NASCAR is growing. Really. And I know it’s not April 1st. So this isn’t some lame April Fool's joke. In all seriousness, NASCAR has found an avenue for growth, one that might - down the line - mute enthusiasm of the broadcast networks that spend big bucks for the right to air races.
The NASCAR mafia sent out a news release documenting the growth of NASCAR.com. It included info from a company that analyzes this stuff. The site saw a 71 percent spike in the watching of video streams in the third quarter with triple-digit growth in video visits during November, when many of us were complaining about how crappy the 2009 season was.
“During this season, we have dedicated time, experience and innovative technology to staying current with the needs of fans by providing a better user experience. The increase in video streams is a testament to this work and the redesigned video channel is our continued effort to provide fans with a refreshed design and a high-quality experience,” said Scott Doyne, Turner Sports senior director of business operations for NASCAR.COM. “NASCAR.COM continues to lead the way in providing the most comprehensive and innovative NASCAR coverage available on the Web.”
Here’s the kicker. Web traffic is up. But TV ratings for races are down. FOX saw broadcast ratings slip 15 percent in 2009. TNT and ESPN/ABC saw ratings dip around eight percent.
The economics of melding traditional and new media while actually making a buck are far beyond my academic economic perspective, most of which I picked up from Rodney Dangerfield in “Back to School.” What I do know is that if TV executives lose viewers, they get sad. And think about this. If people go to NASCAR.com to get race highlights instead of ESPN or its Web site, ESPN has to react, because it has to charge less for commercials and ads. So not only is ESPN generating less money on other programs, but it continues to spend gobs on the right to air races that feature promotional material for the organization whose Web site ESPN competes against. Where's my abacus?
Welcome to the behind-the-scenes zaniness that is the reason why Brian France gets paid so much. At this point, I have no clue if any of this mumbo jumbo will affect your viewing experience in 2010. If only Rodney was around to make sense of it all.