Wednesday, July 4, 2007

TNT's Not So "Wide Open" With Facts About Pepsi 400

This weekend, the Pepsi 400 will be run at Daytona International Speedway. It is one of the highest-profile NASCAR races because it falls during the week of July 4th. The race is going to be telecast on cable TV, and not on "over-the-air" broadcast network TV. The reason is because the Pepsi 400 is the centerpiece of the Turner Network Television TV package.

For some time now, TNT has been promoting this one race as "special." Unfortunately, they have not made the previous four NEXTEL Cup races telecast by them "special" at all. In fact, the amount of commercials and promos run in these races has been staggering. No matter how hard the announcers try, or how close the drivers race, there is just no defeating the fact that commercials do not allow racing to be shown.

Our friends over at do a breakdown of the commercials and promos inserted in the NEXTEL Cup events. In Loudon, TNT had 130 minutes of actual race time and showed 62 minutes of commercials in that specific time period. So, TNT filled almost one-third of the time during the race with commercials.

This weekend, TNT has a "special" solution for this problem. They are calling it "Wide Open Coverage" of the Pepsi 400. Their marketing information says they are "eliminating" national commercials and only three local breaks from the cable or satellite systems will "interrupt" their live coverage. Now, does this sound logical coming from a company who just used 33% of the previous race to show commercials?

What TNT has done is used a technical TV trick to shrink the picture of the Pepsi 400 on your screen. No matter what you do, it will not be "full screen" for the race. If you have seen a High Definition picture on your standard TV set, you understand what I am talking about. The "aspect ratio" of the video signal will be different, so your TV will have a smaller picture. This is the start of TNT's "special" coverage for you. Wait, it gets better.

Turner's own in-house Creative Services Unit has produced some "special" commercials that will be run during the race. They will appear on your screen in a "box" that allows the race action to still be seen. While this is great because it allows continued racing, what it does for TNT is totally free them from the time constraints put on by thirty-second commercials placed in two-minute commercial breaks.

That's right, the network that ran 62 minutes of commercials in 190 minutes of racing now has absolutely no limits on filling your "special" TNT screen with as many sponsor "messages" as possible. Well, now we certainly know why they called it "Wide Open Coverage." It is open season on NASCAR viewers, and there is no "limit" for the hunters.

One of the most fascinating elements of this issue is the fact that the ten national advertisers who are participating in TNT's "Wide Open Coverage" of the Pepsi 400 had to "pay to play." Each and every one had to buy all the other six TNT races, with their normal TV commercials, in order to be featured in the high-profile Daytona race. In other words, to get the big stuff you have to run adds in the junk.

And junk is just how TNT treated the NASCAR race at Loudon, with absolutely no regard for the race itself or the viewers. Fans basically had the race cut by a third by commercials once the green flag flew. The Daly Planet was swarmed with people actually helping each other with techniques to avoid TNT's coverage. This ranged from the DirecTV Hot Pass to the PPV in-car coverage to just putting the race on a DVR and watching it later. What a sad commentary on this season's TV coverage.

The big rumor floating around the town is that the "extra" adds placed in the early TNT races were included as "bonuses" for the advertisers who agreed to participate in the Daytona "special" coverage. In case the "Wide Open Coverage" becomes a "Big Fat Disaster," the network will have already run enough "make good" spots to be covered. Anyone who watched the Sonoma race on TNT knows just how quickly disaster can come to this network.

So, Saturday night good old Jeff Gordon will introduce the TNT "Wide Open Coverage" of the Pepsi 400 as a technical innovation that will hopefully change the NASCAR TV landscape. Bill Weber will handle integrating all the sponsor stuff into the race telecast throughout the entire event. Viewers may originally feel good about the fact they can continue to see the race while commercial elements run, but there is little doubt based on the earlier races that TNT will eventually wear even the most hardy fans down.

So, in TNT language, please enjoy your "innovative on-screen video box for branded sponsor content, vignettes, and animation." Also, enjoy your reduced picture size which Turner Sports President David Levy sums up this way: "We are producing everything in wide screen (format) and then shoving it into a standard (TV) format. We'll have space left at the bottom of the screen without losing anything, the fans just won't see Row 35." Is he kidding? TNT viewers won't lose anything?

Apparently, Mr. Levy did not see Sonoma where only the top two cars were shown finishing, and TNT left the air without even a top twenty final leaderboard. He must have missed Michigan, where the race ended twenty minutes early, so TNT decided to start a vampire movie instead of interviewing the drivers. Perhaps, he was on vacation for Loudon, where TNT ran over an hour of commercials in just over three hours of racing. This season, NASCAR fans watching TNT have already lost a lot.

