Friday, January 4, 2008

ESPN Classic Will Show NASCAR Right Now!

This just in from the "out of the blue" department. ESPN Classic Network will be showing six historic Daytona 500 races starting......this Monday!

This certainly is an interesting twist in the build-up to the Daytona 500, and maybe signals a change in the relationship between ESPN and NASCAR Images. What ESPN Classic is offering is "DVR and TiVo" theater presentations of the races at 2PM Eastern Time on Mondays, starting January 7th.

Fans will be able to vote for their favorite race of the six selected, and then after the Daytona Nationwide Series race airs live on ESPN2, ESPN Classic will air all six of the Daytona 500 races back-to-back in the order chosen by the viewers. Not a bad deal.

This is exactly the type of move that encourages NASCAR fans that ESPN is listening and that NASCAR Images is cooperating in making this sport more high-profile in the off-season.

So, SPEED beings testing coverage on Monday, with almost daily shows through Speedweeks. Now, ESPN Classic will show a race every Monday, with a NASCAR marathon the night before the Daytona 500. Fans can check for the story, and the schedules.

I think we can now officially say the end of the TV off-season is on Monday. Welcome back NASCAR, we kind of missed you.

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NASCAR's "TV Czar" Walks Into The Talladega Night

A lot of people thought it was kind of funny when NASCAR opened a Los Angeles office. Still trying to organize the on-track television issues within its own sport, TV veterans were skeptical that NASCAR and LA had anything in common.

The late Bill France Jr. allowed his son Brian along with NASCAR executive Paul Brooks to begin a relationship with the Hollywood community. While this on-going curiosity between the two groups resulted in NASCAR drivers participating in more mainstream movie and TV projects, one success story stands head-and-shoulders above all others.

Love it or hate it, "Talladega Nights" was a hit because it poked fun at exactly the same things that paid for Jeff Foxworthy's bass boat and kept Ron White nicely lubricated. Will Ferrell and crew made NASCAR funny without profanity and without violence. They dipped into the "You Might Be A Redneck If..." genre and pulled out a winner.

Suddenly, NASCAR's Brooks and France had gone from the laughingstock of the sport to watching as "Ricky Bobby" was interviewed on Larry King Live...for the full hour! That one film with NASCAR at its core made over $47 million in its first week.

Hidden in the list of six Executive Producers for "Talladega Nights" was the name Richard Glover. It appears on the credits just below that of the film's star, Will Ferrell. Glover is not a Hollywood writer, a veteran stunt man or even a high-dollar investor. Dick Glover was the NASCAR executive that helped make the entire project happen.

Just like Lesa France-Kennedy, the President of ISC, Glover is a Duke grad with a degree in Economics. His career started with the NBA and the Washington Bullets, where he showed his organizational skills as the Chief Administrative Officer. Moving into TV, he ran almost everything at Titan Sports involving TV and helped that company grow into a little dynasty you might have heard of...the WWE.

For many media executives there is only one place to go for the ultimate career challenge. That place is ESPN. Glover joined the company with the mandate to grow new business and push the TV-oriented staff into the world of new media. If you have stopped by, read ESPN the Magazine or maybe ordered a Pay-Per-View ESPN game, you have been touched by the new ventures grown by Glover.

Most executives that are good at developing new business for Disney get squeezed like ripe oranges by the ESPN and ABC "content machine." Glover spun through the Programming Department at ESPN, the Olympics at ABC, and eventually handled all the ESPN and ABC Internet properties including, which is no small task.

Right at the point when many of us thought he would wind-up as the right-hand man to ESPN President George Bodenheimer, Glover exited stage left. Where he went had many scratching their heads, and wondering if Glover had finally made a bad career move. They did not have to wonder for very long.

Glover joined NASCAR in 2003 as the VP of Broadcasting and New Media. He understood, along with former NASCAR exec George Pyne, that the power of the sport lay in organizing all the TV and media rights to the races under one roof. Needless to say, that would be NASCAR's roof. Leaning back on his Duke economics training, Glover also made sure it was a multi-billion dollar new roof.

The former ESPN employee brought that network back into the NASCAR game in a deal that included ESPN's arch rival Fox Sports and stuck TNT in the middle as a buffer. He used the SPEED Channel example of the Craftsman Trucks to get the entire Busch/Nationwide Series carried on ESPN2, and then cemented the deal that all the "Chase" races be live on the ABC Broadcast Network. To keep things from getting nit-picky, he gave the All-Star Race to SPEED as their only "Cup-level" event.

Now, the bow was neatly tied on this TV contract. Turner Interactive continued to manage, and Marketing veteran Jay Abraham continued to run NASCAR Images, the sport's TV production company. Then, a bombshell announcement came down from Brian France about a new consolidation of NASCAR's media interests.

In late September, France announced that he was going to create a new division of NASCAR. All the broadcasting, new media, licensing, consumer products and even the automotive aftermarket projects would be put under one NASCAR senior executive. The title of this new position would be President, NASCAR Media Group. It would be one of the most powerful executive positions in professional sports.

Mr. France decided that the best man for the job would be his long-time friend and right-hand man...Paul Brooks. In making the announcement, Mr. France never even referenced Dick Glover. Perhaps, the writing had suddenly appeared on the wall.

On Friday, less than four months after that announcement, Mr. Glover made an announcement of his own. He would be taking all his sports television and NASCAR knowledge to a new company. As the only NASCAR senior executive with hands-on national TV experience, Glover will be walking away to become the CEO of...a comedy website.

In what may be the most ironic moment in NASCAR TV history, the website is owned by a gentleman you may remember, named Will Ferrell. Glover is literally walking away from NASCAR and into the Talladega night. He is leaving NASCAR to run the YouTube of Comedy. looks like thousands of other websites themed to allow users to upload a specific kind of content.

What it does not look like is the type of place where someone who was instrumental in steering the NASCAR ship should be heading. NASCAR's Paul Brooks offered these words about Glover's contributions to the sport, and his departure.

"We'll be fine in moving forward," said Brooks. "It sounds like a good opportunity. Dick always wanted to lead his own company. We'll certainly miss him." The only thing Brooks did not say was exactly where the door should hit Glover on the way out.

Now, NASCAR starts the search for a strong-minded and experienced individual who can ride herd on the TV networks and turn the ratings around for this sport right away.

It is January 4th of 2008. The countdown clock at says we are under 44 days to the Daytona 500. Sprint Cup teams begin testing at Daytona...on Monday.

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