Sunday, November 11, 2007
ESPN vs. SPEED Every Single Day This Week
NASCAR has done an admirable job of keeping their two primary TV partners at arm's length this season. That is until now.
The countdown to Homestead has officially begun, and the pressure is on both ESPN and SPEED to be the "NASCAR TV network of record" for 2007. This coming week will tell the tale, as both networks go head-to-head every single day.
Last Friday, ESPN suddenly issued a press release changing the NASCAR programming on ESPN2 beginning the following Monday. The network had decided to expand the NASCAR Now program to one hour in length from Monday through Thursday. NASCAR Now will air from 6 to 7PM Eastern on those days. Erik Kuselias will host these programs with the exception of Thursday's show which will feature Ryan Burr.
This change "suddenly" came about on Friday along with a much higher profile for NASCAR across the ESPN networks. Rumors were flying about a NASCAR phone call to ESPN that may have awakened them from their college and pro football slumber. There was only one week left in the NASCAR season, and ESPN was doing absolutely nothing in the way of new programming to lead-up to the championship weekend. Then, suddenly, there was a whole lot going on.
SPEED has been surrounding ESPN with weekend NASCAR programming originating from the tracks themselves. SPEED's big problem had been during the week. This vacant landscape is filled with "lifestyle" shows and only the venerable Inside NEXTEL Cup on Mondays fills the gap.
Next week, SPEED will be also be adding one hour shows during the week. INC will air on Monday as normal, with a Krista Voda update from Homestead as the race set-up begins. Then, SPEED will add an hour Championship Show on both Tuesday and Wednesday at 8PM that will review the past three NEXTEL Cup seasons.
On Thursday, SPEED will carry their normal The Chase Is On show with Steve Byrnes and Carl Edwards that will originate from Florida. Following this thirty minute show, the Survival of the Fastest Phoenix episode will debut.
Then, on Friday, things get very interesting. SPEED steps-up and begins live coverage from Homestead at 10AM Eastern Time. They will be on the air for five hours. On the final weekend of the season, SPEED gets the Truck, Cup, and Busch practice sessions live in that order.
Prefaced with a thirty minute version of NASCAR Live, and ended with the Go or Go Home show, SPEED has all the live action from Homestead right up until Cup qualifying. At 3PM, ESPN2 takes to the air with live qualifying that is scheduled to run until 5PM Eastern Time.
Right after ESPN2 leaves the air on Friday, SPEED returns with Truck qualifying. Then, they begin their final Truck Series race with a one hour review of the season. After that, its the Set-Up pre-race show and then some racing. They finish the night with the popular Trackside show live after the race for a full hour.
Saturday continues to generate some fascinating NASCAR TV coverage. ESPN2 has added a one hour version of NASCAR Now at 9AM to preview the final Busch Series race and the entire season. This special show will be hosted by Erik Kuselias from the ESPN HD studios in Bristol, CT.
Due to college football's "Rivalry Week" on the ESPN Networks, SPEED then will carry the morning NEXTEL Cup practice and the Busch Series qualifying live. With a version of NASCAR Live before and after this on-track coverage, SPEED steps into four and a half hours of live coverage on the Saturday of Championship Week.
ESPN2 continues to live dangerously, scheduling the final NEXTEL Cup Happy Hour of the season only three hours after a live college football game. As we all know from this year's NASCAR TV problems, those games run at least three and a half hours in length. Look for Happy Hour to be joined in-progress, just like last week.
The NASCAR Countdown show begins at 4PM, and then the ESPN2 live coverage of the final Busch Series race follows at 4:30PM Eastern Time on Saturday.
Sunday will bring a one hour NASCAR Now at 10AM on ESPN2, and then the final NASCAR Countdown at 3PM will lead directly into the NEXTEL Cup race itself. A special NASCAR Now will then appear on ESPN2 at 10PM to wrap the weekend.
SPEED is actively attacking Sunday with a big line-up of live TV. Dave Despain will host a special edition of WindTunnel at 11:30AM from Homestead. This one hour show will lead into an expanded three hour edition of NASCAR RaceDay, SPEED's franchise pre-race show. Once again, the final hour of this program will directly overlap with ABC's Countdown. The network ends the night with what promises to be a very interesting version of Victory Lane scheduled for 8PM Live.
The issue on the table for the final night of the season is that ABC has the American Music Awards scheduled for three hours beginning at 8PM Eastern Time. The race itself actually gets underway at 3:45PM.
Race fans know that this facility has lights, and that precludes the fact that darkness will end the event. Should a slight weather delay or red flag period cause things to run past 8PM, it certainly will get interesting for ABC.
This is going to be a fascinating week of NASCAR TV, and we are going to ask you to comment on these programs here at The Daly Planet. NASCAR fans have been wonderful all season with their observations about this 2007 television "package." These seven days of history-making coverage should feature TV networks at their best after a long season of experience.
There will be stories added here each day that will allow you to compare ESPN and SPEED as they cover this final NASCAR race week. This should be a lot of fun.
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