Side-By-Side is a split-screen television presentation format originally introduced by sports network ESPN which allows the broadcast to show commercials and live sports simultaneously. It is primarily associated with ABC's telecasts of the IndyCar Series and ESPN's coverage of NASCAR. When utilized for NASCAR, it goes by the name of NASCAR Nonstop.
While primarily associated with sports telecasts, the format has also been utilized on other forms of broadcasting. CNN has also used a similar arrangement for commercial breaks during live news events.
The technology was adopted due to certain televised sports (such as auto racing and soccer) not having natural breaks in action to fit in necessary commercial breaks. Sports such as football and baseball have timeouts and scheduled breaks, which allow for commercial time without viewers missing any actual game play. Auto racing had long suffered from commercial breaks interrupting live action, as races are never purposely halted outside of emergency situations. The only time during races which commercials could be shown without missing much action was during caution periods, but they are random and could not be counted on for regular intervals. In addition, the racing action technically does not stop during caution periods either, as competitive pit stops (an important aspect of the race) occur during yellow periods.However with most networks such as FOX or ESPN,during side by side coverage it is seen that the screen with the commercials is 4 times bigger than the live sports screen. Fans complain that it should be equal size screen for both commercial and sports.
ESPN and ABC
The technology uses a split-screen to show the feed of the live sports event on one side with no audio, while the traditional commercial is placed on the other side, with full audio. Typically, the square used for the commercial is larger and more prominent than that of the event. Sometimes, a small graphic showing the lap count and leaders' names accompanies the square, or the normal ticker is still shown in the layout. Side-By-Side is used during all national commercial breaks during the race but Side-by-Side is also used during local breaks. Side-By-Side can also be used during the pre-race and the post-race segments. During red flag stoppage conditions, Side-by-Side has been used, but during lengthy delays, such as rain delay, commercials revert to traditional full-screen format.
ESPN first used Side-By-Side for an IndyCar event on March 19, 2005 during the Toyota Indy 300 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. It was adopted for the entire season outside of Indianapolis. The format was first used for the Indianapolis 500 in 2006.
Starting in 2011, ESPN's coverage of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Chase, began featuring the format. Dubbed NASCAR Nonstop, the format was nearly identical to IndyCar's Side-by-Side. For NASCAR, however, the format was only to be used during the second half of the race.
NASCAR on TNT uses a modified split-screen format for their broadcast of the NASCAR Coke Zero 400 at Daytona. Branded under the moniker 'Wide-Open Coverage, the format was used for the first time on July 7, 2007.Although in 2013 they chose not to do the format in favor of no commercials during the last 30 laps.
The screen is divided into two segments, upper and lower, with race coverage utilizing the upper part (approximately 78%) in a widescreen layout. The advertisements are aired along the bottom portion of the screen that takes up about 22% of the total image. The bottom banner is occupied by the scoring ticker and other statistical information, and features a box that on selected intervals, airs commercials. Many of the commercials are unique and/or specially created for the race broadcast, and last up to 1-2 minutes in duration (as opposed to the 15-30 second duration of normal advertisements). When the commercials are played, the race audio is muted. Still image ads also circulate at various intervals, but the race audio is not muted during those instances.
TNT is required to provide approximately three minutes per hour to the cable and satellite providers to air full-screen local commercials, which bypass the TNT feed entirely. An attempt is made to complete that task with limited interruption, and if possible, it is accomplished during caution periods.
NBC Sports Network
Beginning in 2009, Versus, now known as NBC Sports Network, became a new television partner with the IndyCar Series. During the race broadcast, they introduced IndyCar Non-Stop with a format and appearance nearly identical to that of Side-By-Side.
Fox, who started covering NASCAR in 2001, resisted the use of the technology for many years. By about 2010, however, executives began exploring the concept. In 2011, they conducted one experimental commercial break with a split-screen format. Through 2011, Fox has preferred to air traditional, full-screen commercials, and if any action occurs during the break, their policy is to interrupt the commercial and return to the live action (e.g. at the 2013 Auto Club 400, the broadcast was in a commercial break when Clint Bowyer blew an engine and spun, so the feed immediately cut the commercial break right away; at the 2013 Aaron's 499, the feed was in commercial break when a crash occurred on lap 43). FOX returned to using the side-by-side coverage during the 2012 Daytona 500.
During coverage of the 2013 Cotton Bowl Classic, Fox experimented with a split-screen commercial format dubbed the Double Box. During a natural game timeout stoppage, the broadcast showed a commercial in a prominent widescreen box, along with a small window in the upper right corner showing live game cameras. The empty space was filled with additional logos and graphics of the respective commercials. While the cameras were to announced as 'never leaving the field,' the live action was limited mostly to teams in the huddle and no actual gameplay. They also adapted this for NASCAR broadcasts, starting at the 2013 Daytona 500.
Fox also used the side-by-side technology for purposes outside of sports: in 2013 and again in 2014 the network used its Double Box during live broadcasts of American Idol, showing a live camera feed with footage of the “Idol” stage, judges’ table and backstage area, alongside commercial messages.
The French Canadian sports channel Réseau des sports (RDS, the French sister network of TSN), which is partially owned by ESPN, adopted a Side-By-Side-styled split-screen for its Formula One race coverage beginning in 2006. As TSN simulcasts the British feed, it was able to initially use ITV's commercial breaks. With the transfer of F1 rights to the BBC (and the fact that the BBC feed does not contain commercial breaks), Side-By-Side was introduced for F1 races on TSN beginning in 2009.
TSN also uses split-screen commercial breaks whenever it is simulcasting an ESPN event that uses Side-By-Side. During the Coke Zero 400, commercial breaks created by its "Wide Open Coverage" are also implemented using the setup.
The format receives criticism because it potentially devalues the advertisements, costing networks revenues, and waning the interest of the advertisers. In addition, it has led to speculation that a similar technology might be implemented for in-game advertisements.
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- CNN utilized a 'side-by-side' style format during the New Year's Eve Live broadcast on 12/31/2012
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