Saturday, July 28, 2007

Rain Puts ESPN And SPEED Head-To-Head On Saturday

The fall-out of the weather problems at Indy was never more obvious then late Saturday morning and early Saturday afternoon. As SPEED followed its regular schedule of shows from the SPEED stage, ESPN scrambled its programming line-up to deal with changes in the NEXTEL Cup practice schedule.

The result was exactly the thing that ESPN had been trying to avoid at all costs. They were now live on-the-air simultaneously with SPEED in a head-to-head competition for viewers. It certainly did make things interesting.

As The Daly Planet wrote in a Thursday column, ESPN has found itself basically surrounded by SPEED at Indy. Safely inside the racetrack, ESPN has avoided even acknowledging that there is another network present at the track. Meanwhile, SPEED has a comfortable set-up across the street where viewers can watch SPEED's weekend line-up of live programming.

Perhaps, the best moments of Saturday came while ESPN was live on-the-air with NEXTEL Cup practice, and SPEED was on-the-air with NASCAR Live. While Suzy Kolber led the team on the ESPN side, Steve Byrnes led SPEED's NASCAR Live effort.

Viewers were put in the unusual position of watching two NASCAR TV partners try to cover the exact same practice session. While ESPN has the "rights" to the practice, SPEED was often showing on-track activity as well during their show. Certainly, the thrust of the ESPN coverage was the on the track, while SPEED concentrated on explaining what teams were doing what, and interviewing drivers and crew chiefs.

The most intense part of this unexpected head-to-head contest pitted SPEED's Larry McReynolds and Jeff Hammond against ESPN's Rusty Wallace and Andy Petree. There is never a time where two TV networks are covering the same NEXTEL Cup race live, so this practice session coverage was about as close as things will ever come.

Both teams of analysts delivered good information, with the advantage going to ESPN who could use the live on-track coverage, their own pit reporters, and Tim Brewer in the new "tech center" to fully integrate all the on-going stories. Hammond and McReynolds were contained on a set outside the track, basically using their pit reporters and watching the computer update the practice laps.

We knew that ESPN's arrival in the NASCAR community was going to result in some flexible scheduling and on-air changes, but it certainly was amazing that SPEED was able to broadcast live while ESPN was simultaneously on-the-air with NEXTEL Cup practice. Once ESPN discovers that someone else was broadcasting quality coverage of exactly the same activity that ESPN is paying millions to have as "exclusive," it should be interesting to see how these types of changes play-out in the future.

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Anonymous said...

Has anyone else noticed how bad the audio is on ESPN's NASCAR races ?
The audio does not follow the camera changes, it sucks. I never thought I'd say this but I miss Fox :<)
ESPN please fix the friggin audio.

Anonymous said...
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bevo said...

I didn't watch ESPN live but it was on my Tivo - too bad it was supposed to be NHRA qualifying.
I hate ESPN!!!

Matt said...

Usually John, I agree with most of what you say, but I think this whole ESPN vs. SPEED deal is much ado about nothing. I have seen no evidence, yet, that ESPN is trying to squash what SPEED normally does on race weekends. If I actually see or hear something that proves it, I'll care, but until then it's not much of a story to me.

projectpappy09 said...

Bevo, long night for you, good luck staying awake until 4am. I hope you saw the live coverage that was on 3pm eastern today.

As for today's ESPN vs. SPEED event, advantage ESPN, because they had on-track action and did so well, except for the audio problems. Kudos to the WWL for providing us with live coverage of both Busch and Cup happy hour simutaneously.

Sal said...

I must admit to a moment of 'sweet irony', seing ESPN broadcasting from insid the track, with SPEED set up across the street. Brought back memories of Mike Massaro trying to interview drivers at the heli pad. However, I'm not sure that Susy Kolber and brad Daugherty are in any danger of usurping the Speed crew for expertise.

Anonymous said...

Sounds like you have beenwatching to much Erick K. trying to stir up the pot between ESPN and Speed

Anonymous said...

I heard from an inside source that ESPN would never let Speed broadcast a NASCAR show at the same time ESPN was doing it.

So this couldn't have happened and I think this story must be made up.

projectpappy09 said...

I'm sorry last anon, this really did happen.