Sunday, April 27, 2008

Four Hours Of Pre-Race On Three Networks For Talladega

The age old question in TV is very simple. How much is too much? We see the clones of entertainment shows about every topic from cooking to dancing. One successful talk show seems to spring another and sitcoms swing wildly in bunches from legal dramas to moody teenage angst.

This Sunday, the issue of how much is too much came to NASCAR. The Sprint Cup race from Talladega, AL was going to start at 2:20PM Eastern Time. One thing was clear, the actual racing would be on the Fox Television Network. What had the heads of NASCAR fans spinning was the amount of TV programming before the race.

ESPN2 began the parade with one hour of NASCAR Now. SPEED followed with the two hour RaceDay that originated from the track. Finally, Fox unveiled a newly extended pre-race show from the Hollywood Hotel that ran for one hour and twenty minutes.

Just in terms of long-form programming, the NASCAR TV partners produced four hours and twenty minutes of pre-race content on Sunday. The vast majority of this programming was focused specifically on the Sprint Cup race. Ironically, this makes the length of the combined pre-race programming longer than the actual event itself.

Looking at the offerings from these three TV networks, one thing stands-out. Not one was offering anything that was truly exclusive or new. What they were all doing was covering the exact same content with different announcers involved in the presentation.

Terry Blount, Wendy Venturini and Steve Byrnes discussed the same topics as reporters on ESPN2, SPEED and Fox respectively. On those same networks Nicole Manske, John Roberts and Chris Myers hosted programs that covered the news, reviewed the past races and talked to Dale Earnhardt Junior. Ultimately, it all became a blur.

One reason that Sunday was so memorable is because both Fox-owned SPEED and the Fox Broadcast Network were on-the-air simultaneously for thirty minutes. For NASCAR fans, Fox and SPEED are interchangeable and seemingly feature one big collection of announcers who work on both networks.

The topper on this issue is that Fox was broadcasting from the Hollywood Hotel. It was located behind pit road at the start-finish line. SPEED had moved their on-air talent from outside the track during a commercial break. Roberts, Jimmy Spencer and Kenny Wallace were now located just before Turn 1 at the end of pit road.

Quite literally, the two Fox networks were both on-the-air live from the same track talking about the same things only feet away from each other. In terms of NASCAR TV, this might have been the moment when the question of "how much is too much" was finally answered.

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TexasRaceLady said...

I have to admit, JD, that by the time the race actually started, my eyes and brain were glazing over.

Fortunately I kept my sanity by doing some housework.

I think we can catagorize all this hoopla as "over-kill."

Sophia said...

I agree with TRL and only watched RaceDay myself for the Schrader interview (Thankfully it was on about 12.05) and I multi tasked thru the rest of the show.

Ran some errands and listened to MRN instead of the allegedly dreadful Fox pre race.

My eyes can only take so much.

Oh, and for the 30th time, RD should ONLY be an hour. Too much minutia at 2 hrs.

and I, as a Tony Fan, am so tired of the TS hoopla.

Oh, and if ONLY the media would leave Jr alone (also huge Jr fan) with the "when are you ever going to win again question"

He has to want to smack people that keep asking him that...

IF you cut out the extraneous BS, RD could be 30 minutes but I DID enjoy Spencers rant on the big one yesterday and the 91 car that should NEVER have hit Dario going so fast.
NOBODY addressed the Dario thing that I heard, but then Mikey Joy called it unforgivable or he got it was a senseless crash.

Anonymous said...

What's ironic is that with the wall to wall pre-race coverage, FOX's post race coverage was:

*****So incredibly awful!*****

They had lots of time post-race. Yet not only did they not go back and dissect the ending with as many replay angles as they could muster, they weren't getting any driver interviews! There was opportunity for multiple driver interviews - Larry Mac mentioned Kvapil, Mears, etc. and their good runs - but we didn't get to see them. At least not before 5:46 PM Eastern - when we got so frustrated with the rambling - and it WAS rambling- from the booth and then the Hollywood Hotel, we switched over to ESPNews to see what they had.

Lo and behold, there was Juan Pablo Montoya giving talking to the media, joined shortly thereafter by Denny Hamlin. We were so happy to see some REAL driver content on air that we didn't even mind this was airing before FOX went off the air. It would have been nice to see Kvapil and Mears in there since Hamlin and Montoya got FOX interviews, but I'd rather hear any drivers talk about the race than the FOX folks ramble. If they did end up interviewing any more drivers after 5:46, I hope they know they lost viewers by wasting time getting around to them.

Fox not only blew the end of the actual race, they blew the post race too. Maybe some of energy devoted to that ridiculously long pre-race should be devoted to post race.

