Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Numbers Tell The Tale

ESPN updated the weekend ratings from the Sprint Cup Series race at Martinsville. Here is the info:

ESPN’s live telecast of the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway on Sunday, Oct. 28, earned a 2.8 household coverage rating (2.4 U.S. rating), averaging 3,617,199 viewers, according to the Nielsen Company. Last year’s telecast earned a 3.6 household coverage rating, while the rating was the same as the 2010 race telecast. (via pressdog).

That puts the final TV rating down some 22% from the previous year.

Click here to view the Jayski TV ratings page for the entire 2012 Sprint Cup Series.

Texas is up next for ESPN. As we discussed here in several past columns, the Chase has handcuffed the TV coverage into a single storyline and the NASCAR fans and sports TV viewers are not buying it.

Talking about this topic does not make us bad NASCAR fans or enemies of the sport. As Mike Helton said in his Sunday interview on SPEED's Wind Tunnel, things tend to go in cycles with motorports and NASCAR is working on various changes to help the current negative cycle end.

This big dip in the TV ratings, despite the fact Dale Earnhardt Jr. raced and the small track made for good TV pictures, should certainly be a wake-up call. It's time to talk about making things better in terms of the final product delivered to TV viewers.

ESPN still has 11 on-air voices trying for air time in an event with no time-outs. Even with Tim Brewer and his Tech Garage parked, ESPN's attempts to integrate all these personalities on a short-track telecast was rough. Add-in the sponsored elements and in-program promo's and the result is short segment of coverage leading again to a commercial of at least two minutes in length.

Click here for a link to our friend Cheryl and her website. It shows ESPN ran 31 of the 56 minutes of total commercials in the full-screen format. On this size track and with the Chase playoff in progress, there is little doubt that all commercial breaks during green flag racing need to be shown in the side-by-side format that is called ESPN Nonstop.

NASCAR will never defeat the NFL for total viewers because of the home team factor and the vast difference in the TV dynamics of the two sports. What perhaps could be done is to bring NASCAR into the current sports TV viewing culture by making substantive changes in the presentation of the Chase races on TV.

After the numbers for Martinsville, it certainly makes some sense to look at a wide variety of items to stem this tide of lost viewers. We welcome your opinion on this topic. Comments may be moderated prior to posting. Thanks for stopping by The Daly Planet.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

NASCAR In The Red Zone

The Chase for the Championship was the response of NASCAR to the competition on Sunday afternoons with the National Football League. At the time, the focus was on trying to draw attention away from the regional NFL games with a national playoff format.

The picture above is from the NFL's response to local TV stations locking viewers into two pre-selected games in their market. The NFL Red Zone is offered on both satellite and cable TV for a small monthly fee. It runs on football Sundays throughout the early and late afternoon games.

Simply put, the folks at the Red Zone watch all the games in all the markets and swing the coverage to every key moment of every single game. At first glance it's a bit overwhelming, but then reality hits. The NFL has the ultimate remote control and you are watching them use it.

When two moments are unfolding, they simply use two video boxes. When there is a need for more, as with the picture above, they simply add another. Basically, the picture-in-picture function is controlled for the viewer. During the entire time a Sunday afternoon Sprint Cup Series Chase race is running, the Red Zone is working to keep NFL fans entertained by providing out-of-market game content.

Meanwhile, NASCAR is offering a single TV telecast with some isolated cameras and in-car feeds available online. The single channel produced for viewers is interrupted by commercials roughly one-third of the entire program time while the event is in progress. By simply paying a small fee for service, the NFL solved that problem. The Red Zone has no commercial interruptions.

In a recent TDP post titled "The Art of the Spectacle," the comparison was made between the era of the non-Chase format and today's made-for-TV NASCAR playoff. When the Chase was created, it mirrored some other pro sports like PGA Golf that also tried to create an internal playoff structure in response to the NFL season.

