Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Down Weekend for Offroad Motorsports on Network TV...

Well, that's not progress...

Global Rallycross has not generated any appreciable growth over the course of '14 and has actually regressed in terms of ratings over the past two events and LOORRS has continued its regular broadcasts on CBS but its ratings have stayed flat to marginally down over the past two years.

Now I'm not on the inside of the companies paying for these events to be broadcast on Network TV so in truth I really have NO IDEA whether perhaps even at the current ratings levels that their producers are happy.  It is certainly a possibility that NBC and CBS sell their airtime to Lucas and GRC at a low enough level that they can sell their advertising spots at a rate for them to turn a profit...maybe.

What I can tell you is that I've been tracking these ratings on a general basis for a number of years now, dating back to the old CORR days.  While its been great to see offroad motorsports (primarily short course) appear on network TV on a regular basis over the past few years, the ratings generated from it have not moved.  We now regularly see short course, Baja events, rallycross, stage rally, motocross, Best in the Desert and more on Network and near network (see NBCSN, CBS Sports, etc.) sources yet the broadcasts most accessible to the America public (the over the air broadcasts) have stagnated in terms of ratings/viewers.  There is a core audience here and these broadcasts are reaching this audience but they aren't bringing in a growing audience of viewers.  You can debate the reasons but the facts by now are fairly clear.

There is a lot to be said for the inconsistency and "random" nature of these broadcasts.  If you are a NASCAR fan you KNOW that pretty much every weekend there is a race (which is often EVERY weekend) you can sit down around 1PM Eastern and catch the race.  If you are a football fan (college or NFL) you KNOW that every Saturday or Sunday the games will be on during the season.  For offroad motorsports??  Well, there you can look up the schedule on any one of a dozen or more websites for the various series and see if the event is shown on a Saturday or a Sunday, early afternoon, late afternoon or if it will be another month before another broadcast is available (often the case), is it on CBS?  CBS Sports?  MavTV?  Do I get MavTV?.  This is just the nature of the beast with offroad racing at this point.  Its not NASCAR with live events taking place every weekend at the same time on the same channel and thus it has an uphill battle to to fight just in terms of getting casual viewers to watch.

For this past weekend, GRC saw a 0.3 rating on NBC which tied for the weekend's lowest rated sporting event on Network TV with the LOORRS which it faced off directly against in the same time slot over on CBS from 2-3PM Eastern.  Perhaps you could make the argument that either show's ratings would have been higher if they hadn't been facing off against one another and instead were competing for viewers against say...gymnastics or golf or the like.  Certainly I've made a case here before of combining the audiences of offroad motorsports that are shown at the same time, so I'll do so here again for the sake of positivity.  During this time period there was a combined 0.6 rating for offroad motorsports on Network TV equating to some 694,000 households and 763,000 people watching offroad racing of some kind during this period.  Now this doesn't help the advertisers who paid only to be on one broadcast or the other and got their message in front of "only" about 350,000 households and 382,000 people during this time.

The NBC broadcast of the Red Bull Hare Scramble which followed the GRC broadcast beat out both of the "car" oriented race shows with a 0.4 rating grabbing about 460,000 households and 510,000 viewers.  This holds true to another long term trend that I've noticed--whether its motocross, supercross or various Red Bull motorcycle events, they do usually out-rate the offroad "car" racing.  I would have a tendency to attribute that to the larger fan/participation rate of motorcycle racing.  While an extreme minority of people have ever driven in a SCORE, BITD, or Rally event of any kind you can show up in nearly any geographic region in the country on any weekend and find a number of motocross tracks, hare scrambles, trail rides, etc.  The sheer participation rate of offroad motorcycle riders dwarfs that of any combination of desert/shortcourse/rally drivers by what has to be many magnitudes and thus its a lot easier to find an individual who is familiar with jumping their motorcycle through the woods or over a tabletop, flipping through the channels and staying with one of these shows than it is short course, desert or rally.  That said, these motorcycle event ratings are never MASSIVELY better than these other offroad broadcasts...just marginally better...


