Go to AutoRacing1's Home PageGo to AutoRacing 1's Champ Car PageGo to AutoRacing1's NASCAR PageGo to AutoRacing 1's F1 PageGo to AutoRacing 1's IRL PageGot to AutoRacing1.com's ALMS pageGo to AutoRacing1's Grand-Am PageGo to AutoRacing1's Other Series page
Go to AutoRacing 1's Rumor's PageGo to AutoRacing1's Hot News PageGo to AutoRacing 1's Discussion ForumsGo to AutoRacing1's Racing Store PageGo to AutoRacing 1's Links pageGo to AutoRacing1.com Race Schedule pageGo to AutoRacing 1's Automotive pageContact AutoRacing1.com

Editorial

New CART TV deal - don't put the CART before the horse

 

 by Mark Cipolloni
August 15, 2001

Go to our forums to discuss this article

While certainly on the surface CART's new TV deal appears very weak compared to the deal NASCAR has with FOX and with NBC, and already the doomsdayers and naysayers are running rampant on the discussion forums, lets not put the CART before the horse just yet, especially when we don't have all the facts and details of the final agreement.

As Joe Heitzler told me several weeks ago, "frankly Mark, CART doesn't have a lot to sell right now.  We are going to have to prove ourselves by turning this ship around first."  We were aware that CBS would only broadcast seven races per year, and that CART would have to continue in the current time-buy situation they currently have whereby ESPN buys time on ABC for about 50% of the races. The rest are shown on ESPN.  

Similarly, with the new deal, Speedvision, owned by FOX, will buy time on CBS for up to seven races per year, and air the remaining races on Speedvision.  However, currently Speedvision is available in less homes than ESPN, so on the surface it appears CART is in a worse situation than it currently is.  Or is it?

While we still don't have all the details of the final deal, there is some potential good when you start to look under the hood.  We will list them in no particular order:

1.  In the USA, we understand that CART will have far more programming hours than it currently does.  Therefore, even though TV ratings for the races shown on Speedvision will be lower than those currently shown on ESPN, because there will be a lot more 'specials' and pre and post race air-time, the cumulative number of viewers may in fact end up being larger than CART currently has.  We don't know, but we believe there will be special weekly shows like Inside CART that are produced by noted TV and movie producer Arnon Milchan.

2. CART gets nearly 1 billion worldwide viewers per year for all its races.  The possible small drop in the USA numbers, already pretty low, will hardly affect the annual worldwide numbers, which of course we assume CART will make clear to all the sponsors.  But there's more....

3. CART feels that by doing the production in-house, or hiring another firm to do it (we hear FOX's NASCAR crew will do it), that they will have more control and do a better job than ESPN did.  That of course remains to be seen.

4. RPM2Night remains primarily a NASCAR2Night show even though ESPN lost out on the TV contract to FOX and NBC.  They apparently find value in helping their competitors succeed.  It remains to be seem whether, as we have suggested for years, CART has negotiated a deal whereby there will be an equivalent 'CART2Night' show, whereby CART teams and CART drivers are in the news every night.  This is sorely needed if CART is to grow their product.  CART drivers and team members have to become household names, just like NASCAR's has, and that has been done by having them on TV every day, largely through RPM2Night and other 'special' NASCAR shows.  Recently behind closed doors, Heitzler had a meeting with the drivers, and although we do not know all the details, we do know he briefed them on what he plans for them for next year in terms of his promise to make them household names. It's possible, that if a nightly show is planned, he has stressed to them just how important it is for them to make themselves available regularly.

5. If all CART races get rebroadcast more times, that will also have a cumulative affect on the overall TV ratings.  We hear CART will get triple the number of programming hours.

6. Since Speedvision is not shown in as many homes as ESPN, CART should have considered simultaneous broadcasts on Speedvision and FX or FOX Sports Net.  Cumulatively the ratings would have been as high as ESPN alone.  It should be noted that Speedvision does not currently participate in the Nielson rating system, so if that continues, we won't have a good handle on how good or bad CART's ratings are.

7. Because, as we have stated ad nauseam, CART gets far more TV viewers outside the USA than in, how well CART's broadcasts are distributed worldwide with its new TV partners, will ultimately determine whether in fact CART's sponsors will get more value than they are currently getting. We will use F1 as an example.  All their races are broadcast by Speedvision here in the USA and their ratings are probably nothing to brag about.  It's the worldwide ratings that bring in the big sponsor dollars because they dwarf just the USA ratings.  As we understand it, Arnon Milchan's New Regency company will have the international TV rights.  It will be incumbent upon them to do a good job getting CART broadcast on good outlets in all the countries worldwide.

