ABC you fully blew it after ESPN started airing Sprint Cup races. This all stated in January when ESPN picked up the races ABC used to air. You can easily read later how bad it was for the ABC Sunday afternoon lineup. This long rant will also include more ways to fix NASCAR and the poor ratings.
ABC airs on a constant basis each year NCAA football, the NBA, Little League World Series, a few horse racing events, and a few select IRL events. That is a good lineup of sports action. In 2010 ABC had a special block of Saturday programming which was nice to see. It included a new show called Winners Bracket along with some repeats of ESPN 30 for 30 specials and other ESPN shows, but after the NCAA football started they went to the backburner which to me stunk. This year ABC is going to be bringing back bowling to ABC, but that sport gets lower ratings than even a NASCAR race. Why change what I say worked???
The ratings for NASCAR races dropped big time this year which is no good and over the past few years they have taken a massive 20% plus drop in ratings while the NFL gained In ratings over the same period.
I do think the airing of races on ESPN instead of ABC was a factor in the ratings drop that occurred at the end of the season. ESPN only reaches 100 million homes vs. the 116 million homes ABC gets and I really do feel those 16 million homes count. NFL matches ending at the same time as NASCAR races is a good reason for the ratings drop. I love the 1 pm start time, but possibly for the chase races at a 2pm start time is best.
Here is a detailed look of what ABC was airing along with other networks with the help of the TVguide.com website at the times a NASCAR race was being aired:
The first week on Sprint Cup action was at Indy On July 25, a race that is mainly aired on ESPN. ABC countered with some AVP volleyball while CBS had some PGA golf, and ESPN 2 had final round coverage of the Senior British open that had been a staple airing on ABC. You can easily argue weather ABC or ESPN should have aired the race.
Next week was Pocono, but ABC countered with tape delayed coverage of LPGA British open and a live horse race event. ESPN2 aired Summer X-Games coverage. CBS again had PGA tour coverage. I give the win solidly to ESPN to airing the race.
Week three was Watkins Glen race on ESPN while ESPN 2 countered with some tennis action. CBS again was home to golf coverage while NBC aired some swimming and Triathlon coverage. ABC gives us the "Around the World in 80 days" movie that starred Jackie Chan. Movie or race, you decide.
Week four was Michigan and it was another movie for ABC with "Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen." NBC countered with Gymnastics and some Action Sports, CBS was back again with Golf, while ESPN2 picked up Tennis and Little league World Series action. Movie or race, again you decide.
Week five it was the Bristol race, but this was a Saturday night race that ABC picked up. Other networks like NBC and CBS had repeat programming on.
Week six was an off week for Sprint Cup drivers, but the Nationwide Series was in action Sunday at Montreal so I will throw this in as well. ESPN2 aired the race which is the network that airs most of the Nationwide Series season while ESPN picked up some high school football. CBS again had some PGA golf, while NBC has some Track and Field action along with a golf Event. ABC though actually aired the championships for the Little League World Series. This is something ABC had aired for well over a decade so I will not complain.
Week seven was a Sunday night race on ESPN, But ABC countered with the Jerry Lewis Labor Day Telethon they air every single year so no complaints by me. ESPN 2 had MLB on while NBC was in repeat program land while CBS did air a new episode of Big Brother.
Week eight was the Saturday night race from Richmond which ABC so you have no complaints by me. CBS did counter with US open tennis action. Both ESPN and ESPN2 had NCAA football.
Week nine was New Hampshire and this Sunday race was the first race in the chase. ESPN aired this race with ESPN 2 picking up the pre-race show. NBC aired some action sports while both Fox and CBS start out with NFL football. ESPN2 was also going to air a WNBA playoff game, but it did not have to take place. ABC blows the weekend big time by showing a wipeout repeat along with a couple of specials to preview the fall TV season on ABC.
Week ten was Dover action with ESPN getting Sunday coverage of the race. ESPN 2 had the pre race and then in the afternoon hours aired billiards coverage. NBC though breaks out with equestrian coverage and Golf. Fox had NFL football along with poker while CBS only had NFL coverage. ABC counters with another movie titled "Dreamer: Based on a true story."
Week eleven was Kansas and ESPN winds up with this race as well. ESPN 2 though had the pre race show, a Sports Center Special, and more billiards action. CBS and Fox aired NFL football. NBC though countered with 14 hours of sports coverage which included weather delayed Ryder golf and four hours plus of Equestrian coverage from Kentucky. ABC counters with nothing, nada, zero, zilch. Local ABC networks aired what they wanted.
Week twelve was Fontana and ESPN yet again gets the coverage. This week though ESPN got the race and the pre race show. ESPN 2 though countered with some bowling, billiards, and timber sports. Fox had NFL and poker while CBS was back with NFL coverage. NBC though had yet more equestrian coverage and some skating special to air. ABC was back for the second week in a row with nothing, nada, zero, zilch. At this point of time it was NBA pre-season time so they could have aired a contest if NASCAR was so unimportant to ABC, but also this was a late race so if the 6pm news on the east coast was important the race should have aired on ESPN.
Week thirteen was Charlotte, but this was a Saturday night race so it got aired on ABC which is what I want to see. CBS and NBC were mainly in show repeat land, but FOX though did pull in some MLB playoff coverage. ESPN and ESPN2 had NCAA football to air. The week has some of the best ratings of the season for the chase.
