I got the pulsatin' rhythmical remedy (busychild424) wrote,
I got the pulsatin' rhythmical remedy
busychild424

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Interesting stuff about Speed Channel's World Rally Championship coverage this year and the fact that I've been exchanging e-mails with the President of Speed Channel...

So Speed has reduced their coverage of WRC this year. Last year it was a total of 4.5 hours per rally, with same-day coverage. This year it's 2.5 hours per rally, a week after the event is concluded. That is ass. So I looked around and did some research and found the names of the top dogs over at Speed. I sent a couple test e-mails from an anonymous e-mail account (in case they blocked it) to determine what naming convention they use for their e-mail addresses. I picked a guy I really didn't care about e-mailing and sent him three e-mails - one to firstname.lastname@speedtv.com, one to firstname_lastname@speedtv.com, and one to flastname@speedtv.com. When only two of them bounced, I now had the e-mail addresses for the execs at Speed. Cool.

So I sent an e-mail to the President, the VP, and the VP of Programming. It was a very well written e-mail, organized, intelligent and respectful. I also printed it out to snail mail it, and submitted it via the "feedback" link on their website. My plan was to send a message like this twice a week until I got a response, which I doubted would ever actually happen.

So you can imagine how surprised I was when, only a few hours after sending the e-mail, I received a rather lengthy response from Jim Liberatore himself, President of the Speed Channel network. Why did he respond to me? I'd like to think it's because the e-mail was so well written (his response did start out "great e-mail..."). But, it could just be that he had some spare time that day. I don't know. In any case, he addressed my issues and educated me a bit about the decision. It was pretty interesting stuff and I was excited that he thought my e-mail was worthy of a response.

So I wrote him back thanking him for responding and quickly replying to what he said. And would you believe, he wrote me back again! Very cool stuff. I posted his responses in a couple message boards where people are bitching about the coverage change. I think I'm going to sort of gauge the response and then send him a third e-mail outlining their reactions.

I don't worship the guy as god or anything, but it's pretty flattering that the President and CEO of my favorite television network thought enough of my e-mail to write back not once, but twice. Very cool stuff.

If you've gotten this far, maybe you give a shit. Here are the e-mails:

E-mail #1, from me to anyone who would listen:

=======================================================

Dear Jim, Kevin, and Rick:

I am writing to complain about the reduced coverage of the World Rally Championship on Speed this year. Rally racing is by far my favorite form of motorsport. I love rally with a passion and I look forward with great excitement to each and every day of coverage. Last year's same-day coverage was fantastic. I know for a fact that it increased the visibility of the WRC in America because I myself was unfamiliar with Rally racing until I began watching on Speed and was immediately hooked.

I thought that Speed Channel existed to serve the viewers of motorsport. That means all motorsport. That's why I was so excited when Speed Channel came to my city. Before Speed Channel, I had no interest in auto racing. The only types of auto racing I knew of were NASCAR and the Indy 500. NASCAR to me is nothing more than "drive fast, turn left", and it gets monotonous. I didn't even know other kinds of auto racing existed. Speed Channel opened my eyes to the fact that other kinds of racing exist; GT racing, the ALMS, Australian V8 Supercars, Touring Cars, and yes, the World Rally Championship. If this was true for me, could it not be true for millions of other Americans as well? Perhaps NASCAR earns the ratings it does because of the extremely limited exposure of other types of racing in America. Is it not possible that many other NASCAR fans could become interested in other types of racing as well upon being exposed? Please don't jeopardize your channel's reputation by catering to only one set of fans. I have no problem with NASCAR or any other kind of coverage. I even enjoy your magazine-type shows like AutoWeek, MotorWeek, and Motor Trend TV. Just don't leave us WRC fans out in the cold.

