Tuesday, November 13, 2007

NASCAR Images Suddenly Struggles For Credibility

One of the biggest changes in the NASCAR TV landscape this season is the lack of high-profile programming from NASCAR Images.

This Charlotte, NC based production company is perhaps best-known right now for Inside NEXTEL Cup, a Monday night program on SPEED. This TV series is the lone NASCAR survivor of the network's transition from Speedvision to the current SPEED Channel.

Left alone as the only NASCAR TV series on Monday nights this season, rumors were swirling that SPEED may not bring the program back in 2008.

NASCAR Images watched the ABC News production team create NASCAR in Primetime this season. This limited summer replacement series had low ratings but a high-profile on the ABC broadcast network in primetime.

The official TV production arm of NASCAR had produced outstanding "reality" style shows that used to fill SPEED's Monday night primetime. Chronicling the Busch Series teams, the Cup Series races, and the people behind-the-scenes in racing, fans loved the sensitivity to the sport and the TV craftsmanship of NASCAR Images.

Now, we find ourselves in the final week of the season. We also find a very different NASCAR Images. Instead of leading the way in NASCAR television, we find a company struggling for credibility in the very sport they are charged to document and promote.

Survival of the Fastest is a NASCAR Images TV series that airs Thursdays on SPEED. Originally, it was one of my favorites. Now, I know when each episode airs by the flood of email after the show. It was The Daly Planet readers that made me aware of potential problems. I still cannot believe NASCAR Images took this chance.

Chasing Glory is a NASCAR Images TV series that airs Wednesdays on ESPN2. The premise was to profile the participants in the 2007 NEXTEL Cup Chase for the Championship. The reality has been nothing short of a disaster for NASCAR Images and their racing credibility.

After my first column on this topic, Daly Planet readers began to give me a course in the art of video deception. In TV, using older footage for reference or to fill-in a gap in a story is called "re-purposing."

This is often done when a program or news story needs "B-roll." That is the footage shown when an announcer is talking about something, like a track or a race team. We might see older footage of Daytona or the classic black "3" car of Dale Earnhardt Sr.

There is, however, a big difference between "re-purposing" and "re-labeling." One allows older footage to be used to make a point in a story, the other tries to slip something by the NASCAR fans that is simply not true.

In both the current series NASCAR Images has used footage that was months, and in several cases, years old. Unfortunately, they "re-labeled" it and used the announcer audio and new on-screen graphics to try and present it to NASCAR fans as present day content. It has cost NASCAR Images dearly.

Video of NASCAR team meetings, fishing trips, backyard swimming pool fun, vacations at the beach and lots of other activities involving NASCAR personalities was presented to the nation as current day. Unfortunately, none of it was.

Daly Planet readers recognized footage from as far back as two years. The big question is why? With all the resources at the fingertips of NASCAR Images, why lie? With the company's credibility on the line, why have announcers deceive? What TV production company would purposefully put graphics on the footage that "re-labeled" something years old as last week or last month?

We emailed our contacts at NASCAR Images to ask about these issues. There was absolutely no response. As a former employee of that company prior to it being re-named, I was personally very disappointed. The best thing NASCAR Images could do is deal with this problem right now.

The mission of NASCAR Images is to document this sport just like NFL Films, PGA Tour Productions, and NBA Entertainment take care of their chosen pastime. At the core of this effort is the bond of trust between those organizations and the fans they serve. I belong to one of those groups. We call ourselves NASCAR fans.

This Wednesday at 5:30PM Eastern Time on ESPN2, the final regular season episode of Chasing Glory takes to the air. Over on SPEED, Survival of the Fastest airs at 8:30PM on Thursday. These two programs should be celebrating the end of a successful run on national TV. Instead, NASCAR fans are waiting to see if once again with NASCAR Images, the past is going to catch up with the present in all the wrong ways.

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