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NASCAR on TV: Is DVR changing the way fans watch?

By admin | January 5, 2014

 By Richard Allen

During a recent edition of “Sports 180″ on Knoxville’s WNML radio station, co-host Will West made the observation that TV networks will spend big money to obtain the rights for broadcasting sports because they can point out to advertisers that viewers do not use their DVRs to record sports as often as they do so for sitcoms or dramas. For that reason, advertisers can be assured that their commercials will be seen rather than skipped.

To add weight to West’s comments, CBS Sports Network president David Berson declared earlier this year that his “No. 1 priority is to increase live programming” because of its appeal to advertisers in an era when commercials are frequently skipped on other types of shows.

The NFL, NBA, Major League Baseball and a number of ‘off the beaten path’ sports such as rodeo, lacrosse and arena football are experiencing greater exposure due to this move toward more live programming by the bigger networks and their second tier affiliates. And, of course, NASCAR has benefited as well by receiving big contracts from Fox and NBC to extend their run on live network television despite being in a rather prolonged period of ratings and attendance decline.

NBC needed live content for its fledgling sports network.

However, as the article linked above points out, NASCAR also benefited from somewhat of an anomaly the last time it negotiated its TV rights with the networks. Fledgling sports channels Fox Sports 1 and NBC Sports Network want very much to compete with ESPN as go-to sports locales for TV viewers. To do that, they need live programming and NASCAR helps to fill that void. As a result, Fox and NBC were willing to pay a premium to be sure they acquired those rights.

Please vote in the poll question regarding your use of the DVR when watching NASCAR————————>

But in my experience as a blogger and observer of the NASCAR scene, I have found that many fans report using the DVR to record race broadcasts so they can skip the parts they do not like in order to get to the more intriguing moments of the event. Naturally, commercials are going to be part of the broadcast that is bypassed when the DVR is put to use.

The TNT network, which has one more year to go on its contract with the sanctioning body, was hammered by NASCAR fans during their run of Sprint Cup broadcasts through the summer of 2013 because of the number of ads shown during each race. As a result, the number of fans who wrote in to this website and others to report their use of the DVR seemed to increase dramatically.

NASCAR broadcasts on TNT were often the subject of scorn by fans.

Should NASCAR be concerned about the DVR going forward?

The NFL doesn’t have to worry nearly as much about this phenomenon because that big, game changing play can happen at any moment so fans tend to watch live rather than try to DVR the sport. Basketball has much the same feel to it as a big dunk or momentum turning three pointer could also happen at any moment.

NASCAR, on the other hand, can have long periods with little happening on the track. Granted, a crash involving top contenders or a significant mechanical failure can take place at any time, but fans seem more willing to take the risk of missing the live action as a trade off for skipping those more placid stretches.

Is this something NASCAR should be concerned about?

Obviously, the sport and its hierarchy will be in good shape financially in the near term due to those massive contracts mentioned above. However, they may not catch that same break of having fledgling channels looking for content the next time negotiations come around. And the networks and their advertisers will certainly be paying attention should the DVR become more of a means for watching racing in the future.

In a recent social media discussion, I asked my followers if they used the DVR for watching NASCAR. A number of respondents reported that they did, with several of those saying they tend to start their viewing an hour or so after the race has started and then “catch up” by skipping commercials and less interesting moments. Still others reported that they DVR the race in its entirety and may not watch at all if their favorite social media sites report that a driver they do not like had won or that the race was not terribly exciting.

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For now, the DVR is definitely causing a change in the way some fans watch NASCAR. For many, however, there is still nothing like watching live sporting events as they happen. But in a world that seeks constant excitement and has less and less patience for the process, the DVR may be about to cause a significant change in the way many watch auto racing.

Please also consider reading “NASCAR on TV: What Impact is HDTV Having on Sports Attendance?”

Topics: Articles |

20 Responses to “NASCAR on TV: Is DVR changing the way fans watch?”

  1. Russ Says:
    January 5th, 2014 at 10:39 am

    I dont mean this as a joke, pure truth. I do not use my DVR to record any programs. However in the last couple of years a comfortable recliner and sofa has affected the way I watch races.

  2. Nick Says:
    January 5th, 2014 at 11:48 am

    I’ve been a fan since 2001 and I’m convinced that NASCAR’s #1 priority should be putting on fantastic racing. When I was a “new” fan, there were so many side-by-side finishes. In fact, 2 of the first 5 races I watched had these kinds of finishes - Park at Rockingham, Harvick at Atlanta. I can’t even remember the last time the Cup series had a side-by-side finish. I’m really hoping the Gen 6 tweaks will do that, but I’m not optimistic. This is the first off-season since becoming a fan that I’m content with the off-season, not hoping for it to end sooner. If NASCAR had the kind of racing that made me a fan, ratings would be better, stands would be more full, and the DVR wouldn’t be as big of threat. Forget about greed, vanilla drivers, the Chase, monotony of schedule, etc. Great racing needs to happen.

