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.


James said...

When you design the CHASE to focus on only the teams that have a possibility to win the title, and only three are still in it with three races to go, if your favorite team is not being mentioned, why bother watching? When your team is running second and it gets very little attention because it “missed the chase”, why bother watching. When 20 % of the screen is showing on track action and the other 80% of the screen has a bunch of nonsense running across it, why bother. When marketing drives competition, why bother, the commercials are more important than the event, especially when there are eleven people telling you how great this is, why bother. When each and every week the audience shrinks to the point that camera angles are made to avoid showing the empty stands, why bother. NASCAR has learned nothing from INDYCAR, they self-destructed and the folks who really run the “show” are more interested in profit than content. To know that they spend 250 MILLION on office space, while the purses have been slashed across the board, why bother? When you sign the contract to your rights till 2022, why bother. It does not seem to matter if the fans are staying home, or watching the televised ‘show’. If the current trend of miserable attendance does not alert NASCAR it has an issue, they reap what they sow. Will the last one out the door, please turn off the light, sorry, the lights been out for a long time.

bevo said...

As you've stated before 3 1/2-4 hours for the actual event is a huge commitment of time for most people on a weekend. In the old days of dad working 40 hours a week and mom staying home with the kids this wouldn't be an issue. The actual down-time that most folks get now on a weekend is extremely limited if they're lucky enough to have a traditional Saturday Sunday weekend off work.

The popularity of the NFL is largely a result of fantasy football leagues and gambling. RED ZONE is the evidence of that. NASCAR doesn't lend itself to that but the key to capturing a larger audience is to make innovations in the delivery of race coverage.

Colorado said...

I really want to believe that Mike Helton could be the last saving grace of a sport's hey day long gone. He could be the answer to the "coup" that needs to happen. Ditch the Chase. Period. It dilutes the racing, the drivers, and the teams. The same with Cup drivers in the lower tier series. If you aren't going to give a cup driver points, then why award the win to them? Hamlin is the perfect example of how he directly affected the Championship outcome in the Truck race. And then to gloat about it in the post race news conference? Bad sportsmanship. That's the equivalent of Michael Jordon playing against high schoolers and running the score up. Bad, bad sportsmanship. First, the fans grumbled. Then they spoke. Now we are shouting. At what point does Helton pull France aside and say, "Look, you have a problem on your hands. We could stand to be relegated to only highlights on the evening sports cast if you don't allow US to change things." Even Ray Dunlap mentioned something on Race Hub about Cup drivers affecting the lower tier series. The Chase is a joke. Hell, even at Daytona in February, there were a couple of teams wrecked out that said in interviews it affected their chances heading into the Chase. WTH? In FEBRUARY?

OSBORNK said...

Even though the ratings for Martinsville was down, I think the real interest in NASCAR has dropped far lower than that. My TV was on for the entire race but I only glanced at the TV occasionally because there was nothing interesting to see or hear. I was doing other things while the TV played in the background. My brother had his TV on but slept through most of the race. I suspect there are many other people like me and my brother. I think the declining interest in baseball is a result of the same problem of long periods of little action interrupted by an occasional moment of excitement. On the other hand, we tend to watch the NFL more closely because excitement can happen at any moment.

Both my brother and I are long time race fans (I remember exactly where I was when Fireball Roberts was killed as I listened to the race on my 9 transistor radio). We used to plan our day around listening to or watching the NASCAR races but we now have the TV or radio on if there is nothing else to do.

Anonymous said... was just...boring, really. Lot of the Cup stuff is...bring in the Chase and the inevitable expectations for...y'know...all them *other* drivers to not actually race...

It's just a non-starter. I don't have a DVR; I just don't care anymore when it comes to Cup racing.

The flip side of sorts - do we *really* need 113 some-odd commercials?

Most of which are repeats, over and over and over? Can't pare that down a bit, charge more, etc?

Seeing car insurance commercials 9 zillion times does not exactly compel me to jump out of the chair and go buyin' - it makes me hit the "mute" button and check the TV listings for something better.

Same goes for 5 hour energy and whatnot. Funny thing is - I'm in their target demographic...and want nothing to do with Idiocracy style, Idiocracy level advertising.

Say what you gotta say and get off the air.

I'm waiting for Nuance Inc. to pull one of their seemingly 3-hour ads during a race...that'll likely be it for me. Dragon! DRAGON! No thx k bye!

