Monday, November 19, 2007

Homestead Hangover Has No Easy Cure


The simple reason that we started The Daly Planet this February is because it was the first year of the new NASCAR TV contract.

It was a time of great excitement and anticipation for all parties involved in the big announcement. Back on February 8th, it was an ESPN press release that reminded us "the network's (previous) award-winning, flag-to-flag NASCAR coverage was honored with seventeen Sports Emmy Awards and credited with helping to popularize the sport nationwide."

The head of TV production for ESPN's NASCAR events is Rich Feinberg, and he said "We're not here to re-invent the way NASCAR is covered because we have tremendous respect for what has been accomplished. We are proud of our history, (and will be) pushing the limit up, and upgrading the experience. We're here to serve the NASCAR fans, but also to bring on new viewers."

Dick Glover, NASCAR's VP of Broadcasting said "The huge thing is ESPN and ABC will expose NASCAR to the casual fan, and that's a sweet spot of growth for us."

Taking a moment to remember what ESPN laid-out as their agenda for NASCAR in 2007 can be important in making a judgement about the success or failure of their participation in the sport now that the season is over.

In December of 2006, Feinberg said the ESPN production team had three goals in broadcasting each race. Here they are in the order he presented them:

1 - Documentation of the race from start to finish.

2 - Storytelling, or creating emotion.

3 - Entertainment through technology, graphics, music and directorial approach.

Feinberg said "If we keep that approach, we have a chance to be successful and pick-up where we left off."

In closing, Feinberg added two points. "If the ratings from today (2006) do not improve, I for one will not be very satisfied," he said. He also added that he will read "the blogs" on Mondays to find out how his telecasts were received by the fans.

While that was Mr. Feinberg back then, this is Mr. Feinberg on November 18th of this year while answering reporter Mike Mulhern about why the ESPN produced NEXTEL Cup telecasts failed to increase viewership or TV ratings for the sport.

"I wish I knew (the reason)," said Feinberg. "Our marketing groups are working closely with NASCAR and we're all looking in the mirror and and asking...what's going on?"

"The product, in terms of television, we're proud of the job we've done this first year. Mulhern asked if there were too many TV announcers and too many TV gizmos in the ABC and ESPN coverage. "No, I don't think so," said Feinberg. "We do have a lot of voices and a good mixture of voices and we are proud of that."

"We are in the storytelling business," he continued. "And it's not Team A vs. Team B...we've got 43 teams. So, we've got to find those stories."

To that end, Feinberg talked about his most recent NASCAR announcer. "Just like we want to broaden our audience and bring new viewers in, we've been using a broader perspective in our (on-air) talent," he said. "Like Suzy Kolber, who is a highly respected journalist and very successful on Monday Night Football. I am so proud of what she has done on the air as our host these last seventeen weeks. She works as hard as anyone or harder, and I believe she is being accepted (by NASCAR fans)."

Feinberg has a theory about why TV ratings have been down this season. "I wonder if it's just a time of change," he said. "We've got a lot of the greatest drivers, cult figures if you will, who have retired. Rusty Wallace has hung it up, Mark Martin has cut way back, Dale Jarrett hasn't been competitive lately. Ricky Rudd is hanging it up after some unproductive years."

"The research shows we have done a good job of bringing in new viewers," he continued. "And we're doing well in the coveted younger demographics, but in the 55 plus...(demographic numbers are down)."

Finally, he offered some other suggestions for what might be wrong. "Well, are there too many races, have we lost too many of the great stars, is there too much international now, or is it that (Earnhardt) Junior isn't winning?" he asked.

Mulhern's story was offered on the Winston-Salem Journal's website. Below it were the comments offered by NASCAR fans. They did not seem to agree with Mr. Feinberg about ESPN's coverage of the sport.

"Stop trying to copy Fox...Eliminate announcers with no connection to the sport like Suzy Kolber...ESPN throws too much talk and too many gimmicks into the coverage...The ESPN primary focus should be on covering what is happening on the track...I went to an ESPN marketing seminar and a race broke out...At the end of a race, ESPN does not interview the top five drivers, last Sunday at Homestead they did not interview The Chase drivers...Brent Musburger knows nothing about NASCAR...ESPN has the worst coverage of NASCAR I have ever seen after ten years of watching every race."

This is just a brief sampling of some of the over one hundred comments on this one story on this one website alone. As readers of The Daly Planet know, there has been a wholesale outcry from the fans about some of the things that they believe ESPN was able to "get away with" this season.

So, now it is done. Before we go back and look at the TNT and Fox Sports portions of the Cup races, there is time now to consider Mr. Feinberg's remarks and then ask for your opinion. This time, we will look back at only the final seventeen Cup races of 2007.

This is the big money part of the ESPN and ABC TV deal that cost the network hundreds of millions of dollars in rights fees. The network's Programming Department bought these races, and then gave them to Mr. Feinberg and his group to produce.

Before we ask for your comments, let's take a moment and consider what Mr. Feinberg did not talk about. That would be the performance of his own TV production team. Mr. Feinberg carefully navigated around his own inability to deal with the mounting problems that ultimately resulted in one of the worst produced NASCAR TV telecasts in history. Unfortunately, that would be the 2007 NEXTEL Cup final race in Homestead.

This season, ESPN has left crashed cars on the track with drivers inside and never mentioned them again. I know, because my driver, Dale Jarrett, was one of them. They refuse to update the drivers condition, or speak with them when they leave the Infield Care Center. At Homestead, it happened again many times.

This season, ESPN has refused to tell viewers which car gets a lap back during a caution, the Lucky Dog. They have also steadfastly refused to reset the field after a commercial and before the green flag. Instead, they insert a production element like a recorded team radio blurb or a Draft Track demo. At Homestead, it happened again many times.

This season, ESPN has decided before the race what "story" they are going to tell, and they stick with that theme despite the reality of a major live sporting event unfolding right in front of them. Often, their chosen "story" is so ridiculous to NASCAR fans that it borders on the laughable. At Homestead, as Jeff and Jimmie know all too well, it happened again.

This season, ESPN has refused to do regular "full field" rundowns with the pit reporters who are assigned to the teams. Instead, the silent ticker at the top of the screen is the only way for fans to understand every fifty laps or so where their favorite driver is on the track. There is no way to understand how he got there. At Homestead, this happened again.

Finally, this season it was possible for ESPN to go through an entire four hour NEXTEL Cup race and never mention the name of a driver after reading it one time when announcing his position on the starting grid. No matter what actually transpired in the race, unless certain drivers got into one of the top five positions on the track, they would never be heard from all race long. At Homestead, in the final race of the season, this happened again.

When a network builds coverage of a major event series, they build it from the bottom. They establish a fundamental credibility through their announcers and their TV production team that lets the viewers know that what they are seeing and hearing is the best choice of pictures and commentary available.

When a network uses "TV toys" on a live broadcast, these gizmos are used to embellish, not interfere with the live action. They appear at a time when they make sense, and not at a time when they can be inserted to show-off new technology or pad an announcer's ego.

When a network deals with athletes from any sport, they use a level of restraint and fairness that does not exploit the emotional or difficult moments that professional athletes will always encounter in their careers. The TV network shows both the viewers and the athletes that it knows where to draw the line.

In the last seventeen NEXTEL Cup races of the season, what did you think of ESPN's TV production team? Did some of Mr. Feinberg's points hit home, or did some of the gaps in the coverage get your attention? Think about it, summarize it, and then add it to our end of season comments so we can read and discuss it.

To add your opinion, simply click on the COMMENTS button below, and follow the instructions. There is nothing to join, and we do not want your email address. Please read the rules for posting on the right side of the main page, and we thank you for taking the time to stop by The Daly Planet.

74 comments:

Phathead said...

I agree with the statement that this was the worst coverage I have witnessed and I have been watching the sport since the 1990 season. It got to the point that, for the first time ever, if there was a race on at the end of the season I'd go find something else to do. This, coming from someone whom would tape a race and watch it in its entirety if I were not home during the time of the race itself. And this was just a few short year ago.

NASCAR itself has some cause in this (namely Brian France and the realignment/chase) but ESPN was merely the last straw. Mr Feinberg is completely incorrect instating that just because some older drivers are retiring or not running well that people aren't watching. It seems the NFL chugged along quite nicely when Joe Montana and John Elway retired. They suffered no massive hit in ratings did they? Also if the sport is so fragile that the ratings depend on whether or not its big name (a la Dale Earnhardt Jr) driver wins a race then the sport itself is not healthy.

ESPN has obviously grown so large that it has become its own entity, able to completely ignore what its viewers actually want. Ironically enough ESPN has much the same persona as NASCAR now has.

The sport I once was extremely passionate, hanging on every lap of the race is gone. What is left is some sort of entertainment package with gizmos and announcers who wouldn't know a lugnut from a ball of rubber. I take some solace in the fact that soon I will get to hear Mike Joy calling races again and I say a short prayer every night that Alan Bestwick will resume his duties as lead announcer. The sad fact is after this season, it may have been the breaking point myself. I plan on watching the 500 just because it is the 500. Other than that, I'm not sure when I will watch my next race.

