Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Did TNT Sports "TiVo" the NASCAR Nation?

Email and comments are continuing to come in about the Chicagoland NEXTEL Cup event on TNT Sports. They are not about the announcing, or the competition, but rather about a "shift in time" that seemed to occur for some fans during the race.

In today's world, so many of us are comfortable with a wide array of media devices in our home. NASCAR fans love everything technical, and are almost always doing "something else" while the main TV coverage is on. These days, the options are almost endless.

Fans have DirectTV's Hot Pass, the pay-per-view in-car channels on cable TV, many options on the NASCAR.com website, and a tremendous amount of audio-only options available on satellite, Internet, and even telephone services.

One of the chief complaints of the past was that the NASCAR.com Internet video and audio services lagged behind the actual race because of technology issues. It was basically a difference in the pathways that signals took to get to the "home user" that caused this delay.

Last week in Chicago, TNT went to commercial with all of the broadcasting elements in sync, but it is being suggested they did not emerge that way. Daly Planet emailers are saying that out of the TV commercial, the TNT broadcast suddenly lagged behind the Internet services provided by the NASCAR.com website.

The TrackPass Pit Command, Scanner, and Race View services were now ahead of the actual race. Some emailers indicated it was as much as thirty seconds ahead, and it had been slightly behind during the entire event up to that point.

For the remainder of the event, folks are saying that the NASCAR.com site was consistently ahead of the TNT race broadcast. This seems a little hard to digest, as there are also DirecTV and PPV in-car feeds going on simultaneously.

The key part of this "time delay conspiracy theory" is that when the race was over, and Tony Stewart was done climbing the fence, TNT went to commercial. When the break was done, Tony was already in Victory Lane ready to hop-out of his car.

What they are saying is now that the race was over, TNT cut-out the delay and went back "live" because it no longer mattered if NASCAR.com's services were lagging. The race itself was over.

As these things go, there is always one little item to make even the biggest skeptic think a bit about both sides. This time, its simple. The biggest objection to the TrackPass services on NASCAR.com is their delay compared to the TV coverage.

Chicagoland was the last race for Turner Network Television of their short summer package. As viewers know, the network had never been shy on doing whatever it wanted to promote things in any way during the races. Remember Wally's World?

So, here is the head-scratcher. The NASCAR.com website is not owned by NASCAR. It is owned by a company that pays NASCAR a fee to be its online provider of content. The NASCAR.com staff is not located in the sport's "hometown" areas of Charlotte or Mooresville, North Carolina.

NASCAR.com is located in Atlanta, Georgia and is owned by Turner Sports Interactive. That's right, Turner Network Television (TNT) and Turner Sports Interactive are all part of the big Time Warner Corporation. Sister companies side-by-side in Atlanta, if you will.

One emailer who "says" he was present on pit road said the crews were complaining that the TV coverage on their satellite dishes was suddenly behind the race itself. I am not one to buy into "conspiracy theories," but if anyone has some additional information about this issue, or thinks this is just nuts, please let us know.

Unfortunately, I am one of the people who actually....just watched the race on TV.

The Daly Planet welcomes comments from readers. Simply click on the COMMENTS page or email editor@thedalyplanet.tv if you wish not to be published. Thanks again for stopping by.


Anonymous said...

I was using "leaderboard" on nascar.com and was watching TV. It seemed TV was 5-10 seconds behind, this was judging from when the Yellow flag notice showed on the computer vs "live TV"..I thought it was a delay to protect themselves from Fingers and Words on live TV. Joe

Phil Lee said...

I watched the first half of the race live here in the UK on Setanta Sports Ireland and had PitCommand and the leaderboard open on my PC. There was the usual lag on PitCommand. The leaderboard was pretty much in sync with the on screen action, especially when the yellow flag pop-up was displayed. I guess there is likely to more lag for me since the signal will be relayed by at least two satellites before I get the signal.