Anyhoo...I'll stick to catching the Truck and NW series, in that order, when I can. I don't go out of my way to bother with watching Cup.

'Less you got a few dozens of millions of bucks to burn up, you're hitting a glass ceiling there. Just same ol' stuff there.

Anonymous said...

As someone who has followed motorsports since I was a teenager I am puzzled by a couple of things. First let me say that I am comfortable with technology and understand people want perfection.

1. How many people other than the racers themselves really care about the championship? Never went to a race because somebody was leading in points, just wanted to see who would win.

2. While some broadcasts are better than others, dont think I made my viewing decision based on that, I just wanted to follow the race. Volume controls work great.

3. Why are people surprised that the teams have figured out a way to maximize the benefits to them? If that means riding around till the last 50 miles thats what they are going to do. No amount of hype is going to change it.

I could go on but whats the point? It should be about the racing and none of the gimmicks have done anything other than camoflage the fact that the times have changed, and they wont ever be what they used to be, for racing or for us.

53 yr. fan said...

NA$CAR can continue to perfume the pig but until someone acknowledges what is really wrong, their ratings will continue to drop like a lead ballon. The chase,along with the stale presentations are killing the sport! Even Race Hub has a daily blather about the chase. Races should be run for a checkered flag, not some reality driven hoopla.

GinaV24 said...

I'll repeat what I posted before - after Bestwick tweeted me to say that only the 2, 48 and 11 were important for the coverage, it made me very angry.

I tweeted him back and said if that was the case, why should I bother to watch the remaining races? I didn't get an answer to that question, but then I didn't expect to.

I was supposed to BE at the race. However, Sandy's track made me rethink my plans and I chose not to travel that weekend, neither did my brother, so that's 2 people who weren't AT the race who were supposed to be. I love going to Martinsville, but the hurricane trumped it.

I also didn't watch it on TV. I watched football and kept track of MY favorite driver via trackpass and radio coverage. He may not be "important" to ESPN, but how well he races and finishes matters to me.

Yes, I'm still ticked off. I don't plan to watch any more racing this season except to glance at it during commercial breaks or if I hear something interesting on the radio that I want to see in replay.

We've renewed some tickets for next year. At this time, that is probably the majority of the racing I will watch since I don't enjoy the Waltrip show on Fox, TNT went off the rails and ESPN is a waste of my time.

I didn't hear Helton's interview. I hear that ESPN has been doing some stupid "stick a fork in" thing on their pre-race stuff - I guess they think that's funny - as a fan, I don't. If NASCAR is going to stop the bleeding, they had better hurry because you can pretty much stick a fork in this fan -- I'm done!

BToS JD said...

The best NASCAR racing is 'old school' racing with rubbin' n racin'. Possibly what we need is some 'old school' NASCAR TV coverage without all the extra high tech crap on the screen. Show the whole track and show a bunch of cars racing on full HD, not just another close-up of the leader or chase driver. Close-ups are extremely boring for 4 hours.

Old school TV is what NASCAR needs with unscripted announcers to provide immediacy to the product, then true fans would watch.

NASCAR popularity has died due to horrid formulaic TV product, not horrid racing.

Dot said...

It was painful watching the M'ville race last Sunday as I wasn't on Twitter. For those who aren't on Twitter, I strongly suggest you get an account just for the Cup races. The tweets fill in the blanks BSPN refuses to discuss. The radio transmission (of who I don't remember) shown 30 laps after it happened is reason enough.

As a member of the nascar Fan Council, I tell them every time I get a survey how bad the TV coverage is on BSPN. I don't know if they care what I think.

Just once I'd like to see a mutiny in the booth and for them to go off script.

Also, I agree with the seven posters above me.

Anonymous said...

33% more per year, cha-ching; more na$car sponsors, cha-ching; fans wanting change. What sound do you think BZF hears? As an addition to JD's article, my local newspaperS' home Sunday's edition main web pages had no mention of na$car. Even google's Sunday morning main news page no mention of na$car. Does na$car realize their niche is disappearing? MC

Daly Planet Editor said...

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Kyng said...

The ridiculous "Chase" and years of horrific TV product have alienated and driven away real fans.... the kind that actually were loyal to drivers AND THEIR SPONSORS.

TPTB in NA$CAR are either too dumb or too arrogant to notice/care.

The money grab that is the new contract with FOX is a prime example of this. In a tech & broadcast world that is changing as quickly as it is - to relinquish that much power over your product for that long is asinine.