Agricola said...

We've been watching and attending races since 1994. From Baker and Parsons to Kolber and Brent. If the "shirts" at NASCAR and ESPN don't get that, well, they just don't get it.

We'll miss NASCAR.......

Sean said...

What a joke. I think we all expected this sort of statement from ESPN. It seems like ESPN doesn't care what the ratings are as long as the 18-34 range is up. Give me a break. If ESPN does not make any changes next year, I will not be watching their coverage.


srv1002007

SophiaZ123 said...

We have stated our comments.

ESPN/NASCAR does not care.

They live inside their reality or FICTION, if you will.

This ESPN guy is a mental case to believe the EXCUSES for why ratings are down.

We have stated repeatedly the problems.

ESPN and NASCAR 'make up their own story' and shove it at us.

Thus, fans tuning out.

I will not waste anymore energy on this JD. You have stated REPEATEDLY the REAL PROBLEMS and we have seconded your comments.

Very sad they do not want TO HEAR THE TRUTH.

I will not be watching after Fox next season (Fox better knock off the car animation thingie, though)

I will go to radio or if have to...SPEED REPORT, VL and INC.

I will not sit online and bitch about the rotten coverage while it REPEATEDLY falls on deaf ears.

JD, YOU and the fans and maybe DW seems to be the only ones that care about what is wrong. AND the abysmal coverage, My brother and his wife (casual viewers)gave up. My die hard brother, is losing INTEREST?!? Once fox leaves the season, he will not aggravate trying to tape the races when he is busy with family on the weekends.

He is out of the coveted demo but guess what, USED to spend a lot of money on NASCAR.

Matt said...

ESPN failed on all their objectives this year. Sorry, Mr. Feinberg, it's the truth. Now, while I still maintain it was the inexperienced and unprofessional gang of reporters your network hired that is to blame for at least half of ESPN's disaster of a season, you and your production staff have a lot of issues to address.

-When there is a crash, as John said, we would like to SEE the drivers come out of their cars. How hard can it be to focus one of your 50 cameras on the wrecked car?

-Your pit producer did not seem to understand how to follow up on any major story on pit road, with any driver (Clint Bowyer at Homestead comes to mind). It is unacceptable that we did not know the extent of Clint's problems or that he ever went to garage.

-You apparently have too few spotters around the track. Your cameras missed so many cars scraping the wall in so many different races, its not even funny. So many other accidents were missed completely live. Cautions came out and no one seemed to know why. That is also unacceptable.

-I love blimp shots, but if they are going to be from space, we don't need to see them. There was a time when blimp cameras could get so close to the cars, it was like you were on top of them. Either get that or drop the shots.

-ENOUGH RADIO!!! Yes, we get it, drivers talk to their crews. But we don't need to hear it every single caution. There are many things that can be told in a 15 sec pit report instead of a 1 min radio clip. And enough with Full Throttle. Who can pay attention to the race with all those spotter's voices?

-Finally, get this through your heads. NOT EVERYONE HAS NEVER SEEN A NASCAR RACE!! Most viewers are NASCAR fans, we know drafting, loose, tight, etc. And most of us learned about all that before tech centers, drafttrack, draftlock and all these other toys you people came up with. How did we learn it, you ask? Because the announcers actually had the knowledge to TELL us without a visual aid. Now, you want to use the tech center, great. How bout one "tech fact" a week? Maybe something that is specific to that weekend's race. And these features should NEVER, I repeat NEVER, be during green flag racing unless the race has gone caution free.

If you correct these major problems next year, maybe the viewers will come back. Fail to improve, and you see ratings at record lows.

DB1 said...

If Mr. Feinberg would pay attention to ESPN's own promo "Every Lap Counts", he might begin to see some of the problem. NASCAR and ESPN management obviously suffer from "disconnect"-itis. TV race coverage that can't even follow the race? "Talking heads" versus facilitators, speech-mongers versus reporters, and cartoon characters in a Disney movie versus race fans. It's no wonder the over 55 viewers are leaving in droves!

I still watch the races, but now I watch them on tape so I can fast-forward thru Draft-Tracker, Sports Center minute, Tech Center, commercials, promos, football coverage, and other non race-related garbage. It is entirely possible that I will be joining the 55+ group leaving if the coverage does not improve next year. Since so little of the race is shown or explained, radio is a very good potential choice.

JD, thanks for The Daly Planet even if the "powers-that-be" continue to ignore the cries of "FOUL!" from the fans. It would be nice if they took their blinders off.

elena said...

Well, I would say the Mr. Feinberg accomplished his #3 goal:
3 - Entertainment through technology, graphics, music and directorial approach.

The problem with that goal is that it did not go over well. When you work for a large organization, you have to convince the suits to send multiple millions of certain things. I suspect Mr. Feinberg has ownership of a lot of the #3 goals, and therfore it may be difficult to go back to the suits and say "I made a mistake" or "I was not well recieved."

Since I did not see the interview, I cannot tell if all that is written is written in chronological order. Mr Feinberg says at one point he and NASCAR don't know why the ratings are down, and they are looking in the mirror. Mirror, mirror on the wall ...and then the mirror says what you want it to say.

Then he says there are 43 stories to tell. Then why didn't they tell them. He talked about Mark Martin and DJ and Ricky leaving the sport, and then does not explain that if he thinks that's why the
55+ are leaving, why they are NEVER mentioned while on the track.

I think this is just an obligatory "let's take inventory of the year that has passed" and nothing will come of it. If he had even stated that even though they were not prepared to announce them, they all ready knew of things they were going to do differently.

I wish someone would ask him how much money was spent on draft track, the car model, the Aerosmith video, etc. Why they interview a driver and show that interview over and over again. Why they spent so much time in incidents like Petty-Hamlin, Carl-Matt, etc.

MrCsBikes said...

Have you ever treid to reach ESPN to gripe about their coverage? I rest my case. All I can get is..."we can't read every email... and then in a few days I get an invite for a football survey. ESPN could care less! Oh, and by the way, this 55+ USED to be fan, is finding other things to do on Sunday afternoon, like watch the Grunions run, or walks on the beach, or other tv sports. Sorry Charlie but I'm done! Turn me over!

MrCsBikes said...

tried sorry it's early here

Anonymous said...

Feinberg is full of crap. They force fed us their pro-Montoya hysteria coverage along with the rap/hip-hop themes and wonder why the 55+ crowd is going away? Is the liberal truth twisting media deaf and dumb also?

SallyB said...

Mr. Feinberg and Brian France are both suffering from a bad case of 'The Emperor's New Clothes'. They refuse to see what is really wrong, and go around unwillingto admit that many of the reasons ratings and attendance are slowly sagging are their own fault. They blame everyone and everything but themselves. ESPN talks a good game, but has consistantly produced race coverage that is disjointed, confusing, and uninformative. When it becomes impossible to keep track of what is happening on the track, there is little reason to watch. Trying to create 'drama' by a predetermined script, rather than focusing on the reality simply alienates those you are trying to connect with. Nascar and ESPN (and FOX) started out with a dedicated group of fans that were willing to watch an entire race from start to finish. They have managed to gimmick up an, until now, fairly uncomplicated sport (fastest 43 race, first one over the finish line wins), until not even die-hard fans can generate interest. The disappointment level has exceeded interest. Unless someone is willing to take an honest look at the problems and correct them, ratings will continue to fall. They are sabotageing their own success.

pogeyboat said...

2008,no suzy,no brent,no brad,no rusty. try doc one more year with dj and andy. doc did surprise me this year,i expected more due to his previous great work. rusty just doesn't have it in him. have to say that suzi's voice is great, like a 900 number talker should sound!

espn just needs to watch speed to learn what they themselves don't have. the return of espn was just a complete bust and an insult to nascar,themselves,especially the fans.

Anonymous said...

In my top 5--The Rusty experiment must end.

Anonymous said...

THERE ARE 43 CARS IN THE RACE AND THEY ALL HAVE FANS.

Ritchie said...

In business, there is a theory called the Pareto Principle that states that 80% of the effects are derived from 20% of the causes. So theorectically, if you can identify the worst 20% of the race coverage problems, the coverage would be 80% better.

In my opinion, and as John has stated many times, the worst problem with the ESPN coverage was the way they went into a race with a storyline instead of letting the race play out. The worst example of this was the fall Talladega race when the announce team kept playing up how crazy the race would be in the pre-race show. The result was many of the drivers falling to the back and the rest of the drivers lining up to click off laps. Hardly a "crazy race".

I tend to believe that a change in that philosophy along would make a huge difference to the final product.

Ken said...

The ESPN coverage of the cup races reminds me a lot of golf coverage. There are moments of interesting action surrounded by hours of boredom. I recorded Sunday's race on my DVR and watched it Sunday night at 10:00PM. I spent 20 minutes "watching" the race as I skipped through the commercials, cautions and manufactured entertainment. I didn't miss a thing and felt cheated that I wasted 20 minutes even doing that.

Anonymous said...

You mean ESPN televised NASCAR? Gee, I must have missed that portion of the broadcasts!