In checking your program schedule for Wednesday, January 22, 2003, in a 21-hour period (from 7:00 am to 4:00 am) you have 7 hours devoted to NASCAR or stock car racing in some form. That is fully ONE THIRD of your PROGRAM DAY. I see only one thirty-minute program even remotely related to rally racing, and even that is a 1954 rally. That doesn't even relate to same-day WRC coverage. Not everyone who watches your channel is a rabid NASCAR fan. Don't your non-NASCAR viewers deserve better?

I recognize that the addition of NASCAR and other stock car racing programming to your lineup has boosted your network to the status of "the fastest growing sports network". I understand that NASCAR programming is what pulls the biggest ratings numbers for your network, and I know that ratings equal revenue. But please don't put all your eggs into the NASCAR basket. Please recognize that the variety of racing programming helps to broaden your viewer base, and that can only be good for the company. And please recognize that you are in a position where you have a responsibility to be loyal to your viewers. You guys work for Speed Channel; there must be a passion there. I have to believe that there is more than just a business interest involved, I have to believe that you guys love racing as much as I do. Given that, maybe it's okay not to earn the highest potential revenue in every time slot. Maybe it's all right to give race fans what they love, even if that doesn't mean NASCAR all the time. Please don't become the NASCAR channel.

I will quote your website: "We heard you! For 2002 Speed Channel will bring you the World Rally Championship, now with expanded coverage from every round, including the Rally XS preview show on Thursday followed by coverage of legs 1, 2 and 3 on Friday Saturday and Sunday. Then on Monday we recap the entire weekend on Rally X-tra." What about 2003? Do you still hear us?

You have time to run the 1989 Daytona 500, but you can't make time for same-day coverage of the WRC? Do you honestly believe that people are going to be more interested in an event that occurred fourteen years ago than in something that occurred earlier the same day? Same-day coverage preserves the excitement of the event for those of us on another continent. It's the best alternative for experiencing the Rally for those of us who can't hop on a plane fourteen times a year and personally attend the events.

I am not the only viewer who feels this way. There are any number of message boards on this topic:

On the SPEEDTV.COM forums at
http://insider.speedtv.com/modules.php?op=modload&name=Forum&file=viewtopic&topic=3519&forum=14&28

Or on the WRC.COM forums at
http://origin.wrc.com/forum/topic.asp?TOPIC_ID=2111
or
http://origin.wrc.com/forum/topic.asp?TOPIC_ID=2467
or
http://origin.wrc.com/forum/topic.asp?TOPIC_ID=2469
or
http://origin.wrc.com/forum/topic.asp?TOPIC_ID=2468

Also see a petition signed by WRC fans at http://www.petitiononline.com/zb7q8023/petition.html. This is a petition signed by Speed Channel viewers requesting that you return to the same-day coverage format of last year. Currently there are 697 signatures and counting.

Gentlemen, all I am asking is that you listen to your viewers. We support the advertisers on your network. We buy the goods and services advertised. All I am asking is that you reconsider your decision to delay and reduce coverage of the WRC. NASCAR is well and good, but don't leave your other viewers behind. I am feeling alienated by your network.

Feel free to contact me if you'd like to discuss this further.

Respectfully,


Josh Dutcher
Wichita, KS
316.425.7155
josh@joshdutcher.com

=======================================================

E-mail #2, Jim's response to me:

=======================================================

Josh-

Great e-mail...thank you for your opinion. I think you are right when you
say we need to cater to viewers of motorsports. That is one thing we do.
The other is we try to grow the sport and introduce more fans to more
racing. That is the sole reason we are moving WRC to Thursday nights and
showing the races start to finish. In short, WRC ratings were abysmal last
year. Lower than most other forms of racing. That was very perplexing and
disappointing to us at Speed and our friends at WRC because we know that WRC
is some of the most exciting racing in the world. Our ensuing research
found that die hard fans of WRC love it live and same day, because they do
not want to know results prior to the end. It was this die hard base that
comprised our current ratings. We also learned that there was another,
larger group that loved the action of WRC but would not dedicate three or
four nights to an event and said they would watch it if it all were in one
night and not in our highlight package. Our responsibility at this point is
clear....do what we have to, to grow the sport. We know our die hard fans
will still watch this format, AND, a large number of other fans may start
watching as well. Isn't that our responsibility? If more people watch WRC
this year the last, would you then agree the move was in the best interest
of WRC? That success could lead to a WRC event in the U.S.......wouldn't"t
that be awesome?

