IRL “Side-By-Side” Commercials Leave NASCAR Fans Screaming

The email began to arrive once the IRL action got underway from the Homestead, FL track. It was not about the good pictures from ESPN or the good action from a series trying to survive.

What NASCAR fans had seen, apparently many for the first time, was the TV commercial breaks in the live IRL coverage. They had experienced the "missing link" in the TV coverage of NASCAR. They had seen ESPN's "side-by-side" commercial breaks.

The network runs the commercials in a big box on the right side of the screen. At the same time, they keep the live coverage of the race in another smaller video box on the left side. They also include a top three scoring graphic that immediately changes if there is a pass on the track. Simply put, it is fantastic.

The question of why NASCAR cannot do this has been addressed by everyone from NASCAR to the TV networks. From what I understand, it all hinges on the coverage of the Sprint Cup Series.

Unlike the IRL, NASCAR's top series is split between three TV networks during the season. Fox, TNT and the ESPN/ABC combined media company comprise the coverage of the February through November season.

As you might expect, these three networks are not friends in the corporate sense of the word. Though they must combine at the tracks in terms of facilities and manpower, their sales and programming departments operate to serve only their own companies.

To arrange for side-by-side coverage, three networks would have to meet and work through a wide variety of issues. Each of these companies has paid NASCAR a lot of money for the rights to the races they televise. The single driving reason for full-screen national ads is to get as much revenue from each commercial as possible.

Writers from Marty Smith to yours truly have addressed this issue. We believed that with the new TV contract, ESPN would lead the way in advocating this change. While network executives expressed an interest, they simply could not convince the many NASCAR advertisers to participate. So, here we are.

This NASCAR reality hit home for many people who ran across the primetime showing of the Homestead IRL race. At the height of the excitement, in front of what appeared to be a full house, ESPN announcer Marty Reid made the point over-and-over again to assure TV viewers that they would not miss anything as the network went to commercial. More at DalyPlanet

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