All I remember seeing were a few bumbling idiots who know nothing about broadcasting racing, flashbacks, (actually more interesting than the current racing if you please), cutaways, with some jerk trying to explain "something" while they miss the REAL action on the track!

And of course Dear Old "RUSTY" and his friggin "dirty air"!!

The only "dirty air" at the race track comes out of Rusty's mouth! (actually I think some of the things he says comes out of another part of his body)! That's the REAL dirty air!

Anyway, with ESPN the races have to be 500 miles long, or longer, that way you might even see 50 real live laps or so!

Busch Series Fan! said...

JD, great column as usual. Yes, I'm over 50 and do not like ESPN showing the Beyonce video, the other loud noise that some people might call music, only showing the drivers in the top 5, not showing the wrecked cars and the drivers getting out and then not interviewing them coming out of the infield care center. I was truly worried about Todd Bodine this past weekend and NOTHING about him was ever mentioned but my biggest gripe are the broadcasters. Resetting the field after yellows and commericals would be a great addition along with the free pass. We need some fresh faces that will make the broadcast interesting again - not sing the praises of Penske or Hendrick teams. There are plenty of other teams in the trucks, Busch & cup series that have plenty of fans and need some attention too. But maybe I don't get it I'm often told I don't see the big picture so maybe this is it too. Thanks for listening.

LuckyForward said...

The problem with ESPN's coverage all season long is their need to create a "storyline" for each race and the manner in which this line is followed - whether or not it is realistic. I grew tired of the Juan Pablo storyline, the Dale Jr. storyline, and the final chapter with Jeff/Jimmie.

I honestly wondered how much of this stuff was scripted or at least blatant enough that announcers were told to "inject" these issues into their commentary.

Fans are supposed to be impressed with the "two way radio chats" between announcers, drivers, and crew chiefs. These have been bland moments that added nothing to the race coverage.

You will notice that I do not use the term "reporter" but instead, "announcer." We hear race reporting on MRN; on ESPN we hear "announcing"; i.e, the "announcement" of whatever ESPN wants us to hear at that particular moment, whether or not it has anything in the world to do with the race.

This past season, a few friends of mine who had no prior interest in NASCAR decided to watch some races. I spoke recently to both (one male and one female) asking for their feedback. Their comments were pretty much the same:
1. Fox did a good job educating NASCAR novices, but both persons were turned off by the excessive "boom-boom, razzle dazzle" production quality that Fox creates.

2. Both persons felt that TNT was a waste of time.

3. As for ESPN, each person watched only two ESPN races and finished neither because as "newbies", they did not understand what was taking place on the track, and no one explained anything for them.

Thus, if older fans are leaving because older drivers are cutting back or retiring, if new fans are not "helped" into the sport with some guidance, and some long-standing fans are departing because of frustration with broadcasting, the net effect is low ratings.

It appears that as long as Mr. France gets his check and ESPN gets their check, everyone is happy regardless of ratings.

Again, my thanks and respect to you, Mr. Daly for providing this outlet. I truly hope you will come back next season.

Luckyforward
Nashville

Skip said...

On another blog I read that's not related to racing at all the writer posted a comment. It was something to the effect of "Watch any college football game on ESPN. Take a drink every time they miss the snap because they were still at commercial or running some stupid graphic or promo. You'll be drunk by the end of the game". This struck me, because it's the same problem, only a different sport. It seems it's an institutional problem at ESPN.

ESPN is turning into the MTV of sports. Do you remember when MTV actually played music videos? You probably don't if you're under 25 years old. Kids born today probably won't remember when ESPN actually showed sporting events. At that point sporting events will probably be relegated to ESPN 4-8, with 1 through 3 showing nothing but news and "reality" programming. And even then the race coverage on the Ocho will probably have all the problems they have today.

It's obvious from your post that their list of goals was wrong to begin with. But it's understandable. ESPN doesn't do sports coverange any more. They do "event" coverage.

But even with that the coverage could have been acceptable with just one change - producers who were actual race fans. Almost 100% of the problems in the race broadcasts themselves can be laid at the feet of producers who don't know the sport. Just to name a few.

1. Camera choice and zoom level. Someone who was an actual race fan would know that focusing on a car who's clear and in open air is not what race fans want to see. And when a car is just barely clear, you especially don't want to zoom in to avoid putting any other car in the picture.

2. choice of ticker information. ESPN almost never runs the second line of ticker information with any actually useful information. The line showing interval to the leader is by far the most useful one and it's almost never shown. The one showing real-time chase position is worthless. Actual race fans would know this and produce accordingly.

3. There are 43 different storylines. All are important to someone. And though there's obviously not time to fully cover all 43, there is time to cover more than the one or two you talked about in your preproduction meeting. Real race fans as producers would instinctively know which of the 43 stories should be promoted to the top. When something happens to Bill Elliot or Kyle Petty, or Ricky Rudd, instead of ignoring them because they're 'backbench losers', a real race fan as a producer would understand that between the three they have more fans than half the chasers, regardless of where they've been in the standings the last couple of years.

I'm sure I could come up with dozens of examples, most of which could be solved by race fans as producers. But I'm going to leave with one final comment. In a thread, last week maybe, the ubiquitous Erik didn't like it that posters complain about Aerosmith. As he put it, Football has Hank Williams, other sports have their songs. And this is true. But things like this are just fine if they're in addition to the sports. When they start replacing the sports people complain. Imagine that in the last MNF game of the season you had the running back on one team who's going for the rushing title, but otherwise it's two non-playoff teams. Now imagine that the producers of the football game decided to keep a camera on the running back practically every play, regardless of whether or not he got the ball. I suspect football fans might get cranky about all the 'extra' stuff that was being done when the basic 'cover the game' stuff wasn't being done right.

Anonymous said...

I couldnt agree with Phathead more. He summed up my thoughts the best. I'm a longtime viewer from the early 90's and now ESPN and NASCAR have ruined themselves and spoiled me to the point that I have cancelled my longtime Dover Tickets and will be lucky if I watch a race after the 2008 Daytona 500. Hope they enjoy all the "new fans" they both covet so much. I think the ratings are telling the tale how well the broadcasts and changes are doing.

Anonymous said...

John - What channel was Mr. Feinberg watching? It certainly was not ESPN's 'coverage' (and I use that word very lightly) of NASCAR. I would actually like to know exactly what he was watching in lieu of NASCAR races. I cannot believe he thinks Kolber, Mussberger,Wallace,Dougherty, and Punch were even remotely acceptable to the fans.Real fans watch races and want information on ALL the drivers and want footage of the pack - don't leave anyone out. The Chase has become, thanks to ESPN, totally about the 12 drivers in the Chase and no one else. That isn't fair to any of the drivers regardless of their position. I have never used my mute button on my remote more than for the last 17 races - the Aerosmith tune was grating, Kolber's total lack of enthusiasm was so evident, and Rusty? Well, I couldn't imagine a worse choice to put in the booth. Punch has lost his 'punch'- perhaps its the company he's forced to be with, ESPN's race 'gizmos' are lousy and we don't need them to clutter up what we all tune in for: the race. Mr. Feinberg had best get a grip on reality and realize that his network has sunk into the mire of lousy coverage. He should be embarrassed and, if heads need to roll to pick this up, then he should be out of a job pronto. It is also evident that he never has attended a race - if he had, he'd see the whole picture and not just his 'blinder picture'. For shame, Mr. Feinberg.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Feinberg seems to be out of it. Like the telecasts on Sunday.

1 - Documentation of the race from start to finish.

I can't think of any of ESPN's 17 Cup broadcasts that were documented from start to finish.

2 - Storytelling, or creating emotion.

The only stories that were told were dreamed up in some fantsy production meeting in advance of the race. They did create emotion, though. Hatred, disappoitment, disbelief, despair all come to mind.

3 - Entertainment through technology, graphics, music and directorial approach.

I learned nothing from ESPN's technology, Tim Brewer or the draft tracker.
The only graphics that could have helped out fans was the running order, WITH INTERVALS, on the upper ticker. Unfortunately for most of the races, "chase points while running" replaced "intervals". Thus, the only way for fans to figure out what was going on in the race was lost.
Few people under the age of fifty have ever purchased an Aerosmith album. Fewer still would admit it.
The number of incidents not captured by the plethora of ESPN cameras speaks directly to the quality of directing in the last 17 races.

Statboy said...

I've spent the last few days watching old races from back in the late 90's during ESPN's hayday. The way they told the story of the race was so much better then. No fancy graphics, no loud annoying music, and all the announcers were NASCAR oriented people who knew what they were doing.

If this cat thinks they accomplished their goals then he is sorely mistaken. But lets face it, ESPN is out to tell what THEY want to tell. They are out to push a gimick. In college football, the Big East is a gimick that ESPN started about three years ago. ESPN thinks that whatever they say, people will automatically believe, and they carried that over to their NASCAR coverage this year.