TELECAST
DATE
NET
TIME (ET)
RATING
"World of X Games: Women of Action"
7/26
ABC
3:00-4:00pm
0.3
"ESPN Sports Saturday"
7/26
ABC
4:00-6:00pm
0.5
Lucas Oil Off Road Racing
7/26
CBS
2:00-3:00pm
0.3
PGA Tour: RBC Canadian Open: Third Round
7/26
CBS
3:00-6:00pm
0.4
Guinness Int'l Champions Cup: Manchester United-AS Roma
7/26
Fox
4:00-6:00pm
0.5
"UFC on Fox 12": Prelims
7/26
Fox
6:00-8:00pm
0.8
"UFC on Fox 12": Robbie Lawler-Matt Brown
7/26
Fox
8:00-10:00pm
1.6
Global Rallycross
7/26
NBC
2:00-3:00pm
0.3
Red Bull Hare Scramble
7/26
NBC
3:00-4:30pm
0.4
Asics World Series Of Beach Volleyball
7/26
NBC
4:30-6:00pm
0.5
"Road to the PGA Championship"
7/27
CBS
2:00-3:00pm
0.5
PGA Tour: RBC Canadian Open: Final Round
7/27
CBS
3:00-6:00pm
1.8
Tour de France review show
7/27
NBC
2:00-3:30pm
0.4
Asics World Series Of Beach Volleyball
7/27
NBC
3:30-5:00pm
0.6
Breeders' Cup Challenge Series: Haskell Invitational
7/27
NBC
5:00-6:00pm
0.8

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Film Review: Cronos

Watched this film as I've been interested in director  Guillermo del Toro since watching Pan's Labyrinth a while back.  Cronos is del Toro's first film and is mostly narrated in Spanish though there are significant portions spoken in English from Ron Perlman's character.

The film itself is a twist on your traditional vampire tale.  Here vampirism is caused by an ancient alchemist's device in which he trapped an insect of some kind that has the ability to impart extended life upon an individual through its bite.

The twist here is not only from the basis of your typical vampire tale but in its presentation too.  There is more here to laugh at than there is to be horrified of.  The main characters are not young and beautiful as is the case in most vampire films.  Instead they are old and aging.  They aren't placed in any particularly horrifying situations despite Ron Pearlman's character being tasked with chasing down the elderly Jesus Gris (yes, we have a vampire named Jesus who also rose from the dead) and taking the mechanism that will hopfully extend the life of Pearlman's dying uncle.

Separately but just as distinct from most vampire films is the setting.  We aren't in any sort of aged or gothic landscape.  We're in a modern city and amongst just normal everyday people.

Del Toro shows off some of his later penchant for blood and body horror as the main character transforms and suffers from his new state of living.  Peeling skin, needle piercings, licking of blood off a bathroom floor, mouths sewn shut, etc.  It all works here and it leads the story forward so there's no complaint about any gratuitous nature of any of it but there isn't anything groundbraking like the filmmaker's later work.

I marginally enjoyed the film.  It was an interesting look at a very creative director's early work.  Unfortunately whether due to its foreign language nature (which typically doesn't present any issue for me) or some other factor I was never really hooked.  There is no real item to grab your interest.  Yes its a bit of a novel twist on your usual vampire tale but its not so different to carry the entire film.  Nor are the performances or characters anything that I could latch on to.  If you're a del Toro fan its worth seeing just to compare his early storytelling with where he is now.  Otherwise??  feel free to pass, its not in what I would consider a "canon" of film of any kind.



Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Global Rallycross TV Ratings 7/20/14


Benefiting from Red Bull's ongoing relationship with NBC, the NYC round of the 2014 Global
Rallycross season appeared as a live broadcast at 2PM this past Sunday.  This is the third time GRC has appeared on the primary NBC broadcast during the traditional network weekend sports block.  I am going to try and go back and see what the ratings were on these prior broadcasts (6/22 as a live broadcast and 5/24 on a delay).

The 0.5 rating seen below compares quite favorably to recent "offroad" oriented broadcasts on network TV.  First off, it did fairly well as compared to the rest of the weekend's sporting events, besting the UFC and Dew Tour shows while equaling the Tour de France broadcast.  The WNBA All Star game over on ESPN also drew a 0.5 though it is not reflected here.  GRC did fall a bit short of an XGames related recap and did not draw as well as some old guys golfing...but not many (any?) non-NASCAR motorsports do.

Also not shown here but broadcast over on ESPN in this same time frame was the NHRA's Mello Yello series which generated a 0.7 rating.  Which makes you wonder--the NHRA has been on the decline in terms of attendance, revenue, interest and ratings for some time with the series long rumored to be about to fold--how GRC and the other "offroad" motorsports survive on Network TV while the NHRA is relegated to ESPN or ESPN2.  Food for thought....

