Saturday, July 12, 2008
TNT At Daytona: The Future Of NASCAR TV (over 100 comments)
There had to be a time during the TNT broadcast of the Sprint Cup Series race from Daytona where the various NASCAR executives had to all have the same thought. Why can't we do this for every race?
From the moment that the "wide open" coverage of TNT began, there was rarely a moment when viewers missed the racing action. This season, TNT used a relatively small-sized box positioned on the right side of the screen to show the commercials. It worked like a charm.
Veteran TV Director Mike Wells stamped his name on this race in no uncertain terms. The commentary was good and the graphics were fine, but the pictures were spectacular.
NASCAR nation had been watching the very different style of the Fox Sports gang this season. Races were filled with gimmicks like Digger and sometimes dominated by bumper cams and tight shots of the leader. Rarely did fans see any car finish the race live except the leader. After frequent complaints, Fox actually began to replay the finish for the rest of the field.
Wells came from the ESPN "old school" days where the racing on the track dominated the coverage, not a pre-conceived storyline or a high-profile driver. The camera work was outstanding all race long as wideshots that zoomed to provide a perspective were mixed with just enough low angle and speed shots to create a dynamic viewing experience.
Bill Weber was surprisingly effective at mixing-in the more frequent but less obtrusive commercial elements throughout the telecast. Weber still yells "Matt" a bit too harshly, but his performance this season has been tempered by the presence of Kyle Petty as the true leader of the TNT telecasts.
Petty has mixed effectively with both Wally Dallenbach and Larry McReynolds to form a rather unique team of analysts. Dallenbach and Petty both offer the driver's perspective, but in their own very different kind of way. McReynolds is not physically present "upstairs," but is as vocal a member of the TNT team as the trio up in the booth.
It seems that with one season under their belts, this TNT on-air team has become as comfortable with each other as viewers see with the veterans at Fox. Petty has played a key role with his ability to address any issue and even poke fun at himself. His role driving the pace car at the opening of the race made for some fun banter with the other announcers.
The fundamental truth is that by keeping the video of the race on the screen during commercial breaks, viewers are going to "consume" the content of the commercials at a much higher rate. The transition to a full-screen commercial in a normal telecast is a signal to either surf the other channels or turn one's attention to another activity for two minutes. Those who DVR or TiVo the race just hit fast-forward.
This race telecast is a model for the NASCAR TV coverage of the future. Sponsors got a terrific amount of exposure for their commitment and fans got a non-stop telecast that was visually better than anything they have seen so far this season. Despite the dissapointing finish, this time the pictures really did tell the story.
What were your views of the "wide open" coverage from TNT on Saturday night?
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