I was so excited in February when I heard the familiar tones of Jerry Punch during ESPN2's first Busch Series practice broadcast. If I had only known that in the 6 years since Jerry Nadeau won the final race on ESPN in 2000 that the quality of coverage that ESPN can produce has dropped to this level, then I would have turned off my tv that day in February. Dr. Punch is suited to be on the pitroad, not at play-by-play.

It's funny that in the summer we were so sick of what TNT put out there, but atleast they have pit reporters who have a clue what's going on, and a production team that can tell the story of what's going on on the racetrack, not what some idiot in Bristol, Connecticut thinks should be plastered on the screen.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

I think ESPN should study FOX's racing coverage and just copy it. Is it the easy way out? Yes. But, I would rather see someone copy a good idea than keep showing the same garbage for 17 weeks of the season. I think bringing Chris Myers in on FOX was great. ESPN is trying to do the same with Suzy Kolber. But, it didn't work so don't stick with it. She, like Rusty, just doesn't fit. Nothing wrong with that as long as you aren't scared to make a change.

Garry said...

In all of the production meetings that ESPN had, the one main element that was missing could be called the 800 pound gorilla- The Fans. They fogot to ask the fans what should be on t.v. Well, it's been 17 races and the fans have been telling them, and they either refuse to listen,refuse to admit the problem, or simply aren't aware that there is a problem. When Mr. Feinberg states that "he doesn't know what the problem is. We are working with our NASCAR partners to find out.", Why doesn't he ask the NASCAR Fans? NASCAR partners and focus groups and marketing people are NOT fans. They are business people who are detached emotionally from the "product".

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Garry said...

Response to the recent poster-NASCAR's third string quarterbacks helped build NASCAR. Ricky Rudd, Kyle PETTY, Sterling Marlin (two back to back Daytona 500's),etc. Your verbage in your posting sounds like you might be an ESPN Employee.....

AndyPandy said...

As infuriating as so many aspects of the WWL's coverage was, the biggest problem was with #1 - Documentation of the race from start to finish. As you stated, some cars were NEVER mentioned throughout the entire race. As someone who develops documentation for a living, I know that incomplete documentation is often worse than none at all. As if it isn't already tough enough being a Petty Enterprises and Sterling Marlin fan.

As for #2 - Storytelling, or creating emotion - is he serious? "Created emotion" is fake emotion. Cover the race the proper way and you'll get all the emotion you need.

As always, the answer is simple - more Wendy! (sorry - just had to slip that one in)

Anonymous said...

Another response to poster at 11:00 a.m.- In five years when Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson are "backmarkers" will you forget about them, too? Your comment about "And yes, there are 43 teams in the field. Though you are kidding yourselves if you think all of them are equally important" is extremely condescending. How dare you think that it's always about one or two teams. Do some research on Morgan Shepherd and find out how many wins he has and how many times he came close to winning a Championship. The number of fans between Rudd, Petty, Martin,and Nemecheck probably far outweigh the fans of Johnson.

Anonymous said...

it's obvious espn refuses to honor the fans. it's scary to me that it appears espn doesn't even review their own work. here's what i mean: everyone could hear rusty struggling with what to call all the cars of tomorrow. he finally settled on "car of tomorrows." evidently nobody at the world leader in sports was involved enough in their own broadcast to set the poor boy straight ... fer shur he continued to call them car of tomorrows until the bitter homestead end. he's got plenty of sisters in law to know better, but for the mothership to ignore this and each and every other mis-step in their broadcast seems pretty mickey mouse, fer shur.

Anonymous said...

It has been obvious over and over again that ESPN does not care about what the fans think or want. The Nextel Cup banquet on ESPN Classic? It is a channel my cable company does not carry. Do I want to watch the banquet? Absolutely! Will I be able to? Apparently not.

A.M.

Anonymous said...

These statements by Brian France and Rich Feinberg are nothing more than normal statements given to the media.
France, being chairman of NASCAR, will always talk up his company and minimize any problems, regardless of whatever internal discussions are ongoing in Daytona Beach.
Feinberg's comments to Mike Mulhern are for the "suits" higher up the executive totem pole in Bristol and elsewhere, rather than for the fans or anyone else. Being in the first year of the contract and his first year in charge of ESPN NASCAR production, his statement, in light of dropping ratings and a high level of criticism in the print, broadcast and internet mediums, is simply an effort to keep (or save) his job in a highly corporate environment.
Feinberg's interview was targeted at a specific audience only - the "brass" at ESPN/DISNEY.
Tom in Dayton.

stricklinfan82 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Daly Planet Editor said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
stricklinfan82 said...

The head of TV production for ESPN's NASCAR events is Rich Feinberg, and he said "We're not here to re-invent the way NASCAR is covered because we have tremendous respect for what has been accomplished.

I almost hit the floor when I read these comments. ESPN has done nothing but re-invent the way NASCAR is covered:

- having the announcers call practice and qualifying sessions from the pit studio instead of the broadcast booth

- skipping showing multiple qualifying runs on TV to show full-screen face shots of the special guest in the ESPN pit studio

- every week during Happy Hour skipping showing on-track action for at least 5 minutes every week to show a pre-taped video package giving a behind the scenes look at one of ESPN's fancy gizmos

- abolishing the practice of televising Friday and Saturday morning practice sessions

- using THREE active football announcers and one controversial sports radio DJ with no prior NASCAR knowledge to host race broadcasts

- using one anti-NASCAR sports radio DJ and one hip-hop radio DJ as the co-hosts of NASCAR Now

- ignoring green flag racing for Draft Tracks, video packages, pre-taped interviews, football talk, and baseball talk

- Creating an "In-Race Reporter" that is often ignored when the race starts and can only be talked to as a substitute to using commercial breaks up during a yellow flag, thus costing us green flag racing when the producer has to catch up on those missed opportunities to get the breaks in later in the broadcast.

- Taking commercial breaks multiple times in the final 15 laps of a race. Remember Michigan when Jeff Gordon spun out while racing for the lead with 12 laps to go? Probably not, because ESPN was in commercial.

- Fancy music video packages exclusive to ESPN's NASCAR coverage - Aerosmith and Rhianna.

- More missed restarts than any other TV network - even at Watkins Glen!

- inventing ridiculous terms like "Draft Lock"

- running down the top 5 drivers in the running order in reverse order going to every commercial break

- Sportscenter minutes split-screening green flag racing with stick-and-ball sport highlight packages

Yeah, ESPN sure isn't re-inventing the wheel. Give me a break! And none of these re-inventions are improvements. If they would invent something like a graphic that immediately displays the Lucky Dog recipient on the TV screen alongside the "caution is out" graphic, or a graphic that shows how many tires EVERY car took during their last yellow flag pit stop as a lead-in to the upcoming restart, that would be fantastic. But when every re-invention is a digression from other TV networks and ruins the race broadcasts, people are going to be upset and stop watching.

"And it's not Team A vs. Team B...we've got 43 teams. So, we've got to find those stories."

- to ESPN, only 13 teams existed from Pocono to Phoenix - the 12 Chasers and Dale Jr. Every time one of those 13 made an unscheduled pit stop or went behind the wall ESPN was all over the story and immediately sent someone to the garage area to interview him. When any of the other 30 drivers had similar problems they were always ignored. Look no further than Lowe's, a bunch of drivers made unscheduled pit stops and were ignored. Then, one of the magic 13, Kevin Harvick, made TWO unscheduled stops and ESPN was all over the story both times. A bunch of drivers fell out of the race without being interviewed. Then one of the magic 13, Matt Kenseth, fell out and was immediately interviewed in the garage area.

These are obviously not coincidences. ESPN consistently made conscious decisions that only 13 drivers were important and deserved having their problems documented on the air. Review the tapes, I'm not imagining.

Oh, and did my mention the stretch of several weeks where the "Up To Speed" segment of the race only documented the 12 Chase drivers and skipped everyone else on the track, even those running in the top 5? It couldn't get any more obvious than that that only the Chasers mattered to ESPN could it?

All year ESPN has NEVER missed documenting when one of those 13 drivers received a Lucky Dog. Not once, look back at the tapes and count. When any of the other 30 drivers received a Lucky Dog, they were almost always ignored and never mentioned.

Once Homestead rolled around, only Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon were covered. There was no championship drama other than if Johnson would break, but ESPN followed these two like the driver who finished highest in this race would win the title. They ignored all the other 41 cars on the track all night long, and at the finish only showed the race winner and Jimmie Johnson take the checkered flag.

He also added that he will read "the blogs" on Mondays to find out how his telecasts were received by the fans. While that was Mr. Feinberg back then, this is Mr. Feinberg on November 18th of this year while answering reporter Mike Mulhern about why the ESPN produced NEXTEL Cup telecasts failed to increase viewership or TV ratings for the sport.

"I wish I knew (the reason)," said Feinberg. "Our marketing groups are working closely with NASCAR and we're all looking in the mirror and and asking...what's going on?"


This is the biggest joke of them all. He said he would monitor blogs to see what fans were saying about the TV coverage, and 9 months later he has no idea where they are going wrong with their coverage??? It would take 10 seconds of browsing the Daly Planet to see the issues that every fan is complaining about. Someone please send him the link to this place if he honestly sees nothing wrong with their NASCAR coverage and doesn't know what needs changed!