A short time ago, NASCAR reached a new TV deal with FOX Sports. By negotiating inside an exclusive "window" of time available only to existing TV partners, both NASCAR and FOX got what they wanted. FOX landed 13 Sprint Cup Series races filling a time in the network schedule without other pro sports. NASCAR set a solid financial foundation for the future of the tracks and the sanctioning body.

What is left dangling in the wind is the Chase. ESPN has decided not to negotiate inside the exclusive period and instead wait until 2013. That network televises the final 17 Sprint Cup Series races, including the entire Chase. The current TV contract ends after the 2014 season.

With the FOX deal now in hand, it might be a very good time to address the reality of the Chase. A time period now exists where NASCAR could again ponder the season points and championship structure. Just like when the original changes happened, the entire idea would be to better serve the sport and the fans.

In today's fickle and high-tech world, there are few TV viewers who are willing to devote over three hours to a single event. Even the regional NFL games reflect the network's awareness of this with the heavy amount of cut-ins for highlights of other games. The effort to keep the attention of the sports TV viewer has never been greater.

During the Chase races, despite the reality of a full field of cars running at speed, the perception on TV is that only twelve cars really matter. It isn't a failure on the part of the TV network showing the race, it is a function of the made-for-TV format originally created to battle pro football.

Just as the NFL has innovated with the Red Zone channel to serve viewers, NASCAR needs to innovate with the part of the Sprint Cup Series season that competes with football. Perhaps the place to start is to return the individual racing weekends to prominence. Allow the races to become the star and the season points to be allocated in whatever fashion after the Victory Lane and pit road interviews.

This puts the promotion, the hype and the rivalries back in the spotlight without the horse collar of the Chase choking-off the tension and stories built up during the season with an arbitrary cut-off for contention. It lets the simmering pot of the NASCAR year continue to heat up as all the drivers now have a chance to be a star after September.

It also dismantles the star system within the multi-car teams as the best resources and manpower can now remain intact instead of being pointed toward the Chase contender or contenders within the company. The emphasis on making all the teams relevant also returns the ability of the media corps to feature them all once again.

Finally, the fans of the drivers and teams outside of the Chase are formally handed an invitation by NASCAR to depart until next February and watch the NFL for the final ten weeks of the season. TV will not and seemingly cannot find a way to update, report or feature non-Chasers even when in contention for a race win. With 12 cars in and 30 cars out, the Chase math is not hard to follow.

2013 offers NASCAR a unique window to do some research and development. It's essentially the beginning of a two-season lame duck period of the existing TV contract. With the FOX deal now done, NASCAR knows the remaining sports TV players will come calling when the time is right. The financial risk is long gone.

What's the harm in taking the temperature of the teams, networks and fans where the Chase is concerned and making some changes? This window of opportunity will not come again and certainly ESPN would like to see higher ratings in the two remaining seasons for the final ten races. An experiment that works would yield significant benefits for everyone concerned.

One thing is for sure, the NFL will be working hard again next season to sharpen its technology and delivery of live content to fans. Maybe NASCAR can seize this opportunity to use the strength of its drivers, tracks and rivalries to bring back those fans who walked away despite the best intentions of the Chase.

We invite your opinion on this topic. Comments may be moderated prior to posting.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

NASCAR Out Of "The Job" (Updated)

Updated Saturday 10/20: As with so many reality shows, there is a big difference between what is planned and what come to fruition. NASCAR has informed us they have decided not to participate in The Job reality series this season. No reason given, but it is a done deal.

It's that time of year and a new slew of "scripted reality" TV shows are cranking up once again to entertain America. This time it's not Undercover Boss but a new series in which NASCAR is participating. It is time to find out who gets The Job.

Here is the scoop from CBS:

The series, produced by Emmy Award winners Michael Davies (“Who Wants to be a Millionaire”) and Mark Burnett (“Survivor,” “The Voice”), gives candidates selected from around the country a chance to win dynamic positions with potential for enormous growth at some of America’s most iconic companies.

Guided by Emmy Award nominee Lisa Ling (“The View”), the country’s best and brightest compete in a compelling and challenging competition for a dream job at their dream company in industries such as fashion, game design, sports, travel and entertainment.

