Sunday, January 11, 2009

"SPEED Report" Shows-Off New TV Studios

Bob Varsha and Leigh Diffey welcomed racing fans to the first edition of The SPEED Report for 2009 on Sunday night. Both men were live from the new SPEED studios after a major move by the network over the past several weeks.

This studio marks the first time that the network has actually had its own facility. Originally working in the Stamford, CT studios of Group W in the SpeedVision days, the network moved to Charlotte, NC and took over the Inspirational Network studios on Southern Pine Boulevard.

Now, the entire company has relocated to the Harris Blvd. area of north Charlotte and is still settling into the new facility. From the freshly painted floor to the immaculate lighting, the new SPEED studios are beautiful on TV.

The thrust of this move was to create an all-HD facility that would allow SPEED to finish the transition to having all programming available in HD. This has been a very tough task during the off-season, but now that the racing is about to begin the network will finally have a strong HD foundation of new programming.

Fox's Jeff Hammond was the NASCAR expert who appeared in studio to talk about the sport. He recapped the Petty Enterprises and GEM merger with the suggestion that Richard Petty will somehow be involved in the day-to-day operations of the new company.

Good soundbites from Greg Zipadelli, Kyle Petty and others served to get the SPEED gang back in the flow of the new season. Hammond spoke to the reality of the Sprint Cup Series rookies who must confront speedweek in Daytona with no January testing.

The show offered a good preview of the Rolex 24 that included the names of the various NASCAR drivers who will be participating. While some NASCAR stars will be in Daytona, others will be in Oklahoma racing on a very small track in a very big barn.

The 2009 Chili Bowl will be carried by SPEED on a tape-delayed basis. TDP will keep you posted when the scheduling information is released. So far, nothing on the TV listings.

An update on the Sound and Speed Festival (click here) that was recently held in Nashville, TN for charity was a nice touch. It was good to see and hear from a wide variety of NASCAR's top stars, even if "old DW" did try-out a pre-season "Boogity, Boogity, Boogity."

Hammond's second segment in the studio showed just how professional he has become on TV and why he continues to be a key player on the Fox and SPEED team. While addressing the 2009 season was a tough chore, Hammond handled a wide variety of topics with his normally good sense of humor.

TDP has it on good authority that Hammond's choice of sport coat is in the process of being banned for life by network executives. HDTV sets across America will be very thankful.

Veteran SPEED viewers do not have to think very hard to remember old days of "Ken and Barbie" that made The SPEED Report almost unwatchable. In 2008, SPEED committed to change and the results have been very worthwhile.

After a solid first year, the switch to the new HD studios and the continued use of SPEED announcers as co-hosts should bring another interesting season of this TV series. This first episode was a very good start.

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Newracefan said...

JD did you catch Hammond's shoe change? He had white sneakers on for the first set (I'm guessing they didn't think the camera show would show his feet) they were dark for the second set. Nice show too bad I can't appreciate the HD set since I'm still without Speed HD here. Also did the Speed logo get even bigger and I don't remember it moving, not sure I like it.

Daly Planet Editor said...

I missed the shoe switch, but wardrobe was an issue as we mentioned.

Everytime a new studio gets rolled-out, there are always too many logos on it.

Things will calm down once some new content comes along that can generate some "stills" for the many video windows on the set.

Should be interesting to see how the TWIN set looks when that show rolls-out as well as Wind Tunnel.


Newracefan said...

TWIN in true HD now that will be something to see

snowfaller said...

Funny - I thought Hammond looked especially sharp. I loved his jacket!

It was so nice to have some sort of racing show on! It's a shame SPEED doesn't keep The Speed Report on during the "offseason".

Here's to hoping NASCAR Preseason Thunder has something to offer with no January testing...

Anonymous said...

JD, is it me or is this studio EXACTLY the same as the old SPEED report studio from last season?? It looks exactly the same except for HD capabilities. I don't understand. Why would you make the new studio look exactly the same as the old one? Something isn't right here.

Daly Planet Editor said...

Anon 2:15AM,

The set is basically the same. I think they like the depth for HD and the colors.

I am not a big fan of talent standing up because of differences in height (Varsha and Diffey), but that is all the rage these days.


Anonymous said...

JD, how can you call the old SPEED Report "Ken & Barbie" when all you do is praise "Barbie" now that she is on ESPN?

Must have been "Ken" that bothered you...

Daly Planet Editor said...

Anon 10:36AM,

In the old SPEED Report days, the network used a "formula" during the show of two hip and cool anchors in a casual setting who each played an assigned role.

Manske was the blonde bimbo and she knew it. She dressed a certain way, spoke a certain way and held herself a certain way.

Once she was freed from those restrictions, almost everything about her changed. Conservative clothes, real hair color and a brand new freedom to be herself on the air has resulted in a remarkable turnaround.

I have nothing but praise for the things she has done since her arrival at ESPN and hope that with the addition of Mike Massaro as her co-anchor that NASCAR Now continues to develop.

Thanks for the comment,


Anonymous said...

I think Nicole does a fantastic job, I'm not disputing that.

I would think the clothing change was a management decision @ ESPN and not so much hers. She was also a brunette before she left SPEED.

SPEED Report is still the same show, all that's changed is SPEED management and "Talent".

Daly Planet Editor said...

Anon 4:45PM,

The person who ran the entire division of SPEED and who fired folks like Bob Jenkins and Connie LeGrand to bring in a Barbie and Ken show is long gone.

The new SPEED Report was completely revamped for 2008 with a new group and the network decided to rotate the SPEED announcers through the studio hosting duties.

ESPN has a dress code for on-air announcers that fit perfectly for the transition Manske needed and she made it work last season.

In comments about her leaving SPEED, she talked about getting rid of the blonde and the Barbie act and finally getting a chance as herself.

It seems to be working.