What Should NASCAR Do About ESPN?

By Joseph Wolkin
Sam Sharpe-USA TODAY Sports

NASCAR‘s problems with ESPN started way back when the two reconnected to create what was going to be a different type of broadcast, supposedly a more dynamic one. However, since 2007, ESPN hasn’t done their job and their contract is up at the end of next season. This could ultimately mean the end of NASCAR on ESPN, well at least for the next few years and it wouldn’t be the worst thing. It’s safe to say that fans are definitely not happy with ESPN and neither is NASCAR.

The sports channel has interrupted races for the Little League World Series which is just ridiculous. The channel has barely utilized ABC which could bring plenty more viewers than ESPN or ESPN2. Well guess what, it’s going to get worse in 2013. During media week, the channel announced that two Nationwide Series races will be broadcasting on ESPN’s channel that not many folks even pay attention to, ESPNEWS. Yeah, that’s a joke considering they have ABC which can boost ratings for a sport that needs it rather badly.

Most race fans are rather fed up with ESPN’s tactics and are seeking a change. The idea of NASCAR having their own television station has been floating around for quite some time now. It definitely wouldn’t be as bad as ESPN and they could probably work out a deal with Turner Sports or FOX to help them create a partnership for their new station which could probably boost ratings as well. By the way, some of ESPN’s reporters are responsible for drivers getting fired and/or suspended, just ask Kurt Busch how he feels about ESPN’s variety of reporters.

In 2012, races on FOX and TNT averaged 8.1 million and 5.05 million viewers respectively. Meanwhile, ESPN averaged just 4.2 million viewers during the sport’s playoff battle, the Chase for the Sprint Cup. Besides making the sport look terrible, that makes ESPN look terrible as well considering they are the “World Wide Leader in Sports.” 

Well, FOX is locked up for just a third of the schedule for the next few years after signing that gigantic contract, TNT may not even come back, so what should NASCAR do?

The first thing is quite simple. If NASCAR re-signs a deal with ESPN, they must have at least half the races on ABC networks. Races on ABC in 2012 had far more viewers than the likes of ESPN did. They also have to decline ESPN’s option to host the entire Nationwide Series schedule. Making the move to ESPNEWS this year is going to anger fans a lot. It already angered those who found out during media week and it’s certainly going to make people raise their eyebrows. NBC is supposedly looking to cover NASCAR on their new channel, the NBC Sports Network, as well as NBC which is something that NASCAR could use. Even though NBC dropped out of NASCAR  a few years ago, they still did a better job of advertising races than ESPN does.

NASCAR’s idea to make their own network could work out rather well though and is probably the best solution to this problem. Think about it. The sport is always trying to spread the word about the smaller series within the sport, but not many people even know they exist because they’re never on television. A NASCAR network could quickly fix this problem and have race broadcasts for most, if not every one of these races. How cool would that be?

The network would probably be right by all of the other major sports television stations and can create a wide variety of jobs, giving openings to people just trying to make it into television media. It would also go along well with the newly redesigned NASCAR.com which has been a hit as of late. NASCAR has a lot of thinking to do within the next few months. However, one thing is for sure, if they want the sport to expand, just simply find a replacement for ESPN.

Joseph Wolkin can be followed on Twitter at @JosephNASCAR.

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