Now that the floodgates have opened on split-screen commercials during NASCAR broadcasts, the prevailing question is: Who’s next?
Apparently, not TNT…yet.
The cable network — which since 2007 has had the only split-screen coverage of a NASCAR race via its “Wide Open” format in July at Daytona — isn’t planning to expand that package in 2011, a person with knowledge of the situation told “As the World Turns (Left)” Wednesday afternoon.
But that may change in years to come, as NASCAR is interested in expanding split-screen commercials past the Wide Open race and ESPN’s Tuesday announcement of “NonStop” coverage during the Chase races.
“NASCAR has been working with all of our media partners on this initiative and we’re excited that ESPN was able to work through the business elements on their end to get this format approved for the fans,” said Scott Warfield, senior manager for NASCAR Media Group.
The idea may trickle down to NASCAR series other than the Sprint Cup. While SPEED Channel spokesperson Erik Arneson said there would be no surprise split-screen experiment during Saturday’s Sprint All-Star Race similar to sister network Fox’ experiment at Dover, the idea in general is alive and well.
“The Fox Sports and SPEED advertising contracts are independent of each other and [split-screen commercials] is not something we were working on together,” Arneson said. “That said, it is something we are looking into for future events on SPEED.” SPEED airs the Camping World Truck Series schedule, along with the twin Daytona 500 qualifying races and the All-Star Race.
While the split-screen format has quickly gained momentum, it’s still a mostly unknown commodity among advertisers.
“We are just now getting this out into the marketplace,” ESPN spokesman Andy Hall explained. “We announced it at the Upfront [presentation for advertisers] in New York City [Tuesday]. We had talked to a couple of key advertisers in the sport before then and the reaction was positive. The advertising market is strong for sports across the board but we always are looking for a point of difference within our properties.”
In trying to create that difference, the networks are being close to the vest as far as their future plans. Hall said that ESPN, which started split-screen coverage of IndyCar races in 2005, didn’t know that Fox would be experimenting with a split screen Sunday. When Warfield was asked what NASCAR’s broadcast partners were privy to about their counterparts’ plans, he responded, “That would be a question for the networks.”