It will be great if TNT's "Wide Open Coverage" of the Pepsi 400 proves to be a success. Unfortunately, their track record on these first four races in the TNT package does not just magically disappear because "they say" everything will be fine. TNT needs to step up not only at Daytona, but in their one remaining race in Chicago to salvage any kind of respect for their NASCAR efforts in 2007.

The Daly Planet welcomes comments from readers. Simply click on the COMMENTS button below, or email if you wish not to be published. All email is held in confidence. Thanks again for stopping by.


Joe from Philly said...

Any truth to the rumor that they'll be showing a marathon of "The Closer" in the top right portion of the screen? ;-)

Just kidding of course.....I hope.

I certainly won't be watching this live.

Rich said...

Wow! I just stumbled onto your blog. My LOSS...until the stumble. Been here for an hour reading your posts.

As a long time Nascar fan (I grew up in Martinsville, VA), I'm pretty fed up with the TV coverage. All the damn commercials are ruining the sport (altho the commentators certainly have played a role). I find myself channel surfing during the commericals and frequently do not return. For example, last Sunday I surfed to the Champ race from Quebec (what a GREAT race) on SPEED and ....never returned to the Nascar race (largely because every time I surfed back to TNT they were doing .....ahhhhhhh a commerical).

Put Alan Bestwick back in the broadcast booth and back on Inside Nextel Cup. Get rid of Brent Mustard-burger and, most of all, Dave Despain. Musberger is a football guy and DeSpain's real love is open wheel racing, not Nascar.

Anonymous said...

There is no doubt in my mind that
this will create a new definition of FUBAR.i predict that by sunday morning the NASCAR offices will be under seige from an angry horde of
people who bought 55" tv's and had
to watch 20" inches of racing and 35"inches of advertising,you'll see

jh p'town va.

Anonymous said...

When I heard some of the details of this coverage I knew it would be a disaster.

I'll just leave both of my High Def sets off and watch on my 19" Tv in the garage.

That is if I can stand watching any of this "Wide Open" coverage.

One other thought...

If viewers tune out during the race, how much are the commericals worth then?

Thanks for column and a place to vent.


Anonymous said...

I can't wait until TNT coverage is over! Unfortunately ESPN will take over and I'm not sure it will be any better. FOX WHERE ARE YOU!

bevo said...

Can you say "EPIC DISASTER"?
What has TNT done to instill confidence in anyone that this will be well done?

The Heidi Game needs to make room for a new friend...

Anonymous said...

No wonder my TIVO caught up to the live broadcast! Now I am glad I bought a BIG screen HDTV. Ted & Hanoi Jane still irritate me.

GinaV24 said...

It's funny because somewhere I thought I had read that this race was originally going to be "commercial free". I figured that was too good to be true because TNT is just another version of NBC and that was nothing but commercials for their race coverage. Considering how poor the TV coverage has been since TNT took over (except for Kyle Petty & Larry Mac -- God bless them both), I'll use Trackpass and the radio to follow the race. Weber's an idiot and some of Snider's comments are so stupid that they aren't worth listening to -- tell me again WHY they won an Emmy for their race coverage last year? And who voted for it? So, if all they are going to do is clutter up the screen with more stuff and give us more time to listen to Weber either babble or act put out that he's not being properly catered to, well, I'll pass. I'm betting on a long rain delay anyway -- wasn't this the race that went to 1 a.m. or something last year? Thank goodness for my DVR!

Glen said...

Attention sponsors: Are you reading these posts? Are you paying attention to what the fans say that we want rather than what the networks say that we want?
Maybe we should all stop watching races shown on TNT. After the disasters the past couple of weeks on TNT, I did NOT watch last week's race at NHIS and I make it a point never to miss a race. I even record races I attend live & watch them when I return home. No more. I thought NBC had reached rock bottom in rce coverage last year but, apparently TNT found a way to fall even further. I will attempt to watch this week's Pepsi 400 but, I don't know if I will be able to stomach it or not. I am keeping my fingers crossed that ESPN/ABC shows us substantially better race coverage.

JHD said...

To ginav24: FOX won the Emmy because when your competition is TNT and ESPN, there's not that high a bar to begin with for race coverage. They're just the best of the worst.

I hear Trackpass on is free this weekend. Normally I just use the scanner and listen to that with the TV coverage on low. This weekend I plan on using PitCommand and suggest others use that to watch the race instead. Perhaps that will send a message to the TV people that race fans are disgusted with their lack of coverage.

Desmond said...

Nice joke, Joe!

Anyway, since the main character, Brenda Johnson, is a Southerner, will they "chat" with her during the broadcast to ask who her favorite driver is?[LOL]

Anonymous said...

