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3 Things NBC Did Better Than Fox

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What’s Happening?

The NASCAR weekend in Iowa marked the return of NASCAR to NBC. The broadcast was a breath of fresh air after the first half of the season was broadcast on Fox. What did NBC do to make their broadcast so great?

  • NBC returned to broadcast NASCAR in Iowa, and NASCAR will remain on NBC for the remainder of the season. NBC will also continue broadcasting NASCAR during the next media rights deal from 2025 through 2031, but NBC will only broadcast the final 14 races of the Cup Series season, down from 20 in the current deal.
  • Fox broadcasted the first 16 points races of the 2024 season, plus the Clash and the All-Star Race. Overall, Fox had a successful 2024 from a ratings standpoint, seeing a 1% viewership increase from 2023 despite a postponed Daytona 500. However, fans were not always thrilled with the production.
  • Fans were ecstatic with the NBC broadcast on Sunday, despite Dale Earnhardt Jr. no longer being in the booth. What made the broadcast itself so entertaining?

Better Execution of Crowd Shots

One major complaint many fans had with Fox broadcasts was the use, or overuse, of crowd shots during important moments of the race. One example of this was during a later battle for the lead at Gateway when something happened to mess up an attempted split screen of a crowd shot and the battle for the lead.

Crowd shots are not inherently bad. They can be great ways to showcase that this matters to drivers’ fans or family members and, when executed correctly, can add a lot to the broadcast.

NBC executed crowd shots quite well on Sunday, particularly late in the race. NBC explained that Blaney had around 80 people, including friends and family, at the race. When Blaney led the closing laps, NBC showed those fans in the crowd.

The video below from NACARFAN93100 shows the crowd shot with about three laps to go. Due to the context surrounding it, seeing those fans on screen added a lot of depth to the story. The fan-shot also took a less prominent place on the broadcast than watching Blaney holding onto the lead.

Overall, this was a perfect execution of a crowd shot. It added to the story unfolding rather than distracting from it.

Split Screen Battles

A tool NBC utilizes very well is split screen, particularly when multiple battles are happening on the race track simultaneously. This allows fans to either watch multiple battles at a time or gives them a choice on which battle they want to watch. Any opportunity to show the race happening throughout the field instead of just focusing on one place at a time is a big win.

Fox did not shy away from using split screens, and they made good use of them at times. However, NBC took it to a new level, and many fans felt that Fox’s broadcast show had too many zoomed-in camera shots, making it difficult to follow the action throughout the field. This was a complaint that CPK Diecast had during the Texas race.

Commercial Breakdown

NBC also did a great job balancing the commercials during the Iowa race. According to Jayski, these were the commercial statistics for Iowa. Keep in mind, this race was on USA, a cable network.

  • Total Minutes of Broadcast: 187
  • Total Minutes of Race Broadcast: 171
  • Minutes of Traditional Commercials: 28 (14.9% of total broadcast)
  • Minutes of Side-by-Side Commercials: 12 (6.4%)
  • Total Minutes of Commercials: 40 (21.4%)

Compare that to how Fox broke down their commercials. These are the average statistics for commercials on FS1 NASCAR broadcasts for points races, with individual race statistics coming from Jayski.

  • Total Minutes of Broadcast: 212.00
  • Total Minutes of Race Broadcast: 169.17
  • Minutes of Traditional Commercials: 42.80 (20.2% of Total Broadcast)
  • Minutes of Side-By-Side Commercials: 7.17 (3.4%)
  • Total Minutes of Commercials: 50.00 (24.6%)

The NBC broadcast in Iowa had about 14-15 minutes fewer full-screen commercials than the average Fox broadcast. They made up for that lack of full-screen commercials by implementing around five extra minutes of side-by-side commercials. Overall, NBC had about 10 fewer minutes of commercials than the average Fox broadcast.

In fairness, the average Fox broadcast was about 25 minutes longer than the NBC Iowa broadcast, but Fox’s commercial breaks still took up a higher percentage of the race broadcast than NBC did. NBC’s side-by-side commercials took up twice as much of the broadcast as Fox did percentage-wise.

While Fox did some things to provide fewer commercials with side-by-sides and segments like Toyota All-Out, NBC still figured out how to fit fewer commercials into the broadcast. In the modern world, where there are ad-free streaming options and sports like Formula One are broadcast commercial-free, finding more creative ways to pay the bills is vital for any broadcasting company.

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Joshua Lipowski

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