  3. Amac Says:
    January 5th, 2014 at 3:10 pm

    Have DVR’d all races for the last 4 years. When FOX took over in 2001 the amount of commercials have made the races very hard to watch. The races should be broadcast like soccer games with the advertisement surrounding the picture for extended periods of time. This would work well at talledega and daytona where it takes laps to set up a pass. FOX changed the race broadcast formula and has not been the same since.
    Needless to say the ‘car of tommorow’ and the chase made the racing harder to find. Combine less racing with less coverage and you end up with digger cartoons.
    NASCAR will have to drop back to the bottom before the actual race coverage is addressed as an issue.

  4. Bill B Says:
    January 6th, 2014 at 6:56 am

    I watch all the races live but the last couple of years have seen me contemplating the DVR more and more. Most likely I’d start recording the race and start watching about an hour after the start. All I would fast forward through would be the commercials and parts of the broadcasts where they are flapping their gums instead of showing the race.
    Each year insults the viewer a little bit more. The ratio of racing to commercials has gotten out of hand. Something is wrong when you see less than 40 minutes of on track competition in an hour of viewing.

  5. Wm. Weisel Says:
    January 6th, 2014 at 8:13 am

    How many announcers does it take to call a race? 3 in this booth, 3-5 in that booth, a handful around the pits. Too much gum flappin. Just put the racing on the screen and we-the race fan will figure it out,OK? I DVR the whole opera and weed out the nonsense later. If B. France thinks he’s on the same level as the NFL, he’s mistaken. It’s just a race and most everyone involved is waaay overpaid just like most pro sports.

  6. GinaV24 Says:
    January 6th, 2014 at 9:10 am

    I agree with Nick’s comment about the reasons WHY fans are turning to the DVR during the races. If the races were better and the people in the booth did their job of actually calling the race, rather than blathering on about nothing for long periods, it would be more enjoyable to watch a live broadcast of the races.

    I used to DVR the race so I could enjoy watching it again - unfortunately these days I can’t really say that I enjoy watching the races - not live or recorded so I follow the race using my computer with the radio broadcast, twitter & raceview and seldom record the race. During the “winter’ here in the NE, I am more likely to have the TV on as well, but in nice weather, well, I watch the first 10 laps, go off and do other things, check back in over the course of the race and if it looks interesting, I’ll sit down and watch the last 20 laps.

    If NASCAR wants to retain my interest as a fan, they need to improve the racing & the TV broadcasts. It’s not enough for NASCAR to say they don’t control the networks - well, that’s what lawyers are for when they write the contracts - put clauses in about the coverage.

  7. Darren Says:
    January 6th, 2014 at 9:17 am

    I used to DVR for all broadcasts about 5 years ago. About that time I cut the cord though. Now my biggest issue is finding a way to watch at all. Criticize FOX all you want. At least they put the race on a broadcast network where everyone can see it. ESPN and TNT go out of their way to block streaming and other options (don’t tell me anything about “raceview” or “buddy” or whatever the latest version is…it’s crap.)

    Does anyone remember when “Cable TV” started and the promise was that since you were paying you wouldn’t have to watch commercials on “cable” channels. They broke that promise long ago. Fair is fair…I feel no obligation to watch commercials or to pay for TV. I get ~55 channels in digital broadcast 100% free and legal. If that means I miss some races so be it. Your viewer numbers go down and my wallet gets thicker. As for the original post…yes I have a DVR even for broadcast TV and when possible I do use it. I usually let the race get a head start for an hour or so then skip the commercials. To be honest I’d have no problem with split view. If they want to run adds off and on during the race go for it. Just let me see the racing.

  8. Jay Says:
    January 6th, 2014 at 9:50 am

    I agree with the above statements but would add that I would pay for an all Nascar, no commercial,no talking(or a whole lot less talking) station on my cable plan, gimme back Race Hub(when I’m actually home to see it (12:30pm, Really Fox?) all the pre race flap and an actual race with no Waltrips babbling it to death, m-t show old races, if youtube has em, Nascar could get em, its 2014, lets get it together people. I just need enough play by play to tell me what I may have missed, or whats coming up, otherwise…. shuuuuuush please.

  9. Jesse Says:
    January 6th, 2014 at 10:00 am

    I DVR every NASCAR race, I find out who one and if it’s a Joe Gibbs or Mikey driver I erase it, watch all INDY car races live so much better racing and not just 10 drivers could win a race. I think NASCAR has a script for all the races by how they throw all those debris cautions

  10. NASCARJeff Says:
    January 6th, 2014 at 10:26 am

    First we need to get rid of announcers who have agendas!
    The Waltrip’s have ties to Toyota and D.W. announced a deal with Buick plus Michael is a current team owner and cheater.

    D.W. and Larry MacReynolds shill for Quicken Loans and KFC.

    Ray Evernham is a Hendrick Motorsports employee

    Brad Daugherty is a current team owner

    Rusty Wallace has a son who competes in the Nationwide and Truck Series.

