No commercial breaks possible for desperate IRL

This Times Dispatch article says, Wow, here's a novel idea: split-screen auto racing, allowing viewers to see continuous coverage of the action during all national commercial breaks. Don't get your hopes up, wrenchheads. This isn't NASCAR we're talking about here. Fox and NBC/TNT are charging premium rates, which means their sponsors won't go for the split-screen idea. They want your undivided attention, even though you're sitting there, steaming, at the seemingly endless interruptions. When it comes to the Indy Racing League series on Disney-owned ABC and ESPN, it's a different matter. They're desperate. Open-wheel racing, once the big thing in motorsports in this country, has been lapped, then lapped again by NASCAR. How desperate are they? ABC and ESPN have talked their sponsors into what Disney is calling "Side-By-Side" for the first two races of the 2005 IRL schedule. Or given them drastic discounts, hoping to attract enough new viewers that they'll get hooked, and thereby build an audience for the rest of the schedule that includes the annual stop at Richmond International Raceway (June 25, ESPN2). The March 6 season-opener at Homestead, Fla. (ESPN) and the March 19 race at Phoenix (ABC) will be televised with the "Side-By-Side" concept. During national commercial breaks, we'll get a two-picture screen with live racing on the left and the advertiser's spot with audio in a larger box on the right. The networks' five local commercial breakaways will be full screen with no race coverage. "The enthusiastic and positive responses we received on this concept from our sponsors and IndyCar [were] tremendous," an ABC/ESPN marketing and sales spokesman was quoted as saying. Why not? Anything is worth a try.

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