SBD/Issue 41/Leagues & Governing Bodies

Critics Ponder ABC-NASCAR Relationship After Net Left Race Early

Should NASCAR Have Been
More Vocal Over Race Swap?
ABC earned a 4.6 overnight Nielsen rating during the 7:00-7:30pm ET window for Sunday's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Checker O'Reilly Auto Parts 500 at Phoenix Int'l Raceway before switching to ESPN2 in the Eastern and Central time zones for the last 34 minutes of the telecast. From 7:30-8:00pm ET, ABC earned a 3.8 overnight rating for "America's Funniest Home Videos" in the Eastern and Central time zones, with the Mountain and Pacific time zones continuing coverage of the race (THE DAILY). 

PACING BEHIND: In Orlando, David Whitley writes, "I regret to inform you that one of the great sports debates of our time is over. NASCAR is not a major sport." What makes ABC's switch from the race "doubly depressing for NASCAR" is that "next to nobody seemed to care." Whitley: "As far as TV is concerned, you might as well be the WNBA. It comes down to leverage, and NASCAR doesn't have it" (ORLANDO SENTINEL, 11/11). A BIRMINGHAM NEWS editorial states NASCAR coverage on TV is "already such a nightmare that it's a miracle ratings are up," as no one "ever knows from week to week when races start anymore." Races might "start anywhere from" 11:00am-4:00pm CT. The editorial: "It's all because NASCAR lets the networks do as they please whereas the NFL has anti-Heidi language written into its TV contracts" (BIRMINGHAM NEWS, 11/11). In Dallas, Barry Horn wrote, "Let's get this straight: CBS doesn't abandon NFL games to go to '60 Minutes' but ABC left a NASCAR playoff race for a AFHV, a show with no redeeming social significance other than to fill an hour of air time" (DALLASNEWS.com, 11/10).

FIGHT FOR YOUR RIGHT: The AP's Jenna Fryer noted ABC's swap had "ramifications, particularly the perception of how it views NASCAR." Fryer: "Yep, the network that promised to broadcast the final 10 races of the season on ABC as part of its estimated $270[M] a year contract dumped the closing laps of a championship Chase race for home video hijinks. Nice 'partner,' NASCAR" (AP, 11/10). In Roanoke, Dustin Long writes this is not the idea NASCAR Chair & CEO Brian France had when he said he wanted to "minimize change" this year. Long: "Where was NASCAR? ABC is seen in about 160 million homes. ESPN2 is in close to 100 million homes. How can such a move late in a race be acceptable to fans, advertisers and the sport? While NASCAR doesn't need to severely admonish the network for the change, even a statement expressing disappointment might at least show fans that the sanctioning body is willing to fight for them and keep this from happening again" (ROANOKE TIMES, 11/11). USA TODAY's Michael Hiestand writes leagues, "not their TV middlemen, are responsible for protecting their sport and fans," and if leagues want "certain guarantees, like events staying on the same channel until they finish, they should get it in writing." They should also be "willing to accept less TV money." Hiestand: "Could ABC have stuck with the race and ended up with a higher rating? Disney got to make the call. If it was important to NASCAR, they should have made it their business" (USA TODAY, 11/11). 

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