With each full rating point equating to 1,156,000 TV "households" being tuned into a broadcast, the 0.5 seen by the GRC show means there were some 578,000 "houses" watching the broadcast (which doesn't include the rebroadcast over on NBCSN on 7/23).  With a conservative estimate of 1.1 viewers per "household" this should mean that there were at least 636,000 individual viewers of this past Sunday's GRC event.  This is a bit ahead of the 0.4 ratings seen with the Mint 400 and AMA Motorcross events shown on the 7/5 weekend and significantly ahead of the 0.3 rating for the LOORRS broadcast that same weekend.

Update--
Prior GRC broadcast ratings:
6/22 Live from D.C. generated a 0.3, 347,000 households and an estimated 381,000 viewers
5/24 Tape Delayed from Barbados generated a 0.4, 462,400 households and 509,000 viewers

TELECAST
DATE
NET
TIME (ET)
RATING
"World of X Games: 20 Years, 20 Firsts"
7/19
ABC
2:00-3:00pm
0.7
"The Open Championship Today"
7/19
ABC
3:00-6:00pm
1.2
"UFC's Road to the Octagon"
7/19
Fox
5:00-6:00pm
0.4
Tour de France: Stage 14
7/19
NBC
2:00-3:00pm
0.5
Golf: American Century Championship
7/19
NBC
3:00-6:00pm
0.6
"The Open Championship Today"
7/20
ABC
3:00-6:00pm
1.3
Dew Tour: Best of Ocean City
7/20
NBC
1:00-2:00pm
0.4
Global Rallycross
7/20
NBC
2:00-3:00pm
0.5
Golf: American Century Championship
7/20
NBC
3:00-6:00pm
0.7

Monday, July 21, 2014

Film Review: Let The Right One In

This was the other horror film I watched last weekend and the one I actually enjoyed.

Let the Right One In is definitely not a general audience pleaser.  Its a foreign film to begin with, perhaps the first Swedish film I've watched in its native tongue.  Its also a "romantic horror" film, meaning its far from all blood and shock.

In fact the romance part of it is likely what it is most known for.

The connection between a young Swedish boy who is picked upon by the classical school bullies and his new "female" neighbor of a similar age who only he only meets at night and has a penchant for climbing up the outside of their apartment building and tearing the throats out of their older neighbors is the focus of the film.  Their relationship is a loving one where each accepts the other for who they are, even after one of the more headscratching twists I've seen in a while that totally changes the meaning of much of their previously viewed interaction and language.

The film is dark and slow (but not plodding) and feels as if it was filmed in the 70's (as opposed to The Conjuring which just tried to LOOK like it was in the 70's) which isn't a bad thing.  The young actors who are the focal point do an excellent job with Oskar, the non-vampire boy just barely straddling the line between cute and pathetic and pathetic and annoying.  Eli, the "female" protagonist is simply brilliant and is likely the character here you will remember the most.  Both roles were played by acting neophytes each with their own physical quirks and defects front and center which is wonderful as compared to what you would see in American cinema where some Disney-fied models out of an Abercrombie and Fitch catalog would have been used.

Yes, I am aware there is an American remake of this film titled Let Me In.  Just see the female lead in that film, her background and how different the film feels given the absence of the main twist in the Swedish version and tell me I'm wrong...No one trusted an American audience to handle what the Swedish version delves into in a number of instances.  Oh, and of course the American version of Eli just HAS to be a blonde right??

So go watch this film, if you like smart, offbeat foreign romance films...and if you can stand a few beheadings and gore.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Film Review: The Conjuring

I watched two "horror" movies this past weekend.  Neither inspired much horror but one was
significantly better than the other.

The Conjuring was decidedly the worse of the two.  Given the $300MM+ the movie made in box office revenue and the general media and personal reviews surrounding it I anticipated something smart and genuinely creepy.

Instead what we got was a complete retread of all the well known "ghost" and "possession" films with terrible acting and a terrible story.

Oooo...fog.  Ohhhhh, creaking floors.  Wow a possessed doll.  Demon possessed people barfing and levitating--that's new right?!?!  I'm not even sure what the filmmakers THOUGHT might be new here as its ALL been done before and been done better (Exorcist, Omen, Poltergeist,

Oh, did I mention the film is set in the 70s so that it has that terrible "we're trying to make it look like an old film" theme??  Yeah, we have the bad clothes and bad hair and old cameras and technology.  Maybe that is supposed to make it creepier as it, in theory, transports the viewer back to an older time, distancing them from the current when one knows there is no such thing as ghosts or possession.  But it doesn't work.

