Fox Sports exec eyes 3-hour races

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Fox Sports chairman David Hill believes NASCAR races need to be shortened to fit into a three-hour broadcast window.

Hill said Monday night the length of races -- many stretch well into a fourth hour -- is one of the problems that's contributed to NASCAR's sinking television ratings.

"I think the racing is far too long," Hill said during Charlotte Motor Speedway's annual media tour. "There is more diversion, more opportunities for stuff than any other time in man's history."

Hill said the ideal for Fox would be a four-hour broadcast window, with 40 minutes of pre-race coverage and 20 minutes of post-race coverage. Asked if he'd push NASCAR to shorten any of its races, Hill didn't miss a beat.

"NASCAR doesn't negotiate," he deadpanned.

The 38-race schedule is divided by three networks, and Fox holds the rights to the first 13 events of the season. The network's deal with NASCAR, a partnership that began in 2001, runs through 2014, and Hill said it's too soon to speculate on if the relationship will continue past the current deal.

Personally, Hill said, he'd like to continue airing NASCAR on Fox. But because it's a business decision, the next few seasons will determine how aggressively Fox pursues a new contract.

Hill strongly defended the efforts of NASCAR chairman Brian France to stop the slide in both attendance and ratings.

"I really think they are trying," he said. "I like them all, they are fantastic. They do know they have problems, and they are trying very hard to fix them. It's tough."

Hill said Fox is content with the consistent start times NASCAR instituted last season to simplify the television schedule for viewers. But NASCAR president Mike Helton said during testing last week that the start times needed to be reconsidered because the season is so long.

Any consideration to shifting start times is probably to benefit ESPN, which broadcasts the second half of the season and struggled to hold viewers as the early NFL games came to a close. Hill said Fox wants all its races to air at 1 p.m., and wondered if there wasn't a simple solution for ESPN's woes.

"Why wouldn't you run races on Saturday nights and not against football?" Hill asked.

Also, Hill said Fox would place a heavy emphasis on drivers this season and move away from heavy coverage of the mechanics of racing. He wants NASCAR to place a greater emphasis on winning when it announces its new points structure Wednesday night.