Thursday, December 27, 2007

SPEED Channel Answers Back


One day after the Homestead Championship Weekend, something changed in "NASCAR TV Land."

Suddenly, after a year of high-profile network TV coverage of NASCAR's three major racing series, there was silence.

Fans that got into the habit of tuning-into or recording some sort of NASCAR-related TV program every single day for the previous ten months didn't know what to do. When the year-in-review programs from NASCAR Images were duds, and the three series banquets were lackluster, it finally sank in...it was really over.

No matter how many times fans checked SPEED Channel, it was still PINKS, Redline TV, and Super Bikes. One spin of the dial to ESPN Classic yielded no better results. One thing was certain, there was no NASCAR TV to be found.

So, we promptly reminded everyone that lots of NASCAR video was to be found on the good old "still wild and untamed" Internet. That part of our December 18th column was accurate, but we were in for a big surprise.

The Public Relations folks at SPEED sent me a quick note that I had jumped the gun with my complaints. They told me that the network would prove me wrong very soon. Well, here we are in late December and sure enough, SPEED has just made a bold move that took us by surprise.

The bottom line is, January for NASCAR fans will never be the same again. SPEED President Hunter Nickell unveiled a completely new schedule of NASCAR pre-season programming that signals an unprecedented commitment of the network to the sport.

"There will be a lot of interest in seeing NASCAR back on the track in '08," said Nickell. "SPEED will be there from the very beginning, we'll be there all season and we'll be there at the end."

NASCAR puts the first tires back on the track with Sprint Cup testing from Daytona beginning on January 7th. What Nickell released was a mind-altering schedule that shows SPEED originating a daily NASCAR program of some type from that first day all the way through Daytona SpeedWeeks in mid-February. Here is a slice of the content:

• NASCAR Sprint Cup Testing from Daytona – Jan. 7-10 (7 p.m.)
• NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Testing from Daytona – Jan. 11 (7 p.m.)
• NASCAR Sprint Cup Testing from Daytona – Jan. 14-17 (6:30 p.m.)
• NASCAR Nationwide Series Testing from Daytona – Jan. 21-22 (7 p.m.)
• 2008 NASCAR Sprint Media Tour – Jan. 23-25 (7 p.m.)
• NASCAR Testing from Las Vegas – Jan. 28-30 (7 p.m.)
• NASCAR Testing from Fontana – Jan. 31-Feb. 1 (7 p.m.)
• NASCAR 2008 Team Previews – Feb. 4-6 (7 p.m.)

Filling-in the dates not listed above will be NASCAR coverage on The SPEED Report, as well as new Charlotte-based live programs from the SPEED studios.

Popular host John Roberts will anchor the Sprint Cup coverage, joined by Larry McReynolds, Jeff Hammond and Bob Dillner. On both the Truck and Nationwide Series, Roberts will be working with Ray Dunlap and Phil Parsons.

This entire line-up is being billed as NASCAR Pre-Season Thunder. It is exactly the kind of coverage that The Daly Planet and fans have been asking for of this sport all season long. The timing is perfect.

Just like the NFL Network coverage of events and personalities away from the playing field, this commitment by SPEED is going to open-up a huge window into the sport that fans have never seen before.

The impact of the NFL Network on ratings for the games has been amazing. Does anyone believe that the game itself has changed? No, what has changed is that the sport now has a designated TV network "supporting" it.

In our earlier column, we accused SPEED of being "in denial" that fans wanted NASCAR TV in the off-season, and that the network was "hiding behind" endless re-runs of PINKS to fill their air time. This is certainly more of an answer to that than we ever expected.

In a November interview, Brian France mentioned specifically that he wanted more TV shows about the sport and more original TV programming from his NASCAR partners. In that same interview he made a point of reinforcing his commitment to SPEED and the fact that this network dedicated to motorsports was his business partner in expanding the NASCAR TV universe. Now, we know what he meant.

