Wednesday, January 21, 2009

TV blackouts? Not practical and not very likely

Take it easy folks. There won't be any local blackouts of NASCAR telecasts. At least not for a while.

Bruton Smith was asked a question Tuesday. Actually, it started when somebody asked him if race tracks maybe got a little too aggressive in adding seats when times were booming in stock-car racing. Smith said he didn't think so, which should come as no surprise because he's built more seats than anybody in the last 15 years or so.

In saying that, Smith said, "Maybe television has become too good." He meant that the quality of racing coverage on NASCAR makes it harder for people like him to convince people to get up out of their recliners and put up the money and energy it takes to actually come to the track.

That question was then followed up by one about whether NASCAR should consider mirroring the NFL policy of blacking out games in a team's home market if the seats aren't all sold.

"That's exactly what should happen," Smith said.

Well, no, it's not.

When you do something, there needs to be a good reason. About the only reason to go back to the practice of local TV blackouts for races is to help the race track sell tickets to people who live nearby. Given all the drawbacks to the overall picture such blackouts would bring, that's not a good enough reason.

It's no surprise that fans would hate that idea. The reason fans hate it is the reason Smith thinks it makes sense. Fans want the option of not going to the race closest to where they live and still being able to see it.

Fans, in fact, feel like they have a God-given right to see it for free on television at their homes. Fans, in fact, think they ought to be able to see it for free with no commercials.

They don't care if that makes no economic sense. They don't have to. They're fans.

Why blackouts won't work these days is that the television networks won't stand for it. First off, two races a year would be blacked out in the Los Angeles market because California Speedway isn't about to start selling out its races. Texas has so many tickets it's not going to have many sellouts, either, and Dallas-Fort Worth is another huge market that Fox, TNT and ESPN/ABC don't want to lose from their ratings.

The money television pays into the sport now is so important to NASCAR's financial structure the sport isn't going to do anything television would hate that bad.

It'd also be hard to come up with a policy on blackouts. The term "sold out" is rarely applicable for races. Grandstand seats can all be sold, but aside from short tracks that have limited or no infield tickets available, tracks will keep selling infield tickets as long as people are willing to buy them, just about.

What constitutes a sellout for the purposes of determining a blackout? It's just too messy.

Blackouts weren't that rare before NASCAR got its first comprehensive television deal in 2001. Charlotte race blackouts were almost always threatened up until the last minute to lure the last few ticket-buyers out of their homes, and some blackouts were never lifted. Indianapolis race fans hardly ever get to see a race live because the speedway there thinks blackouts work the same way Smith thinks they would.

This whole thing is one of those little "media tour moments" that will cause a ripple and quickly go away. Don't lose any sleep over it.

47 comments:

Anonymous said...

How can you go about having them all blacked out?That would be the best thing that could happen to my T.V.
Can they black out radio too?

3KillerBs said...

Well said.

When you're worrying about paying the mortgage and paid-for vehicle along because you can't possibly afford to replace it blacking out races is not going to miraculously put the money for 6 race tickets and all associated expenses (gas, food, etc.), into my hands.

And if that cash did, somehow, appear by magic in my hands I'd use it to buy the kids shoes or something.

The main effect blackouts would have would be to alienate fans who, when times got better, would go to any race other then the one at the track that let them down in the hard times.

Anonymous said...

speaking of seats, what's Bruton doing between turns 1 & 2 at Charlote?

9fanatic said...

The problem with Bruton is he doesn't understand HARD TIMES, he has too much $$$$$$$$$. If they start blacking out races that will put the iceing on the cake for us. We are close to losing all interest anyway. You know the old saying, "out of sight, out of mind". I haven't even missed racing since the end of last year.

Anonymous said...

Blacking out the races is the smartest move ever. Given the choice of not going and watching for free on TV and paying to see it, which do you think people will do ? It's a no-brainer people.

9fanatic said...

In the 80's people would have gone to the track in droves to see the race........racing today is not good enough, they have 'Iroc'k' it to death. I'd bet you Brutons money it won't work now.

Anonymous said...

NASCAR racing lately has all the pizazz of a bowl of oatmeal minus the sugar and milk. Therefore I am dedicating the majority of my racing $ to going to USAC sprint and midget races.

DJ said...

