Wednesday, December 10, 2008

With Fox Cutting MLB Pre-Game Show Is Hollywood Hotel Next?


Fox Sports has decided to eliminate the on-location pre-game show for the Sunday Major League Baseball games telecast by the network in 2009. Former NASCAR reporter Jeanne Zelasko and MLB veteran Kevin Kennedy were featured on the broadcasts.

According to LA Daily News Tom Hoffarth (click here), the Fox broadcasts will now come on the air at 1PM and the first pitch will be at 1:07PM. The thirty minute pre-game show is gone, which also means the booth announcers will have to deal with rain delays and other stoppages of play.

Several weeks ago, word came out that both ESPN and Fox were looking hard at cutting TV production costs in several major sports properties. NASCAR was high on the list for both networks. Several meetings have taken place where executives from Fox, ESPN and NASCAR discussed what opportunities were available for cost savings.

Obviously, one target for both Fox and ESPN is the custom-made TV trailers that are brought on the road to host the pre-race shows. At Fox, that is called the Hollywood Hotel. Chris Myers and Jeff Hammond are joined by Darrell Waltrip during the pre-race and then Myers and Hammond remain in the Hollywood Hotel for the duration of the event to add opinion and commentary.

This piece of equipment has become sophisticated over the years and now has all kinds of TV effects and multiple camera angles built right in. Basically, it has become a mobile high-tech TV studio.

Since Fox has now stepped forward and confirmed that they are going to be cutting the TV production on the Major League Baseball games of the week, it would seem that February's start of the NASCAR season would be next in line for the financial microscope.

ESPN also begins their Nationwide coverage at Daytona and has not said a word about the changes that it may have in store for the new season. ESPN brings the Infield Pit Studio to all the major Nationwide Series races and all the Sprint Cup events covered by the network.

That facility not only hosts the pre-race programs, but also functions to host practice and qualifying shows as well as Sprint Cup versions of NASCAR Now. Although it may be expensive, ESPN gets a lot of use from this piece of TV equipment.

ESPN also travels Tim Brewer's Tech Center, which is another expensive custom-made trailer that contains a cutaway car and lots of other racing parts. The Tech Center just might not see as many road miles next season if this trend continues.

It should be the next week or so when word comes out about the changes for NASCAR TV production for 2009. Seeing what Fox did with baseball and the recent demise of DirecTV's Hot Pass are unfortunately going to set the tone for what TV viewers will probably be dealing with shortly.

We will update the news as it happens and try to keep NASCAR fans ahead of the information curve during these very strange days.

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33 comments:

Newracefan said...

It just keeps getting better and better doesn't it. The one good thing is that MJ and the boys can handle a rain delay, red flag etc although a break for personal needs might be a problem. I would miss Hammond so I am hoping he's still be there somewhere, in some capacity. Chris Meyers not so much but I was thinking maybe we were going to see Krista in the hotel with Hammond.
Give us the news JD when you get it JD, thanks for taking the time to keep us all in the loop and we can share our distress.

Richard in N.C. said...

JD, One thing I have not seen addressed anywhere is the profitability of the pre-event shows. I do appreciate the benefit of cutting costs, but eliminating the pre-event show eliminates both cost and revenue, which would be counter-productive if the pre-race show has been a money-maker.

Anonymous said...

The article says that part of the reason was the baseball crew. I agree, they were terrible. Lack of ad sales.

I would be very surprised to see Fox do the same for either NASCAR pre-game or NFL pre-game. Both of these show are extremely popular and I'm sure they don't have the same type of funding problems like in baseball.

Also, covering baseball takes so long. I know that Fox shares the games with TNT and ESPN, but let's face it, there are a total of 162 games between them, and then the playoffs and the World Series. Fox states they were not getting enough bang for their buck.

Both in NFL and NASCAR, you don't have as many events. For NASCAR, Fox only does 13 races. That's quite a bit different. Their ratings are the highest for any televised sporting event event between Feb-May. Ratings spell into ad dollars and what you can charge.

I know times are rough but I hope Fox does not cut the Hollywood Hotel gang.

Grover said...

JD, How much money would cutting the ESPN tech center save?
It cant cost them all that much...

You got what, a camera guy, sound guy, and producer. A few assistants and Tim, the driver of the rig? So between hotels, food, per diem, and salary rental on the tuck, rental cars were around 20 grand a race right?
I could see leaving him at home for all the nationwide races, but the 17 cup races you wouldn't save all that much considering the amount of money invested in that trailer.


Hope fox wont ditch the pre race, they could do it from the Home Depot stage that speed uses and leave the stupid looking hollyweird hotel at home!

