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.