Tuesday, July 8, 2008
It Is Halftime: How Do You Think The TV Game Is Going?
As NASCAR makes the turn and begins the slow downhill trip to the end of the season, it is a good time to sample your opinion about memories from the first TV half.
January saw SPEED make a commitment to cover testing at more venues that just Daytona. The month also saw Inside NEXTEL Cup become This Week In NASCAR. Steve Byrnes and Chad Knaus signed-on, while Kenny Schrader signed-off.
February was crazy for NASCAR TV-related news. ESPN announced Nicole Manske was in at NASCAR Now, Dale Jarrett was in as Lead Analyst and Allen Bestwick was going to be very busy. Bestwick would host a new edition of NASCAR Now on Mondays, and handle the NASCAR Countdown pre-race shows for both the Nationwide and Sprint Cup Series.
There was also someone else tagging along for the ESPN February press conference in Daytona. Ray Evernham was going to be joining the network in a versatile role that will put him in the announce booth, in the infield studio, on NASCAR Now and would feature him on other ESPN media outlets. This was a surprise, because Evernham was an active Sprint Cup Series owner.
SPEED returned their group intact, and then led the TV mess that was the California race this year. Seeping water and upset drivers led to a lot of hard feelings and another California disaster. Monday races were once again becoming familiar. The Fox gang hung-in there and everyone left town in a hurry.
By March, TV viewers began to understand that this "Digger" thing was not going away anytime soon. Neither was the philosophy of not showing the lead lap cars finishing the race under green. Fox had returned. Bestwick had led NASCAR Now to a resurgence of credibility and Manske seemed to be a solid fit for the team.
The month ended on a controversial note, as TWIN made a big decision...to go khaki.
April started hard with ESPN.com's Ryan McGee appearing on NASCAR Now and detailing his interview with former Truck Series driver Aaron Fike. As we all know, Fike had become a heroin addict and driven in several races with the drug in his system. Needless to say, additional media folks weighed-in on the issue and it is still a topic being discussed by NASCAR at this point.
This was also the month that Fox got caught between baseball and NASCAR...and flinched. Trying to tell the future did not work out for either sport. The middle of the month saw ESPN struggle with the racing in Mexico, Boris Said lose his cool on NASCAR Now, and David Poole travel to ESPN for a guest appearance.
The month closed with several NASCAR media and TV partners picking-up some hardware for their efforts.
May turned-out to be a huge TV story month, and featured Wendy Venturini getting her first primetime TV special during All-Star week. As usual, SPEED pulled-out all the stops for their only Sprint Cup Series event.
The NASCAR on Fox gang saw their season wind-down, and faced some interesting viewer reactions focused around Darrell Waltrip's interest in Kyle Busch.
Over in ESPN land, all kinds of things were shaking. ESPN is dropping the recorded SportsCenters in the morning, and doing them live with a high-profile anchor. Rumors were everywhere that the company was also looking to change ESPN Classic Network into something new very soon.
For comic relief, viewers were having fun with the "interesting" wardrobe choices being made by SPEED for the on-air personalities.
June saw the Fox crew leave and the "new look" TNT guys walk in with their new RaceBuddy. The TNT guys had fun at Michigan, but left a bit early.
Meanwhile, Allen Bestwick hosted an "all Wallace" edition of NASCAR Now. This program continues to be the surprise of 2008.
June also saw the ugly civil lawsuit from Mauricia Grant, which is going to put NASCAR to the test whether they like it or not. Brian France continues to react publicly to this with poorly-chosen words, as chronicled by Lee Spencer of Fox.
ESPN continued to have troubles with the ABC local TV stations. The Nationwide Series telecast from New Hampshire actually overlapped ABC's own feed of children's programming, and some West Coast affiliates in big markets just joined the race in-progress.
The on-air folks continued to be stories, this one about Dale Jarrett working quite well for ESPN even as Jerry Punch continues to have a tough time. The month closed with Michael Waltrip actually having fun again on Monday nights.
Now, here we are basking in the glow of the full-screen commercial free TNT Daytona telecast and wondering how the next six months will play-out with ESPN about to take over both the Nationwide and Sprint Cup Series.
SPEED this year will schedule RaceDay early as to not conflict with ESPN's NASCAR Countdown. That is a big change for viewers, after SPEED worked so hard to go head-to-head with both ESPN and ABC down the stretch.
If you have some thoughts after reading some of the columns above about the first half of the NASCAR TV season, please share them with us. Good or bad, you have consumed many hours of NASCAR TV coverage since January and your opinion counts.
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