Week fourteen was Martinsville and ESPN picked up this race. NBC had Gymnastics and Bull Riding. Fox had Football and poker while CBS pulled in with just NFL coverage. ESPN2 though had the pre-race show and women's NCAA volleyball action. ABC could only muster a Wipeout TV show repeat. This is just plain sad even with the NBA preseason being over on the say of the race.
Week fifteen was Talladega and ESPN gets yet another race. ESPN2 gets the pre-race show with tennis and Bass Fishing as well. NBC is only airing some skating. CBS gets to air some NFL and a PGA golf special. Fox is airing Football in the afternoon hours. ABC just decides to air for the second week in a row a Wipeout TV show repeat?!?!? This is just even sadder as they could have aired an NBA game. One was scheduled at 1pm and another at 3:30 PM.
Week Sixteen was Texas and ESPN gets the race again, but also picks up the pre race show. ESPN 2 picks up NCAA volleyball. CBS has football while FOX is back with poker and football. NBC shows the NYC marathon which they love to do along with some skating. ABC can only muster up A Shaq Vs. repeat when the NBA has 6 games on the schedule. If the news was important ESPN again gets the race, but this just blows....
Week seventeen was Phoenix and ESPN gets the race again along with the pre-race show. ESPN2 though has billiards. FOX and CBS air football. NBC is back again with skating. ABC again decides to let the local affiliates air anything they want, BUT the NBA had 5 games scheduled. This was another week where if the news mattered ESPN gets the race, but this is just another stinky week for ABC.
Week eighteen is the final week for ESPN and yet more NASCAR Coverage. ESPN2 though picks up the pre-race and then airs repeat WSOP coverage. NBC does both action sports and skating. CBS is back with football while FOC is back again with Poker and football. ABC does it yet again with letting the local affiliates getting to air anything. With the race coverage ending at 5pm this is just a pure travesty. The NBA though had 4 scheduled games.
To sum all that stuff up ABC aired:
3 weeks where they aired a sporting event at the same time as the car race.
One Labor Day Telethon they always air.
3 weeks where a Movie got aired, One week for ABC Fall season previews, One week for just a Shaq Vs. Repeat, and two weeks for Wipeout only repeat.
4 weeks for anything to air from the local affiliates.
3 weeks for the Saturday night races.
The sum the sum in two short paragraphs:
ABC fully blew it. It looks like ABC does not care about the Sunday ratings or even what they aired. With the most important chase ever ESPN still got the races, which to me is just wrong. The last three weeks included two races with 3PM start time. That could have been a prime opportunity for races to move over to ABC, but that did not occur.
Also with 1pm EST start times for most of the races ESPN aired the races finished before 5PM EST. After the end of the race a NASCAR centered Sports Center show aired. This was a nice idea by ESPN to continue post NASCAR race coverage. Why not air Sports Center until 6PM on ABC though??? That way you can give even more NASCAR post race coverage to the ABC viewer. FOX has a post game NFL show called the OT so I do not see why ABC can't do it as well. The Saturday night ABC races had the solid post race coverage I was looking for though.
Since I think ABC must air the NASCAR races this is what I feel should have been the ESPN TV lineup during the time period both NASCAR and NFL were being aired.
11AM to 1PM: ESPN NFL Pre game show
1PM to 2PM: NCAA finale show
2PM to 3PM: Winners Bracket
3PM to 6PM: One live NBA game with pre-game show when the season started.
I love the concept, idea, and Winners Bracket show. It does not get enough air time so I have found a solid time slot for it. The NBA regular season has already started and NO Sunday matchups on ESPN or ABC are to be found????
An alternative at the 3PM timeslot could be a NCAA basketball match after the season has started. That is a popular sport to air for the ESPN networks.
Okay, so I totally crapped on ABC and what they aired. I even stated what could air on ESPN instead of NASCAR, but even more has to be done to fix NASCAR and the next paragraphs explain what needs to be done.
Dale Jr. Needs to win Sprint Cup races---I will say it again and so will many other people as well. He is the most popular driver in one of the biggest teams ever and his performance has stunk so far. With Dale Jr. winning again it will help bring in more young people to NASCAR which is fully important.
Someone other than Jimmie Johnson needs to win the championship---Although it is nice to see someone win five championships in a row he is certainly not the driver the fans would like to see win his fifth in a row. Jimmie is just a boring driver with no edge to him. Sure he has his fans, but Dale Jr. or Tony Stewart winning his fifth championship in a row would a ratings winner.
Have shorter races---Again I will say this. Pocono can certainly use shorter races. About the only races that need to be at least 500 miles long are the Daytona 500, Coca Cola 600, and the Talladega races.
Got to go to Iowa---The tracks needs to like double the seating capacity, but this racetrack is less than 1 mile long and fully different. I like tracks that are 1 mile or less.
Have a shorter season--This I say is also vital, but which race tracks should loose a race. A Michigan race could go, Kansas needs only date, and Texas could loose a race to name a few. You need to get to down to like 30 races for a full season.
Danica Patrick improves-- She did not have a solid 2010 season, but she finished the season off better than what she started. Some top tens from her will help NASCAR for sure.
Travis Pastrana gets hot--He will be in only seven Nationwide Series races in the 2011 season, but all of them will be important. With his popularity a few top ten place finishes will only help drive younger viewers to NASCAR.
I am going to say in conclusion that NFL seems to be the perfect sport. It has the right amount of edginess, action, and violence Americans crave. It is going to be hard for any professional sport to go against the NFL juggernaut of a sport, but with changes stated above NASCAR can start growing ratings again.