Tuesday, June 3, 2008
Gentlemen, Start Your Computers!
The summer of NASCAR racing on TNT is upon us once again and this time things have changed. While it is true that the same on-air bunch will return, this year there will be something very different for the fans. Gentlemen, start your broadband computers!
TNT is unleashing a wickedly smart concept that is going to open some eyes among tech-savvy fans. Beginning this weekend, TNT and NASCAR.com are teaming-up to deliver fans directly into the race broadcast as never before.
The concept is called RaceBuddy. That is the handsome gentleman pictured above. This page on the NASCAR.com website is going to be a very busy one this summer. Here are the reasons why.
The TNT gang will be offering an opportunity to use your broadband computer as an active companion to the cable TV telecast. This new offering will include four video feeds that will contain different angles of the race and will include one in-car camera feed that fans can vote to switch during the event.
In addition, fans can forward videos and pictures along with questions to the actual TNT crew before, during and after the event. The idea is to get the fans as interactive as possible during the race in the same type of way that many fans now visit other chat rooms or websites. This time, it will be Larry McReynolds in the infield who will be reading the email and responding. That is pretty darn interactive.
The most interesting part is that RaceBuddy is free of charge for all the video, audio and interactive applications. Race fans have not heard those words in a while.
The RaceBuddy concept will also include lots of new website opportunities for fans to chat and post and network. There will be several contests and prizes offered during this series, including one with CNN's popular morning host Robin Meade. There is a video on the website that explains that contest, and good luck to all.
During the Daytona race in July, TNT will once again roll-out the "wide open coverage" concept that featured long-form original advertising in a second video box on the screen while keeping the race video active. While the network still has to leave for the local cable system commercials, last season fans missed less than five laps during those interruptions.
On a Tuesday afternoon conference call, the TNT gang sounded like they had a new focus and energy. Bill Weber expressed his desire to create an atmosphere this season that feels like a conversation between fans. Wally Dallenbach wanted to see if Kyle Busch can continue his good racing luck and Kyle Petty was happy to switch gears and step back into the TV booth.
Changes beginning this weekend also include a resurrection of Wally's World as a viable feature and not a useless TNT promo session. Dallenbach and Petty will both steer cars onto the track and try to explain the challenges facing the drivers with the COT cars during these six races. This could turn-out to be a useful feature once again, as one of Dallenbach's strengths used to be talking about the track while having some fun at the same time.
This season pit reporter Lindsay Czarniak has also been given a feature that will appear somewhere in the ninety minutes of the pre-race programming. Lindsay on Location will allow this veteran news reporter to uncover and explain a unique or little-known story from each of the six summer venues.
Pride of NASCAR will return to offer a feature on the veterans of the sport, beginning at Pocono with Bobby Allison. An accident at this track changed his life forever, and it will be good to check-in with him again about his activities. The final feature will be called NASCAR Future Stars. It will focus on the up-and-coming drivers with an eye on the Sprint Cup Series.
TNT's own Marc Fein will again handle the infield hosting duties, which mostly consist of keeping an eye on McReynolds. Ralph Shaheen, Matt Yocum and Marty Snider round-out the veteran crew covering pit road this summer.
For those fans like myself who have never joined NASCAR.com's Trackpass or purchased the Sprint Race View, this broadband computer experience during the race will be new.
In response to the last season's issues involving post-race interviews, TNT will continue to partner with NASCAR.com and use TNT's on-site announcers to handle the online post-race show on NASCAR.com. Yes, you heard me correctly.
This season, when the TNT broadcast is over, the full crew of announcers will switch-over to NASCAR.com for a post-race show that will once again be offered to fans free of charge. Now, when time is tight on TV, the rest of the top finishing drivers and those involved in race issues will be talking live on NASCAR.com immediately after the race. How about that?
Certainly, all of these new concepts are a lot to digest, but they have one good thing in common. They are all intended to increase the interaction between the fans and the sport. When the racing action settles down at Pocono, fans will now have an online opportunity to check-out other cameras, forward questions to the TV crew and socially network with each other.
RaceBuddy seems like a super concept coming along at just the right time. TNT needs to seize the positive momentum from Fox and work hard to make the summer races something unique for the fans. So far, it seems they are off to a very good start.
The Daly Planet welcomes comments from readers. Simply click on the COMMENTS button below and follow the easy instructions. The rules for posting are on the right side of the main page. Thank you for taking the time to stop by.