Start with these 3 words and go from there:

SHOW THE TRACK!!!!!!!!!!!! (and not just the parts inhabitated by the ESPN baker's dozen of important drivers!)

pghhotrod said...

I believe Mr Feinberg said it best..." We looked in the mirror...." instead of looking to the viewers for the answers.

Anonymous said...

John
A great forum and a very telling look at the production mindset at ESPN. The most salient statement Mr. Feinberg makes is that there are "stories to tell". WRONG! The very statement is indicative of the ESPN attitude underwhich they attempt to create a story/emotion/drama that just isn't there, but come hell or high water, ESPN will make you THINK its there! And in so doing, they abandon their true job which is to DOCUMENT THE EVENT AS IT UNFOLDS!
Had Mr. Fienberg articulated the goal as following the stories as they develop on the track, then I'd hold out some HOPE that this 2007 coverage was just first year jitters. But in light of his attitude about creating stories/Suzy Kolber being a "journalist"?/ and the talent working out, I can only conclude that he and the people who put him in his job are so self abosorbed, and so convinced that THEY and not FANS are right that the ratings will continue to tank.
One side note...Mr Feinberg surmises that driver retirements have adversely impacted their numbers. Yet, he and his ESPN-er completely ignore the fact that Homestead was Ricky Rudd's final race. I guess he and his minions knew better than we viewers. See, we just didn't KNOW that the real story was Hendrick racing, Jimmy Johnson, #48, Mrs Jimmy Johnson, Chad Knaus, Mrs Chad Knaus, Mrs Hendrick, Mrs. Hendrick's third cousin, and oh, the "emotion that evry person that Jaimie Little asked a question of. I mean, who knew, before the green flag, that Jimmy Johnson could possibly rally back from first plave to win the CHampionship???
Sorry, my cynicism is showing

Kathy said...

This is what I have come to believe after viewing ESPN's coverage of NASCAR:
1. Race fans become bored and need to be entertained by the guys in the booth any time there is not a big wreck on the track, a fight taking place between drivers either on or off the track, or Junior is not in the storyline.
2. Race fans are only familiar with a hand full of big name drivers who routinely find themselves in the lead. Those same fans are happy to ignore those "other" drivers unless they cause some difficulty for the "stars" by either being "stupid" and wrecking them or having the audacity to challenge them for a spot on the track.
3. Fans do not care to watch those "other" guys qualify on Fridays...everyone knows that if a driver is worth watching he is in the top 35 anyway. So Friday afternoons is a perfect time to interview the "stars" in the booth while that troublesome qualifying serves as a great backdrop for the interview.
4. Fans love new "techy" gadgets...the more the merrier. And computer animation is much more attractive to the younger set than actual cars going around on a real track.
5. Fans have short attentions and really don't notice when someone in the back leaves the track or drops back in the field; why bother them with that kind of detail.
6. When the leader crosses the finish line, the race is over...time to move on to real sports!
7. Drivers have such funny names anymore...no sense trying to learn how to pronounce them. The fans won't know the difference.
8. Fans don't really listen to the announcers in the booth so it doesn't matter if each one repeats almost word for word what the previous fellow has just said.
9. What fans really want to hear is how Rusty drove the #2 on all these tracks...no worry that the COT has replaced what he drove and handles a lot differently.
10. NASCAR is a great gig and ESPN wants to share it with as many announcers as possible. Not to mention that it is a great place to use old talent who still have a few years left on their contracts.
11. Each announcer gets one tag-line per driver to use for the entire season. That description is not to be altered no matter what...that car is the King's...it doesn't matter who drives it.
12. The drivers WILL follow the storyline or ESPN will ignore them on the track and the story will continue as written.
13. When all else fails...blame the fans who fall outside the 18 to 35 age group. They are senile, don't buy anything the advertisers offer, and all the drivers they care about are retiring.

Charlie said...

Espn's coverage of Nascar for 2007. I am a 55 plus viewer. I have been watching Nascar since Greg Sacks drove the 41 car for Kellogg's. I yelled at the Tv more this season then I ever have before when Espn was doing the races. Why did I yell? Because Espn would say something stupid, I would hear it and yell something like - You idiot. It got to the point that I would wait for an announcer to mess up. Is that what Espn was looking for from their viewers? Viewers yelling at their Tv because some announcer didn’t get it right? Let me give you one example of me yelling at the Tv because of something stupid said by one of the announcers on Espn. It was a night race, I don’t remember which one, and Espn was coming out of a commercial. As they returned to the race Brent Musburger was given the job of transitioning from the commercial to the guys in the booth. I am sure he was given a script to read but what he did was adlib the script. I am not sure why he decided to adlib but maybe to show the people around him he knew what was going on and he didn’t need to read the script word for word. As Espn came out of the commercial the Tv was showing Jimmie Johnson running first and Gordon running second about two car lengths behind Johnson. Brent said something like, “Welcome race fans back to a fine race. Jimmie Johnson leads with Jeff Gordon in close pursuit. Will Jimmie Johnson hold on to win or will Jeff Gordon cross the finish line first? Now back up to you guys in the booth, take it a way guys.” Now that doesn’t seem so bad. Why would I yell at the Tv because of this? I suppose Brent did read from the script, somewhat but he felt he needed to add to it. He is the main man and he knows how to do a lead into the guys in the booth. All he did was add the name Jeff. That is all he did. He knew that the name Gordon always has the name Jeff in front of it. But what was on the screen? Yes it was Jimmie Johnson in first but the car in second was the car number 7, Robbie Gordon. Did I yell at the Tv and the stupid announcer? Yes. Once the transition went to the booth did Jerry Punch or any of them correct this mistake? No, why should they. It was no big deal. Why bring up that Brent Musburger got a name wrong. Probably no viewer noticed it anyway. I then settled down and thought to myself, “Why am I wasting my time watching this race if Espn can’t even get the names of the drivers right?” Do you understand what I am saying, Mr. Rich Feinberg? I noticed and I yelled at the Tv. We are not all stupid out there. We are race fans and proud of it.
I just had a thought. You know what would be fun to try? Put Brent Musburger and Suzy Kolber in a room and also include any two Nascar race fans. Go to a race track pick any two fans you want and put them in the same room with Brent and Suzy. Get out 10 flash cards with a picture of 10 different Nextel Cup cars on each card. Hold each one up, one by one and have Brent and Suzy tell you who the driver is of that car. Then turn and have the two fans do the same. Who do you think would get the most right, Mr. Rich Feinberg? Mr. Rich Feinberg, I truly believe you would say, Brent and Suzy. But not to throw a monkey wrench into this whole test, they have to get the first and last name right.

Robert said...

I started watching NASCAR on ESPN in 1988. I religiously watched every race through 2000. I dreaded those few races in the 80s-90s that were not covered by ESPN. Now it’s completely the opposite.

In my opinion, the overall presentation of the last 17 races of the 2007 season has been an utter failure.

If ESPN/ABC had simply picked back up at the same quality of where you left off in 2000 this year would have been a success. 3 knowledgeable well-spoken people in the booth, 4 or 5 pit reporters, lots of camera’s, and a good director/producer is all that I really ask for. I don’t need the fluff.

The following things are inexcusable:

1. Missed Restarts
Other than Martinsville and Bristol there is no reason that you do not have enough time to get in a commercial and back for a restart.

2. Not Following Up after Wrecks/Dropping Out of a Race
People care about all drivers whether they are fans or not. Let us know how they are doing after a wreck. And, let them tell us what happened or why they are in the garage.

3. Ignoring 90% of the Drivers
Every driver in the field is a world-class driver and they all have fans and sponsors. Those fans and sponsors would like a little airtime or at least a mention of how they’re doing. Especially when someone is having an above average day.

4. Suzi Kobler and Brent Musburger
No non-racing announcers need apply. I don’t see any value added by this type of person to a race broadcast.

5. Rusty Wallace’s Abuse of the English Language
Enough said.

6. The Sports Center Minute
Even my 13-year-old son wants to know why they talk about football so much during the races. If we wanted to watch football that’s what we’d be watching.

7. Negativity
We get enough negative news during the week. Maybe I’m hypersensitive but it seemed like the beginning of every question by ESPN reporters, especially JL, start off with a question about something that is going wrong in a race or in the previous week etc. Granted, it cannot be avoided at times but let’s not look for controversy just to stir something up. This is not the Jerry Springer Show.

8. Draft Track
This is useless and a distraction. I can create this on my Mac and it does not add value. In fact, I can make a draft track graphic appear around any object.

9. Use of the word “Sailing”
Once again, enough said. I think this is contagious. I even heard a guy on MRN say it last week!

10. Race Weekend Agendas
This goes to number 7 as well. It appears that we must always have a controversy or scripted story that has to be played out. Jr. and the chase, Jimmy and Jeff, Tony, COT, etc. Like others have said, you, as a network, don’t have to create emotion or excitement in this sport its there already.

