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ASA Seeks to Prevent TNN From Tape Delaying Broadcasts

Posted By Terry Callahan
Motorsports Editor, The Auto Channel
August 23, 2001

Pendleton, IN -- Just 20 months into what appeared to be a perfect motorsports “marriage,” the relationship between the American Speed Association (ASA) and The National Network (TNN) appears to be in jeopardy.

ASA has filed a complaint against TNN in a Madison County (Ind.) court, after TNN officials notified ASA they intend to tape delay two ACDelco Series events yet this year. In addition, the Pendleton, Ind.-based sanctioning body has been informed by the net work that motorsports programming is not in their future plans and that TNN is seeking a way out of the contract with ASA regarding media broadcast rights.

ASA’s formal complaint seeks an injunction to prevent TNN from preempting the live broadcasts scheduled for the Monday, September 3, event from the Minnesota State Fair Speedway in St. Paul, Minn., and the season-ending race scheduled for Saturday night, S eptember 29, at Indianapolis Raceway Park in Clermont, Ind.

“This whole situation is truly disappointing,” commented ASA Vice President of Sales and Marketing Mark Gundrum. “Unfortunately, it appears TNN’s new management has decided to get out of the motorsports broadcasting business, despite the fact we still have three years remaining on the original media broadcast rights agreement.”

ASA and TNN entered into a multi-faceted contractual agreement in January of 2000, with TNN acquiring a 25-percent equity ownership stake in ASA, along with a five-year exclusive media broadcast rights and promotional agreement. Viacom International, Inc., the parent company of MTV Networks, acquired TNN when the media conglomerate purchased CBS Cable in the spring of 2000.

“When we entered into the agreement with TNN in January of 2000, both parties viewed the relationship as a ‘win-win’ situation,” ASA Executive Vice President Brian Robbins stated. “The spirit of the agreement called for TNN to help ASA grow its business th rough its equity ownership position. Unfortunately, with the change of ownership, it appears the new management does not have the same vision for the partnership as we had with TNN at the time we made the agreement.”

In the fall of 2000, TNN was re-branded as The National Network, and MTV Networks set out to reposition the cable channel with new management and programming aimed at a younger audience. While the weekend “sports and outdoor programming” lineup remained vi rtually unchanged, TNN’s weekday, prime-time programming schedule was completely overhauled.

MTV Networks acquired the broadcast rights to the World Wrestling Federation (WWF) and placed the nation’s highest-rated cable show, WWF Raw, on TNN on Monday nights. The network then added programming, including Miami Vice, Star Trek and box-office hit mo vies, to its weeknight lineup, supporting the new prime-time schedule with an aggressive promotional campaign anchored by the “We’ve Got Pop” theme.

Rumors surrounding TNN’s motorsports programming future first surfaced when the NASCAR television rights contract was awarded to Fox and NBC, beginning in 2001. In late April of this year, the network discontinued “RaceDay,” the popular one-hour motorsport s magazine program that aired on Sunday mornings.

“When RaceDay was cancelled in April of this year, many felt the future of racing was in jeopardy on TNN,” continued Gundrum. “However, we were unable to get any direction at all from TNN or MTV Networks regarding their thoughts or plans for ASA. It wasn’t until late July that we even had the opportunity to talk to anyone at MTV Networks, but the tone of that first conversation led us to believe that things would more than likely be changing.”

TNN published the 2001 ASA ACDelco Series season broadcast schedule in October of 2000, indicating that all 20 scheduled events were to be aired live on TNN. In addition, TNN was scheduled to air a total of 18 World of Outlaws races live this year, but rec ently announced the remaining events would be preempted, starting with the Knoxville Nationals on August 11.

Text provided by Jeremy Troiano

Editors Note: To view hundreds of hot racing photos and art, visit The Racing Photo Museum and the Visions of Speed Art Gallery.