So, dust off those DVR's, TiVo's and VCR's because original NASCAR programming will be returning on January 7th to SPEED and running almost every single day through the middle of February.

Who says it too late for one more Christmas present?

The Daly Planet welcomes comments from readers. Simply click on the COMMENTS button below, or email editor@thedalyplanet.tv if you wish not to be published. Thanks again for taking the time to stop by and leave your opinion.

30 comments:

David said...

It seems that Speed understands what NASCAR fans want. Does anyone think that ESPN cares as much as SPEED does.. I honestly don't think the PH.D's that run Bristol U get the NASCAR fan anymore.. Thank you Speed... I can't believe I am saying this Thank you FOX... Will Bristol U be in there soon... Let's hope!!

Matt said...

I've gotta disagree with you John. While I'm thrilled with all the coverage SPEED is giving NASCAR in Jan, it doesn't make up for the complete avoidance of NASCAR and all motorsports in Dec. There's no reason we couldn't have a mini-marathon of 07 races or something. NASCAR fans need something to watch during December.

Karen said...

JD, if I'm not mistaken when I read this schedule last night, these times were listed as CT, not ET.

Daly Planet Editor said...

Matt,

I agree with you 100%. My hope is that this signals a commitment to recognize that end-of-season programming for 2008 needs to be put in place for ad sales now.

One issue was the fact that NASCAR race footage is owned by NASCAR Images, not SPEED. This impass on creating new shows to replace NBS 24/7 and others that fans enjoyed as well as historical programs has to be solved soon.

Karen,
I will double check with SPEED, but their program schedules are always done in Eastern Time, so I will update that item on Friday.

Karen said...

JD, no need to check. The times that you've listed are correct per Nascar.com. Sorry. Guess I had a turkey hangover and it affected my eyes.

Tripp said...

Something new for SPEED.

For a few years now, after the curtain came down at Homestead, I was adrift until things ramped up again in Daytona. There used to be some old NASCAR races on Classic before ESPN took over. Fortunately, home made DVDs of old races like the '99 Bristol and '01 Daytona races would tide me over. Unfortunately, all my DVDs went over the transom so pickings are thin until things go live in Daytona again.

So... SPEED's announcement is welcome new for this race starved fan. John Roberts was on Sirius today talking about the planned coverage. This is all good.

Save racing, the only other sport I follow is baseball... specifically the Red Sox. With the World Series in the bag this year, coverage of the Sox did not disappear in a wisp of smoke on the final out. Coverage continues even now, in the midst of the Holidays, on NESN.

NESN is the network of the Red Sox. If SPEED intends on being the network of NASCAR, they need to up the ante and be as closely aligned with NASCAR as NESN is with the Sox. This announcement is a step in the right direction and SPEED should be applauded for it.

Now, what else can you do for this displaced NASCAR junkie like me?

darbar said...

Finally, someone is listening. For those of us, mostly women, who don't relish the T&A of Nopi and other similar Speed shows, I cannot wait for their series of race-related programming. Perhaps Speed can show ESPN how it's done, and done right.

projectpappy09 said...

Nice to see SPEED step up and offer more testing coverage than they usually do, and I am interested to see these new programs and what they have to offer. My only problem is, will NASCAR be the only thing SPEED will have left to offer, other than ALMS, Grand-Am, and F1? I mean, the NFL Network focuses on one aspect of football, and hurts because of it.

Anonymous said...

Outstanding.

If ESPN understood NASCAR fans as well as SPEED does, things would be very different in the second half of the season.

Looking forward to my new favorite network's coverage.

jfs-va said...

JD, I just have one question. What's a VCR? :>)

Seriously though, this and SPEED going HD is great news. I hope Comcast here in my area will carry their HD channel.

JHD said...

I don't know whether to laugh or cry.

I usually find testing or practice to be one step up from watching paint dry.

But I'm actually looking forward to this just so I can get my mid-offseason fix until Speedweek!

earl06 said...