I kept looking at Vera Farmiga thinking...you went from The Departed and Scorsese to THIS??  And you've signed on for a sequel??

James Wan, the director is well known now for churning out dumb horror retreads and "torture porn" films like the original Saw.  As long as he keeps making money off of someone else's ideas and weak stories I guess he'll keep right on going with the dumbing down of moviegoers but count me out.

There was truly not a single moment when I wasn't rolling my eyes at the stupidity of the characters and the cliche, tired issues that these poor people encounter.  A mystery basement!  Flying furniture!  Prior murders!  Loud noises!  Creepy closets!

Ugh...stay away!!

Not the ghosts....just stay away from this disaster of a film...

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Anyone ID This Motorcycle?

Its being piloted by a member of Hezbollah within the Qalamoun mountains in Southern Syria as part of their fight on the side of the Syrian government (having crossed from Lebanon into Syria) and against the Islamic based "rebels" there.  Looks like some nice aftermarket HIDs on there too.

Also noticed here is the nice truck mounted Katyusha rocket launcher in the background.  Good to see WWII Soviet technology still working out so well!

NORRA Mexican 1000--Part 2(d)


So we finally arrive at our last day of racing.  This should be the easy day, the cruise into the finish for those that have made it this far.  Having grabbed our now typical 3-4 hours of sleep we awake again to all the top flight competitors sharing our hotel and chowing down on breakfast as we stumble bleary eyed into the dining area.

The view out over the ocean is beautiful, the hotel is top notch and there is the distinct impression that you are in a very westernized, near first world location.  We have scarfed down our food, watched Bruce Meyers (inventor of the Meyers Manx Baja Bug) be interviewed by Marty Fiolka at the table next to us and made our plans for the day.

The replacement of the serpentine belt the previous evening was a simple fix and with zero other issues we are hopeful for a successful conclusion.  Elliott and Tim get the nod to drive again as their prior day was cut short and hopefully Paul and I will jump in the truck later in the day and bring her across the finish line in Cabo.  Being a "short" day of only 124 miles, I, for one, am already thinking of finally making the end of day party for once.

Tim and Elliott start out transiting down a dry, garbage filled wash on their way out of town heading South  while Paul and I circle around the course to the East.  Oh, yeah...one item I neglected to mention earlier.  The previous night our brakes on the van had begun to grind...REALLY grind...Even with the truck off the trailer it doesn't inspire confidence on the large up and downhill sections to feel the pedal shimmy and listen to the metal on metal sounds of brakes going bad fast.  There's no way we're making it back to the border on these brakes, let alone back across the US...so put it on the list of things to do once the race is over.

We reach the end of the first stage and as usual, wait.  We begin counting the cars coming through...1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6....and so on...up to somewhere around 60 or so when we begin inquiring with the NORRA representatives in the area as to whether they have heard news, good or bad of our boys.  Chances are if something has happened to them and it had been noticed, it had been relayed to NORRA operations at some point...

Oh, yeah...we have info on that Nissan...they were noted as having broken down only a few miles into the stage a few hours ago.............

A sinking "here we go again" feeling settles in as we jump back in the van and off we go, not knowing where to.  With only a gas station road map in hand and complete ignorance as to where the stage actually started--a general some score odd square mile area, no idea how far they really got, no idea if they have moved to some other location, no idea how to even start finding an access road to the general area they might be, we are groping in the dark--fortunately breaking down early in the day this time leaves us some daylight to work with.

We begin by retracing our route to the nearest town on a major road to where we think the beginning of the stage is and making an inquiry in a random chotchkies store (lots of bongs, pipes, knives, dead animals, rocks, etc.) with the probably high as a kite "employees" as to how best to get to a village that is shown down a tiny road on the map that we think might be a good start.  We're told to head up the road and pass through an unmarked cattle guard onto a dirt road leading inland and about 10 miles in will be our village.  Taking the van and trailer is a brutal process for this.  The entire vehicle seems like it will shake itself to pieces or deafen me completely before we get to the village and we actually never make it...by van.  We wisely stop some 1/2 mile outside the village as the road goes from hardpack to fairly deep sand and we are scared that our van will become stuck, leaving us in true trouble.