MRM4 said...

As I have stated before, I purchased the NFL Sunday Ticket this season since DirecTV lowered the price on the basic package. I have been watching more football than racing most Sundays. My favorite team did not play this past Sunday and a number of good teams have off weeks this past week, so I took the opportunity to watch more of the race than in previous weeks. It's very frustrating to watch it because the entire focus is on the Chase drivers, particularly the ones still in the mix for the championship.

I love racing, but the season is too long. Having 9 races go head-to-head with the NFL is not doing the sport any good. The TV coverage doesn't help that. I really wish the Chase would go away, but NASCAR's pride will not allow them to get rid of it.

KoHoSo said...

GinaV24 said...

I'll repeat what I posted before - after Bestwick tweeted me to say that only the 2, 48 and 11 were important for the coverage, it made me very angry.

If we have lost Bestwick, all hope is gone.

JakeL42 said...

Wow,22% is a pretty big drop.Just continued proof that us TRUE fans hate this marketing-driven,pre-packaged racing and coverage,and when you couple that with the "6-pack" becoming more of a reality you have a devestating combo for Nascar.

I too,am a proponent of changing the points structure to give each week it's own meaning,as well as traditional early start times(even though i hate getting up early),and in general anything that would involve a return to the traditions that made this sport so great.

But sadly we all know most likely Mr France will show up again at Homestead in the press room and talk about "This great championship battle"and talk a lot but say nothing.Haven't we seen this act before?

Anonymous said...

Not only is the coverage hard to watch, you kind of knew the outcome of the race was going to be the 11 or 48 just from a historical prospective.
I spent more time watching NFL and storm coverage. I'm guessing a lot of others did to. But, ESPN, you've brought it on yourselves. Take wider shots and let us watch more of what's happening. Otherwise, I'll watch the recap on
I hope who ever gets the chase from you in the next contract knows a little about how to really cover a race.

Anonymous said...

ESPN insults the fans with Nascars blessing. Before the Kansas race, the voice of someone said something about "naysayers complaining about cookie cutter tracks".

So, we complain and they complain that we complain?

From drivers to talking heads, the condescension that they for the fans is overwhelming. I think they be thrilled to have no one in stands or watch on TV as long as they got paid.

I now watch what little of Nascar I do watch hoping that certain drivers crash or break now. Don't want them hurt, but I'm getting more enjoyment watching them fail and have very expensive repair bills. Never had that feeling before.

D. R. said...

It's time to double down and pull out the Double Chase! It is not working, but it is not NASCAR's fault, it is all those dumb TV watchers and bleacher bums that are staying away in droves. When when we learn?

fbu1 said...

IMO, the blame for the steady incremental decrease in TV ratings lies with NASCAR, not with the broadcast partners. If NASCAR mandates that the The Chase should be the focus of a scripted reality show environment, what are the broadcasters to do? They play with the cards in their hand and make the best of it. Obviously, most of us would like to see better coverage decisions, but the network options are limited

One of the problems in maintaining mainstream interest in NASCAR is cultural re: sporting events. Most of our youth have grown up playing football, baseball etc. They understand their favorite sports from the inside out. Very few youngsters grow up (legally) racing cars. Racing is an acquired taste. Those of us who have embraced it are pretty passionate about it. And passionate fans don't need a reality show format to remain interested until the end of the season. In fact, the inverse might be true. If our favorite drivers are barely mentioned, why bother to watch? We'll get better information online. Hence, ratings decline.

I don't despise Brian France. For all I know, he is kind to his kids and loves his dog. But he is obviously out of touch with the sport that he governs. BF would probably not know the difference between an oil filter and a brake shoe without a notated map. He is simply over his head, three generations away from the racing culture. Since NASCAR is a close corporation, there is no one to tell him when he's wrong.


Anonymous said...

