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.
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.
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.
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?”
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