The Job has a Twitter account, a Facebook page and an opportunity to once again expose NASCAR on TV in primetime. These scripted reality shows are called that because they "set-up" situations and many times use scripted elements to create tension. Nothing is spontaneous. Most importantly, these types of shows create cheap programming for the producers. No union fees with this group.

Here is how entertainment reporter Joe Adalian from described the show:

The idea behind the show: Five qualified folks, chosen from an applicant pool of thousands, compete for a chance to win a gig at a well-known company. Each week will feature a different batch of contestants and, we assume, a new company (shades of Undercover Boss, sans the undercover part).

Casting calls have already taken place in both Los Angeles and New York. It has yet to be revealed what the five candidates will have to do to get The Job, but these shows almost universally have the same result. A "personality" who desires an opportunity for a bigger stage and a media presence wins and then fades quickly when facing the reality of the actual job.

The irony is there are lots of folks working hard in the social media and marketing field right now who would legitimately benefit from the opportunity to work in a professional atmosphere. Click here for the TDP post from July titled "When Media and Marketing Collide."

The winner of this reality show will be working for NASCAR in Charlotte. Here are some of the details on where, what and why from a NASCAR media release:

“The Fan and Media Engagement Center will leverage industry-leading technology in order to better engage with the massive community that is the NASCAR fan base,” said Steve Phelps, NASCAR senior vice president and chief marketing officer. “This is a clear example of our commitment to using cutting-edge technology to better inform our sport. Ultimately, this tool will help our industry connect with media and fans more effectively and efficiently.”

Measurement also will be a key function of the Fan and Media Engagement Center. Those capabilities will expand across qualitative and quantitative measurements and include tonality, volume, proximity and other coverage attributes in regular reports the FMEC will generate.

The center will be staffed and managed by the NASCAR Integrated Marketing Communications team. Located on the same floor as in offices at NASCAR Plaza in Charlotte, N.C., the FMEC is slated for testing in October, with a full rollout expected by the start of the 2013 NASCAR season. The center will be housed in a 500-square-foot, glass-enclosed area, outfitted with state-of-the-art touch screens, television monitors and multiple seated viewing areas and work stations.

So, keep your eyes peeled for a new show this winter that will probably have a lot of NASCAR hype surrounding it. Now you know exactly what it is, where it came from and what it is about.

We invite your opinion on this topic. Comments may be moderate prior to posting.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Oh No Daddy! (Updated Friday 10/19)

2nd Update Friday 10/19: ESPN's Women's themed website has lept to Danica's defense with an article from motorsports veteran Brant James. Click here to read about Go Daddy saying just how much they value the Danica "brand."

Update: This Daly Planet column was first published back in June. Click here for a current story in USA Today reinforcing the fact that Patrick has not been seen in new Go Daddy ads since the company switched advertising agencies. Patrick is ready to drive full-time in the Sprint Cup Series next season. There are also some great reader comments from the time of the original posting. Feel free to add your opinion.

The images are burned into the minds of motorsports fans nationwide. Danica Patrick and her GoDaddy girlfriends pushing sexual innuendo across the TV screen. Danica and the stripping cop, Danica taking a shower and Danica joking about keeping her "beaver" safe are just a few of the tasteless offerings.

The engineer of the economic train that ultimately brought Patrick to NASCAR is Bob Parsons, the man pictured above. The founder of GoDaddy might be the ultimate creep to many, but like most self-made billionaires he sees himself as above it all. It's just a game to him driven by sales.

Last summer Parsons finally cashed out of GoDaddy in a deal that saw a group of private equity firms pay a total of $2.5 billion for the company. Parsons stepped aside from running the day-to-day operations and Warren Adelman became the company's new chief executive. Parsons remained connected to the new group and is being called executive chairman.

Little changed immediately, but Adelman has been dropping hints that the company is planning to go in a different direction. Not in terms of changing it's basic service of registering Internet domain names, but in presenting the overall image of the company to the public. Now, that change has begun.