Bruton Smith just proving why he is without a doubt the biggest prick in Nascar.You are right,this greedy man has never felt the struggles of us comman folk that live paycheck to paycheck,nor does he care.It's only what he thinks,just as his dictatorship stronghold with that dragstrip deal in Concord.He and Brian France keep screwing up what used to be a great thing........

As far as tearing down the seats in turn 1 and 2?Me and my gang have been sitting up top right between 1 and 2 for the last 6 years.Great seats.Went to re-order them and they said they were tearing them down.Why?So Bruton can put an RV viewing area there!I guess he will charge a few grand or more to those "rich" type folks and place us regular folks elsewhere.Pissed me off,but what can you do when the Bruton's of the world continue to dictate things and make more loot when the rest of us can't do a thing about it.......Maybe if no one brought tix to the tracks that fathead owns,it might open his eyes.Doubt it.........

Monkeesfan said...

It's Bruton's way of trying to shake down more ticket buyers to his tracks and bully the sport. He wants to control the sport and can't stand that he's not qualified for it nor is he as brilliant a promoter as he portrays himself to be.

Anonymous said...

The Indianapolis 500 has been blacked out live forever.....the ratings are strong for the evening replay.

Anonymous said...

Black out every race nationwide, completely stop televising the "show". I really do not know too many people who actually sit and watch a race anymore. I might flip the channel to it for a minute or two but then I flip away.

9fanatic said...

I agree......no way can people like Bruton and the France monarchy know our struggles. What Bruton said was in essense, a threat, they need to MAKE us poor people spend our hard earned dollars and go to the track and give it to THEM, if we want to see the race. It IS a threat and I, for one, don't take threats lightly. There are a lot of you out there in the same boat....I'll hang it up and find something else to do.........totally. Wouldn't surprise me if they black a few races out this year, just to see. It is my understanding (after the black out on the Ga game earlier this year) that the stadium/tracks, make these decisions, I don't really know, but they sure ticked off a lot of Ga fans with that one. I wouldn't buy a ticket to a Ga game now if I liked football.........I do watch the 'dogs' play but that's all. I've seen the time I would have seen the Atlanta race if I had to walk, if they blacked it out, but no more. I slept through the majority of them last year.

scm_pa said...

I can see Brutons point of view on this however I don't think he really has a grasp on the reality of why seats are empty.

While I feel there are many reasons why seats are empty I think the big two are the economy and the fans view that the quality of racing has been declining.

Anonymous said...

You're so right, David. The track owners just need to put more "perceived value" into their tickets.
Lower the prices or give more for the money.
Simple business truths.

Kim said...

No real fan stays home from a race to watch it on TV. My "home" track is Sonoma. I'm a new Nascar fan of about 1 1/2 seasons. I'm going to Sonoma this year.

There is an energy at the track that you cannot get at home, with Trackpass and in-car audio, even. The sound, the smell of tires, the crowd...I made it to the All Star Race in Charlotte last year (go Kasey!) and was hooked for life. I just HAD to see Nascar in NC. It was like a pilgrimage! : )

If I had my way I'd be at Fontana Phoenix, Vegas, Sonoma every year. But Nascar isn't like other sports. You don't buy a ticket, go for three hours and come home. You have to go for the WEEKEND - it's the immersion, the experience.

And it is expensive. Even if you camp.

Don't make Nascar a "rich man's sport". No blackouts. Trust me. If I could make it to a race, I would.

Was Nascar this stupid before I became a fan? : (

John said...

Rather than bully fans, Burton needs to find ways to reduce his costs and reduce ticket prices to get fans in the seats. How much to those fighter jet fly bys cost? How much to bring in the live music? As much as I love those things and associate them with the track experience, if their absence knocked off $20 from the ticket price, I would get over it. Find some other wasted costs and you might have a big enough savings to really lure people back into the seats.

9fanatic said...

Kim, fans don't get any 'realer' than we were, started in the early 80's. If you had watched then, you would see how bad the racing sucks now, compared to then. I am glad you are enjoying them, tho.....says something for some of the new fans. I also agree about the track experience, been there, done that.........and it was great. 'Was' is the operative word here.

Anonymous said...

The Indianapolis races are blacked out due to a long standing policy of the George family (track owners). It has absolutely nothing to do with the race being a sellout or not as this column suggests.

Anonymous said...

Last years Indy 500 drew a 12.6 rating in the Indiapolis area...the replay runs the same time at the Coke 600.