Running low on water in 95 degree heat we begin making the trek into the village where we find a handful of people (none very friendly or English speaking), a lot of livestock, numerous third world huts and shacks and some tracks in the sand from the race cars having passed through a while earlier.  Had they made it this far?  Did they take this left?  Have we backtracked far enough?  All unknown.  We return to the van where Paul ventures out on his own down a side trail where the tire tracks go in hopes of running across something to give us a clue.  I give him an hour to walk and return and I'm left alone in the silent desert with a breaking down van, a few ounces of water and no clue.  After a few minutes of sitting alone in the shade, I am joined by a wonderful dog belonging to the house behind the abandoned roadside bar surrounded by rusting barbed wire I now sit in front of.  This is how news stories of dead American tourists start isn't it??

Close to an hour later I hear a vehicle approaching from the direction Paul had wandered in.  Paul has been picked up by a few locals who had been observing/assisting with the race and had knowledge of our guys.  They had broken down somewhere along the road Paul had been walking and they believed our guys had been pulled out somehow at the other end, though they did not know exactly where that road came out at or where our guys currently were....just a general idea of what happened and the direction they were headed.  Happy to have Paul (or any friendly, English speaking company) back with me and with HOPE that we might be headed in the right direction, we head out, back down the village access road, shaking our brains silly again.

We route South, again, and then turn Northeast in hopes of finding where the stage route came out...we find little with the road becoming more and more empty and in places in indescribably bad condition.  With our trailer tires all pretty much shot at this point (oh, did I mention the horribly bad wear the tires were experiencing?  The brand new trailer tires that had begun the trip were now almost down to the cords in places due to massively uneven wear from what we think are bent axle shafts/housings) every pothole makes me wince, waiting for the inevitable blowout.  It never comes (this day) and we run into another team making their recovery.  Once again we have run into someone with another part of the puzzle.  They believe our guys may be up the road a few miles having been pulled out by some locals and now not moving.

Back in the van we are nearly flying up the road in hopes of getting to the end of our current eight hour ordeal.  Coming to the top of a crest we see the truck parked only a few yards up a side access road (much like the night before!) and with it is Tim!  We pull in and get the scoop.

Very early on in the stage with Tim as driver the truck had dropped its front right hand side down into a rut that was running along the road and suffered the same fate at it had with myself at the wheel on day one of the event--a tie rod separating at the ball and socket connection to the steering rack.  They knew immediately what had happened and now without any spares and a long way from help they were resigned to a long day in the desert.  Popping the tie-rod back together as we had done on Day 1 did not work this time leaving Tim and Elliott with a very crippled vehicle a long way from anywhere.

As happened numerous times throughout the event it was the locals to the rescue.  Operating a 30 year old Bronco II with 300,000+ miles on the odometer a local family was able to flat tow the race vehicle to where it now stood with the tire ratchet strapped kinda "straight"...This kind family also provided much needed snacks and water to our racers--things that were much appreciated given the amount of time in the desert they were due to spend waiting.  So here was Tim...Where was Elliott??

Come to find out, Elliott had been "picked up" by some local girls--ages unknown but of dubious legality on the Northern side of the border--who had been passing by the stranded truck and decided to stop.  Through broken Spanish they offered to drive Elliott to their home where it was hoped he could get cell reception and communicate with SOMEONE who could then tell myself and Paul where the broken truck was now located.  Using Google Translate as an assistant the first words these two girls try and communicate to Elliott as they drive off away from Tim are "shootings" and "robberies"...Come to find out, the region in which the truck was now stranded with Tim minding the store solo is considered quite dangerous and well known for its criminal element.

Soon after Paul and I arrive on the scene, Elliott and the girls return (Elliott assures us no shenanigans took place with said lovely locals) and we work to get the broken truck on the trailer once again.  Night time has fallen, our race is over, we look at our watches knowing we have hours to drive before we arrive at our hotel in Cabo and know that we won't be making the closing ceremony, fireworks, free booze and impressive spread laid out for the other racers who have made it to the end.  Might as well be consistent I suppose...

We arrive at our hotel in the early morning again, all but two racers who are drunkenly doing flips into the pool at 2AM are nowhere to be found.  We crash into yet another hotel room with Elliott and Paul needing to leave early the next day to make their flights home.  Their trip is over.  Tim and I however, have many thousands of miles yet to go and some very sick vehicles to try and nurse...

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Just a Cool Land Rover...

This one is being used by a private military supplier/manufacturer out in the Nevada area currently.  Note the gatling gun mount...It is a M134 manufactured/modified by Dillon Aero.  Mountable on a variety of platforms and sure to send anyone running for the nearest pair of clean underwear...

More info here:
http://www.dillonaero.com/