    Wendy Venturini is married to a Joe Gibbs Racing tire specialist.

    We have to many talking heads with agendas who are to close to drivers and teams so they dare not ruffle any feathers or the teams wont do interviews for them.

  11. Michael in SoCal Says:
    January 6th, 2014 at 10:45 am

    It really depends on the race, but mostly the wife & I will DVR the cookie cutter tracks, knowing there won’t be much action we miss out on while we fast forward through. We’ll usually take the dog to the park, come home and start catching up on the race. We’ve had times during a Charlotte race where we got bored, paused the race, went in the jacuzzi for a while, got out and caught back up without missing anything except green flag pit stops.

    We don’t DVR the short tracks, the road courses, or the restrictor plate races.

  12. OneFroe9 Says:
    January 6th, 2014 at 11:01 am

    I haven’t watched a live race in many years. I typically start watching 2-3 hours after the race has started, zap all the commercials and caution laps and never watch the pre-race crap (especially anything involving a Waltrip or Chris Meyers - God I can’t stand that guy). I still tend to catch up to live racing before it ends. Lately, with the boring racing, I’ll watch the restarts, then view the recording at 4x speed and don’t feel like I’m missing anything. With the awful coverage by the networks, I feel like I’m watching qualifying (one car on camera, all by itself, lap after lap).
    I also DVR all the NFL games I watch. I usually have 2-4 games recording at the same time. Don’t start watching until a couple hours after the late games have started. I zap all the commercials, the halftime shows and even the time between each play. I can watch an entire game in about 45 minutes without missing a play. I’m not glued to the web 24/7, so I don’t know the outcomes before I watch them. I just have to tune out the score scroll on the bottom of the screen.

  13. 54 yr. fan Says:
    January 6th, 2014 at 12:28 pm

    I’ve lost a lot of interest in watching Sprint Cup. I do
    incorporate it as a filler for other sports. Until Brain Farce
    gets rid of his Chase and makes each event a stand alone
    run for the checkered flag, I’m looking for other things more competitive.

  14. GinaV24 Says:
    January 6th, 2014 at 1:30 pm

    Based on the comments above, I’d say NASCAR & Brian France have more to worry about than whether anyone is using the DVR to follow the sport.

  15. The Mad Man Says:
    January 6th, 2014 at 4:31 pm

    About the only time I really will watch a race live is if I’m at the track. Most of the time I DVR the races. On the rare occasion I happen to watch a race live at home, I use the MUTE BUTTON and listen to MRN or PRN. Why? Because of the Motormouth Brothers and their trained monkeys on Faux and the team owners and folks who have a conflict of interest on BSPN.

    I hope NBC is taking notes on all the of fan complaints about the current networks supposedly giving us race coverage and do their best to avoid what the current networks are doing so we can actually see some racing versus the usual 12 car coverage in between the commercials. “We interrupt these commercials to bring you a lap of racing”.

  16. Ken Says:
    January 6th, 2014 at 6:07 pm

    If it wasn’t for a DVR, I wouldn’t watch the races at all. You have to do something to avoid commercials and the Waltrips as well as the Wallace family. I zip through the race and stop and watch when I see something exciting or a wreck. I don’t stop the fast forward very often. I’m not going to waste all afternoon to watch 30 minutes of interesting racing. Thank goodness the DVR came along to balance my lack of interest in points racing.

  17. Alexander Says:
    January 6th, 2014 at 6:16 pm

    I PVR most races. It makes it better to watch a race especially when it’s a Jimmie Johnson stinker. If it’s a boring race I skip through most of it and enjoy the manufactured finish by a debris caution.

    I agree that races do not seems as close as they once were. I think the average margin of victory has narrow but as far as beating and banging to the line; that is rare. I think a lot of these repaves have taken away the rubber band effect. There was a time you had more contrast between long and short run cars at places like Rockingham, Darlington and Atlanta. Rarely do you see X-driver jump out to a 4 second lead before surrendering it to another driver.

    The PVR lets you experience these occurrences at your own pace. I love it and will never go back.

  18. John Cobb Says:
    January 6th, 2014 at 7:29 pm

    Good friends of mine use the DVR all the time and do they’re thing on Sundays and just catch up when they get time. I do the same at times but I usually am atleast following along on twitter.

  19. Maverick Says:
    January 6th, 2014 at 10:11 pm

    I DVR races for two things: For my dad for the very unlikely event that Junior wins and for when I work on weekends. If the race is eventful, I watch it later. If it isn’t, then I delete it and move on.

    Frankly, the DVR is not NASCAR’s greatest enemy they face, but rather the computer and all the “fans” that spew their endless hatred for the sport they “love” on it.

  20. Watchin' since the 70's Says:
    January 7th, 2014 at 10:28 am

    Started with a live race in Bristol, so it’s only went downhill from there.. In the old days used the VCR, now the DVR.. Skip all the yada yada yada, and watch the few minutes they actually show the race.. DJ is the best of the bunch..