Tuesday the New York Times confirmed that GoDaddy has hired a prestigious advertising agency called Deutsch New York to reshape the company's image. The rebranding will begin immediately with the first new TV commercials airing later this summer in sporting events including the Summer Olympics.

Click here to read the full story from New York Times media reporter Stuart Elliott.

The chief executive at Deutsch New York is quoted as saying GoDaddy did a "terrific job generating awareness." That same chief executive, who will now be in charge of the Internet company's new TV commercials, also called the older ads disruptive.

The chief executive of Deutsch New York, called one of the most powerful people in TV advertising, is a woman named Valerie DiFebo.

Elliott asked her to comment on the current GoDaddy ad campaign:

"As a woman, is it my favorite work?” she asked rhetorically, then replied, “No.”

On the topic of the future of the GoDaddy Girls:

They "will still have a role, but more in balance with what the brand has to offer," said DiFebo.

On the theme of the new ads for the company:

"The ads will tell more of a story about GoDaddy’s technology rather than entice consumers with appeals like 'To see more skin, click here,'" she added.

While Patrick and her management team have worked to broaden her commercial appeal, GoDaddy is the foundation that funded her current Nationwide Series ride and was said to be poised to continue that funding for a full time Sprint Cup Series team.

The immediate effect of this change in GoDaddy's philosophy and advertising is that Patrick's presence on TV will be reduced dramatically in just the next few weeks as the company shifts to the new commercials and image campaign. So no more body painting, dangling bikini's or veiled threats of nudity during NASCAR races.

The sport has seen a wide variety of sponsors come and go. The big question on the table is just how long Patrick's current GoDaddy contract is at this point and whether the rumored shift to the Sprint Cup Series next season is still in the works.

It won't make much sense for GoDaddy to play in NASCAR if the driver is not actively part of the company's rebranded ad campaign. This story has a lot more to be revealed over the next few weeks. Ironically, those words sound familiar.

We invite your opinion on this topic. Comments may be moderated prior to posting.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

The Anatomy Of A Deal

It's going to be quite a while before that smile leaves the face of NASCAR Chairman Brian France. Amid a rapidly changing sports TV market desperate for product, France struck the motherload.

Here is the full announcement with all the available details provided by both NASCAR and FOX about the new multi-year agreement between the two parties. Read it carefully, as this agreement not only covers the future of the Sprint and Camping World Truck Series, it also previews the changes coming as SPEED TV becomes the FOX Sports 1 cable sports network.

With two full seasons left on their current television contract, NASCAR and FOX Sports Media Group (FSMG) announced today (Monday) an extensive new eight-year, multiplatform media rights agreement that ensures FSMG’s broadcast of NASCAR racing through 2022.

Under terms of the new agreement, FSMG also significantly increases its digital rights to include “TV Everywhere” live race streaming of its portion of the season for the first time ever beginning in 2013.

“NASCAR has been in very good hands and has enjoyed tremendous success the last 12 years in large part because of our fantastic partnership with FOX and FOX Sports Media Group,” said NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France. “We are thrilled to be able to extend our relationship in such a significant way for our track partners, race teams, and most importantly, our millions of loyal and passionate fans. This extension with FOX Sports Media Group helps position the sport for future growth as NASCAR continues to be an anchor with one of the world’s largest and most influential media companies.”

As part of the new agreement, which takes effect in 2015, FSMG retains the television rights to 13 consecutive NASCAR Sprint Cup Series points races beginning each year with the prestigious Daytona 500. In addition, FSMG retains the rights to the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race, the Daytona Shootout, the Duel at Daytona, the entire NASCAR Camping World Truck Series season and practice and qualifying for both the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series and the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series races that FSMG broadcasts.