Indianapolis is a top 5 market for NASCAR ratings.

So your theory that the network could lose ratings could be debated.

Richard in N.C. said...

A real blackout is Smith's killing and burying the North Wilkeboro race track.

Scott F. said...

David,
Blackouts will never happen. But it is just troubling that Bruton Smith is so Out-of-Touch that he thinks it would be a good idea.

majorshouse said...

I have always thought that Bruten Smith was off his rocker and the last time I looked, the tv contract was with NASCAR and not with people like Bruten Smith. I think that this is a really bad idea for all of the reasons that have been listed especially when NASCAR and the tracks has basically priced themselves out of the market for the average as well as their core fans, so why not let us be able to watch it for free on our television sets?

Anonymous said...

So who is the "real" fan? Accordig to some, it's someone who is old and has been a NASCAR fan for decades. Well, you are wrong.

A feal fan is anyone who loves the sport and wants to claim that. It doesn't matter if I'm 25 or 65, if I'm a male or female, if I live in the city or the subburbs, or if I live in the South or the North.

Just because I've been eating at McDonalds for 30 years doesn't mean I get to tell them to change or not change the menu. I don't get to pick the operating hours or the price of food. I can either eat there or not.

Everone who buys a ticket to a race, gets what they pay for. They get to see a race, be it good or bad. A ticket, does not give anyone a stake at the table on what owners do or don't do.

The traffic is so bad at the races I go to, I would welcome it if less people went. I spend something like 5 hours in traffic, getting in and parking. Maybe this year it will only be 2-3 hours.

Anonymous said...

The races are going to be on pay per view starting in 2011.The only races that will show on live TV will be prime time races only.It will be offered as a yearly package or a per race choice.This news will be released to the public and sports reporters mid Spring.

Robert said...

Nascar died when the Southern 500 was taken away.

Anonymous said...

I hope Bruton and Brian France choke on their "Silver Spoons".

Anonymous said...

Alleged PAY PER VIEW in 2011 will mark the official death of NASCAR racing....if it isn't already dead by then.

Bruton Smith....please stop wearing those expensive silk shirts, unbuttoned down to your bulging tummy. Sir, that is not a good look!

Anonymous said...

I can't tell, but it seems as though some who claim to be NASCAR fans are predicting NASCAR will fail because its wishful thinking or what. It's like when your spouse leaves you and you think they can't make it without you.

Though I think NASCAR will change, it won't die. Really bright people are investing millions. Burger King is going to Tony for a couple of races, plus they are doing a million personal campagne for their company.

National Guard is adding Jeff Gordon to their sponsorship at HMS. They already do Jr.

Ask.com and the Farm Bureau Insurance are also adding their millions to 2009.

All these organizations have a better grasp on NASCAR that some in this site.

Long live NASCAR, and good the dead weight is going away.

blpadge2 said...

I can remember back in the early 80's when ESPN and TBS first covered NASCAR, CMS (before Lowe's came along) habitually blacked out their races because of the chicken bone East & Family Grandstands that sold on race day. Of course a top row seat in the Ford Grandstand was about $25, and I could park right next to those seats, so yeah I might be tempted to come out. Then again North Wilkesboro and Rockingham were on TV, cheaper to attend, and easier to drive from the speedway from.

Since then Bruton & NASCAR have monopolized him into the Carolinas only race day (I don't count Mother's Day in Darlington), and the tickets have exploded by 400 to 600%. And with all those seats I now park at least a mile from the track, with worse conditions to leave. Lowe's in my opinion has always been the 2nd worst track for traffic (Atlanta is number uno, even during the Mother's Day Winston it took us 4 hours to leave).

Unfortunately for Bruton technology has about rendered the lure of being at the track obsolete. I can see the race on my HDTV which gives me better pictures that I can see at the track with binoculars, and I don't have some obnoxious drunk packed in 14" beside me.

If he persists in the black out scheme then as far as I'm concerned he can take his speedway and shove it up his fat ass. The next race I'll see in person will be the next street stock event at Rockingham where the cars still look like cars.

Cedar Posts and Life Floating By said...