8. Because FOX bought Speedvision and was going to make it an all-NASCAR outlet at one time, it's likely NASCAR will still get a lot of programming hours on Speedvision.  This will cause a lot of NASCAR fans to request Speedvision, and therefore, grow the number of households that get Speedvision.  Over time, CART will benefit from this.  

9.  Because Speedvision is a 100% motorsports company, they are focused on succeeding in motorsports.  They are not distracted with anything else, like football, baseball, the world basket weaving championships, etc.  This may prove to be a benefit going forward.  Everyone who gets Speedvision loves it.  Doesn't that tell you something?  The same can't be said of CART's broadcasts on ABC/ESPN.

10. Because of ABC's allegiance to the IRL and the Indy 500, staying on ABC/ESPN would mean CART playing second fiddle to their main competitor. As we understand it, ESPN's offer to CART bordered on ridiculous.  Would you sign a deal like that?

11. TV ratings are down for most sports (except NASCAR of course) because more and more people are getting their information via the web these days, and there are far more programming choices because of the proliferation of Cable TV and Satellite TV.  CART's TV ratings will grow if it can make its product more popular.  More programming hours will help, now lets see if CART can rise to the challenge of actually promoting their drivers and their series and gaining new fans through better entertainment.

12.  NASCAR's new website is an example of how to deliver better entertainment and information value to your fans and sponsors.  Can CART rise to that challenge?  Will they find a company to do their website as well as NASCAR's is done?  Is that part of the new deal?

13. It remains to be seen whether or not Bob Varsha will be back in the booth for the CART races, but since he now works for Speedvision, it would not surprise us.  We have a lot of respect for Bob.  He would serve CART well.  Ironically, back at CART's Spring Break in Fontana this year I sat with Bob and the rest of the Speedvision folks one evening during some awards presentations, and we talked a little about CART's TV contract.  At that time no one was guessing that Speedvision would get the CART contract, but they told me they would very much like to land the deal.  Well it looks as though they have.  CART will be an important undertaking for them and will likely bring them their highest TV ratings to date.  I believe they will give CART a lot of attention.

14. Rupert Murdoch owns FOX and Speedvision.  He is very aggressive and when he wants to do something right, he does it......note how well they jumped into NASCAR.  But more importantly he's very big worldwide.  He's the "Goldfinger" of Publishing and TV. He owns Star TV out of Hong Kong, SKY TV in Europe and he 's trying to buy "Direct TV" also!  He owns the LA Dodgers, The NY Post, The SUN, 20th Century Fox Studios, The Times of London, TV Guide, and book publisher HarperCollins.  He even owns the Manchester United Football Club in England. One of the biggest and most popular in the world!  He is a resident of LA.....right down the road from Joe Heitzler.    Where do you think Arnon Milchan is from?  Where did CART open its new Entertainment office?  Are you starting to get the picture?

15.  CART wants to race in China, right?  Murdoch also has a long record of kowtowing to China's dictatorship, including yanking the BBC's World Service Television from the China beam of a News Corp. satellite. Murdoch later conceded to the New Yorker, "The BBC was driving [the Chinese regime] nuts. It wasn't worth it."  How well do the Chinese like Murdoch?  Back in March, Murdoch's 28-year-old son, James, who just a few years ago was best known for starting an indie record label in New York after leaving Harvard, gave a policy speech at the Milken Institute in Beverly Hills, Calif. With his father in attendance, James, now in charge of News Corp.'s China initiative, leveled a blistering attack against Falun Gong, the spiritual movement banned by the Chinese government after 10,000 of its followers protested in Tiananmen Square two years ago. Murdoch labeled Falun Gong a "dangerous" and "apocalyptic cult" that "clearly does not have the success of China at heart." He also chastised the Western media for painting a relentlessly negative picture of the Chinese government by focusing too often on the topic of human rights violations.  According to the Los Angeles Times account of the speech, Murdoch "startled even China's supporters with his zealous defense of that government's harsh crackdown on Falun Gong and criticism of Hong Kong democracy supporters."  Can Murdoch help get CART a good deal in China?  You bet he can!

