Ok, so big changes to the points, see previous post to know how I feel about that. Still not enough emphasis on winning. I do like the changes made to qualifying.
What I would like to address today is television coverage and race/season length. Fox Sports Media Group Chair David Hill, along with Hendrick Motorsports owner Rick Hendrick and Dale Earnhardt Jr. among others have stated their desire to see race length and season length shortened.
Not suprisingly, I am not a fan of this propostion. I believe that if things are done properly races and the season do not need to be shortened. Is it true that people may have short attention spans? Sure, when what they are doing is boring! If the racing is exciting, people are going to watch. Provided that they actually get the opportunity to see it. Why are tv ratings down? It is a pretty simple answer actually. It is because half of the event isn't actually occuring in front of our eyes. There are simply way too many commercials, and if the network hasn't broken away for commercial, they are busy showing me a pit reporter or the people in the booth or Tim Brewer/Jeff Hammond with the cutaway car showing me how tape works to fix a broken nose piece on the car. Go back and watch tape from the 90's race coverage. You'll see cars on the track and you'll hear the announcers voice, rarely will you see them. Never do you see the camera's pan away from coverage for a 'race break' with an obscure duck or gopher animation dominating your attention. The broadcast has become the show and the race is only a part of it. How sad, becuase it is the race that we are tuning in to see. So lets cut down on the side shows, and show more racing.
As for the amount of commercials during a race, David Hill has stated that the sponsers have spoken, and they do not want to do side by side commercial and race similar to what Versus is doing for their Indy car coverage. I say if the sales department at Versus can sell the sponsers on it, so can Fox/TNT/ESPN. Tell them this is what we are offering, becuase it is what the fans want. If the fans want it, we are going to give it to them. Why? Because if fans don't like what they are seeing, fans won't tune in. If fans aren't tuning in, then ratings are dropping. If ratings are dropping, then fewer people are seeing the traditional commercials which is causing a drop in brand exposure. If a brand would like more exposure, they have the opportunity to be sponsers of the sport, the cars, and the track. Sell TV spot sponsership. Instead of a commercial, sell segments of the race with the company logo featured on the screen during the broadcast. 'This 20 lap segment brought to you by _____________' from the announcers. The sponsers can only buy what you are selling, be a little creative. You still have the opportunity to go to commercial when the caution flies.
So why are tv ratings down? It is because the racing isn't compelling until the last 100 laps of the race. So some people are saying, lets shorten the length then. I say NO. The races currently aren't about battling each and every lap for the lead or to improve your position. The races are about taking care of your equipment, playing strategy, trying to put yourself in the best position at the end of the day to maximize points. This shouldn't be what racing is about. It should be about compete and desire and rubbing being racing, for all laps of the race. It shouldn't be about guys riding around, taking care of their stuff until its 'time to go'. Go from the start! How do you accomplish this? Give bonus points for leading at different intervals of the race. If you're leading at the 20%, 40%, 50%, 60%, & 80% laps complete point of the race, you get 5 bonus points. You can bet with that amount of points on the line, running at or near the front throughout the race is going to become a lot more important to a lot more people! So no, the races don't need to be shorter to keep my attention. They need to be exciting.
So I can see why people are saying the races are too long, if you told me that you were going to sit me down and show me an event for 4 or 5 hours, and the cars are going 200 mph, beating fenders and constantly battling for the lead, driving on the edge each and every lap of course I'm going to watch that. But if I sit down to see that, and what I see instead is 200 of 400 miles of follow the leader racing, with the other 200 miles dominated by commercials and talking heads and cut away cars and cartoon animation and then only see 75 mile of the final 100 that are actually exciting. I'm pretty sure that I would think that the races are too long and the season is too long and I would also only tune in for the last 100 miles. Fix the product and you bring back the fans.