It’s offensive that ESPN/ABC advertise that every lap is important and yet we miss, or ESPN/ABC chooses to ignore, so much that happens in every race they covered. Many times we miss things even when you’re broadcasting. At times my 47” screen is so full of junk that the race seems to be only about half the screen. I do not want or need a scroll on top, another under it, one on the bottom, a split screen with football, and the ESPN/ABC logo on my screen at the same time.

I completely stopped watching NASCAR Now and by the end of this season had switched to working in my basement on Sunday’s and listening to the Cup races on the radio instead of watching TV. I truly hoped that ESPN/ABC would pick up where Ned, Benny, and Bob left off. I was sorely disappointed.

NASCAR and ESPN/ABC may be hopeful of the fact that the under-55 age groups are holding their numbers. But, I can tell you my son is already turning off the TV at age 13 after what we have seen this year. He was in his room a few weeks ago and I asked what he was doing. His response was that he was listening to the race on the radio. That ought to be eye-opening to ESPN/ABC.

We’ll give ESPN/ABC another shot next year. But, not half a season’s worth of second chances.

Robert & Benjamin
Huntsville, AL
Ages 43 & 13

Anonymous said...

I have been watching NASCAR since Feb. of '79 and the last 17 races were the worst that I have ever seen. After the 5th race of espn's schedule I stopped watching. The whole production totally disappointed me. I listened to the radio and used FOX Track to follow the race. The draft track got boring after about the fifth showing. None of the announcers had any emotion in their voice.
I totally agree with phathead's second paragraph. Everything he said is very true.
When I would watch the race at the bowling center, none of the non-winners were ever interviewed. I think that espn did a diservice to all NASCAR fans, including the brand new fans. They also did a diservice to all the drivers.

Anonymous said...

I am A Director of Sales and Marketing for a small mfg company - trust me, the way you market is to your base - E$PN has too big of an ego, have not done their homework or both. There's nothing wrong with developing new "viewers" but you cannot replace business as fast as you can lose it thus the need to always service your base. If this is not obvious, then it is something taught in a level 101 course.

They have the tools, reach and the network but are failing miserably.

Wayne said...

I have been a NASCAR fan since 1960 and used to be greatful for any TV coverage the sport received. When ESPN began covering NASCAR with Larry Nueber and Bob Jenkins, I was watching. As the years progressed, the coverage progressed. I was excited when ESPN received the new contract,that is until I saw their first race.
I have gone from watching and taping every race to only watching about 30 minutes of a race and never taping. ESPN now has the worst NASCAR coverage ever.

Anonymous said...

Diane said,

Kathy (1:14) excellent!

"Eric" Yes, it is the first season for ESPN. However...

They are a sports only entity, they should be excellent out of the gate.

Yes, it is impossible to be perfect or satisfy every fan every time. However, if you try new things and they aren't well received, get rid of them... immediately. I'll respect them for trying and for recognizing mistakes.

I was screaming at the TV before finding this blog and others. It was amazing that the exact words I was using, the same issues were those of many others. We all can't be wrong. Or 55+ idiots drooling out of the sides of our mouths.

My 28 yr old son decided to start watching some races for the first time. I couldn't help but laugh when he would call me going off on some of the same stuff we all noticed. Oh wait; new fan and in the all important demographic having the same problems. Amazing!

Diane

PS...I emailed the writer of that piece about Feinberg and asked him to forward it to him.

Joe from Philly said...

Oh that Network pursuit of the "casual fan" Holy Grail drives me crazy!!!!


The Hollywood crap that they add to sports broadcasts neither bring in "casual fans" nor retain current fans.

Even though their egos will never admit it, I believe the best way to grab these "casual fans" is really not in their control: Get their butts to a live event!!!!

TV wants to get more fans, help Nascar and the tracks fill those stands.

Sports like Nascar and Hockey don't translate well on TV. BUT, once you've gone to an event or ten and appreciate the nuance, it's easier to follow. Even when the network covering the even doesn't get it. ;-)

GinaV24 said...

I had read the Mulhern article before this blog was posted and was amazed at the comments from the ESPN head. As others have said, if he had really read the blogs, he'd know where they missed the mark. I will probably watch the Fox broadcasts up until the turn it over to TNT once again, God forbid, but after that, well, it will be high summer anyway and there's lots to do on weekends besides waste them inside watching TNT and ESPN provide such lousy coverage. I liked Sally B's comments about the "emperor having no clothes" with regard to France's comments. His comments are so ridiculously out of touch with reality and ESPN is following the same path. What did we do wrong? Same answer applies to both NASCAR and ESPN -- it's about the racing, stupid. I want to see a pulled back shot of the cars actually racing, I want to know if my driver is OK from a crash, I want to know what happened to my driver's car if he had a failure and is off the track. Simple things like that. I don't want to have a pre-decided storyline or see a high speed parade of cars. I don't need gimmicks to enhance my viewing of the race and I want knowledgeable people at the track who can actually provide information to me as a viewer -- not somebody who's from another sport -- Suzy who? And I certainly don't want football updates while I'm watching the race. If you want me to watch football, then I'll turn it to Fox -- Also, missing restarts and then pretending it didn't happen -- how stupid do they think the fans are? Obviously ESPN and NASCAR think that the fans will stick with this no matter how bad the "product" gets. They are mistaken. ESPN will have a hard road back to make me watch them again -- Great blog all year, John, I've really enjoyed it and I hope that maybe someone will read it and act like they car, but I'm not going to hold my breath.

Dot said...

@ Sally B
Girl, you took the words right off my keyboard.

Words of wisdom to Mr Feinberg, admitting you have a problem is the first step to solving it. We fans would have so much respect for you if you did.

Anonymous said...

Administrator,
Why do you feel the need to censor opinions that are different than your own. I see deleted comments at 10:23AM, 11:00AM, and others. If the language was objectionable, that is one thing. Other posters have reference the comments. This really puts your objectivity into question.

Mopete said...

Having read this blog from its inception and been a NASCAR fan since 1998 I can honestly say, and i'm in agreement with every post on here, that the ESPN coverage has been terrible. Just when you thought nothing could be worse than TNT along came ESPN and made it even worse. One of the things that nobody mentions that drives me insane and forces me to yell at the TV (something I have never done before) is the constant repetition by the announcers. Jerry Punch is terrible at that in particular. Rusty keeps saying 'for sure' and 'i tell ya what' and if I hear 'driving his brains out' one more time im gonna kick the TV screen!!
Cannot wait for Mike Joy and the Fox crew. Those guys really elevated TV coverage of NASCAR.

Daly Planet Editor said...

Anon 4:13 PM,

Thank you for your comment

The issue is not objectivity, but the strange need of some folks to try and somehow "answer" the opinions of others rather than offer their own.

As we have said many times this season through hundreds of posts and thousands of comments, we are here to ask you for your thoughts and opinions.

Two of the deleted comments were posted by me, and the third was a strange explanation of why and how everything was just fine at ESPN.

No one cares which network we are discussing, or which announcer, or which race. The point you are missing or struggling to understand is that we want your personal opinion, not your formulated business response to another person's comments.

As I say very clearly on the main page of this site, the final opinion of what stays and what goes will be mine.

If you feel there was an error in my judgement, please feel free to email me anytime.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Fienberg is definetly out of touch with the fans.
Thanks JD.

Glenn from GA

Anonymous said...

"And we're doing well in the coveted younger demographics, but in the 55 plus...(demographic numbers are down)."

I found this the most interesting comment, as it backs up what a lot of the old-school fans are saying. I guess those fans were right--NASCAR rose to success on their shoulders and now will leave them behind. Unfortunate, and a very bad idea.

From my perspective--that of a newer fan--ESPN can help stop a lot of the hemorrhaging by getting rid of the "stick and ball" guys, as well as any other NASCAR newbies (sorry Suzy Kolber and buh bye Eric Kusilias). I don't care to tune in to people who have about as much knowledge as myself--especially when they don't seem interested in the sport in the first place. It's a turn off, and a major insult.

Holly said...

i used to think fox did a less than stellar job. darrell waltrip was a little annoying. but after seeing espn, i will really appreciate fox next year.
espn must get rid of kuselias, kolber, musburger, and rusty wallace.
dave

Vince said...

I went to my first Nascar stock car race in 1964. It was at Bowman-Gray stadium in Winston-Salem NC. For those of you who have been to this track, yes they raced full bodied "real" stock cars on that little flat as a pancake quarter mile track twice a year back in the day. My family had just moved to NC from Michigan. I went to that first race in '64 with my family and I was hooked for life. I saw that sky blue Plymouth #43 go screaming into the first turn for his qualifying lap and I though this guy's gonna wreck for sure. But the driver threw that beast into a four wheel drift and powered through the corner and the rest was history. I was sitting there with my mouth hanging open in awe. Later I was to learn that that was THE Richard Petty and the car color was not sky blue, but Petty blue.

