The Frontstretch: Best of Cheryl Walker: ESPN shows how racing and commercials can mix by Cheryl Walker -- Monday December 5, 2005

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As is the case with many families, we enjoy other forms of racing besides NASCAR. My son, Joshua, especially, enjoys the CHAMP cars, the Rolex Series, the IRL, and Formula 1 (the recent debacle at the U.S. Grand Prix notwithstanding).

Joshua thinks that these different series bring him some good racing. And this was even before Danica Patrick stepped from her car at the Indy 500, shook her jet black hair out from under her helmet, and made all of America take notice of her. (Now that that has happened, and he’s seen a few more photos and media bytes of her, he has found more reason to enjoy IRL races. But I digress.)

This past weekend’s IRL race was at the Kansas Speedway, and was held on Sunday afternoon. Since there was no NASCAR race on, it was an easy choice what we were going to watch.

Shortly into the race, the show’s broadcast turned to its first round of commercials. While that in itself isn’t anything new for the airing of races of any kind, what was shown on-screen was. Dubbing it "˜ESPN’s Side-by-Side’, viewers were treated to a split screen. On the left-hand side of the screen was the IRL race, and on the right-hand side was the commercial. Yeehaw! A racing fan’s dream! No break in the action, and no chance of missing anything significant happening while the obligatory commercials were being aired.

I remember one time before when this sort of thing was attempted, and it was done during a NASCAR race. When TNN was the broadcaster, a "˜picture-in-picture’ racing/commercial mix was tried. However, the racing was just a small box on the whole screen, instead of sharing the same amount of space as the advertiser.

Another thing different from TNN’s experiment in keeping the fans and advertisers alike happy to ESPN’s was a tip of the hat to a sponsor. At the top of the screen on Sunday was "˜ESPN’s Side-By-Side, brought to you by"¦..’ followed by the name of one of the advertisers, prominently displayed. This not only brought extra-kudos and credit to the companies that helped bring this great compromise to the racing fan, but also gave those fans company names to support and buy products from out of gratitude. What a great win-win.

Any time that I see an opportunity for NASCAR fans to ask questions of the producers of the NASCAR races, inevitably a fan always puts forth this one, "Can’t you find a way to break from the commercials faster when something happens on the track?"
I believe this is a fine way to not even have to make that break, in a way that is acceptable to the sponsors that help bring it to the fans.

If this appeals to you as a racing fan, then I would suggest watching ESPN’s airing of a future race, and then letting them how terrific of an idea it is. Then write the producers of our NASCAR races, and let them know as well.

The squeaky NASCAR fan may someday get "˜the grease’, in the form of racing/advertising split-screens.

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Today on the Frontstretch:
Championship Caliber? What Does That Even Mean?
Mirror Driving: Winning Vs. Points, Needing a Boost, and The Lady’s Last Dance?
Nuts for Nationwide: The Curious Case of Elliott Sadler
Happiness Is…Arrogance, Less, Next, and the Outdoors
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©2000 - 2008 Cheryl Walker and Thanks for visiting the Frontstretch!

Holly aka ab8
12/05/2005 10:58 PM

Bring back the Crow luv ya Cheryl!!!!!!!!

12/06/2005 05:40 PM

I totally agree Cheryl. I think that it is a great idea and wish other networks would follow suit. But the real problem, I think, lies with NASCAR. What they charge the networks for airing the races is outrageous in my opinion. I think in the long run it may hurt the sport.

12/07/2005 10:45 AM

I thought I was the only one that noticed and am to the point where I’d almost rather have an option for pay per view so not to have 35 minutes or more worth of commercials every hour during the race (I have Tivo.. trust me). Great concept ESPN!


Cheryl is no longer a contributor to the Frotnstretch, having branched out on her own, starting CawsnJaws with her son Josh. If you'd like to see more of Cheryl's Frontstretch articles, check out her bio and archive page.