16. The bottom line - If he seizes America's satellite TV market as he is trying, über-mogul Rupert Murdoch will rule the airwaves on earth and in heaven. Convinced it's the answer to his cable competitors (most notably AOL Time Warner), as well as the foundation for the coming interactive television revolution, Murdoch has staked his News Corp.'s future to satellite TV. That's why the DirecTV deal, already nearly a year in the making, stands "as one of the most important of Murdoch's career.  Is Heitzler aligning CART with Rupert Murdoch?  You bet he is!  We could think of worse things.

While based on the facts leaked so far, it appears CART's new TV deal leaves a lot to be desired, lets not put the CART before the horse until we hear all the details of the deal. The CART owners we had spoken to who were briefed on the new deal, seemed happy with it.  But ultimately it's the sponsors and fans that must like it.  Meanwhile, if your cable outlet doesn't provide Speedvision, you had better start thinking satellite dish.  If Murdoch prevails, it may end up serving you quite well.

The author can be contacted at markc@autoracing1.com

Go to our forums to discuss this article

Author

Other Editorials

CART in China - Why Shanghai is the best value

Rockingham is ready for CART.  Is CART ready for Rockingham?

Beating a dead horse.  Where's my fork?

Successful CART Venues - It takes two to tango

Setting the record straight on CART's German 500

Rebuilding CART from the grassroots up!

Could this be the break Gidley has been waiting for?

CART, ALMS or NASCAR extravaganza weekends

A true global vision will serve CART well

A proposal for CART and IRL to coexist peacefully

The Triple Crown - a proposal for CART's success

650HP, 750HP, 850HP, it doesn't seem to matter

Movie Review: DRIVEN

Ryan Arciero hopes to continue family dynasty

CART & IRL, a missed opportunity

Things are happening at CART

CART' Data Acquisition Systems - there's a new kid on the block.

CART's next moves will be crucial.

The greatest Long Beach GP of all-time.

CART & IRL - close, and yet so far.

CART Engines, if it ain't broke, don't fix it

And the 2001 CART Champion will be....

The HANS Device saved my fathers life

Soft walls or soft cars?

Safety- It's going to take more than just magic to fix

CART vs. IRL, Hatfields vs. McCoys

DRIVEN is CART's best chance to become mainstream

Is CART's problem really a lack of American's?

CART vs. NASCAR - TV Coverage

Perhaps CART need look no further than NASCAR to understand that the Bubbas' rule auto racing

Book review - Autocourse 2000/2001

Do heroes make a sport, or does a sport make heroes?

To-Do-List, for CART's new President

 Lawsuits, Will Greg Moore's final legacy to racing be more than one of "spirit"? 

Tire Warmers, an idea whose time has come

Branding CART and their race cars

Will CART's next leader be a corporate visionary?

Addressing CART's TV issues

CART, do you know who you are?

Will CART miss this boat too, - Destined to forever race in the shadows of NASCAR?

Lights to IRL Specs - Why the new Indy Lights cars should meet IRL specs

Soft Walls - drivers take a stand while you still can

Sigma team - ready to do combat in CART

CART Fan Forum - Highlights from CART's very first Fan Forum

Warren Hughes - A name to remember

CART restarts - NASCAR Style

Mario Andretti Tribute - America's Driver of the Century

Shift w/o Lift - How it works

Aerodynamics - CART's chance to make progressive changes

CART's HP dilemma

Soft Walls - Finally, a safer wall system

Buddy Rice deserves a shot at Champ Cars

Choices, Choices, we rate possible new CART venues

CART must avoid Detroit's politics

10 ways for CART to invest $100 million

Montoya and Ganassi do CART proud at Indy

Welcome to AutoRacing1.com

A year of progress shapes Rockingham

A solution for CART's franchise dilemma

Lausitzring nears completion, fighting hard to win CART date

Paul Tracy keeps his Kool, wins LBGP for 2nd time

What is an American driver?

Warming up at Nazareth

172 mph in a Champ Car is the ultimate adrenaline rush

Standing Start Rules proposed standing start rules for CART

Standing Starts are they right for CART

Visit the Nascartop50

Our ranking out of 750 NASCAR websites since joining on 7/3/00

Convert this page to
another language

e-mail us:
contacts@autoracing1.com

Back to the top

AutoRacing1 is an independent internet online publication and is not affiliated with, sponsored by, or endorsed by CART Inc., NASCAR, FIA,  FedEx, Winston, or any other series sponsor. This material may not be published, broadcast, or redistributed without permission.
User agreement & disclaimer

Copyright 1999 - 2001, AutoRacing1, Inc., Hamilton, NJ