Since that day I've been a regular visitor to my local tracks no matter where I lived. I've been to Ontario Calif. and watched BP win his only championship. I've been to Riverside in the late 60's through the 70's to watch Richard and Bobby Allison have some of their epic battles there. By the way, you've never lived if you haven't seen Richard go though the esses at Riverside. Those of you that saw him know what I mean. I used to go to the Daytona 500 regularly. I've gone to Atlanta regularly and 'dega once (one of Dale Sr's wins). My point? I'm a fan, a long time fan. I know good racing and bad racing, just like I know good coverage and bad coverage.

I suffered through the ABC Wide World of Sports days when we'd get to see 10 minutes of racing . I've suffered through having Jacky Stewart, Bobby Unser, David Hobbs and Sam Posey as "expert" commentators. Those were dark days.

But finally ESPN came along with Bob Jenkins and Larry Nuber. Neither had a clue about Nascar then either. But they learned fast.

Then FOX came along and totally ruined the way racing was broadcast. Yes, FOX. Chris Myers? Give me a break. I've forgotten more about Nascar than he ever knew. Hollywood Hotel? Dumbest idea ever. If it wasn't for Mike Joy and Larry Mac, I wouldn't watch FOX either. But at least the guys, as much as they like to yuck it up, are all (except for Chris Myers) genuine race fans. And that is why I still watch FOX. They at least "get it".

ESPN, you guys just plain don't "get it" and I have serious doubts that you ever will. Your coverage this past season of our sport has been consistently lousy. Your Producers and Directors, do not have a clue how to put on a race. Your so called booth "personalities" are more interested in hearing themselves talk than telling us what is happening on the track. Your pit reporters disappear for long periods at a time. And then when we do hear from them they ask the most idiotic questions imaginable. Except for Allen Bestwick. He's been the bright spot in ESPN's coverage.

I agree with all the posters here about ESPN's problems and I've lost patience with them. I used to watch a lot of sports on ESPN. Now, nothing but the occasional college football game and this season Nascar. They've gone from being a totally sports network to an entertainment network. Thanks Disney......

I really believe Feinberg and France think they are doing a good job. They are both delusional. On a grand scale. Boys, and I do mean boys, I'm in the 55+ bracket. You can't figure out why we are leaving your sport in droves? I'll give you a clue, watch the old 80's and 90's coverage of the races by ESPN. The ones with Bob Jenkins, Benny Parsons and Ned Jarrett. Do you see a difference in that coverage and the crap you've subjected us to this year? Bob, Ned and BP just showed us the race. They let the story lines build during the race. No precontrived story lines, not hype, no flashy graphics, no hip-hop or aging screaming has been rockers. Just racing. Presented to us by guys that genuinely enjoyed each others company. And even though Bob was a Nascar novice when he started, with Ned and Benny's help he learned and turned into a great Nascar lead announcer. Gosh, how did we survive with no Draft Tracker or Draft Lock?! How'd we know what was going on after commercial with no Musburger, Suzy, or Brad? I guess we were all idiots and somehow just got it, right?

Feinberg and France need to quit looking at themselves in the mirror and patting themselves on the back for the great job they are doing. Instead they need to look to the fans for clues as to why TV viewership is down. If they ever spent 5 minutes reading this blog they might get the idea.

ESPN and Nascar if you keep going down the current path, your sport will be back to being a regional sport like it used to be. You are running it into the ground.

WAKE UP!

Daly Planet Editor said...

Very nicely said, Vince.

darbar said...

The myopic view of the ESPN bigwigs is par for the course. They refuse to see the reality of the whole debacle of their Nascar on ESPN. As someone who's not a member of their desired demographic, I detest the "rock and roll, over-hyped production" that ESPN seems to relish. While this might attract a small number of 18 to 20 year olds, that is not the kind of thing that will keep your hard-core Nascar fan in his/her seat. We want to see the race, as many laps as commercials will permit. We want all the stories to be told, not just the racer of choice. We just want our race, plain and simple, without all the hype. We don't need all the graphics, just a running tab of where each driver is positioned. Get rid of the crawl at the bottom of the screen, showing results of other sports. If I want to see the score of my beloved Steelers, I'll flip the channel. Hire people who know, and more importantly, care about the sport. While Suzy Kolber might be professional, she does not understand Nascar. Dr Punch needs to go back to pit reporter, Rusty needs to retire gracefully, and as for Erik Kuselias, he needs to go back to radio. Hire people like Dale Jarrett, Bill Lester and Kyle Petty. Oh, and dump the pit lizard babes who try and impersonate knowledgeable race reporters. Nascar got along fine without the T&A aspect for decades, and it will continue to do so without the token bathing beauties.

Jo said...

I have been watching NASCAR since it was on Wide World of Sports in black & white,TY.
When we heard espn was coming back we were thrilled. I have follwed the King, Dale,& little E (Junior) & a side order of Stewart...so here goes..
1) I do not need nor want a preconcieved story line that does not match the race -period. This isn't pro rasslin' (yet) That was probably the most surprising thing I learned here - was a "scripted" race - it made the coverage disjointed. The yakkers were telling one thing camera was not showing. It explained alot
2) Lack of follow up- wheres the driver of 00? Is so & so out of the care unit? his car? the race track?
3) Many times over the course of many races I heard " Where did he come from?" You tell me - you're supposed to be INFORMING me! I have no clue - camera wasn't on him...
4) Announcers being un-informed, Suzy is good @ NFL - not NASCAR, please give us Pro's - who like NASCAR. Who study the sport, watch it - enjoy it
5) please use the techie stuff sparingly - same with cut aways. Show us the race.
6) Get back from commercials in time to cover the re-start. If every lap matters act like it.
7)Mr F. has failed to inform the fans - he has managed to annoy us , alienate & make us use other media to get coverage. I fail to believe that was espn & Mr. F.'s goal get us to listen to MRN, the net, tackpass& direcTV...
However if I am wrong & those were his goals I apologize (not)

Emerald Chickpea said...

Statboy said...

"But lets face it, ESPN is out to tell what THEY want to tell. They are out to push a gimick. In college football, the Big East is a gimick that ESPN started about three years ago. ESPN thinks that whatever they say, people will automatically believe, and they carried that over to their NASCAR coverage this year.
...
November 21, 2007 10:11 AM"

-- I'm not quite sure what point you are trying to make here, since the Big East conference began in 1979 as a basketball conference and in 1991 added football as well. It was not something started by ESPN 3 years ago.

Richard in N.C. said...

I resent being dismissed as irrelevant by ESPN, SPEED, USA TODAY, Mike Mulhern, and the majority of the print media because I am over 55. A reasonable interpretation could be that ESPN's and TNT's loss of fans over age 55, and other long-time fans, might indicate that the most knowledgeable fans find their product lacking.

I have re-read Mulhern's entire article again and I can find NO criticism at all in it of ESPN - not even a question of whether fans might find ESPN's overall product lacking. Mulhern's clear inference, as with much of the mainstream print media, is that the ratings decline is all NASCAR's fault. Mulhern has frequently recited the ratings decline since ESPN has been involved without EVER mentioning any fan dissatisfaction with how ESPN is covering the sport.

Somebody is blind. ESPN? The mainstream print media? The fans?

It cannot be the fans since the fans are the consumers and if the fans find ESPN'S and TNT's product unacceptible and quit watching, then the product IS unacceptible.New Coke was a failure because consumers said so no matter how good it tasted.

I am convinced that one of the major problems with NASCAR coverage is that virtually no one in the mainstream media is critically analyzing in print the product put on by TNT or ESPN, for whatever reason.

Maybe print reporters don't watch TV - or don't watch TV broadcasts of races. Maybe they don't want to criticize ESPN or TNT because of friendships or because of ESPN's multiple distribution platforms and opportunities - cable, internet, and magazine. Maybe the print media is SO much smarter than the fans that how the fans view ESPN's and TNT's product is just irrelevant. OR maybe criticizing ESPN and TNT is just inconsistent with a significant anti-NASCAR agenda in much of the mainstream media. Maybe substandard NASCAR coverage by ESPN and TNT is just an inconvenient fact to be ignored by the mainstream media.

Maybe ESPN and TNT would be responsive if those in the mainstream media had the guts and the intellectual honesty to write that their product is often insulting to NASDCAR and its fans and of far less than the quality they demonstrate in their coverage of other sports.

No matter what the mainstream media says, I am convinced that ratings are down because fans are rightly, significantly disappointed with the product they are given by ESPN and TNT.

Nitrous56 said...

What I got PO'ed about was when Rutimann won his first Busch race.. they cut from the broadcast for College Football.. I don't care what's on, Nascar is paying them to keep it on the race.. they didn't even give us another channel to watch it on.. and I'm not even a fan of Rutes.. but that was just wrong, it was his first win and ESPN completely looked over it.. for a sport that requires one ball.

Emerald Chickpea said...

It's hard to add much to what the others responding have said.

The majority of this year's NASCAR on tv was an unwatchable mishmash of poorly planned/thought out/implemented production and inexperienced and/or ignorant and/or miscast announcers trying to do work they weren't up to doing.

The only REALLY good thing I saw the last 4 or 5 months of the season was Alan Bestwick's work. The man deserves advancement and a proper position in future broadcasts.

Lose the gimmicks, the back patting, the ignorantly condescending way of ignoring anyone who has at least an average knowledge of NASCAR racing, and rethink your whole approach.

