The Racing’s Back, The Viewers Not So Much

NASCAR on FOX

What’s up? In the world of NASCAR it would seem we have trends headed in two distinctly different directions. One reflects a brighter day in NASCAR circles, the other portends gathering dark clouds.

A significant number of fans would agree the on-track product is improved in 2014 over the season prior. The number of green-flag passes are up, there are more green flag passes for the lead, there are more leaders per race than before, and the margins of victory are tight. That’s what the numbers tell us. This fan, at least in terms of feel, would submit that of the eight races that have run so far, four have been “pretty darn good,” on the “Mac’O’ Meter,” two have been “decent, considering the venue,” while one race featured a “dominant car stinking up the show.” Not a bad body of work, though the elements have been problematic, and a good debate cna bad had concerning the role of tires in one race.

In spite of all the good highlights, the resurgence of Dale Earnhardt Jr., and the relative quiet of Jimmie Johnson, the TV ratings are down. We’re not talking about one or two races, every single race is down from 2013. The tracks can’t be blamed, some fan favorite have dotted the schedule: Daytona, Bristol, Martinsville and Darlington. Rain delays have been a significant issue, but not every race. Darlington, the “track too tough to tame” was down nine percent, in spite plenty of promotion, a great reputation and favorable conditions.

A host of reasons are offered up by the fans as to why when the discussion comes up, but it’s time to address what is the elephant in the parlor where the networks are concerned: fans have more choices to get their race coverage, and not only are they making use of those, some are just tuning out altogether.

Fans are voting with their TV sets, and the tribe has spoken: they are not happy with the coverage. While FOX has given us cartoon gophers, the Hollywood Hotel, pit road strolls and a variety of other gimmicks, it’s not selling. For over a decade, it’s been the same crew bringing us the race, and in spite of the complaints, the network keeps trotting out the same broadcast team. The act has grown tired. Speaking for myself, if I hear one more reference to crab cakes at Dover, hot dogs at Martinsville, the “night time is the right time,” and “boogity, boogity, boogity,” I think I am going to pitch my television set in the yard.

All of this can be overlooked if the action on the track is smokin’ hot. The racing is a little better, but not so much they will endure a broadcast that grates on their nerves in the same way, that football fans will endure Monday Night Football coverage that is nowhere near what it once was.

Fear not, eventually changes will come. When ratings conscious advertisers and agencies see the tale of the tape, they will demand a lower rate or they will take their business elsewhere. It’s at that point the networks will listen.

It’s not just FOX, the other networks have had their issues too, with team owners in the booth and studio, sloppy production, ill-timed breaks, and personnel that just didn’t appear to be up to the national TV standards. The media is supposed to be a partner. With friends like these, who needs enemies?