Other than the media tour and the unspecified "live shows from the Charlotte studio" there isn't anything new here. SPEED has had half-hour test wrap-ups going back several years. The other 23 1/2 hours of the day will still show the same dreck.

Yes, I am looking forward to the test shows, as i have every year. Passing this off as "unprecedented" coverage is pretty lame.

Daly Planet Editor said...

earl,

I would beg to differ. This is not Bob Dillner with a camera crew, but a full scale TV program like RaceDay or NASCAR Live. That is the point of the article.

What fans asked for was to have SPEED put the TV resources on the pre-season coverage of the sport that have been lacking. Having Larry Mac, Jeff Hammond, and John Roberts on-scene at both testing and during the Media Tour is going to be a completely new wrinkle in the January TV coverage of the sport.

Anonymous said...

JD, speaking of SPEED, my cable company has said nothing about carrying SPEED HD. Do you know anything about which companies will carry SPEED HD at its launch?

Bobby said...

This off-season is also the one where Speed is finishing the transition into HD, so there is more to worry than in the past. I do agree that there are too many airings of Super Bikes!, NOPI (which could be lost to ESPN2 because of the new deal with the NHRA and NOPI), Unique Whips, and the Pinks series (a show which I've mocked; after my alma mater lost five consecutive games and lost a shot at postseason, I angrily said I deserved to lose my car!).

Some of the Aussie and German racing on television does make sense, since the drivers do admit they are big fans (did anyone read Junior's comments to the Aussie media during his trip to the V8 Supercar Dunlop Grand Finale) that we could see what Junior was discussing.

Sometimes, a nice respite is a good thing to let everyone recharge their batteries after nine long months.

Coverage of the Race of Champions and other events where the stars are doing off-season races would make sense.

Anonymous said...

SPEED is doing a great thing for NASCAR fans. Now if they would just admit they made a HUGE mistake with Dave Despain and fix it before 2008 they would be GODS.

GinaV24 said...

Good news! I'm looking forward to seeing the programming on speed, especially if, as you said John, this will not just be recapping of the practices and such, but real programming for the pre-season stuff. I do think that Speed and Fox understand the NASCAR fan better than ESPN. As a matter of fact, ESPN had better seriously get their act together early on this season or I won't even bother to tune into any of the races they broadcast. I can live without the NOPI junk or Pinks over and over -- actually I do because I never tune into any of those shows. I'd love to see them show the Rally car races (Speed used to do this on New Year's day as a marathon and I really enjoyed it). thanks for keeping us posted on this news, John.

Anonymous said...

What earl06 said is correct...labeling this as unprecedented is specious at best. Even if they are trotting out more cameras, talking heads and stages, the preseason nightly programs still won't be any longer or offer much more content than they have in the past seasons. If they were covering full days of testing, that would be newsworthy.

Nascar Momma said...

To Tripp...

I subscribe to DirecTV and had to buy an upgrade, but MASN does have old races. They show every two weeks, and I'm very happy with the channel. They show the WHOLE race with minimum commercials. I'll keep the sports package until February, then go back to the normal programming. One of the other channels also carries RaceLine Direct, which is a weekly news program that updates me on what is going on in the off season. They had DEI's Max Siegel last week. Check it out...it is worth the extra 12 bucks a month to me!

Nascar Momma

earl06 said...

"What fans asked for was to have SPEED put the TV resources on the pre-season coverage of the sport that have been lacking. Having Larry Mac, Jeff Hammond, and John Roberts on-scene at both testing and during the Media Tour is going to be a completely new wrinkle in the January TV coverage of the sport." -JD

John, I'll give you the fact that the previous years' shows were lacking polish, and having the first team coming in will be a welcome change. The fact of the matter is that all of this adds up to less than 2% of SPEED's programming.

I know that the offseason is tough for programming. (Have you listened to Moody's show lately? 50 people call up every day to complain about the same two issues.) What would be nice is a couple hours, one night a week, during the offseason that gives folks their fix. Anything SPEED shows is going to be a rerun anyway, why not some NASCAR reruns?

