NASCAR's April 2018 Talladega race.

While it seems fewer and fewer fans are watching NASCAR on TV, that seemingly hasn’t stopped networks from being able to sell ad space during NASCAR races.

Many fans felt that Fox aired too many commercials during Sunday’s GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway, a race that registered a 2.8 overnight rating, nearly 20 percent lower than last year’s race, which was during the first weekend in May.

Fans were angry about the apparent surplus of commercials showed during the race. Jeff Gluck, who covers most NASCAR races in person via Patreon donations by fans, watched the telecast from home and was one of the more prominent voices of the sport who noticed the amount of commercials stuffed into the broadcast.

Gluck felt a bit of NASCAR fans’ pain as it seemed like the broadcast was about the commercials with the race interrupting the broadcast. But is that what happened, or was it merely psychological?

According to SBJ’s Adam Stern, Fox Sports PR revealed that they showed slightly fewer ads in this year’s Talladega race compared to last year’s spring race which was about a half hour longer.

The site Caws n Jaws keeps track of how many commercials are shown during a race and has done so for years. It shows that the numbers are similar to what Fox Sports is saying and, within the right context, shows that what people saw this year wasn’t much different than in years past.

For instance, here’s the breakdown of commercial time according to Caws n Jaws:

April 29, 2018 Talladega race:

Total number of commercials: 133

Total number of companies or entities advertised: 62

Number of traditional commercials (not split-screen): 110
Total number of companies or entities advertised: 57
Number of ‘Side-by-Side’ commercials during race broadcast (split-screen): 23
Total number of companies or entities advertised: 14
Number of times Fox utilized ‘Side-by-Side’ commercials during this broadcast: 4

Start time to record race/commercial periods: 2:00 PM
End time to record race/commercial periods: 5:44 PM

Total minutes of complete race broadcast: 224
Minutes of race broadcast: 177
Minutes of traditional commercials (not split-screen): 47
Minutes of ‘Side-by-Side’ commercials (split-screen): 9

Number of missed restarts: 0
Number of ‘mystery cautions’ (debris not shown): 1

May 7, 2017 Talladega race:

Total number of commercials: 138

Total number of companies or entities advertised: 82

Number of traditional commercials (not split-screen): 109
Total number of companies or entities advertised: 73
Number of ‘Side-by-Side’ commercials during race broadcast (split-screen): 27
Total number of companies or entities advertised: 20
Number of times Fox utilized ‘Side-by-Side’ commercials during this broadcast: 5

Start time to record race/commercial periods: 2:00 PM
End time to record race/commercial periods: 6:17 PM

Total minutes of complete race broadcast: 257
Minutes of race broadcast: 208
Minutes of traditional commercials (not split-screen): 49
Minutes of ‘Side-by-Side’ commercials (split-screen): 14

Number of missed restarts: 0
Number of ‘mystery cautions’ (debris not shown): 0

May 1, 2016 Talladega race:

Total number of commercials: 138

Total number of companies or entities advertised: 61

Number of traditional commercials (not split-screen): 119
Total number of companies or entities advertised: 56
Number of ‘Side-by-Side’ commercials during race broadcast (split-screen): 19
Total number of companies or entities advertised: 11
Number of times Fox utilized ‘Side-by-Side’ commercials during this broadcast: 4

Start time to record race/commercial periods: 12:42 PM
End time to record race/commercial periods: 4:39 PM

Total minutes of complete race broadcast: 237
Minutes of race broadcast: 186
Minutes of traditional commercials (not split-screen): 51
Minutes of ‘Side-by-Side’ commercials (split-screen): 9

Number of missed restarts: 0
Number of ‘mystery cautions’ (debris not shown): 1 One Caution Was Extended Due to Debris; Mentioned but Not Shown

The last three Spring Talladega races seem to indicate that, within reason, all three have showed a similar amount of commercials in accordance to how long the race was. Having said that, fans still have a legitimate argument about how Fox shows their commercials. Despite showing around 80 percent of the race, and averaging around 45 minutes of every hour commercial free, the timing of Fox’s commercials could make a difference in fans tolerating commercials and being openly critical.

For instance, Fox’s six-second ads seemed to be very close to a commercial break. At one point, it appeared that Fox once came out of a commercial break and then a minute or two later, we got a six-second ad from Duracell. It’s great that six-second ads and side-by-side commercial breaks still incorporate a live feed of the race, but putting a six-second ad shortly after a commercial gives the viewer the perception that Fox never came back from commercial in the first place.

Planning out commercial breaks during a NASCAR race can be a science that sometimes backfires. For a race like Talladega, it’s easy to assume that the cars will be lined up nose to tail for the first two stages and then all hell breaks loose toward the end of the race. By that logic, it made sense for Fox to front load the commercials during Stages 1 and 2 and catch the pit stops as well as the stage finishes.

What happened Sunday was a race that surprisingly had few crashes (just two) and the final laps remained caution free. This year, there were six cautions for 29 laps while there were eight cautions for 33 laps in 2017 and, without stage breaks in 2016, ten cautions for 41 laps. When there aren’t as many cautions, commercials are going to bleed into green flag racing and that likely resulted in what happened Sunday where 23.6% of green flag racing was during commercial with another 5.7% during side-by-side commercials.

Just like with most things, the dilemma here isn’t as straightforward as it seems to be. When it comes to Fox, they’re pointing out previous races and are showing that this year’s race isn’t as bad as people made it out to be. Fans are pointing out that whether it’s the timing of the breaks, or the lack of variety of the commercials (I’ve seen that Reba KFC commercial way too many times) that it’s way too much and is hurting the broadcast as a result. It’s not impossible for both viewpoints to be correct.

[Caws n Jaws]

About Phillip Bupp

News and soccer editor for The Comeback and Awful Announcing. I also do video highlight game coverage for Major League Soccer as well as a freelance writer for hire. Opinions are my own but feel free to agree with them.

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