Side-by-side (graphic)

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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 used for NASCAR, it goes by the name of NASCAR Nonstop.[1]

While primarily associated with sports telecasts, the format has been used on other forms of broadcasting. CNN has also used a similar arrangement for commercial breaks during live news events.[2]


The technology was adopted due to certain televised sports (such as auto racing and soccer) not having natural breaks in action to fit in 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 flag 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.

By network[edit]

ESPN and ABC[edit]

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.[3] 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.[3][4] 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.[1] 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.[1]


NASCAR on TNT used a modified split-screen format for their broadcast of the Coke Zero 400 at Daytona branded as "Wide-Open Coverage"; the running order ticker and all on-screen graphics were displayed in an enlarged panel at the buttom of the screen (race footage was displayed on the top portion of the screen). Commercials were instead shown in a box docked to the lower panel, while race footage continued to be displayed. Many of the commercials were unique and/or specially created for the race broadcast, and lasted up to 1–2 minutes in duration (as opposed to the 15-30 second duration of normal advertisements). Time was still provided for local ad breaks.[5]

The format was used from 2007 through 2012; the 2013 edition of the race discontinued the format.


Beginning in 2009, Versus, now known as NBCSN, 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. The format has since been extended in 2013 to NBC/NBCSN's coverage of Formula One (branded as Formula One Non-Stop), and again in 2015 in the networks' return to NASCAR (branded as NASCAR Non-Stop).


Fox, who started covering NASCAR[6] in 2001, resisted the use of the technology for many years. By about 2010, however, executives began exploring the concept.[6] In 2011, they conducted one experimental commercial break with a split-screen format.[6][7] 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.[8] 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 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.[9][10]

RDS and TSN (Canada)[edit]

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.

Golf Channel[edit]

In October 2013, Golf Channel introduced a side-by-side style split-screen known as playing through during the final two hours of coverage of the final four European Tour events of the season.[11]


Side-By-Side and its similar counterparts have been generally received with positive reviews from viewers, sponsors, and sanctioning bodies.[3][12] It has been criticized by others.[13]

The format receives criticism because it potentially devalues the advertisements, costing networks revenues, and waning the interest of the advertisers.[1] In addition, it has led to speculation that a similar technology might be implemented for in-game advertisements.[8]

Outside the United States[edit]

Since 2016, Brazilian channel Rede Globo has used a similar format. It's mainly used in F1 coverages, when they minimize the live screen and show the commercial arround the live screen. They also use that format in football matches.


  1. ^ a b c d Demmons, Doug (2011-10-23). "ESPN pleased at how its NASCAR Nonstop coverage is working". Birmingham Sports. Retrieved 2011-11-16. 
  2. ^ CNN deployed a 'side-by-side' style format during the New Year's Eve Live broadcast on 12/31/2012
  3. ^ a b c "ABC Sports, ESPN to debut split screen for continuous IndyCar coverage". Newsrooms. BroadcastEngineering. 2005-02-25. Retrieved 2011-11-16. 
  4. ^ "ESPN2 to provide in-car camera simulcast of opening race". News Archive. 2005-03-02. Retrieved 2011-11-16. 
  5. ^ "A woman's place is in the booth". New York Daily News. Retrieved 19 April 2016. 
  6. ^ a b c Engle, Greg (2011-05-15). "FOX surprises with side-by-side experiment during NASCAR coverage". NASCAR. 
  7. ^ "TV/MEDIA/NETWORK MAGAZINE NEWS and RUMORS". Fox Sports boss David Hill discusses NASCAR TV coverage. 2011-07-05. Retrieved 2011-11-16. 
  8. ^ a b "FOX Debuts "Double Box" Commercial Break Format During Cotton Bowl". Sports Media Watch. 2013-01-04. Retrieved 2013-01-28.  |first1= missing |last1= in Authors list (help)
  9. ^
  10. ^
  11. ^ "Golf Channel Debuts Playing Through Advertising Format for European Tour’s Final Series". Golf Channel press release. Retrieved 2 November 2013. 
  12. ^ Pistone, Pete (2011-05-17). "Idle Thoughts: Side-by-side a surprise". Eye on NASCAR. 
  13. ^ "2006 TV Commercial News". More on the Split-screen for TV. 2006-07-28. Retrieved 2011-11-16.