I'm trying to remember back to the Mexico race, did they have some type of infield broadcast trailer? Or did they do the pre race from the booth?

The Western New Yorker said...

JD,

I believe I read in USA Today or another national paper yesterday that the main reason why the MLB on Fox pregame has been eliminated is that they weren't recouping the expenses it took to produce such a program, due to all ad time being sold by the affiliates, rather than the network itself. In addition, ratings for Fox's MLB coverage are close to all-time lows during the regular season.

I really don't think that FOX would cut the Hollywood Hotel, due to the fact that it's mostly informative, fun, and engaging. However, I wouldn't be shocked if the cutaway car was eliminated, or only used at premier events like Daytona.

Adam T. Martin said...

I won't be mourning the possible loss of the Hollywood Hotel or the ESPN Tech Center.

I found them expensive, unnecessary, and they take away the screen time of the racing.

I apologize for the harsh opinion but I just want the screen to focus on the racing.

majorshouse said...

It would be really interesting to see the profitability of something like the Hollywood Hotel, and I do love Jeff Hammond, but can live without Chris Meyers. Personally I would rather see the races start whent he pre-race shows come on and maybe even shorten the races some to give us better racing than all of the fluff we ahve been getting on pre-race shows the last few years. It would not hurt my feelings to see the pre-race shows go away.

Anonymous said...

Why doesn't FOX just simulcast the RaceDay show that's airing on SPEED? Seems like it wouldn't take much to just extend the show and lead right into the race. Then we could see Wendy do her walk and talk before the FOX races!

Anonymous said...

Less talking heads is fine with me. I know for the most part how race cars work, and I can read most of the racing news I need from various sources before the race.

If these pre race shows go away it's fine by me. I have been watching them less and less as time moves on anyway.

Anonymous said...

Do you mean we would have less of DW?

Now, that would be a GOOD-THING, in my opinion.

Anthony said...

I enjoy the FOX prerace show and would be upset if FOX decided to cancel it outright, but if they just do what SPEED does with the truck races and have Myers and Hammond sitting at a desk or standing along pit lane, FOX would save lots of money.

What would REALLY be nice is if FOX could get their races started at 1:07p/et like they did the baseball games. How sweet would that be!

Anthony said...

The other thing that FOX could do, too, is originate the prerace show from L.A., just like the "NFL Sunday" and "The O.T. presented by Lowe's" are. That would save money. I know SPEED uses Hammond for a lot of stuff over the weekend, but maybe FOX could work out a way to do the prerace show from the Hollywood Studio.

Anthony said...

Grover,
I just read your comment about doing the prerace from SPEED's "RaceDay" stage. That's not a bad idea, either. It'd be similar to 2006, when Joe Buck hosted the "NFL Sunday" show outside of the football stadium where the game of the week happened.

David said...

Hollywood Hotel, Tech Centers axed.. That would be great, all of the problems we have complained about on the coverage are the excesses that the networks have gone to and not show anything. Maybe they will get back to worrying about the racing and not the personalties in the booth or trailer or whatever..

red said...

as promised, a comment in haiku:

pre-race makes me sigh
i no longer care for it
guess fox feels the same.

Steve L. said...

I'm so afraid that when they start swinging the axe, they won't know when to stop. i.e. practice, qualifying, etc.

Too bad it won't be 'Digger', full throttle, draft tracker, etc.

Anonymous said...

Please! Cut the pre-race circus and end the show at a decent time! The networks would retain more viewers!

glenc1 said...

I'm thinking like Anthony, just because you don't haul the thing a zillion miles doesn't mean you can't use the people with a less expensive set. A cameraperson, sound, a couple chairs & a desk, keep it simple. Even the cutaway car--heck, I see no reason Tim can't stay behind and tell the same tale via satellite, he doesn't have to *be* there (not being a car expert I find the segments informative, mostly.) But Grover, I'm not sure I follow your logic. 20 grand (if your math is right) is a lot of money if you are looking to cut a little here, a little there. Most companies look at *everything*, however small. Mine eliminated food at meetings and makes sure we power down equipment for the weekend. Sounds like nothing, but very bit helps, even in a multi million dollar operation.

I do think the Nationwide series will probably be the one to suffer most, that is, unless the cost to cover qualifying & such isn't much more because they're there anyways. I think Speed & ESPN might do well to find some ways to share expenses. And I'd like to see Jeannie come back home...

GinaV24 said...

Wow, well, I have thought that the pre-race shows had become too long anyway. I hope that Hammond will still be around because I like him. I don't care whether Myers is there or not since in my opinion he adds nothing to the show, not even comic relief. I probably watched more of Fox's pre-race stuff than anyone elses, TNT and ESPN just never made it for me.