"Keep it simple, stupid". Play to the elegant strengths, not to the glaring weaknesses.

AndyPandy said...

Right now I'm watching the 1996 Goodwrench 400 from Michigan on MASN (the Mid-Atlantic Sports Network) here in Maryland. It's an ESPN broadcast with Bob Jenkins, Benny and Ned in the booth with Dave Despain, Jerry Punch and Bill Weber in the pits.

Wow, all they do is show the race and tell us what's happening. Various battles throughout the field with big-name and not-so-big-name drivers. I just saw Rusty and Dick Trickle (who was not on the lead lap) go to the garage and Andretti scrape the wall. Every time something happens anywhere in the field, I get to see it and the guys talk about it.

Now they're interviewing Trickle in the garage about his blown motor. Why? He wasn't on the lead lap. Would someone who's not in contention for the points championship actually have fans who want to hear from him? Crazy.

Let's recap the complicated formula for this broadcast - they show me the race and talk about the entire field. I enjoy it. Nothing on the screen but the number of laps to go and the top ten cars by number in the upper left corner. So low tech. So simple. So nice.

What a concept.

ESPN of today, call ESPN of yesterday. They have the answers.

Anonymous said...

ESPN is horrible.
I'm a Dale Jr fan, and even I thought they covered his every move too much earlier in the year. But what do you know, as soon as Jr went a second lap down at Miami they didn't mentioned his name once. They didn't even notice he was the fastest car on track and they didnt think to interview him after the race. They are so inconsistent that its hard to watch.

Rusty needs to go. I don't want to hear about your favorite paint schemes or your son's talent or draft track. When he learns to pronounce names correctly and he stops having a personal agenda towards everything he says, then I might tolerate him.

And then there is this Dish Tech Center crap. It is so dull and pointless that I mute him and turn on MRN for the 3 minutes it takes him to leave the screen. We don't need him showing us a wheel and where it goes on a car.

Bring in Dale Jarrett with Petree and Doc for the race coverage. Let Rusty be a Hammond type analyst. I could tolerate him there.

Steve said...

Well first of all , they NEVER show Suszy close-up . They will show Brad (yuk) , but I've often wondered about that.

ESPN and Nascar don't care about the old fans , they are on a quest for new ones that fit their demographic . Well guess what? Those people are "fair-weathered-fans". As long as it's the "in" thing , they will watch . As soon as the next pet-rock comes along , they will be gone .
I used to buy ANYTHING with my driver or even Nascar on it. Now I go around it and find something else. I'm tired of the "NewNascar" . I've only been watching since the seventies , so I may be out of touch , but I'm not interested anymore .

And yes ESPN's coverage is the WORST , and Rusty is NO announcer . Period .

Anonymous said...

you said that ESPN wants :
Documentation of the race from start to finish.

I disagree - ESPN wants DOMINATION OF NASCAR FROM START TO FINISH.

By that I mean that do their own thing and do not go with the same level of coverage as the other TV partners both present and past do (or have done as the cas may be).

They re-invented the wheel and it didn't work. They tried some things that didn't work and abandoned levels of coverage that failed. Old news I know but interviews and updates of drivers that drop out and interviews post race have been dismal or non-existant.

Anonymous said...

continued as I thought of more:

ESPN does not cooperate with Speed TV. I guess they don't have to but wouldn't it bring them more viewers if they used their own announcers on the few Cup practices and qualifying that Speed carries?

To ESPN if there is a practice (including Busch/Nationwide Qualifying)and they don't show it it never happened - even though many if not most NASCAR fans would watch these practice sessions.

If Speed had not carried the few Busch qualifying sessions this past year we would not have seen them.

OK lets make the Golf analogy - In a golf tournament some network usually carries the first two rounds on Thurs and Fri - NASCAR qualifying - all series - is that Thurs and Fri events and should be treated the same. If ESPN can't or won't do it, and its in the contract, then we have a breach of contract - or let Speed carry them as we had at Miami in November.

ESPN has little or no respect for
Nascar fans and certainly not in the same level that it has for Golf or College Football Fans.

drpep said...

ESPN needs to dig out their NASCAR tapes from the late 80s and early 90s and learn from them.

SophiaZ123 said...

Amen to the golf comment.
Though I do not watch that sport that much in recent years (REALLY watched during the Nicklaus, Tom Watson, era and even got a golf ball from jack's old caddie Angelo!!)

I LOVED watching coverage on Thurs and Fri, especially if the guys I liked missed the cut! I at least saw them on TV on Thur/Fri

if we have said it once, it's been said 100 timees. THE ESPN OF OLD WAS GREAT.

I did not watch NASCAR until 2004. but as much as I NOW appreciate Fox, they are still annoying with their BUSY, SWIRLING, NOISY graphics junk.

Years ago, I tried watching baseball on "FOX" and the special effects and graphics and sound effects annoyed me. but my passion for baseball was long gone by then

INDEED, if ESPN would get rid of the CRAP ON THE SCREEN (and the ESPN TICKERS and UPDATES) and just show the occassional thru the field ticker, that would be great.

Now between the tv stations logos, wasted time for adds on the tickers, 1/4 of the tv is MISSING.

HOWEVER I did find it acceptbale when TNT ran adds during the race on the bottom on the screen for the pepsi 400.

Why? Because I SAW MORE RACE CARS on that race alone than I did all season on PeeSPN.

If TNT could pull that off a few times next year? That would blow ESPN off the map compared to the JUNK on tv during GREEN FLAG RACING.

ESPN will never go back to the 90's broadcast I have watched rerun or on tape. The believe their own HYPE and EGO.

To hell with what TRUE LOYAL RACING FANS WANT.
:(

Amy said...

I also can't add much to what everyone else has said. I agree that ESPN should look in their archives of old races with Bob Jenkins, BP, and Ned Jarrett to see what worked then, and what brought NASCAR to prominence. All you saw then was down and dirty racing. There weren't a bunch of spectacular graphics, or a lot of talking heads who knew nothing about racing. I don't expect ESPN to go back to the "old days" because technology has advanced and given them more options. But there is such a thing as overindulgence and ESPN has gone well beyond that point. Draft tracker is a joke and what makes it even funnier is that they take their computer-generated projections and make it sound as though they're truly showing exactly what happened! Maybe a lot of it is right, but it's still only an estimate of what might have happened.

I'm not sure ESPN cares enough to fix anything. They figure (wrongly) that we NASCAR fans will watch no matter what they put on the air because we love racing. But like a lot of others here, despite my absolute love of NASCAR (or, more accurately, what NASCAR used to be), I stopped watching the races on ESPN right before the Chase started. I simply couldn't stand it any longer. The fabricated story lines, the "in car reporters," the stupid replays of radio communications (mostly "deep" and "inspirational" ones from Knaus to Johnson, that Chad seemed to know would make it to ESPN), the failure to pay any attention at all to non-Chase drivers -- I couldn't take it any more. And I didn't have to because I also love the NFL and I had an easy place to land once I jumped off of ESPN's NASCAR coverage. I've griped about FOX's coverage, but for some reason ESPN's coverage makes me downright angry when I watch it. If they don't make major changes before next season, I'll listen on the radio, or sign up for DirecTV's package, or something. I will not suffer through another season of ESPN's coverage the way it's being done now.

I'm so glad this place exists. I'm glad to see I'm not the only one. And believe me, there are a lot more like us who never come here and post their thoughts. ESPN has a problem and they're too self-absorbed and omniscient to realize it.

Newracefan said...

I just needed to add my two cents to all the other posts. I agree wholeheartedly with the comments here. MR. Feinberg obviously has no clue what fans want and need in Nascar coverage. Cover the race, cover everyone in the race, cover qualifying and practice because not everyone makes the race. All drivers and teams have fans talk about them, they'll watch the race and if they can go to races. Do not decide ahead of time what the story line is and force your announcers to use it, there is no need to create drama it's there learn to find it! I could go on forever but I just end with Ditto all the other posts

Richard in N.C. said...

JD- Curiously in Tuesday or Wednesday's W-S Journal in his article about Brian France's Homestead comments, Mulhern notes that NASCAR is losing viewers over age 55 which some say could be a problem.

David said...

I'm not going to rant on much more - I have said my piece before.
The good people have been:
Bestwick - Why is this man not in the booth? Why is he not the king of Nascar on ESPN?
Petree - Decent first year. Will do better without Rusty.
Spake - Great reporter. Would make a good roving reporter / in-field care centre reporter race time.
Burr - Apart from Bestwick, the best person on NN.
Burns and Massaro - Just got lazy, because they knew they could - they used to be better than that.
Everyone else needs to go. If Brad really were the "Voice of the Fans", he would be screaming at the suits from the mothership. He isn't.
There is a decent core group there - use them, and add Nascar talent. DJ is the obvious one. How about Wendy or Krista? Matt Yocum will do all 36 cup races. Stick the Doc in the pits too.
Next sort the content out. I suppose it is a shame Nascar doesn't have handy 30 seconds breaks in isn't it?