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NASCAR, TV Partners Trying To Halt Ratings
Decline With More Uniform Start Times In '10
HOPING FOR A RATINGS REBOUND: The AP's Jenna Fryer noted Fox "was the biggest proponent of later race starts," and Fox Sports Chair & CEO David Hill "particularly liked starting the Daytona 500 late enough in the afternoon that it ended in the prime-time television viewing block" (AP, 10/8). However, Hill yesterday said, "I think we started to tamper with something we shouldn't have, and I'll put my hand up and say 'guilty.'" Turner President of Sales, Distribution & Sports David Levy added, "If you ignore the fan and you don't do what is very old-fashioned customer service, you do that at your peril. And we just think we're making life simpler for the ardent fan. It's as simple as that" (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 10/8). Hill said that he "expects ratings that have decreased the past few years to drop again next year as fans adjust to the more consistent times," but ESPN.com's David Newton noted Hill and other network execs "believe the long-term benefit will be worth the change that France said was quite challenging with three networks involved." Skipper noted TNT this season "had a couple of races in the middle of the schedule" where ratings were up, while ESPN "had four races up." Skipper: "We do see some signs of growth we'd all like to build on." Meanwhile, France said that "another benefit of earlier start times is more flexibility for rain delays" (ESPN.com, 10/7). In Virginia, Dustin Long notes earlier start times also “should provide a little time for the networks to do some sort of post-race show” (Norfolk VIRGINIAN-PIOLT, 10/8).
FOR CONSISTENCY'S SAKE: YAHOO SPORTS' Jay Busbee wrote if one does not think the start times were "something that needed changing, take a look at this year's schedule," which featured "forty-plus races with something like 25 different starting times." Busbee: "That's a mess. So I'm very pleased with this new uniformity" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 10/7). ESPN's Ryan McGee said, "The single biggest complaint that I received … from race fans, it's not Car of Tomorrow. It's not Kyle Busch. It's not anything, other than start times" ("NASCAR Now," ESPN2, 10/7). CBSSPORTS.com's Pete Pistone wrote the new standard start times "should make a considerable difference in the sagging ratings problem NASCAR has faced the last couple of seasons," and it also will "go a long way in demonstrating to fans NASCAR's willingness to listen and adapt to what the paying customers are asking for" (CBSSPORTS.com, 10/7). FOXSPORTS.com's Larry McReynolds wrote under the header, "It's About Time NASCAR Got Consistent." McReynolds: "We have totally confused the race fans over the past several years. ... I applaud NASCAR for recognizing this problem and addressing it" (FOXSPORTS.com, 10/7). In Greensboro, Dustin Long writes NASCAR "showed that it doesn't ignore fans" (Greensboro NEWS & RECORD, 10/8).
Gossage Says Consistent Start Times
Will Be Good For TV Audience
Fehr Has Been Consulting With NHLPA
Since Kelly's Firing In August
FILLING THE LEADERSHIP VOID: In Toronto, Damien Cox noted NHLPA Ombudsman Buzz Hargrove has “risen to the top and become the voice of the union.” Cox: “He says whether it was right or wrong to fire Paul Kelly. He calls Kelly a liar on the airwaves. … This is an ombudsman we’re talking about!!! Where in the world is Ian Penny, the orchestrator of all this chaos?” (THESTAR.com, 10/7). Meanwhile, Bruins Ds Mark Stuart and Dennis Wideman yesterday confirmed that they will be the club’s “new leadership duo in all things related” to the NHLPA after D Andrew Ference notified teammates earlier this week that he has “lost his desire to continue as the player representative” (BOSTON GLOBE, 10/8). Maple Leafs C and player rep Matt Stajan said that “players on the Maple Leafs are solidly behind the NHL Players’ Association and its firing” of Kelly. Stajan: “All of us want what’s best for the players. We’re all on the same page, we want to move forward” (TORONTO STAR, 10/8).
White Thinks UFC Can Do Big Things
On Network TV With Right Deal
TRYING TO FIT IN: The GLOBE & MAIL's David Naylor notes the UFL "believes it can find its niche in the crowded fall football schedule." UFL COO Frank Vuono: "We think you have to play when people expect to see football and have an appetite for football on TV. We don't want to go head-to-head so we're going to play on weeknights." Vuono added, "We've put everything we can into place and now it's time to open the doors, debut the product and let people in" (GLOBE & MAIL, 10/8). UFL VP & GM Rick Mueller noted "not many leagues have survived" that have attempted to offer an alternative to the NFL. But he added, "I really believe in the system we've got in place from a cost standpoint, but I also believe there are people out there and the reception has been great" (LAS VEGAS SUN, 10/8).
Huyghue's Model Is
To Keep Costs Low
MARKETING PROBLEM: In Las Vegas, Steve Carp notes the Redwoods and Locomotives both are based in Phoenix, while the Sentinels and Florida Tuskers are based in Orlando. Huyghue said that the league is "trying to limit costs, and having the teams live and train in two central locations saves money, even though it has made it difficult for the teams to establish roots in their communities." Huyghue: "It's hurt us in our marketing, no question. But we felt for the first year this was the best way to go. The priority is putting the teams together and put the best possible product on the field. It's a sacrifice we had to make" (LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL, 10/8). In Orlando, George Diaz writes of the UFL, "Where is the buzz? Where's the excitement? Most importantly, where's the marketing plan?" It is "hard to sell [the Tuskers] to the community when you haven't even established a ticket office," as "all of that is being handled through a league office in Jacksonville." Tuskers coach Jim Haslett: "I'm not in the marketing department, but to be honest with you I thought the marketing was poor and the worst thing about the league. The talent, the facilities, everything else has been done first class but the marketing department has fallen behind" (ORLANDO SENTINEL, 10/8).
Writer Feels Bettman Should
Be Thanked By Canadians
PRICE CHECK: In N.Y., Ken Belson noted NHL teams "have raised prices by an average of just" $0.05 this season. Team Marketing Report's Fan Cost Index indicated that ticket prices "inched up by" 0.1% compared with last season to $51.41 per game. Eleven of the league's 30 teams "raised prices," while 13 teams "kept prices steady." Six team "cut prices." The average price of a non-premium ticket for the Maple Leafs is "by far the most expensive in the league" at $117.49. The Stars have the least expensive ticket at $35.66. Rangers premium tickets are the "most expensive at an average of $249.88," while the Red Wings have the "least expensive average for such tickets" at $60.89 (NYTIMES.com, 10/6).
OWNERS ONLY: PRO FOOTBALL TALK's Mike Florio cited an NFL source as saying that next week's ownership meeting in Boston "will include a session limited to the principal owner of each team." It is believed that the meeting "will focus on the labor agreement, and possibly revenue sharing." Other business "will be conducted at sessions that aren't limited to the principal team owners" (PROFOOTBALLTALK.com, 10/7).
ON TRACK: USF1 Technical Dir Ken Anderson said that the team "will be ready to test in January ahead of their debut season next year." Anderson is "confident the team will be on the grid come March." Anderson: "Our timing is according to plan, with an early November 'roller' and a finished car in time for January 2010 testing" (London INDEPENDENT, 10/8).