Mary said...

I have to say I enjoyed watching DJ but I AM his #1 fan LOL. What I can't understand is presumably these folks have to get up to CT to the ESPN studios? And if ESPN is so serious about Nascar how about a studio in Charlotte?

Newracefan said...

I agree about the post race coverage. I have a feeling they have no good camera angle for the last wreck to try and see what happened. None of replays really explained anything.

Anonymous said...

JD- ESPN has retired the "how much is too much" trophy for ALL time with 4 hours of NFL PRE-draft coverage Saturday - and I am an NFL fan. What I saw of Race Day & FOX pre-race was better than ESPN pre-draft.

P.S. Glad you gave the CIA cryptologist the day off.

Anonymous said...

JD you mentioned awhile ago that Krista and Steve B. would be doing another session of answering our questions. I would really like to know their opinion on some of these issues from the digger cam to the way Fox shows the cars crossing the finish line.

You mentioned also that Mike Joy said they would be discussing some of these issues during their weekly meeting. Have you had any further feedback from Mike on the thinking in the director's truck? Thanks.

PammH said...

I'm sorry, but I live in Michigan & it's been an god-awful long winter. With coverage like I saw today, I just CANNOT commit to a whole Sunday inside, watching Nascar! I am going to start taping RD & FF thru it for Spencer's rants & The Reel Deal. TNT I assume will suck like they did last yr & I will have to tape most of ESPN also. It's kinda sad-I'm such a big fan, but just can't handle the rise in my bp w/all the gimmicks, etc. SHOW ME THE RACE! ~deep breath~

Sophia said...


Ditto to your post and weather and all.

Had this NOT been talladega, I would have sat outside, stuck in a tape and sat in my car in a park and listened to MRN since the in house radios would not pick up the FM station

Thankfully was free to listen to MRN which helped. But if this were a short track, I would've had the radio/laptop outside and helped my room mate pull weeds and divide ornamental grasses.

FOUR HOURS is too much and I re-iterate, more would watch RD if it went back to one hour.

I can't believe that many people sit and watch the entire TWO HOURS with the nicer weather and all the baloney thrown into the longer version.

If it's sunny and mild next weekend, I will be outside.

I enjoyed the NW series more due to better camera work and EXCELLENT CAM WORK at finish line.

Few people have time for all the PRE race stuff and I prefer post race stuff myself.


But my eyes can't take 8 hrs of tv (speed report, VL -also needs to be just 30 minutes!) and I love WT with DD.

Anonymous said...

it's generally my habit to ignore everything pre-race and accomplish tasks around the house between church & the green flag. today, given the number of stories that were on the table, i made an exception. i believed that either or both networks would cover in depth the issues that the nationwide race raised and the status of the GOGH teams who were scheduled to race today. i thought i'd hear strong commentary backed up with great video. i assumed reporters would bring new information to the broadcast. so, i turned on the coverage around noon or so.

and that, dear friends, was my first mistake.

i should have turned it all off and walked away until after 2PM. rest assured i will not make the same mistake again this season. there is no redeeming this day for me: pre-race, race, and post-race coverage were all appalling. i posted my opinions as the day progressed on the previous blog and i stand by them. sadly, i concede defeat.

Newracefan said...

I had a work related errand to run this AM and raced home at a speed that was much more than the one posted. For the most part I enjoyed RaceDay, the DVR of NN and the Joe Gibbs piece was very well done, Fox pre race that I did see should have been shortened back to the regular hour or even 30 minutes. Some guy eating in the stands is worthless. The Weber with the drivers is fun even the gas n go with DW and JH is worth it. The one thing JD didn't mention was the very sexist Digger T shirt promotion, they tried to make it funny with the equal time with very large men but I was still offended. I may DVR this from now on so I can FF thru the junk

Anonymous said...

Hi JD,
Agree w/Rich in NC. As I said in on another post the remote would be busy. But the extra 30 minutes on FOX did not impress me. I did stay w/SPEED, they were having to much fun. I think the fun and the interviews are what kept me on SPEED.

Anonymous said...

Why is no one mentioning all the "pretty girls" who showed up - for what reason I don't know - on RaceDay? They were everywhere today, even in JR and Jimmy's seats when they were gone. Did they get a memo to add more "eye candy" shots to the program? It seemed out of place because so many of those shots showed up out of nowhere.

Newracefan said...

The pretty girls are always there they work the crowd during commercials, and throw them Speed swag. I assume they continued to try and work the crowd (if they stayed) after the guys left the building. I guess throwing the picked to win drivers hats needed to be thrown from there and not the infield. I still haven't figured out why they moved in the first place.

