Monday, January 5, 2009

Still Waiting On NASCAR TV Changes


The last we heard, both Fox and ESPN were huddling with the bean counters and looking at the NASCAR TV production budgets. TDP talked (click here) about the fact that some adjustments were going to be made before the 2009 season got underway.

This week starts the official countdown to Daytona 2009 and it should be very interesting to see if the Hollywood Hotel, the ESPN Infield Pit Studio and the ESPN Tech Center all roll into the speedway with the rest of the TV gear.

Since the article talking about the potential cutbacks, there has not been a peep from either ESPN or Fox in that regard. Both networks are neck-deep in other sports at the moment and there is apparently little time to talk about NASCAR issues.

All this speculation began when Fox dropped the on-location pre-game show for the network's Major League Baseball Game of the Week. This put former NASCAR reporter Jeanne Zelasko on the sidelines. She has recently begun (click here) a campaign to have herself named the play-by-play announcer on the LA Dodgers baseball broadcasts. Thanks to a TDP reader for the correction.

If Fox will drop the on-site pre-game for baseball, will there be a change in the status of the Hollywood Hotel for 2009? This custom-built mobile production studio is the second version of this concept and did not start-off to (click here) rave reviews.

While the old version had a real window as a backdrop, the new model essentially cuts-out the outside world and exists as a closed studio. Pictures of the racetrack behind Chris Myers are actually inserted electronically.

It may well be that Fox decides the Hollywood Hotel is worth the cost this season because the network is telecasting Sprint Cup Series races. That moves us over to ESPN, a network that does not touch a Cup race until the Brickyard 400 in late summer. ESPN handles the final seventeen Sprint Cup Series events.

At Daytona and then long into the season, ESPN will only be telecasting the Nationwide Series races. The last two seasons have seen ESPN bring the Infield Pit Studio and Tim Brewer's Tech Center to both the Nationwide and Sprint Cup Series weekends right from the start.

Perhaps, ESPN might be considering saving some dollars and reducing the level of TV production elements on the Nationwide Series races. They could always return the Tech Center and the Infield Studio in July when the Cup coverage begins.

As fans may remember, ESPN also has an infield studio crew that appears only on the Nationwide races all the way up to July. Allen Bestwick, Rusty Wallace, Brad Daugherty and sometimes Ray Evernham were on-hand to cover the Nationwide companion races on Cup weekends.

Originally, this approach of using ESPN's full Sprint Cup crew to handle the Nationwide Series races was considered good practice time. Now, after two seasons the practice is over. ESPN has indicated they want to come out of the box lean-and-mean with the economy drastically slowing down the TV advertising dollars in NASCAR telecasts.

We should be learning shortly what NASCAR TV elements will continue to travel for Fox and ESPN as they begin the year in Daytona. Whether those decisions affect the on-air announcers will only be known when those two networks issue their first NASCAR press release of the season. TDP will keep you updated.

The Daly Planet welcomes comments from readers. Just click on the COMMENTS button below and follow the easy instructions. The rules for posting are located on the right side of the main page. Thanks for taking the time to stop by.

27 comments:

Nathan Brice said...

We need changes to TV in NASCAR. We can keep the Hollywood Hotel but we need some talent to change. Chris Myers needs to go. Put Krista Voda or Steve Byrnes as the host of the Hollywood Hotel. Bring back Randy Pemperton as a pit reporter. Put Krista Voda or Steve Byrnes up in the booth. Mike Joy has to go. As far as TNT goes, I don't know that any changes need to be made. Mark Fein is great as a host. Bill Weber is capable as a play-by-play guy. Wally has grown on me as an analyst. Kyle Petty is a great find for TNT. It has been good to have Ralph Sheehen back as a pit reporter. Lindsay Czarniak has been a great edition. Marty Snyder is great interacting with Weber. As far as ESPN goes, this is where the big changes need to be made. Get rid of Ryan Burr as host of NASCAR Now. Make Nicole Manske a more permanent host. Bring back Chris Fowler as host of NASCAR Now because he seems to know the most about NASCAR from someone not in a motorsports background. Get Marty Smith on that show as much as possible. Keep Angelique Chengelis as well. Give Andy Petree more airtime on that show. Get rid of Terry Blount, David Newton, and Tim Cowlishaw. Also give Boris Said more airtime when it is necessary. Keep the mobile pit studio for Cup Series races only. Keep Allen Bestwick as the host and put Rusty Wallace and Ray Evernham in there as analysts. Get rid of Brad Daugherty. Let him spend time owning his new Cup Series team. Keep Shannon Spake, Dave Burns, and Jamie Little as pit reporters. Mike Massaro has to go. As far as the booth, Jerry Punch can stay, for now. Andy Petree and Dale Jarrett have been great on-air additions. Dale can be a bit idealistic, but he never bashes the guys behind the wheel. Those are the changes that need to be made.