I watched the second half of the race on my Sky+ box (UK version of Tivo) the next day so can't verify what happened then.

One thing I did do for the first time was pause the race for a couple of seconds so that it was the TV was in sync with PitCommand.

Anonymous said...

SPEED routinely does this (delay) during qualifying; I assume they do it so you won't miss anyone's attempt during a commercial break. As their show goes on, and moe breaks air, the TV portion gets further and further behind "real" time as indicated by NASCAR.com's telemetry.

I wouldn't be surprised if TNT tried it last week.

GinaV24 said...

I was using trackpass to follow the race and had the tv on with the sound muted so I don't have to listen to Weber/Snider et al. I did notice that at the end of the race when the scoring scroller was shown that cars had a different finishing order than on trackpass. I quit tivoing the race to watch later -- the broadcasts aren't worth watching more than once.

JHD said...

I use my driver's scanner with the broadcast, because I like hearing what my driver is doing and broadcasts very rarely focus on him.

For the most part, the scanner appears to be about a minute behind the broadcast. I usually have to guess where to pause the broadcast at the beginning of the race and try to synch up audio that way. I still haven't gotten the hang of it, but it's usually only a 5-10 second delay instead of a minute.

On this past Sunday, I had to continually synch up because the TV delays were long and sometimes behind or sometimes ahead of where my scanner was. I never did get it figured out. Never occurred to me that TNT was screwing around with their broadcast, but it makes sense.

What irritated me more than the delays was listening to the scanner, hearing the spotter tell my driver there was a caution, and then waiting 5 or 6 commercials before the broadcast came back to actually show/talk about the caution.

There was one point late in the race where the spotter said the race was about to go green and there were commercials still on my TV. I expected TNT to come back halfway through the restart, but somehow they didn't. Must have been that delay again.

To anonymous #2, Speed definitely does delay quals. I was on Pit Road in Charlotte for the Busch quals. But to get out of the sun, we sat underneath the camera platforms and watched on the TV on Robby Gordon's war wagon. We only noticed the delay at the end when there were still drivers on TV qualifying, but on the track the Speed One car was making laps.

Anonymous said...

I posted a comment on this issue on your original recap of the TNT coverage. I can assure you that this was no 'satellite' lag that I experienced. Late in the race under a caution, my TrackPass coverage went to green while I observed the TV broadcast go at least another lap of yellow. When I compared the lap counts, TNT was almost 2 full laps behind what was showing on TrackPass. This situation stayed consistent through the end of the race.. We got the checkered flag on TrackPass with almost 2 still to on TNT. With the outcome not really in question this wasn't that big of a deal, but if it had been a finish like Daytona what a letdown. I'm a little leery of how well ESPN is going to do, but I'm definitely glad we're 'done' with TNT!

justaj0e said...

Wow, I thought there was just something wonky with my local cable provider!

I was listening to the race feed on my computer in my office and when I got a chance I would go to the other room where the TV is and catch some of the race ... I noticed right off that the TV coverage was behind the Radio feed from NASCAR.com

Hadn't given it another thought till I read this. I'm not suggesting any conspiracy and since I often "TiVo delay" the race by a few minutes anyway ... I'm not sure it matters.
The TV WAS definitely behind the radio feed. Glad to know it wasn't just me!

Co-Producer "The Cup Car Update"

Karen White said...

I usually have the radio broadcast going "in tandem" with the television and turn up the volume of whichever is covering the race better at that point in time. MRN, I believe, covered Chicago. It seems to me the radio always is a second or two ahead of television. I always figured the networks have to do a two-second delay to cover themselves with the FCC.

I can't say whether TNT lagged more than usual Sunday since often the MRN folks are describing action that the television people aren't focusing on.

Anonymous said...

I always thought the did that little time delay thing on speed during qualifying to fit the time schedule and to quicken yellows since its not a race. I watch alot of the races online and on tv and the online is always 30-45 seconds behind.