Tuesday, May 17, 2011

ESPN will try 'split screen' in NASCAR Chase races

NASCAR fans are going to see more racing than ever on their TVs this season.

ESPN on Tuesday announced its telecasts of the 10 Chase for the Sprint Cup races will use "NASCAR NonStop," a commercial format that will bring more racing action to viewers.

ESPN's commercial breaks will feature a split-screen format - showing the advertisement on the left side of the screen and racing on the right.

ESPN's scoring ticker also will continue to move across the top of the screen, allowing fans to follow the running order during the breaks.

"I've watched the format on the open-wheel races for years, I think we all have. I'm not sure if it will move the meter to bring more fans in, but I think for the dedicated fans watching you don't want to see the breaks, you want to the race continue," said five-time reigning Cup champion Jimmie Johnson.

"I think it's a great perk and should be really helpful for our fan base during the Chase races."

NASCAR NonStop will take effect at or near the halfway point of the race, with the first half of the race presented in the traditional commercial-break format.

"Since we returned to NASCAR racing in 2007, one of the most common questions from our fans has been 'Why don't you do the commercials side-by-side?'" said John Skipper, ESPN executive vice president of content.

"We're very pleased to be able to do it now with NASCAR NonStop and showcase the advertiser while still showcasing the race."

During Sunday's Cup series telecast from Dover, Del., Fox used a split-screen format for the first time, for its final commercial break. The move was praised by fans.

Skipper said ESPN worked with NASCAR to create the new format and that the change had been planned for months.

"ESPN's NonStop format will ensure our fans maximize their viewing experience during the most intense and thrilling time of the season - the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup," said Paul Brooks, president of NASCAR Media Group.

The final 17 races of the Cup will be televised on ESPN networks, with 14 on ESPN and three Saturday night races - including the October Chase race at Charlotte Motor Speedway - on ABC.