“We’re extremely happy to have worked closely with Brian and his team at NASCAR over the last few months to expand and extend our relationship for what is without question the most popular motorsport in the country,” said FSMG Co-Presidents and CEOs Eric Shanks and Randy Freer. “NASCAR has been a staple at FOX for more than a decade and we consider it one of the signature sports we cover. With our commitment renewed, we look forward to presenting NASCAR thoroughly, professionally and creatively for many years to come.”

On the digital front, FSMG gains “TV Everywhere” rights starting next season to live stream all FSMG races, along with pre- and post-race coverage, race highlights and in-progress race highlights to events it televises. This portion of the deal was made possible by NASCAR’s reacquisition of operational, business and editorial control of its digital platform, a move that takes effect on Jan. 1, 2013.

“NASCAR fans’ demand and desire for NASCAR content stretches across all platforms and distribution channels,” France said. “As we’ve done with this FSMG extension, we will continue to take the appropriate measures to ensure our fans have access to the sport wherever they are and through all available devices. NASCAR is one of the most accessible sports in the world and this new deal builds upon that in a very significant way.”

FSMG’s new and expanded television and digital media rights agreement with NASCAR includes, but is not limited to:

- An eight-year term from 2015 to 2022. The current FSMG/NASCAR rights agreement began in 2006 and runs through 2014

- Thirteen (13) consecutive points races beginning with the Daytona 500 on FOX

- The Daytona Shootout; Duel at Daytona; NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race; and Daytona 500 Qualifying

- Full NASCAR Camping World Truck Series season

- Right to televise all practice and qualifying sessions for FSMG races

- Ability to re-telecast races on a FOX network and via video-on-demand (VOD) for 24 hours

- Right to ancillary programming including, but not limited to, a nightly NASCAR news and information show as well as weekend at-track shows

- Right to NASCAR branded pre- and post-race shows

- Extensive digital rights beginning in 2013, including:

- TV Everywhere – live digital distribution of all races FSMG has rights to broadcast

- Pre- and post-race coverage

- Race highlights

- In-progress race highlights

- Replays of FOX-televised races

For this agreement, FOX will pay $300 million annually for eight years. That would be a total of $2.4 billion. This is an increase of 33% over the existing contract, but there are some items to note.

While FOX describes the fact that it can offer streaming of races for digital devices in the new agreement, media reporter Joe Flint of the LA Times notes that NASCAR fans will have to be a subscriber of a pay-TV provider to access that content. There is little doubt that provider will be the new FOX Sports 1 network.

As regular readers of this blog know, there is no love lost at the moment between NASCAR and Turner Sports. A nasty fight over digital issues saw NASCAR wind-up spending tens of millions of dollars to buy back its own online rights. NASCAR likes to cash checks, not write them.

The new FOX agreement paves the way for FOX to possibly buy the rights to the races currently in the TNT package and present that "summer six pack" on FOX Sports 1. Remember, those races are already being seen on a cable TV network. In theory, it would just be a channel change for fans. In reality, NASCAR would love it.

Finally, the clear language in the agreement surrounding practice and qualifying sessions speaks to those races being televised by FOX. As we mentioned in past weeks, TNT has never carried those sessions and ESPN has been hit and miss at best for that network's races.

It would be improbable to believe that FOX would want a branded network like FOX Sports 1 to carry the practice and qualifying sessions for races on TNT and ESPN. Under the SPEED banner, it made sense as the network was dedicated to motorsports in theory. That is about to change.

Finally, what becomes of shows like RaceDay and Victory Lane? In the New World Order, RaceDay would spend two hours promoting a race airing on TNT or ESPN once the FOX portion of the season is done. Tough to believe FOX Sports 1 would actively promote a Sprint Cup Series race running against NFL football on the FOX Broadcast Network.

It's going to be interesting to watch all this shake out, but one thing is clear. FOX has moved into the national cable sports business in a big way and used NASCAR to bring a large body of content to it's new network.

Despite it's ongoing issues, NASCAR struck paydirt with FOX. ESPN and TNT chose to pass on these early negotiations and will not make their intentions known until several months into the 2013 season.

We welcome your opinion on this topic. Comments may be moderated prior to posting.