SophiaZ123 said...

Frankly, I think SPEED's primetime shows STINK year round.

The soft porn NOPI junk, Unique Whips?? Pinks, the horrendous and dangerous jackass motorcyle stunt shows?? WTH?
I almost wish I could disconnect digital cable for a few months and turn it back on in early Februrary.

SPEED has nothing to offer in the ON season, let along the OFF season.

They need to FOCUS monday nights on NASCAR again...they used to REPLAY VL and have some video taped show about NASCAR tucked around INC.

Now it's pinks and other rubbish.

So, once again, FRANCE can pontificate all he wants about the TERRIFIC NASCAR Partners..you go on other boards and they think SPEED is already too much NASCAR? I take it those folks think drag racing is NASCAR thus they hate pinks??

I don't get it. NASCAR NOT is not going to get my attention this season.

If SPEED wants to make some waves they better have at least a WEEKLY SHOW ON NASCAR. Again, why couldn't they offer one up on Monday or Tuesday nights...maybe TUesday to tell us the latest Fine du jours of teams and such,

But aside from the gang I enjoy on SPEED, the LACK of coverage on the weekends due to the ARROGANCE of PeeSPN (No practice, no qualifying ALLOWED on SPEED)

(Then again if ESPU covers it, STILL NO REAL PRACTICE or quals shown since they yap Over everything or crowd the picture with graphics and pretaped video.

So, SPEED has a long way to go to IMPROVE their schedule 7 days a week. Aside from Sundays shows and Monday's INC, I NEVER watch SPEED anymore unless they are "allowed" to show PRACTICE and quals.

just my two cents but I know I am not alone here.

Daly Planet Editor said...

earl,

On that point I agree totally. We have been bugging SPEED to have a designated night of NASCAR re-runs, but to no avail.

We hoped that since ESPN was on-board again for both the Busch and Cup Series in 2007, they would use ESPN Classic to re-air those shows.

The unofficial explanation is that NASCAR Images owns that footage, and it would cost a lot to re-air the races. I find it hard to believe that an agreement could not be reached for the good of the fans and the sport.

Maybe SPEED will step-up and bring back that nice Monday night of NASCAR programming that so many of us really enjoyed.

JD

Richard in N.C. said...

JD- Hope you had a very Merry Christmas. Do you think there could be any chance that SPEED's Jan.-Feb. daily NASCAR program might get continued as a daily NASCAR or racing program like the old RPM2NIGHT? Once SPEED "grabs" the NASCAR fans with its Jan.-Feb. programming, why would they just want to turn them over to EXPN for NASCAR-NOW (assuming it is coming back) unless they don't want to risk angering EXPN by going head-to-head with them more than just with RACEDAY?

Do you happen to know whether or not this "new" thinking at SPEED might mean that WIND TUNNEL might be back before Feb.?
Thanks.

Newracefan said...

It's great to see Speed isn't leaving me high and dry until Feb and a more professional show about practice is a start. I'll be interested to see what other programming they are going to add and hopefully it includes a daily or at least weekly show to join INC.

Erik said...

I'm puzzled. Do you actually think the NFL Network, which can only be seen in about 40% of all households, has an effect on the TV ratings of the NFL games? Folks that actually can see and watch the NFL Network are already diehard NFL fans. They'll watch NFL games no matter what, and now have more NFL content in the offseason. Good for them, but that isn't affecting the ratings.

What is bringing in the viewers is a historic run at an undefeated season by the New England Patriots, the resurgance of "America's Team" with the Dallas Cowboys, and a return to greatness of an NFL fan favorite, Bret Favre with the Green Bay Packers challanging for a Super Bowl.

NASCAR can start up their own network, or SPEED can become the de facto NASCAR network and bring in all the extra non race content such as off season coverage, testing, practice, and qualifying session. Though, even with all that, I can promise the ratings won't go up because the folks that want to watch that stuff are already tuned into the races anyway.