Anonymous said...

annon 858pm,
NRF is correct. They are always there. You should see how the crowd goes after the SPEED swag they throw. I guess today it was the caps they wore backwards that was the attraction. They warm up the crowd and keep them excited during breaks

Sophia said...

Yes, RaceDay is watchable due to the FUN but with nice weather and all, I just can't sit the whole time...I mean there is cleaning, and feeding the birds and squirrels and watering things.

Since it's two hours, I treat RD like "radio" I have it on in sometimes two rooms (where the digital tvs are) and today I stayed tune due to Dega and the Schrader piece that was promoted (that could've been longer imo) yes it's fun but the fun could be just an hour

I never watch NN on's just too much pre show and I pick listen to on and off.

Anonymous said...

This is why I no longer watch pre-race. The actual driver interviews are fun sometimes (when they finally get around to them), but I have other things to do besides watch them beat the same dead horse all weekend long.

Anonymous said...

I usually just watch a total of maybe 20 minutes of RaceDay somewhere in there and that's it for pre-race shows. I don't even bother to DVR them because they're so long; I don't want wasting space on the DVR. If they want me to watch more often:

NASCAR Now should be a half hour on race day. NASCAR RaceDay should be one hour. Pre-race shows for any race other than Daytona and Homestead should be half an hour, maximum.

The shows I do watch pre-race are NASCAR Performance and Tradin' Paint. Both were excellent this week and are better quality than the pre-race shows. Tradin' Paint had Jenna Fryer and Kyle Petty and they didn't even fight, lol. They had a good debate, but it was actually kind of fun. Chad, Bootie and Larry on NP are a fantastic combination of great TV personalities.

I wonder if the pre-race and post race shows get good ratings anyway. Did anybody notice SPEED no longer shows a repeat of Victory Lane at 11 PM or Midnight ET? (Replaced by PINKS.) It's not repeated until 4AM. I used to try to watch that 11/12 repeat more than the first running of VL and that's no longer an option.

GinaV24 said...

boy, overkill is the right word. If not for the lousy weather here in NJ (cold and rainy), I would have skipped all the pre-race crap like I usually do, but since I was inside anyway, I watched RD and then tuned into Fox. As far as I could see, the pre-race, race and post-race (I couldn't believe the lousy post-race)were all pretty much not worth watching. I had the computer and MRN on and followed the race much better that way than I did by watching TV.

I won't make the same mistake this weekend of watching the pre-race drivel -- maybe I won't tune in at all.

greg8370 said...

I've stopped watching the pre-race filler altogether; unless something compelling happens between the Saturday race and the start of the Sunday Cup race it has already been covered.

Anonymous said...

Thank goodness for the DVR. I do what many do, FF until something catches my eye, like the Schrader interview. There were so many stories, especially the 2 crashes on Saturday. All the shows should have had a NASCAR official and some discussion on both events as both incidents had major driver errors and at least one rule violation. Also what did the other drivers think should happen...suspension, ban from racing?

They need to limit the goofy stuff. A few minutes are ok if it is done to get the flavor of the atmosphere at the track or an unusual promotion. I prefer more driver interviews, personal stuff not the same, "how are you going to approach this race, how's the car handling?". In other words, the same old stuff.

Regarding race end (didn't watch till late West coast). What a disaster. We slomo'd over and over trying to see what happened and why Jeff Gordon finished 19th as well as what happened to other drivers.

Stop with the IN-CAM shots all the time. There was so much pack racing the wide shots would work so much better.

There must be a rule that at least one network has to do a terrible job of broadcasting. Can't believe it's FOX this year and not ESPN.

Last comment regarding ESPN, switch AB and Dr. Punch and ESPN may be near perfect. Can't believe I'm saying that.


Anonymous said...

When I turned on Fox pre-race the first and last thing I saw was DW on stage performing that gawd-awful 'song' with that country singer. Flat-out embarassing. I never thought I'd say this, but bring on ESPN!

Anonymous said...

On a weekend where I was inundated with Mel Kiper Jr. and his hair for 4 hours prior to the actual draft, the coverage of NASCAR was a bit much. We know Junior has a winless streak and he's a good plate driver, and apparently he's pretty popular. But there were 42 other stories out there.

Anonymous said...

Why doesn't FOX just air RaceDay on the network before the race. It seems silly to have a prerace show on SPEED and then switch to FOX for another prerace show. Aren't the 2 entities family?

FOX should pay attention to RaceDay because it represents what a real prerace show should be.

The song with DW is absolutely brutal and FOX should be embarassed!