Friday, October 12, 2012

NASCAR Classic: Field Of Streams

The murky world of online video streaming has been something that NASCAR had avoided. From the start of the existing NASCAR TV contract in 2007, online streaming of actual races was simply not allowed. NASCAR went for the money and sold all the digital rights to the sport, including the ability to stream content online, to Turner Sports.

Over the past several seasons some limited video offerings like RaceBuddy crept into the picture but actual races were never shown, only isolated cameras. ESPN offers the WatchESPN app, but all that does is allow existing ESPN subscribers access to the network's various feeds online.

Now things are about to change. The new guard at NASCAR bought back the digital rights this January, several years before the existing contract was about to end with Turner. While NASCAR may have been several million dollars lighter in the wallet, the move was long overdue. NASCAR will launch a new official website and an entirely new digital strategy in 2013.

A key part of this rollout will be complete NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races streamed online. But how these races will be made available is the issue. Click here for a recent USA Today article where new FOX Sports Media Group executive Eric Shanks says that FOX will begin streaming its Sprint Cup Series races next season.

While ESPN and TNT are cable networks to which viewers must pay and subscribe, FOX is an FCC regulated over-the-air broadcast network that operates with local stations nationwide distributing its content. The issue has long been that live streaming of races, even if controlled by zip code only to the US, would not be able to carry the same commercial inventory sold for TV.

Former FOX Sports chief David Hill said the local TV stations would revolt if the NASCAR product they carried was also available online. He also said it would ruin the ability of FOX to make back the money it paid to get NASCAR through national TV ad sales.

Having the new management group at FOX confirm streaming for 2013 in whatever form is one of the most significant improvements in terms of digital technology the sport has ever seen. Finally, the Daytona 500 on your iPad or android phone. After all these years of digital disaster, the sport is waking up.

If Shanks is kicking the door open, it is going to be up to NASCAR to decide if another audience is going to be served. There are folks who would pay a small fee to view a Sprint Cup Series race online from start to finish without commercials. NASCAR currently provides such a feed for TV viewers outside of the US called the world feed.

Since US commercials cannot be shown in other countries for obvious reasons, there has been a world feed for several years originating for Cup races. The idea would be to package the commercial-free races either as an entire season or a la carte for digital users to access. It would be no different from the current Trackpass and Raceview packages now offered by NASCAR, but this time it would be actual race video.

What this does is open the door to a new group of fans who want to interact with more than just a three hour live TV telecast where perhaps a bored announcer reads some fan tweets on the air. The younger set wants all the digital technology bundled, a social media-friendly platform available and the live video with no commercials.

As the off-season begins, details of what NASCAR will offer next season in terms of online video will certainly emerge. Hopefully, there will be a full slate of offerings outside of the content controlled by and limited to the existing TV partner websites and apps. It will be important to get as much news and "support programming" online as well. Imagine the Friday activity from the tracks streamed for free to build interest for the weekend races.

It probably should have happened years ago, but give NASCAR credit for taking control and working to get the digital side of the business organized. This story will continue to unfold over the next three months leading up to Daytona.

We welcome your opinion on this topic. Comments may be moderated prior to posting.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

NASCAR TV: The Cart Before The Horse

The word is on the street that FOX Sports is back in the driver's seat with NASCAR. The Sports Business Journal suggests that FOX is about to announce a new TV contract with the sanctioning body. The current agreement expires at the end of 2014.

It's pretty easy to understand why FOX wants to get this deal done. The company is about to kill the cable network we now know as SPEED. FOX uses words like "rebranding" to explain this change, but the bottom line is that the only TV network originally dedicated to motorsports has failed.

Once NASCAR allows FOX to sign on the dotted line for Sprint Cup Series races, SPEED will become the FOX Sports 1 cable network and carry sports of all types. The implied promise by FOX to NASCAR is that there will still be NASCAR programming on the new network. Unfortunately, history tells a different tale.