Daly Planet Editor said...

Erik,

While those may be compelling NFL stories for this season, the reason for the change is very clear. All year long, NFL fans have been able to follow the off-season activities and progress of their local teams like never before.

The focus of the NFL Network in the off-season is to continue to "build their brand" in the local marketplace, and they have done it.

Teams and games other than the Pats, the Cowboys, and the Packers are finding new fans who have followed their progress and built up their interest during the normally empty off-season.

While those high-profile stories are skimmed by the national media, there is now a new foundation of NFL fans who turn to the NFL Network when the game is over to get a better perspective of the league that includes more than flashy highlights and cute nicknames.

While the effect of this limited amount of additional programming to SPEED is only a start, it is the first time that there has been a coordinated effort between the sanctioning body and a TV network to put out first-rate programs during the pre-season.

It will be interesting to see what ESPN decides to do with the start date for NASCAR Now and the coverage on ESPN News. Nothing could be better than to have two TV networks on the ground and chasing stories at testing and the Media Tour.

JD

Anonymous said...

Earl06 said: "What would be nice is a couple hours, one night a week, during the offseason that gives folks their fix. Anything SPEED shows is going to be a rerun anyway, why not some NASCAR reruns?"

It's sad that SPEED has so much in its library and won't use it. Last week we watched the Trading Paint special from 2003 where Jeff Gordon and Juan Pablo Montoya switched rides for a day. We hadn't seen the original in 2003, but SPEED broadcasted it - once -last year the week Ganassi announced the Montoya signing.

It would be a great idea for people to be able to watch it now that Montoya really is in NASCAR -it's fun to watch it in hindsight since at the time no one ever figured an F1 driver would be in Cup. I didn't know much about him last year. It was enjoyable to see how much Montoya loved driving a stock car that day, even though Jeff Gordon didn't think it would be exciting for Montoya to drive his car (whereas he was totally excited about driving Montoya's car).

AND I just read on Jayski that SPEED is broadcasting all six events of a GOLF tournament this coming summer. Why? I can only assume because their employees, the Sadler brothers, are two of the three announced drivers who are participating, and Jeff Hammond is the spokesman for the tournament.

Power Golf. That's just ridiculous; what a waste of SPEED's airtime, in my opinion. Can we please get six behind the scenes shows about racing or race teams instead?

Anonymous said...

I'm looking forward to seeing SPEED's coverage of the pre-season happenings. One hope I have is that they interview ALL of the drivers, not just JJ, JG, DE Jr., JPM, TS and CE over and over again. The near-constant media coverage of these select few drivers throughout the entire season has gone past the point of ad nauseum.

Anonymous said...

Tomorrow and Tuesday SPEED is showing Barrett Jackson reruns for 48 hours straight. New Barrett Jackson starts mid month.

No NASCAR-related marathon, like Beyond the Wheel, or even some of the best episodes of NBS 24/7. Since the Busch Series name is going away, showing a compilation of NBS 24/7 one more time would be a good sendoff and a reminder of what the Nationwide series is supposed to be about, small teams with drivers/crews trying to work up to Nextel/Sprint Cup level someday.

If SPEED had some NASCAR reruns, I'd watch SPEED over the next two days while I'm off, since there's not, I'll be switching back between bowl games and the Planet of the Apes movie marathon on AMC.

Alex said...

I wouldn't have a problem normally with Speed since I know that off-season programming is difficult. However, I am livid about how ARCA is being shafted. Why is the amount of races on TV for the RE/Max series getting reduced if Speed is committed to NASCAR as ever? The stars in tomorrow's NASCAR make their first starts in stock cars usually in ARCA. I would assume it would be inexpensive enough for a network such as Speed to have more ARCA races, either live or in tape delay. There's no good reason why the current 10-11 (out of 21) races they cover should be that few.