So you see Josh, this decision was made in concert with WRC, and an attempt
to grow WRC and is best for WRC. If ratings remain low..well...then we have
other issues to deal with, but if they grow, we will have proven to make the
best decision, and no one can really argue that.

As far as cutting back the coverage, if you removed the time we spent
re-capping the prior day, which we no longer need, and cut down some of the
additional in-cars that we added here at the studio, the total hours are not
vastly different.

Bottom line is we did this because it is best for the sport to try to grow
the series, and that Josh is our priority here at Speed. That is why we
added all of the coverage last year over Speedvisions one hour of coverage.
Remember that? We will now show WRC XS as well as the event, whic while
still be a 300% increase over Speedvision's coverage.

Thank you for your thoughtful, respectful and insightful comments.

=======================================================

E-mail #3, my response to Jim's response:

=======================================================

Jim,

First, let me thank you for responding, especially in such detail. I know
you must be a busy man and frankly, I didn't expect a response at all. You
made some interesting points and provided some good information about WRC
ratings and how they compare to other programming, and the groups of viewers
who watch WRC. Those explanations helped to clarify in my mind the
logistics of why this change was made. I hope that the goal of growing the
interest in and fan base of the WRC in America is achieved.

I've posted your response to two of the message boards on this topic as I
feel that the other viewers who are concerned with this issue deserve to
have this information as well. It wouldn't be fair for me to keep this to
myself. I hope you don't mind. I have not and will not publicly post your
e-mail address. I'm sure you don't need to be flooded with e-mails from
people who don't know how to keep the communication professional and
effective.

Given your explanation, I understand the motivations for changing the
coverage format for WRC this year. However I am and will continue to be
disappointed until and unless same-day coverage becomes an option again.
There are those who would boycott all other programming on your channel
until same-day coverage returns, but I am not one of them. I don't see how
that would be at all effective. I will continue to watch the great racing
on your network and every single day I will hope for the return of same-day
WRC coverage.

Thanks for your time,

Josh

P.S. I suspect it would take a lot more than just good ratings to bring a
WRC event to the U.S., but your (apparent) optimism is refreshing!

=======================================================

E-mail #4, Jim's second response to me:

=======================================================

Josh- Thanks for helping out. I guess one broad view comment I would
make...we LOVE WRC and are 100% committed to it. We believe it will be huge
in the US, soon. I know there is skepticism about our motives in changing
our WRC coverage but I am asking you and all of the great speed-freaks to
believe me when I say that this change was made to make WRC bigger. This
change, while this may seem odd, expresses more about our commitment to WRC
than it does any lessening of WRC. The easiest thing to do would have been
to leave it as it was and accept low ratings. We know it is better than
that. We know once people see it, understand it and enjoy it in its'
entirety, they cannot help but become hooked. That is why Thursday, start
to finish and PRIME is the first step.

On a personal note, I am the President of Speed and have been to London
twice to meet with WRC, have discussed possibilities of US event and
logistics of future live coverage, (logistically a nightmare, but may be
possible. If it is live, it could even run on Fox broadcast). I have also
attended the Greece event. My boss, CEO of Fox Sports David Hill, LOVES WRC.
I share this with you to underscore our long-term commitment to WRC and our
belief that someday, WRC will be huge in the US. We need to first grab the
attention of as many viewers as possible. So what may be perceived as a
step back, is really more like that step back you take immediately prior to
leaping forward!

P.S...I have heard WRC will be in an upcoming GQ issue so big "mo" is
rolling!

Thanks for your thoughtful and reasoned comments.

=======================================================

Pretty cool.
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