hold my breath waiting for a fall return.

Scott said...

I liked Inside Nascar but primarily because of the uncensored replays, and as someone else mentioned, the quality of the footage, the NFL Films touch. Great footage we DIDN'T see during the race of cars and crew chiefs and crew members, great slow-mo shots of a car making a corner leaving that little trace of rubber behind it on the track surface, a crew chief slamming a clipboard against something on the pit wagon and emoting because of a wreck or a horribly timed yellow for them. Hearing the raw emotion you would were you at the track with your scanner running and feeding you the running commentary of the key players. Something you can at least get a little of thanks to Nationwide who so generously provides us with that capability for one team at a time during their races on (Danica can cuss with the big boys!) I like to hear that raw emotion during their version of combat, things you don't hear once they have to compose themselves for the cameras and recorders once they come in, as Dale Jr. forgot to do the last time he won at Talladega and expressed himself a little too enthusiastically, picking up penalties in the process.

Having said that, I had little use for the majority of the "suits". I like Kyle Petty on there along with one or two others since Kyle expresses his points of view strongly, who isn't afraid to say what is on his mind, which despite what you see in people’s comments to him on Twitter are usually well thought out. He's not afraid to admit he may have been wrong about something. Don't need Brad. Don't need Mikey. It would be a great show for Ricky Craven. I didn’t like it when they went to half an hour last year. I'm even sadder to hear we won’t even get that now. Showtime’s been by far in my mind the best subscription channel with the likes of Homeland, Dexter, Shameless, etc. I think they made a mistake in pulling this one.

GinaV24 said...

although the concept of this show sounded good to me when it was talked about, it simply wasn't worth the $ to me to subscribe to showtime just to see it. Mikey and Brad don't interest me enough that I'd pay for one show.

I'm not surprised to hear this has been suspended. It's a dollars and cents deal and not enough people were willing to pay for it.

I really liked the "beyond the wheel" pieces that the NMG group produced and played on speed a few years ago. I'd pay to own the shows "The Day" that they produced this season, those were great.

I'm not willing to pay $ to listen to Mikey and Brad - I get enough of both of them on my regular cable programming.

Purple Crayon said...

I just learned about this decision because I had to google it to figure out why Inside NASCAR wasn't showing up on my TV schedule. I'm really disappointed.

I'm probably in the minority, but I used to love IWC on Speed (yeah, nice job canceling that, Speed) and I started subscribing to Showtime ONLY for Inside NASCAR. Guess I can cancel it now, at least for the next six months.

I agree with the positive comments above - love the uncensored audio, great production, and it was a nice capsulized version of the race. An hour a week was just the right length.

So now what? I can't think of anything comparable on Speed. Their shows are okay, but I can't devote an hour a day to Race Hub.

Titus Vorenus said...

Bye Bye Showtime. I am dumping you!

KyleBurns said...

YOU SUCK SHOWTIME! I loved Inside NASCAR. I've already cancelled my Showtime subscription.

Anonymous said...

I'm with purple crayon as in the with the coolness of the uncensored audio and everything. Sucks how they somewhat left us hanging.

Anonymous said...

The show was better when it was on SPEEDTV. I was glad Showtime picked it up after SPEEDTV dropped it. When they shortened it from 60 minutes to 30 minutes I knew it was doomed. I wish SPEEDTV would bring it back.

Anonymous said...

Dumb the most watched sporting event is NASCAR for the fans who love the drama door to door action live breath dream NASCAR inside NASCAR was a really great program the uninsured audio listening to drivers say how they felt was bad ass even great info for the next race Showtime I think you screwed up and buy the TNT NASCAR is not for you they screw it all up go back to Fox and way less commercials would be even better....