Thanks for keeping us up to date on the news about the broadcasts since this will certainly affect all of us watching on TV.

Heck, if they get rid of the pre-race BS, then they can move the race times back to a normal starting time of 1 p.m., if its an east coast venue, unless its a night race.

Jennifer said...

As long as they don't send Jeanne Z back to NASCAR. I think this is a smart move for FOX

SallyB said...

I ceratianly wouldn't miss most of the pre race hpye, that has little useful information, and fills time with lots of canned film. Too many faces with too little interesting to say.

bevo said...

Two thoughts from me.

1. In the real world it would suck for the folks who would no longer have a job. No matter my feelings about coverage I don't want to see hard working professionals behind the scenes out of work.

2. From a viewer's point though there is way too much pre-race coverage. Put that stuff on a weekday show and do a 30 minute pre-race dealing with the actual race we are about to watch.

I really think after this season that the burn-out effect many fans felt towards the end was due in large part to all of the pre-race programming. When you spend just as much time watching what leads up to an event as you do watching the event it's going to eventually wear on you.

BTW JD nice to hear you on Sirius Speedway again yesterday.

Old Timer said...

Note to Fox:

Whatever you do DO NOT put the awful Ms. Zelasco back on the NASCAR beat. She was a disaster the last time, she knew nothing, and it showed

Nan S said...

Here's what I would like for both Fox and Espn. You turn on the coverage and hear "Gentlemen start your engines" then go racing, then actually have time at the end of the race to interview a lot of people. Sounds good to me.

Any pre-race show should be done by SpeedTV people, who are actually good at it.

Aven said...

I don't care what they do with it. All I want to know is the actual starting time of the race. If you keep informed, the pre-race show doesn't give you new information and I get tired of the talking heads trying to act smart. The talking heads are hard enough to take during the race.

Anonymous said...

Could we be so lucky as to not have to suffer through an hour of inane blather and get the race started?
Here's the sched
1PM on air
1:02 Dear Lord...
1:03 Oh say can you...
1:05 Gentelmen...
1:15 Bogity....
I know it will never happen but what a sweet dream.

Anonymous said...

Those of us who hav ebeen saying that SPEED demonstrates "less is more" when it comes to racing are pleased to see that he economy may be forcing Fox and ESPN to cut some of their excess and, hopefully, focus on the racing.

TexasRaceLady said...

I certainly hope BSPN loses some of those talking heads that jabber on forever. I don't get the point of having 8 or 9 people sitting around all saying the same thing.

And it wouldn't hurt me a bit if they lost some of the "toys". Tim Brewer could sit in NC and do his thing.

And that infield studio of BSPN makes me slightly nauseous with the constant camera movement. Go away, please.

Deborah said...

I wouldn't miss the pre-race show one bit if they got rid of it! I haven't watched the pre-race show for years now, I just find out when the green flag is supposed to fly and estimate from there when the National Anthem is and that's when I start watching. Other than perhaps some driver interviews (in which they likely don't say anything earth shattering anyway)I can't think of anything I'm missing by not watching the pre-race.

Anonymous said...

Cut the pre race crap and add it to the end of the race - with post race interviews.

Maybe NASCAR will also get standard start times - like the NFL.

Time for a change!

Dot said...

JD, I read elsewhere an interview with BF. He alluded to the fact that there may not be 43 cars in the CUP field. What's that do to the contract?

Will the races start earlier if there is no prerace show? I hope so. Add that in on top of the race and it's a 6 hour investmemt. Not everyone can devote that much time on a weekend. I vote that SPEED should do the prerace (1hr max) no matter what channel broadcasts the race. It's time to get creative with this current ecomomy. Cross promote and everyone saves.

OT, Mike Mulhern was just let go from his job. How many will follow? 2009 and beyond is going to be interesting in the racing world in all aspects.

Btw, I don't want Jeanne Zalasko back either.

Richard in N.C. said...

I have to read enough already, daily. I enjoy being able to sit back on Sunday andlisten to someone tell me about what has been going on - at least for part of the FOX or EESPN pre-race show.

Anonymous said...

Regard the costs of the Tim Brewer setup. assume the rig has to arrive at the track by end of day Wednesday.Driver and rig on road at least 2 days. Park and power on Thursday. 3 techs who arrived in town the night before. Light, check cameras and mic, shoot features on Friday. Saturday and Sunday. 10 to 12 hour days for Brewer and tech crew of 5 to 6 .
Plus flights, hotels, rental cars, meals on site, per diems. Probably north of $50k than 20k