SBD/Issue 84/Sports Media

ABC/ESPN Alters NASCAR Telecast Schedule; Most Races On Cable

ABC/ESPN Has Moved All But Three Of
Its 17 Sprint Cup Races To ESPN This Year
ABC/ESPN is significantly shaking up its NASCAR broadcast schedule this year, moving all but three of its 17 Sprint Cup races to its main ESPN cable network. That leaves just three NASCAR races on its ABC broadcast network, all of which will be run in primetime. Nine of the 10 Chase for the Sprint Cup races will be broadcast on ESPN. In the past, ABC has carried 11 of the 17 races, including all 10 Chase events. "Last year's performance showed us that ESPN provides the best home for NASCAR," said ESPN Exec VP/Content John Skipper. In '09, viewership for the four NASCAR Sprint Cup broadcasts on ESPN which were not affected by rain were up 6% over '08 with an average of 5.8 million viewers, while ABC's 11 races in '09 averaged 5.5 million viewers, down 8% from the ten comparable races the year before. "The network has the proven ability to attract younger viewers," said NASCAR Media Group President Paul Brooks. "Having more NASCAR races on ESPN will create more exposure." The three races on ABC -- Bristol, Richmond and Charlotte -- will each air on Saturday nights at 7:30pm ET. ABC's primetime lineup in '10 will also include 12 college football games and the August 28 Little League World Series title game, giving the network 16 straight weeks of Saturday night sports. ESPN's portion of the NASCAR schedule begins July 25 with the Brickyard 400 (Smith & Ourand, SportsBusiness Journal). 

DATE
LOCATION
NET
TIME
Sunday, July 25
Indianapolis Motor Speedway
ESPN
1:00pm ET
Sunday, August 1
Pocono Raceway
ESPN
1:00pm ET
Sunday, August 8
Watkins Glen Int'l
ESPN
1:00pm ET
Sunday, August 15
Michigan Int'l Speedway
ESPN
1:00pm ET
Saturday, August 21 Bristol Motor Speedway
ABC
7:30pm ET
Sunday, September 5 Atlanta Motor Speedway
ESPN
7:30pm ET
Saturday, September 11 Richmond Int'l Raceway
ABC
7:30pm ET
Sunday, September 19 New Hampshire Motor Speedway
ESPN
1:00pm ET
Sunday, September 26 Dover Int'l Speedway
ESPN
1:00pm ET
Sunday, October 3 Kansas Speedway
ESPN
1:00pm ET
Sunday, October 10 Auto Club Speedway
ESPN
3:00pm ET
Saturday, October 16 Charlotte Motor Speedway
ABC
7:30pm ET
Sunday, October 24 Martinsville Speedway
ESPN
1:00pm ET
Sunday, October 31 Talladega Superspeedway
ESPN
1:00pm ET
Sunday, November 7 Texas Motor Speedway
ESPN
1:00pm ET
Sunday, November 14 Phoenix Int'l Raceway
ESPN
3:00pm ET
Sunday, November 21 Homestead-Miami Speedway
ESPN
1:00pm ET

WORLD WIDE LEADER: ESPN Exec VP/Programming & Acquisitions John Wildhack: "There's really no delineation anymore between cable and broadcast per se. People watch brands, and fortunately, when people tune to sports first, they come to ESPN." Skipper added, "ESPN further strengthens NASCAR's consistent start times message for the fans, and with the strong support of NASCAR across our multimedia platforms, we hope to build on that momentum in 2010." Wildhack said with the 1:00pm ET start times, Sunday mornings are a "destination for sports fans on ESPN," with "SportsCenter" and then "Sunday NFL Countdown" in the fall as a lead-in to the races. Wildhack: "There's a built-in audience there and now we can take that audience and transition them to the race. The other thing that we will be doing when we get into the Chase is postrace is coming on (leading into a) SportsCenter that is going to be clearly NASCAR-centric" (SCENEDAILY.com, 1/13).

LIFE IN THE FAST LANE: YAHOO SPORTS' Jay Busbee wrote the shift to more ESPN telecasts is "absolutely certain to send some NASCAR fans screaming that the sport has abandoned them and this is another excuse to make a buck and things were so much better back in the olden days." Busbee: "On one hand I get the complaint about the move -- ESPN may be in 90[%] of homes or whatever, but it still costs money to get it. ... But really -- it's 2010. Isn't it time that everybody started, you know, moving toward cable?" ESPN is the "right place for NASCAR" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 1/13). USA TODAY's Michael Hiestand writes the move "isn't surprising, given how Disney has shown that beefing up ESPN -- by giving it Monday night NFL games and, starting next year, all of college football's BCS games -- is its priority" (USA TODAY, 1/14).

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