Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Brian France Addresses NASCAR TV Issues

This week in New York City, in addition to NASCAR Champions Week, the Reuters News Agency was hosting the annual "Reuters Media Summit."

This end of the year event gives CEO's and other senior management figures an opportunity to sum-up the performance of their company for the past season, and look forward to the future. One of the CEO's was Brian France, from NASCAR.

In both video and print interviews, Mr. France spoke about some of the television issues that have been discussed here at The Daly Planet since February. His words were actually very encouraging.

Mr. France first addressed the new NASCAR TV partner, ESPN. He began by saying that ESPN was in the midst of a "learning curve" about NASCAR on TV. He followed that up with the reason why.

"The production and fan expectation they (ESPN) have to be at is much higher than before," said France. "They are finding that out." The way that both ESPN and NASCAR are finding that out is quite interesting. France suggested that fans have become more demanding and vocal since ESPN last covered NASCAR in 2000.

France stated that he would like to see ESPN do more sophisticated graphics, more detailed commentary, and more original programming. That refrain may sound quite familiar to Daly Planet readers.

The best part of this interview is that the CEO of NASCAR is finally talking TV after a long season of silence. It seems he is clearly aware that things are not exactly the way he thought they would be in the first year of this new TV contract. That is a big bonus, when someone who is pulled in so many directions can speak to a media issue like this clearly and in an informed manner.

In continuing the interview, France addressed other TV elements in the overall NASCAR package. The next question asked was about a possible cable TV network in the future, and France was focused in his remarks.

"We have a (TV) license agreement that is with SPEED Channel, a News Corp. asset, that is in 70 million homes," said France. "We would love to expand our programming on that channel, and we are working with them to do that."

In terms of TV, Mr. France made a statement to SPEED Channel in very clear terms. The door is open to grow the outstanding weekend programming the network originated from the NASCAR tracks into additional programming during the weekdays.

In much the same way that viewers of ESPN and now the NFL Network enjoy the historic and often times humorous NFL Films presentations, the hope is that SPEED will open-up and allow additional strategic NASCAR-oriented programming in 2008.

There has been some speculation that the network has enough content to support a SPEED2 offshoot, which could perhaps continue to grow the kind of lifestyle and original programming ventures that SPEED has recently found to be so successful. There is no doubt that a strong market exists for these type of programs, and that SPEED has been one of the more successful networks in tapping into this genre.

It would have been nice if Mr. France dealt with some specifics, but that is not really his role in this equation. He has several veteran executives who oversee the TV contracts, the NASCAR TV partners, and the NASCAR Images production company.

All season long, ESPN has been fantastic in returning email to The Daly Planet for even the smaller requests about scheduling or talent assignments. There certainly have been differences of opinion along the way, but that is to be expected in a subjective business like TV.

Following Mr. France's remarks, Reuters contacted ESPN to see what they would like to add to the story in terms of their part of the NASCAR TV package. The single line in the news story about the France interview told the tale. "ESPN could not be reached for comment."

This is a shame, because it would have been the perfect time for an ESPN executive to back-up Mr. France's comments with some positive feedback about NASCAR and a commitment to return next season with an even stronger TV production team.

The countdown clock at says we are seventy-nine days away until the first Nationwide Series race in Daytona. This event will be produced by ESPN, and give us the first peek at the network's new Infield Studio team.

At Daytona in 2007 that consisted of Brent Musburger, Chris Fowler, and Brad Daugherty. Let's hope Mr. France's well chosen words can make a difference in 2008.

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Where Did You See NASCAR Drivers On TV This Week?

Apparently, the NASCAR "media tour" of NYC this week has been very busy on a lot of entertainment and news TV programs.

Readers have been sending email about lots of appearances, and I certainly need help when it comes to those types of shows. So, here is it...your opportunity to help us get a handle on the who and where and when this week in NYC.

Please post your description of what TV program you saw a NASCAR driver, owner, crew chief or whoever on this week in NYC. That will help us put together a rough survey of how the NYC media crowd treated the sport. and if the appearances helped or dented the NASCAR exposure level.

To add your comment, simply click on the COMMENT button below, and then follow the simple instructions. Please read the rules for posting on the right side of the main page and then add your opinion about "Champions Week" in NYC right here on The Daly Planet.