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Keeping It Off the Wall
by Ed Donath

Getting a TV Bounce

Athens, NY—Could the Champ Car World Series realize a spike (pun intended) in its public recognition—more specifically television viewing audience numbers—if the OWRS troika somehow contrived an appearance on prime time TV flanked by heroes of the bygone heyday of open-wheel racing? Perhaps it could.

But then again, demographically speaking, the appearance of potbellied old-timers alongside not-such-new-timers like Forsythe, Gentilozzi, and Kalkhoven could have the opposite effect on the younger generation—the overwhelming majority—of potential racing fans. Which would explain why the Presidential challenger chose a youthful–looking running mate over a field of more qualified candidates and why, thus far, any “bounce” precipitated by the appearance of his fast boat Nam homeys has been negligible.

Conversely, however, fuzzy demographic math may also account for the fact that Boomers like me are finding it difficult to follow the current iteration of our beloved speed sport. Here in the Hudson Valley, a mere 100 crow-flying miles from the Capital of the World, the digital technology necessary to enjoy anything beyond Spike’s Sunday race telecasts is virtually (pun intended) unavailable.

A couple of years ago, when it was announced that SPEED was to air most of CART’s races plus some qualifying sessions and other occasional special programming, it became incumbent upon me to lobby our local cable company vigorously for the addition of the racing channel to its channel lineup.

Cablevision had access and channel availability but had absolutely no intention of adding programming until a “demand” was identified. Mine apparently being the lone voice crying out in the wilderness for Champ Car coverage, their ultimate decision to add the channel was likely the result of divine intervention.

Of course, you need never worry that this geriatric renegade scribe will ever flip his allegiance to an open-wheel racing series where living potbellied artifacts roam the paddocks by the dozens. But failure on OWRS’ part to coalesce the generations of Champ Car fans could, nonetheless, ultimately lead to serious consequences—if not the demise of the series.

Same as it ever was, a growth stimulating TV strategy and accompanying telecast package are still the missing link; the acquisition of which could make all the difference to a planet of race-watching couch potatoes and to those who are unable to attend CCWS events.

Although talk of a CBS connection in tandem with a return to EuroSport in 2005 has emerged at Road America’s Fan Forum, the management of the Champ Car World Series has, thus far, been just as far from understanding the ramifications of this serious ongoing TV problem—let alone fixing it—as was its CART predecessor.

Sadly, OWRS’ growing list of CART-overcoming accomplishments could go for naught given yet another season of ratings-less television. Pay-to-access digital programs are fine and they appeal to the important younger demographic. But they will never replace network coverage for the majority of older fans and for those of us who are yet unable to access emerging digital TV technologies.

And speaking of bounces, my VCR ricocheted and nearly hit me in the face the last time I threw it at the floor after yet another blank tape episode. Hopefully, fellow Boomers are dealing better with “modern” technology than yours’ truly.

Road Rage! An op-ed feature by Ed Donath.

Copyright © 2004 by Ed Donath and Deep Throttle. All Rights Reserved.

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