SBD/Issue 117/Sports Media

Fox Drives Into Atlanta With New Technology, Boffo Ratings

Fox Sports and Sportvision will increase and expand the use of the FoxTrax graphic technology, which uses a pointer to identify cars, beginning with the NASCAR Winston Cup Cracker Barrel 500 from Atlanta Motor Speedway Sunday. Three new applications of the technology will be featured Sunday: the pointer will be used during replays; FoxTrax will provide real-time mph within the FoxBox ticker; and it will calculate the time cars spend in pit stops (Fox). In Atlanta, Prentis Rogers writes that "after dabbling for three weeks" with the technology, Fox "plans to go 'full throttle' with it" this weekend (ATLANTA CONSTITUTION, 3/9).

FOX' EARLY NUMBERS: Last Sunday's UAW-DaimlerChrysler 400 earned a 6.5/15 final Nielsen rating on Fox, up 63% from last year's race on ABC. The AP notes that last week's telecast was "higher than every NASCAR race last year except for" the Daytona 500. Also, among men 18-34, the rating "more than doubled from a 2.6 to a 5.3" (AP, 3/9). USA TODAY's Rudy Martzke: "Fox's NASCAR platform has resulted in the No. 2 event-to-event rating to the NFL, with NASCAR averaging a stupendous" 7.8 rating through three telecasts (USA TODAY, 3/9). In Charlotte, Poole & Utter note last week's race earned a 14.8/25 local rating, "outdrawing" the Duke Univ.-Univ. of NC NCAA men's basketball game, which got a 13.1/21. The game "roughly coincided with the last half of the race" (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 3/9).

MEDIA FOCUSED ON SAFETY ISSUE: In Atlanta, Carvell & Minter write that the exposure NASCAR has received partly as a result of its new partnership with Fox has "brought unprecedented attention and scrutiny" to the organization. NASCAR has been "judged by the way it has handled the Dale Earnhardt tragedy, earning mixed opinions." Some of the "positives" have been that NASCAR has "given credentials to any and every news organization that wants to cover the sport." Also, the drivers have been "portrayed as decent human beings, not the redneck image." But the "negatives" say NASCAR has "not done the best job defending its safety record," and NASCAR has "tried to silence its drivers on the safety issue" (ATLANTA CONSTITUTION, 3/9). In Las Vegas, Jeff Wolf writes NASCAR "missed a golden opportunity last weekend to be proactive by offering media members an update on its investigation and fielding questions about Earnhardt's crash and death." One "highly placed" NASCAR exec said that an "independent consultant was delving into the tragic crash, but NASCAR traditionalists want to keep that investigation quiet" (LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL, 3/9).

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