Fox Sports boss David Hill discusses NASCAR TV coverage

Fox Sports Chairman David Hill was at Daytona International Speedway on Saturday, chatting with car owners and meeting with NASCAR officials before the drivers meeting.

A lot of buzz lately has been about showing the race and commercials on the screen together. Fox experimented with that, doing it during the final break at Dover, Charlotte and Kansas. Tonight’s Daytona race on TNT featured such coverage throughout and ESPN previously announced that it will do so in the second half of each of the 10 Chase races.

I was able to get with Hill briefly before he went into the NASCAR hauler to meet with NASCAR President Mike Helton and others. Here’s what Hill had to say about a few things:

On what they learned from experimenting with the split-screen format this year and its future for Cup races on the network:

HILL said: “We’re still evaluating. It’s something that we’ve looked at and talked with for years and years and years and we got the OK to do it. There are two key categories that we have to determine that it works. The number 1 by like 99 percent is the viewers. If they think that it doesn’t impact their enjoyment of the race and you’ve got to weight that up against is that advertiser getting his message through, so there’s a whole bunch of things. We’re just slowly working our way through the research. I don’t know what we’re going to come down to. It was great to do the experiment and get some evidence and see how it’s going to play out.

With ESPN doing more of it, how will it help in making your decision on if to do it?

HILL said: “The more it’s done, the more feedback and I’m quite sure that the boys at ESPN are doing exactly the same as we are. We all hate having to break into the race with commercials. That’s a given. If we could do it without commercials, we would but it’s a business and the rights aren’t free. It’s walking that fine line between keeping our viewers totally happy and the clients totally happy.

On if TNT’s Wide Open Coverage is the best way to show racing and ads at the same time:

HILL said: “I just want to take the three, what we’re doing, what ESPN is doing and what Turner has done and probably in the dog days of August, just have a look and say, “What do we think works and then research it again.’ It’s too important to rush into it, but it’s too important not to spend a heck of a lot of time just working on it as much as you can about what’s right, wrong or indifferent. Maybe there’s another way of doing it that none of us have thought of yet and that’s one of the reasons that research is so important because you never know what you’re going to hear in a marketing session.

On the ratings being up for Fox’s Cup races this year:

HILL said: “We’re stoked that the ratings are up. More than just the fact that we seem to have hit bottom and bounced back up _ far more important than that _ the young demos (18-34 age group) came back. That is all important. They came back and they stayed. I think that one of the reasons and, for any shift … and it hit me like a rock in the middle of last year that we’d all screwed up because we were worrying about that (as he points to a car) and we weren’t worrying about the driver.

About his idea of moving Cup races from Fox to SPEED Channel (most likely with the next contact, which would begin after 2014),

HILL said: “Obviously I’d love to put some races on Speed. When we started, we had races on FX. We put races on FX and that was always our plan and that was to help FX, but it didn’t destroy the impetus to the sport. I think if there’s a right balance between what’s on Speed and what’s on the network, it’s going to help grow. You’re still doing exactly the same kind of coverage. You’re not changing your coverage. It’s just the way the whole day goes when the race is on that network. Hampton Roads

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