Turner, Nascar Turn to Digital App as TV Ratings Slide

Sprint, Coke Zero, BK, Army Sponsor Customized Camera Angles, Other Features of RaceBuddy

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CHICAGO (AdAge.com) -- Turner Sports and Nascar, confronted with steep TV ratings declines for races this season, are looking to ratchet up engagement among their remaining viewers by enhancing a digital application intended to be viewed simultaneously with six upcoming broadcasts.


Turner's RaceBuddy will offer viewers additional camera angles and reporting customized for each of the underwriting marketers.

Sprint, Coke Zero, Burger King and the U.S. Army have enlisted to sponsor Turner's RaceBuddy, which will offer viewers additional camera angles and reporting customized for each of the underwriting marketers.

The program will allow a sponsor such as Coke Zero, which backs a large roster of drivers including Tony Stewart, Greg Biffle and Kevin Harvick, to let viewers vote in real time on which of its drivers' in-car cameras they would like to tune in to for 50 laps at a time.

The Army will have a "Battle Cam" that will focus on specific conflicts and tension points in the race, such as attempted passes and bumps. Burger King will offer a "Track Cam," which will let viewers see the race from different angles in accordance with its "Have It Your Way" messaging. And Sprint, the presenting sponsor of the entire program, will offer the entire package as exclusive mobile content for its customers, who could tune in while attending a race.

The service will also include a dedicated pit-road reporter. And widget-distributor Gigya has added a chatting mechanism that will link comments on RaceBuddy directly to social-media sites such as Twitter and Facebook.

"We view this as a hero sponsorship," said Walker Jacobs, senior VP-sports and entertainment digital ad sales at Turner Sports. "The sponsors get to enhance the access we can offer to fans."

Countering ratings declines
The increased engagement that may result from that access might take some of the sting out of the sport's ratings declines of late.

Nascar recently convened a town hall of drivers and team owners to discuss ways to counter a trend that has seen ratings for Sprint Cup races decline 13% this season. According to a USA Today account, everything from the losing streak of the sport's most popular driver, Dale Earnhardt Jr., to the gopher mascot on Fox broadcasts was blamed for the declines.

Compelling digital content could, in theory, make the TV ratings situation worse, by giving race fans an alternate place to follow the action. But Mr. Jacobs said he expects people to use the service to add value to the broadcasts rather than replace them.

"If you just were to go to the application, it's nice, but it loses some interest if it's not paired with the TNT broadcast," he said. "I do think this is the most interesting, fully integrated production Turner Sports has embarked on."

Turner's series of Nascar-race broadcasts will begin June 7.

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