Friday, December 14, 2007

"Inside Track" Talks NASCAR TV On Saturday

Saturday, December 15th, Dave Ross and Vicki Johnson of Inside Track wrap-up the NASCAR season with a Sirius Satellite Radio show about the NASCAR Media, including the TV partners. The program will be broadcast at 9AM Eastern Time live on several radio and Internet outlets.

Steve Waid, the wonderful NASCAR editor and journalist, will be on the show discussing the print and electronic media side of the business. I have been fortunate enough to be asked to follow Steve with a discussion of the year-in-TV. That should be interesting.

Now that some time has passed, this 2007 NASCAR season was truly amazing when it came to the TV side of the business. Who would have thought that the myriad of problems we saw on national TV would come from the networks themselves, and not from the action on the racetrack?

Our friends at Fox Sports started the year off with a bang at Daytona, and then promptly decided not to show any car finish any other race...except the winner. Bristol and Martinsville got the fans steaming, but when Kyle Petty finished the Coca-Cola 600 driving the Coke Zero Petty Dodge in third place to a standing ovation and his finish was not shown on TV...The Daly Planet email-box exploded.

Despite great announcing, fantastic pictures and interesting racing, the Fox Sports 2007 Cup season will be remembered for showing the national TV audience only the winning car finishing each race. What a shame.

Petty stepped-out of his Dodge and into the TNT announce booth shortly after the Charlotte race. On second thought, he might have chosen to remain securely strapped in his race car. Five of the six TNT "summer six-pack" races were disasters.

TNT left one race fifteen minutes early to show a Vampire movie. They got lost at Sonoma and a flustered Bill Weber was so bent out of shape that TNT went off the air without showing the final results. Needless to say, the Kyle Petty profanity playback was also during that race. It is now a YouTube classic.

Certainly, TNT's Daytona effort using a side-by-side approach for commercials got a lot of press and made a lot of sense. Unfortunately, their other five races more than cancelled-out that effort.

Can anyone forget Kyra Sedgwick, Bill Engvall, or Holly Hunter being hammered into our minds over-and-over again until NASCAR fans were begging for mercy?

OK, we get it...she's The Closer, Engvall has his own show and Holly Hunter looks old. These six races were a platform for TNT's own network promotion, and little else. Ask the Loudon, NH race fans about that fact.

The old pro's strolling back into town were the ESPN "Punch Bunch." Dr. Jerry Punch and friends had months to polish their NASCAR TV skills on the Busch Series races before their coverage of the final seventeen NEXTEL Cup weekends began.

Ultimately, it appeared that the one thing ESPN forgot was that these programs were about NASCAR, and not the network. ESPN made itself the center of the racing telecasts, and made NASCAR simply the "background noise."

Lots of press releases detailed every move of the broadcast team, and talked about the multi-platform distribution of the global non-linear content...or something like that.

What those press releases did not mention was that ESPN forgot to reset the field after pit stops...and then missed the restart again. They forgot to interview the drivers leaving the Infield Care Center. They were so busy following their pre-planned storylines, they basically forgot to show the race.

ESPN brought all the glitz and glamour and hype to the racetrack, and left all the NASCAR TV fundamentals somewhere in a basement storeroom in Bristol, CT.

While Andy Petree was a surprise success, Rusty Wallace was a mess. One minute opinionated and outspoken and the next minute completely mistaken and egocentric, Wallace turned-off viewers from the start. Even after dropping his "catch phrases" and taking a second to think before he spoke, ESPN made sure that between the Draft Track and the In-Car Reporter....Rusty looked like an idiot.

The wheels started to come off this train even before "The Chase" began, and fans used the Internet to let ESPN have it from all sides. By the stretch drive, Jerry Punch showed himself to be a reporter forced into a play-by-play role. His supporting cast of Brent Musburger, Brad Daugherty, and Suzy Kolber offered him absolutely no help and condemned him to his fate.

At season's end, many fans were questioning their desire to come back and repeat this nightmare of TV coverage once again in 2008. After all, the players will be exactly the same. There were some good questions to be asked.

Three hours of watching TV, your driver is battling for third...but the TV network refuses to show him finish. What's the point of watching? Two hundred Dale Junior fans in a sports bar looking at each other and saying...isn't this Bristol? Wasn't Junior in the top five? Did the TV network actually just miss him finishing the race?

Three hours of coverage and one hour of it is commercials. Every three or four minutes, a two minute or three minute commercial break is on the air instead of racing. What's the point of watching? NASCAR has become the best reason to get a DVR or TiVo. Just come in for the last hour, fast forward through the commercials, watch the last thirty laps live, and you're done.

NASCAR and the TV networks have taken the thrill out of watching live NASCAR racing on TV due to the inability of all parties to sit down and reach a consensus. What is best for the sport, the networks, and the fans? The simple answer to this question is side-by-side coverage of all Sprint Cup races in 2008.