How to Change NASCAR Cup Series is not just takes someone with conviction and ability to do so. Here are my ideas:

1) The elephant in the room is the Chase. As long as it is part of NASCAR, the product will not change either on the track or TV. That is the issue. Remove the Chase and run the Championship as a season long point battle. The individual event has to be the focus. Report on the event, and at the end of the event show how points are affected. At Homestead if and only if there is a tight points race between multiple drivers, then it makes sense to follow and report an extended amount of time on those individuals. Obviously, if something bad happens to the drivers in the title chase, then report on it. My favorite race of the year? Daytona 500. Why? NO points to worry about....lots of new information, and FOX reports on the race at hand. The Chase and NASCAR has developed a two tier system...the haves and have nots. This is detrimental to the sport, fan of the 'have nots', sponsors and teams. Look at the NFL. Every game is covered, and playoff implications are mentioned, based on the end results of the game, regardless of which teams are playing. During the game, the announcers report on the game, and that is it. Every game, even if it is Colts v. Jaguars, which will most likely not be playoff teams get the same coverage, for the better overall health of the league. In November, are the announcers talking out playoff positioning, and if they have a chance at the Super Bowl? No...that is ridiculous. But that is what NASCAR and the TV partners do. Beginning in July, ESPN focuses only on the Chase eligible drivers and only those drivers.

2) Remove the current point system, and revert back to the Lattford System previously used. The current point system severely penalizes for a poor finish, resulting in Chase teams just riding around protecting their position, and only racing at the end of the event, if they have a chance to win. The risk of a poor 30th finishing position greatly outweighs the reward of a 2 position gain. What is the current result? Boring, follow the leader-single file racing.

3) Allow for greater flexibility in constructing the cars. With a spec chassis, aero matched and tightly controlled bodies, and tight rules on suspension components, there is very little room for teams to gain a competitive advantage. I would keep the spec roll cage section for safety, and the bodies for uniformity, but allow for teams to construct the front and back stubs, suspension geometry, rear end gear, bars and shocks within a broad set of parameters to allow for mechanical advantage. Racing is about who can make their car the fastest on the track....let's get back to that!

4) Softer compound tires. The tires need to fall off during a run. With the new technology in racing pavement, the tracks are very smooth and offer a lot of grip. To combat this, Goodyear is forced to create a hard tire to withstand the heat. This will continue on recently repaved tracks, but for older tracks a tire with a lot of give up during a run, cars will be coming and going throughout a green flag run, bringing passing back to the event!


Anonymous said...

5) To gain softer tires, NASCAR needs to take weight out the cars, and add greater left hand side weight percentage. The cars need a reduction of 500 lbs or more, and a left side weight of 55% to 58%. Moving weight to the left hand side, and reducing overall weight will reduce the amount of force placed on the right side tires, reducing the need for a hard compound, and aiding in the ability of the car to make left turns easier. Super Late Models and late model stocks are around 2800# with 58% LS weight. What do these cars produce? Great racing with cars capable of running side by side because they handle!

6) Reduce engine size or HP. These engines are making too much power and speed. With an increase in straight-line and corner speed, the groove in the corner narrows. The faster you drive the track, the corner entry and exit are reduced to a single groove. How can you pass in a corner, if everyone has to drive the same line? Simply you can't. Reduce the engines to around 300 CI, with a HP around 700. The lighter mass of the engine, reduced HP, along with a lighter vehicle weight will result in cars with similar acceleration, but slower corner and straight-line speeds, opening up the entry and exit of the corners, allowing for more side by side racing.

7) NASCAR has to get greater control of the TV product. Focus needs to be placed on ALL entrants, not just a specific few who are favorites of the TV network, or have sponsors pay for increased coverage (i.e. Danica). The focus needs to be on the event first and foremost. Anything less will continue this downward spiral.

8) Run events during the Fall on Saturday Nights. TV ratings during the NFL will continue to decline as long as they are run head to head. Run the event on Saturday Night starting at Richmond to Homestead, with Homestead ending in Sunday Primetime. Under the lights offers a greater visual experience, and with only College Football to go head to head with, a better chance to gain viewers. Can you imagine with Martinsville would look like as a "Saturday Night Special"? That would be amazing! Sparks, glowing brake rotors...etc. Just like Bristol!

9) TV Commercials have to be split-screen. No ifs, ands or buts. Missing 33% of a race for commercial breaks is no longer acceptable to the general public.

10) Mobile media and TV product. With more and more Americans utilizing smart phones and corresponding apps, the desire to dedicate 3.5 hours in front of TV is declining. With the NASCAR Sprint app, I am able to check in on an event is real time, and go back to whatever I was previously doing. This allows me to "follow" an event, without the dedication of time. This is the biggest hurdle NASCAR and its networks face. How to earn income, interest, and market in the digital/mobile environment. I don't have any answers, but by my example more and more people will turn off the TV and "follow" the event intermittently when it is convenient.


Anonymous said...