The very reason SPEED moved from Stamford, CT to Charlotte, NC years ago was to become the official NASCAR cable TV network. Prior to that transition, SpeedVision carried a variety of programming related to cars, boats, planes and motorcycles.  The new company buying the network made no bones about the fact their agenda was NASCAR. That company was FOX.

FOX was so committed to NASCAR that it became a partner in the official TV production arm of the sport, then called NASCAR Images. It was all going to be so perfect. FOX would continue to carry live Sprint Cup Series races, be a partner with NASCAR in TV production and open a 24 hour cable TV network to show those programs.

Well, a funny thing happened on the way to NASCAR nirvana. Things quickly fell apart. FOX and NASCAR quietly parted company in the ownership of NASCAR Images. SPEED's management parade then saw an eroding of the commitment to motorsports and the rise of reality/lifestyle programming.

Ultimately, SPEED became a two-headed monster that made no sense. Motorsports on Friday through Sunday and some of the worst reality and lifestyle programming ever produced for American television on Monday through Thursday. All the while, the SPEED management never saw the big picture.

Now, it's NASCAR's turn to either remember the past or get burned by it. Once FOX has a signed deal for the Sprint Cup Series events, there is absolutely no incentive for the company to make NASCAR programming a priority for the new FOX Sports 1 network. As veteran fans know, this type of support or shoulder programming is vital to the sport.

From January through November, SPEED is the official TV network of NASCAR. Even without a Sprint Cup Series points race or any Nationwide Series events, SPEED is NASCAR's most important TV partner. Whether it is practice, qualifying or pre and post-race programming no network comes close to SPEED.

The network has single-handedly kept the Camping World Truck Series alive with sparkling old school coverage aimed directly at the TV viewer. Free from agendas and full of characters, SPEED makes the rag-tag series come to life with hardcore coverage of just plain racing.

The new agenda of FOX Sports is to use the millions of homes already subscribed to SPEED as a platform to chase the ESPN franchise and revenue stream by developing the FOX Sports 1 network. Broadening the agenda of the new network by adding mainstream sports like Major League Baseball, college football and news will deeply affect motorsports in general.

In the current TV deal, NASCAR went for the dollars and the results were not good. The sanctioning body was forced to buy back it's own digital (online) rights from TV partner Turner. ESPN has buried the Nationwide Series every year once college football begins and the network's Chase coverage has been panned.

FOX comes in with a splash at Daytona, makes a lot of noise about itself and then goes away. The only broadcast TV network left in the entire TV contract, this season FOX featured the Waltrip brothers and their self-promoting agendas. It's not hard to imagine that Darrell and Michael may be in the TV booth together in the new deal.

A NASCAR on FOX announcer hinted months ago on Twitter that FOX may be expanding the amount of Sprint Cup Series races the network covers in the new contract. It is no secret that there is no love lost between NASCAR and TNT after years of digital tension between the two companies that ultimately cost NASCAR tens of millions of dollars. Those 6 TNT races may be on the negotiating table.

The bottom line is that making a new deal for Sprint Cup Series races on FOX without locking in a full season of support programming on FOX Sports 1 would be a huge mistake. You can't sell the bacon without the sizzle and losing the practice, qualifying and news programs that now air on SPEED would be a disaster.

Many TDP columns were written asking SPEED to expand NASCAR programming to weeknights. The answer was no. The concept of a weekday morning NASCAR news and interview show, perhaps in cooperation with MRN/Sirius radio, was panned. The idea of a nightly NASCAR news show was openly mocked for years. Now, these issues have come full circle.

FOX is simply a company chasing higher profit margins through the conversion of an existing specialized cable TV network to a  general sports network. The company is not partners with NASCAR. FOX wants Sprint Cup Series races for its broadcast network until other sports can fill Sunday afternoons.

When the news of this new FOX deal with NASCAR emerges, keep an eye on what else is included other than the races. That should be a clear-cut sign of just how well NASCAR negotiated and also what real agenda of FOX emerges after the money changes hands.

We invite your opinion on this topic. Comments may be moderated prior to posting.