Dave Ross and Vicki Johnson have talked to a lot of guests on Inside Track over the course of the season, just as The Daly Planet has covered a lot of topics. On Saturday morning, we will come together and reach our own consensus on just how the NASCAR TV partners performed this season, and what changes in the TV coverage can be made to boost the sagging ratings and get this sport back on the right track.

Inside Track can be heard on Sirius Satellite Radio Channel 123 live and will be repeated several times. Just a reminder, this is Channel 123 and not the normal full-time NASCAR Channel 128 that has a different program line-up on Saturdays. Don't email if you can't hear us, just check your dial.

As a part of Sporting News Radio, the program can be heard directly on the Internet by going to this link. You can listen live with an existing player or download a free one. There are also archives available for those unable to be present for the live broadcast.

Thanks again to Dave "The Race Doctor" Ross for taking the time to include a discussion of the NASCAR TV scene on his year-in-review program.

Please feel free to post your reactions to the program, as well as the Steve Waid interview on this page. To add your comment, simply click on the COMMENTS button below and follow the instructions. Please review the rules for posting on the right side of the main page before adding your comment to The Daly Planet.


Anonymous said...

JD super article just wish that NASCAR would read it and do something before the 2008 season starts.
It is heartbreaking to hear the excuses Mr. France has for the rating drops. If he would only read The Daly Planet or listen to what viewers and FANS are trying to tell him then do something about ESPN/ABC and the TNT so the races can be watched and enjoyed.

I am hoping he will listen Saturday but so far he isn't listening to anyone just continues to make lame excuses and avoid the read problems.

It is sad to see what is being done to the following of NASCAR on the television coverage.

Thanks so much for staying on top of the HORRIBLE coverage we had in 2007 and just hoping that someone will get something correct for 2008!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Merry Christmas

Anonymous said...

JD, you say NASCAR should do "side-by-side" commercial coverage next season but, I don't think the advertisers would like that. How do we get around that? I do not think it can happen just because NASCAR says so. It just does not seem that easy.

Daly Planet Editor said...


It is important that NASCAR play a key role in moving the sponsors toward a solution. This would include pointing to the sagging ratings and suggesting that a side-by-side advertising race with great ratings certainly does beat another commercial-fest that everyone tapes and then watches later. NASCAR is the key.

Anonymous said...

My DVR has saved my sanity but it has cost me some of my nap time. I set my DVR and don't even try watching the start of the race. I go and do whatever until the race has about an hour to go. I then start watching the DVR and by the time I skip the commercials and the cautions, I get to watch the end of the race live. The only problem is that frequently an hour is to long and I end up wasting about half that time waiting on the race to finish.

It's awful that a 3 or 4 hour race can be condensed into less than an hour and nothing is missed.

elena said...

Enjoyed listening to you this morning. Hopefully the networks are serous about addressing our concerns.

elena said...
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Anonymous said...

Great review of our TV year in racing!

Anonymous said...

Yea, JD. Great Year In Review. You hit the major points head on. Now, if only the networks would listen, but they've proven time and time again that they are all hearing/visually impaired.

As an aside question to you, John. My most favorite Nascar on Sirius host was John Kernan. I listened to his last show and heard him talking about leaving for Chicago, and still wanting to host his program from there. He didn't go into any particulars, but it sounded as if Sirius balked. Do you have any inside information on this? I was really sad to hear of his leaving and there's a huge hole in Sirius' schedule now that he's gone.

Thanks and have a wonderful Christmas and New Year.

Daly Planet Editor said...

Any idea what he was saying about Chicago? I would like to follow that up.


Anonymous said...

JD, you did not say I had to pay to listen online. I tried to play the broadcast and I was taken to a page asking me to pay for a service.

Daly Planet Editor said...

I sure found that out the hard way, both groups are in the pay world now.

That was my first time on this show, and it was fun. In the future, I might try to work a free replay of my segments to be put on my webpage into my deal.

In the meantime, sorry.


Anonymous said...

ESPN for evertyhing they failed to do did begin showing the first 20 or so cars cross the finish line, which the other network partners failed to do.

Anonymous said...

How disappointing that there are not going to be any changes at TNT and ESPN next season.

I am going to spend the $79.95 and get TrackPass FanView for next season. Oh, I'll have the t.v. on but the volume will be down since I'll be listening to my favorite driver, his spotter and his crew chief via the scanner. Sure, it's eighty bucks but it beats the heck out of the crappy networks and their half-assed coverage any day.

Anonymous said...


Did you see that article at about Brad Daugherty and his racing 'history' the other day? I didn't read it but found it amusing that seems to be doing 'spin control' all of a sudden. Too late, if you ask me. They already broke it and it's way too late to fix it with what they have.

Newracefan said...
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Newracefan said...

JD as much as I love your stuff paying to hear the broadcast isn't gonna happen (just came back from overspending for Christmas, sorry). Could you do a piece that kind of summarized what was said, unless of course it was everything we've been saying for a while now. The article itself was a great summary and right on target.