11) Show the drivers as who they are...and not these PR robots. Brad Keselowski, like him or hate him, actually tells it like it is. Too many drivers are like Jimmie Johnson...vanilla. Vanilla is boring. Clint Bowyer and Matt Kenseth are regarded as very we see this? No... it is "car ran good...thanks to the team for such a great car...blah blah blah..."

12) A NFL Redzone type of channel for Chase drivers will not work...but one of multiple split screens showing battles all throughout the event, and providing a continuous information stream is valuable for the viewer. I speculate more people will use this channel to check in and see how their favorite driver is doing, but not stay very long... just like a mobile app. Redzone works because of fantasy football and multiple event locations. There is a demand to follow scoring and defensive plays for fantasy football, that drives this channel. I just don't see how this would work for NASCAR, unless it was support programming on a NASCAR Network during an event. Speaking of a NASCAR is about time NASCAR invests in this. Just imagine classic races from the 80's on a "Throwback Thursday".

These are my ideas... I would love to hear what you have to comment about and offer. Thanks... Aaron in WI

Anonymous said...

This sport is driven by fans of a certain driver. It is not about a team like football, basketball or baseball. When you have two and half months all about 3-5 drivers, you have lost most fans. Also why would a sponsor spend millions for no coverage. Sponsors are sponsors no racing.


Anonymous said...

NASCAR needs to stop chasing TV ratings and just finally accept fact that the sport just isn't as popular as it used to be.

Growth isn't necessarily a good thing. Ratings should be compared to what they were in the '90s. NASCAR became the passing fad of the '00s, gaining a bunch of new fans. But, those fans never were true, hard core fans, and now they're gone.


Just be happy with what you have, and work to focus the TV broadcasts squarely on the hard core fan, not the lame, new fan.

GinaV24 said...

fbu1 - you said: the blame for the steady incremental decrease in TV ratings lies with NASCAR, not with the broadcast partners. If NASCAR mandates that the The Chase should be the focus of a scripted reality show environment, what are the broadcasters to do?

I disagree with your premise. I think that it is the TV partners that forced this change and NASCAR went along with it. That's just my opinion and I DO despise Brian France, based solely on his greed and total cluelessness about racing and his disrespect for the fans.

GinaV24 said...

Aaron in Wi, you made some very good points. The one I disagree with most, as a fan, is more races on Saturday night. Not all tracks have lights and I sat through the night race at Charlotte just a few weeks ago.

It is TOO cold to have night races in the fall at most tracks.

As far as I am concerned, I am done with going to Charlotte - it was a boring race and I'm tired of freezing while I'm bored -- and I have cold weather gear!

NASCAR would be better off making the season end before the NFL season starts and make the improvements you suggested. However, they won't do anything.

Last one out, turn out the lights.

Dot said...

I vote Aaron in WI as the next president of nascar. Great post.

@Anon 12:09PM who said, "Growth isn't necessarily a good thing" is right on the money. Look what happened to Rite Aid as an example. They opened too many stores all at once and now they are no longer here in Las Vegas. Even Starbucks has closed stores.

As long as the Emperor france is in charge, it's not going to get any better. Here's an example. There was a story on Jayski about NW racing being pre-empted or moved to a different channel when fball runs long. And it's OK according to bf/nascar. If nascar doesn't care about their own product, why should we?

Anonymous said...

Why dont you post this number from the Saturday night before last weekends race

Coverage of the "NASCAR Sprint Cup Series from Charlotte" (4.73 million viewers, #2; adults 18-49: 1.2, #1) put ABC (4.73 million viewers, #1; adults 18-49: 1.2, #1) in front on Saturday.

hmm Number 1 in the 18-49 age range! Yeah the numbers do tell the story Nascar is just fine

Darcie said...

With the continued drop in viewership, what bozo bean counter allowed Fox to pay so much for a diminished product? What Nascar continues to put on the tracks is not worth a dime on the dollar of what they're paying. And to the person why asked why there needs to be so many commercials? Well, ask Brian France that question, as he counts his millions that TV pays him. The networks need to pay for their contract somehow and showing 8 laps of racing vs 14 laps for commercials is the only way for them to make their money.

Sophia said...

So sad to hear Bestwick tweeted that those cars mattered, but not the rest. :( Doesn't surprise me so I stopped watching regularly, except for dega all summer.

Still sad..but then I am majorly bummed over Indycar firing their CEO Randy Benard...but then, that's a whole nother story...i wonder what will happen to them now :-(

I'd given up on NA$CAR...not Indycar struggling to exist.