I've been watching the Sunday races over on HD NET even if it 3-4 day old race, at least it's in HD. I just wonder how this "Wide Open"format is going to show on HDNET re-broadcast? HDNET doesn't show commercials, they are skipped over and they come back as laps ran, so you miss some of the race, but can't be any worse that live Sunday race. I'll bet ESPN breaks the record for commercials and tech facts...Any takers?

Steve in Indiana said...

Here's an idea to make this upcoming disaster somehwat bearable. Let's make this a good old fashing drinking game! Everytime Bill Weber says "Wide Open Coverage" we'll take a shot. I guarantee you most of us will be plastered before the green flag even drops.

Anonymous said...

There's a reason it's called "wide open coverage". The commercials will be "wide open" while we'll be struggling to see any race "coverage".

This is also another one of those things that proves that NASCAR doesn't listen to the racing fans.

Anonymous said...

Commercials are a fact of life, get over it. If you want it to be commercial free, go to the track.

Kudos to TNT for at least "trying" to make it better for us fans.

Hello?? This is NASCAR people!! If it weren't for sponsors there wouldn't be any racing to watch: Bud, Miller Lite, Home Depot, Lowe's, Dupont, AT&T, etc.

Good lord folks. What is the color of Richard Petty's car? It is STP Blue. That's right, STP - as in the sponsor!

Now shut up and watch the race you wankers!

Anonymous said...

I guess I'm an old school NASCAR fan. I liked it when the "personalities" were in the pits and on the track, not in the booth. With Nascar turning the Nextel Cup series into an IROC replacement series and with TNT just butchering what show there is, I will have to relegate my viewing to the Truck series (until the spec engine comes) and F1 racing on Speed. At least there the racers and crews are the story and the announcers actually watch the race and not just respond to the producers. This Saturday will be the first Cup race I have missed in countless years.

Daly Planet Editor said...

Hi everybody, I just wanted to thank you for the great posts on this subject. I have already been emailed by many TV types and NASCAR reporters who have read your views and are going to be asking some questions of TNT this weekend. Thanks again for taking time out of your day to contribute.

Fred in San Diego said...

There is nothing I hate more than watching a commercial for NASCAR during a race. I'm already tuned in, so show the damn race!

Also, most of the commercials are for sponsors that are already on the cars we are watching. Maybe they could eliminate commercials altogether just by having the car sponsors pay more to have their car "highlighted" during the race with a mention of the sponsor's name and an update of how the car is doing?

Anonymous said...

I don't really know what to expect but I hope it can not get worse. I love the IRL side by side thing. I would trade some extra commercials just to know whats going on in the race. But I really dont want it to get crazy like internet TV. We'll see.

Anonymous said...

I think it would be better if that team, just bought a two hour show before the race. That way they could control the PR much more easily. And create their own news. You could have it on speed channel and make it look all official.

Anonymous said...

ok said sponcer could just creat their own award like the Goody's good feet moment, or the Viagra Hard Charger award, or The Homedepot you got wrecked moment of the race, or even the Crazy insurance duck good call. Its all been done already. I would love to see professional 3rd party officials come in and take over officiating the race like every other major sport in the world, and chevys to quit cheatin. wink wink.

Anonymous said...

Kudos to Daly Planet for this editorial !! Yes, we all understand that commercials pay the bills, but...............Didn't FOX do a pretty good job with what they had? They broke out of commercials if a wreck happened. They are the standard that all networks should hope to live up to. Personally, I can't stand to hear Wally, so I listen to MRN while watching live. When I DVR, I have to cringe and bear it. Lets hope ESPN does a good job.

Joe from Philly said...

To: "Commercials are a fact of life" Anonymous

It's not the commercials that are bothering most fans. It's the fact that the commercials get better coverage than the race!

Commercials are a fact of life. Doesn't mean they should be a WAY of life.

And that ain't STP Blue. That's Petty Blue. Look up how they came up with that color ;-)

Anonymous said...

The TNT Wide-Open-Coverage is nothing but a continuous infomercial. The bottom portion of the screen is the most important area whereas race viewing is concerned. They claim to be breaking away for cable purposes, but in fact its just another way to go to a full screen-shot of TBS (Turner) commercials. Its the worse deal I have ever seen whereas race coverage is concerned. I'm sure TNT will come on next week and proclaim what a great deal it was, and perhaps even give themself an award.

Anonymous said...

What a bunch of whiners....TNT is trying to improve on the status quo and you'all are cryin before it hits air. Do any of you have any idea how much it costs to cover a NASCAR race? There are 2 TV trucks at a prime-time football game. There are 20 trucks at every NASCAR race. If you all would like the show to go back to 3 cameras then they could probably cut out some commercials for you. I'll send a letter to TNT and make sure they broadcast more caution laps for everybody...