Attendance and Ratings ~ Do They Matter?
I bid you welcome gentle readers, and of course, our usual warm welcome goes out to that lucky soul that drew our name out of the hat for NASCAR scrutiny today. We always try to give that person reason to pass the column up the ladder. Below, you’ll find some hasty notes taken during the Xfinity “Dash for Cash” races at Indy on Saturday. Take it for whatever it’s worth. If it’s worthless, then toss it away…
I'm watching the Xfinity race at Indianapolis, and fighting back the tears that want to fall from my eyes and run down my cheeks. The "crowd" this year is comprised of a few folks attempting to huddle in the shade of the main grandstand cover… and one lone soul in an orange shirt, over nearer turn four. One friend commented that if a group of crack marksmen held a "shoot a fan" contest, there would be no winner... because there are no fans.
No, gentle readers, I don't make the decisions in this sport, but this old lady excels at common sense, which sadly isn't as common in this world as it used to be. Stevie Wonder could see that stock car racing at the Brickyard has seen its time, and that time isn't 2016.
The bloom is off the rose! Surely, the folks that sit in high places at both Charlotte and Indianapolis can see that. Apparently, both are existing now on revenue from that oh, so lucrative TV contract. At this point, someone will always drop a note to remind me of the duration of that contract... 10 years, which began in 2015 and will run out at the end of the 2024 season.
Well... I've never been rich, but rich, poor or somewhere in the middle, I believe the math is still the same. With attendance such as we’re seeing here, which sadly is becoming the norm rather than an anomaly at most tracks, and TV ratings plummeting like a 41 Ford coupe pushed by “Revenuers” from a rocky cliff to the sea below, how long can the status quo remain exactly that, the status quo?
Our two broadcasting networks, FOX and NBC, are not tiny entities. They are long-lived wealthy corporations with excellent legal staffs that are not comprised of fools. Mark my words, somewhere within the many pounds of paper that comprise those lucrative contracts, there are "escape clauses" that give those corporations a financial out in the case of non-compliance or failure to deliver as promised.
In short, in the original deal, NASCAR had to guarantee both networks a reasonable expectation of being reimbursed for their broadcasting services. Those networks agreed to pay NASCAR a reported $8.2 Billion over a 10-year period, which it was thought would be more than balanced by the amount of funds they would receive from advertising clients… or so it was supposed.
Reality and a clear vision of things as they are, tell us that isn't about to happen. Networks live on advertising income. NASCAR essentially lives on sponsorship funds, no matter what anyone tells you to the contrary. Follow the little bouncing ball... when NASCAR attendance and TV ratings go down... and down... and down some more, advertisers notice. Many that have been advertising through NASCAR see better returns for their dollar elsewhere.
Two results of that scenario are that NASCAR finds all sorts of sponsorship, from corporate to individual teams and their drivers harder and harder to come by. The other is that those same advertisers pull their ads from TV, reasoning that if no one is watching, their money is going down that drain. At some point, that latter fact is going to tip the scales on those multi-billion-dollar contracts and one or both networks will file for release from responsibility, as delineated in paragraph-X, page (?) of section whatever. In short, no contract on earth is foolproof or unbreakable. It's all in the fine print, and I promise you there is more than sufficient fine print in those mega-bucks contracts.
Still, there is another shoe to drop, and it’s an important one. FS1 and NBCSN are both fairly new to the TV world and did not exist only a short time back.
FS1 came into being as the poor replacement to the SPEED channel. The biggest selling point it has is NASCAR and related shows, and believe it or not, they are boosting the numbers enough to make FS1 a fairly respected sports channel… and supporting all those shows featuring men and women punching, kicking, gouging each other and rolling in the mud.
NBCSN is merely a revamped version of VERSUS, watched by only a few, and before that, it lived a lonely life as the Outdoor Life Network. (OLN) They have bolstered viewing many times over by carrying the larger half of both Cup and Xfinity NASCAR races and accompanying programming before and after, along with all Formula 1 races and most of the IndyCar races. Toss in the Mecum Auto Auctions and an occasional visit from Global RallyCross, and I think it’s almost safe to say they are now the new “World Leader in Motorsports.” In short, though the NASCAR figures are not as hoped or promised, that channel has come a long way from humble beginnings.
Still, it’s hard to see how viewers in any number can compensate for advertisers that have moved on to greener pastures. If the networks can make that work, then the only losers are the fans that still choose to view the races.
It had been my intent to continue at this point with comments on the Xfinity race itself, which would have encompassed some dialogue on Cup racers racing in the Xfinity races. As usual, I ran long and still haven’t gotten to our Country Classic Closeout, so if you have a strong desire to read my sentiments on that subject, please post it in the comments or drop me a line. My email is always found here and on our Home Page. If anyone is looking for me, I want them to find me with ease.
You know what the little red banjo means. It’s time to close this one with some Classic Country Music.
Growing up through the years of World War II, my generation was instilled with a fierce sense of patriotism and most of us became flag wavers for life. One of the most popular “Cowboy singers” of that time was Tex Ritter, and over many years, I’ve collected a vast number of his recordings, though he recorded so many, the odds of having them all are slim to none. I have a couple here by Tex that range from the WWII days to a bit later. First up is one simply called “Old Glory.” This one is older than this recording, which mentions 50 stars. I’m pretty sure this was originally done during the war. Please enjoy. I know that I will…
Next we’ll hear Tex doing his version of a song that carries so much meaning in troubled times. It’s been recorded over and over by several great Country artists, but old Tex has always held a special place in my heart, and this video is the song only, without pictures from other times and other troubles. Here then is Tex Ritter doing a fine job on “God Bless America Again.”
Finally, this one comes from the very early 50s, at a time when America became involved in a “conflict” or “police action” in a country called Korea, in the Far East. The PC crowd was already becoming active I guess, and said we weren’t supposed to call it a “War.” A whole lot of our boys were wounded or killed fighting what was not technically a war. Here is Tex again, singing “A Letter from Daddy.” Tissue alert here!
Be well gentle readers, and remember to keep smiling. It looks so good on you!