SBD/Closing Bell

Daytona 500 Rain Delays Set Stage For NASCAR In Primetime

Fox Sports co-President & COO Eric Shanks said it was not a tough decision to run the Daytona 500 in primetime tonight in place of new episodes from two successful primetime series. "You have a commitment to the Daytona 500 and you just make that work," he told THE DAILY. "Clearly the race wasn't getting in today. Our best available window was tonight. Is it ideal for 'House' and 'Alcatraz' to be displaced? No." “Alcatraz” has been averaging a 6.2 rating and 10.4 million viewers this season to date, while “House” has averaged a 5.6 rating and 9.1 million viewers.

This is the first time the race has been moved to a primetime slot, and Shanks was not prepared to offer any ratings guesses. "I don't think anyone is thinking that viewership will be higher or equal to if the race ran on Sunday, when everyone knew it was on," Shanks said. He pointed to strong entertainment competition on Monday nights, which includes four of the top broadcast shows among NASCAR's key men 18-49 demographic: "The Voice," "Two-And-A-Half Men," "2 Broke Girls" and "How I Met Your Mother." NBC's "The Voice" is currently the most-viewed Monday night program on TV, with its 8:00-10:00pm window averaging an 11.8 rating and 21.7 million viewers (buoyed by a post-Super Bowl season premiere). Additionally, ESPN has two men's college basketball matchups (Notre Dame-Georgetown and Kansas-Oklahoma State) and USA Network has WWE "Monday Night Raw," both of which attract the young male demo.

Fox will produce a pre-race show on Speed with its on-air broadcast team. Fox will come on the air from the track at 7:00pm ET. "If the track is completely dry we'll start the race as soon as you get through 'Gentleman, start your engines,'" Shanks said. He said the unique circumstances should add energy to the broadcast and gives Fox the opportunity to have fun with it. "The truck has to be prepared," Shanks said. "We're scrambling to see what kind of fun stuff we can add to the broadcast. Our graphics team is working on some things."
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