ABC's Side-by-Side: Is it in the future of NASCAR?

One of the continual complaints fans have had regarding FOX's coverage of NASCAR races has been the lack of coverage on restarts. In many cases, during a caution period, the network will cut away to commercial, and not return to the race in time, causing viewers to miss some of the action.

FOX has defended its actions saying that they have contracts with advertisers that say they have to air a certain number of commercials during each race. So, they have to either air a few extra commercials early and miss a few restarts, or air them later and miss some green flag action in the race's later stages.

While watching the IRL Indy 500, I noticed that ABC might have found the solution. They used a new "side-by-side" format for most of their commercial breaks. Instead of completely leaving the race for commercials, they showed a split screen, with the commercials airing on one side, and the race action showing on the other. You couldn't hear the race, because the commercial audio was being broadcast, but at least you could still see the action on the track. And you didn't miss any restarts.

I have to wonder if ABC plans to continue this format when they take over the final third of the NASCAR season next year. It could certainly be a plus for NASCAR broadcasts. And maybe FOX and NBC should look into doing the same thing during their broadcasts.

I'm sure a program format like this would require agreements and cooperation not only between the network and NASCAR, but between the network and all of the various advertisers as well. That could be a tall order to try and implement quickly. Plus, this season's advertising contracts have probably all been set up. But it could certainly be done for next season.

So could this be the end of missed restarts? The end of green flag commercial breaks? The end of missing track action because of it happening during a commercial? We can only hope so.

Of course, with the side-by-side commercial breaks, when do we get up to get another drink and more chips and salsa?

Published on May 30, 2006 in