Top ten dumb ideas to up the number of fans at NASCAR Races:

No 10 Fake Fights hire Rick Flair and Hulk Hogan to give drivers smack down lessons

No 9 Cheerleaders

No 8 Free Beer

No 7 Gambling on Race Cars with WIN, PLACE and SHOW payouts

No6 Figure Eight Tracks

No 5 Car sized trap doors and fire pits on the track that fans can operate.

No 4 Blindfold Half the Drivers and turn the infield into a nature preserve with 100s of deer

No 3 Have Celbs and Elected Officals drive the cars with no training

No 2 Change Direction of the race every nine or ten laps.

No 1 Have TV Blackouts

Or you could just go back to the days of Richard Petty Davey Allison and Dale!

Anonymous said...

If all of you are such great hard-core fans as you say why would you care if there are blackouts - because of course you would be going to your local race. I guess maybe you're not!!!

SLJAM said...

I stopped watching NASCAR when it became politically correct. Bring back the old days of Pearson, Petty, etc. and go back to the 70's rules and regulations. Maybe then I will watch NASCAR again.

http://upstatesc.proboards59.com

Anonymous said...

Ah, the great old days when only 10 or 11 drove full time. And how exciting to watch the end of the race when the lead car was 7-10 laps ahead of the second car? How about the nail bitters when drivers could skip 5 races and still come in 2nd or 3rd?

How about the big time races of 50-100 miles? You sure got your money's worth and drivers proved how athletic they were.

How about the lack of restrooms and lack of running water. Boy the fond memories of outhouses and the aroma! Yes, the good ole days.

Anonymous said...

i did not stop going to races because of ticket prices. I stopped going because the cars are ugly and 90% of the racing sucks!!!

Anonymous said...

I stopped watching Nascar when writers like Poole started shoving certain teams,and drivers down my throat.Until the press the D.W.s and the Larry Macs. shut up, call races fair,report fair and call a spade a spade then racing will not survive.

Holleracha said...

Sold the motor home. Too old to sleep on the ground. Spent big bucks on 50" plasma & surround sound No longer have the bucks to go racin on a whim. Id just miss the race. Might loose interest all together(fat chance!)

Anonymous said...

Years ago, Smith actually did enforce a blackout of all races at LMS that were not sold out. The TV ban was I believe every cable outlet within a 35 mile radius of the Speedway. The LMS mgmnt's contention was that the blackout protected ticket holders.
However, this idea is as ill timed as a snowstorm right before one of Al Gore's conferences on global warming..
Preventing fans from seeing the races on tv will do nothing but alientate people from the sport that so desperately needs as much positive perception as it can get.
Bruton, you're all wet on this one.

Anonymous said...

So, anons, if you don't like NASCAR anymore and don't like what Poole writes, why do you write on his blog?
Need therapy? No friends?

Anonymous said...

I don't know who watches "for free" but I don't. I pay extra to see the races and all the sports channels and I specifically purchased a 56" TV so I could watch Dale Jr. race! It is not free on TV...those days are long gone!! Don't like your "tone" about us thinking it is our "God-given right" and don't like the part about "getting out of our recliners." That was not necessary. People are out of work. It costs to watch the races whether on TV or at the track. NASCAR needs to take some responsibility and lower prices...tickets and concession stand. If Dale Jr. didn't race I wouldn't watch anyway!!

Anonymous said...

The problem with so many NASCAR whinners. They want what others have. If I can't afford a tv, I don't go out and charge it.

Anyone who has a pproduct gets to decide how much they want to charge for it. I mean I wish steaks were $1 a pound. I wish Corvettes cost $1000.00.

People who pay for cable or go to races and have no jobs are pretty stupid.

Anonymous said...

Just further proves that Bruton Smith is one egotistical, greedy prick. It just makes my blood BOIL!

NASCAR = GREED

Mr. Smith, maybe you should realize it's the FANS that have made the sport - not your manipulation and office politics. Here's an idea, why don't you take all the money that you make from these races and instead of lining your pockets with it, try giving it back to the respective communities with NO STRINGS ATTACHED...INSTEAD OF THREATS. And maybe the next time you force a name change in your honor - you could foot the bill for the signage and actually REPLACE the sign that formerly read Speedway Blvd. Nothing says tacky like having your name taped over the previous and being able to see it.

Webpress Media said...

There's always a technological solution including live-streaming that fans will adopt to show their friends and family at home. Black out? Perhaps it's time for an ad-share revenue model on mobile media for all athletes. Spread the Wealth, Bro!

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