Geeze said...

Actually, she would replace Charlie Steiner, who does the road games for the Dodgers. Vinnie is still doing the home games. Small point, I know. But I have been listening to Vin Scully call the dodgers games for about 50 year's.

Anonymous said...

TDP says:

If Fox will drop the on-site pre-game for baseball, will there be a change in the status of the Hollywood Hotel for 2009? This custom-built mobile production studio is the second version of this concept and did not start-off to (click here) rave reviews.
-----------------------------

The fact that Fox dropped the on-site pre-game for baseball (I thought it was awful), would not effect the result of the pre-race show for NASCAR. Fox's pre-game show NFL Sunday is done out of Los Angeles. For the 15th season, it was again rated as the number #1 NFL pre-game show.

Fans who watch the show don't care where the team is sitting. Fans tune in to watch a group who they heve a connection to. It would be the same with Fox team and the Hollywood Hotel. They are the highest rated of the pre-race shows. Fans on tv won't care where they are.

ps. JD, I find it interesting that you quote yourself when you want to make a point. I think you might have given us another article that said they got bad reviews.

Daly Planet Editor said...

Anon 10:27AM,

Thanks for the comment but I don't get it.

Fox and ESPN both publicly commented their goal is to cut substantial costs from this season's NASCAR telecasts.

The on-location MLB show is expensive to travel, as opposed to the studio-based NFL pre-game.

This column is about costs, not reviews or various sports. The question on the table is what will Fox and ESPN, the first two major TV players NASCAR fans will see, cut from the shows?

With the "core" TV compound controlled by The NASCAR Media Group, one way to save is for ESPN to lower the production level on the second-tier Nationwide telecasts.

In terms of Fox, they roll out the Hollywood Hotel and the big Fox pit box that is used for practice and qualifying. Those are two substantial costs, exactly the kind the network said it was working on eliminating.

This was days before the MLB pre-game was shelved.

Again, thanks for the comment.

JD

Aven said...

Sometimes, less is more. Some of us old folks want the facts and race coverage without all the bells,whistles and gadgets they use in an attempt to attract the new fans. I think a short but informative pre-race show without the "Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous" drivers would be better than the hours of of pre-race rubbish we have been getting. I won't waste two hours of time waiting for the ten or fifteen minutes of useful information. I simply skip the whole thing.

Dropping some of the gadgets during the race would leave more resources to add another camera or two or upgrade the director for a better production. I also thing two in the booth is better along with pit reporters. When there are more, they compete for air time and it distracts from the race.

Adam T. Martin said...

The Hollywood Hotel needs to go.

It is overpriced and useless. Same goes for the ESPN and TNT pit studios.

Auto racing doesn't need a "pre-game" show.

I just want to watch broadcasting like it was back in the 1990s. Less costs, less gimmicks, and more racing footage. It is that simple.

alex said...

"Mike Joy has to go."
- Nathan Brice (1:00 am)


Huh? Please elaborate.

Anonymous said...

If cutting back on big ticket items such as Hollywood Hotels, Tech Centers, long pre-race shows allows for enough of a cost savings to keep more people gainfully employed, I am all for it. I can go without these things in order for some hard working individuals to keep on being able to put food on the table.

Anonymous said...

from anon@10:27

TDP said:

Thanks for the comment but I don't get it.
--------------------------------

Since you mentioned the MLB pre-game show on Fox, I pointed out that the ratings were bad, and thus the reason for dumping it.

Since you mentioned that the Hollywood Hotel, (in your opinion was not great), I pointed out that it does not matter where the Hotel is, folks like it and the ratings susbtatiated it. Since you wrote what an awful begining the Hotel has (your opinion), I thought it was worthy to mention how popular it is, based on tv ratings.

You ask what will fans see, from cuts. Well, I say that even if the Hotel does not travel to the different locations, the fans may not care, and I give the NFL studio as an example.

Thanks for the chance to respond.

Delenn said...

I think they should use the ESPN pit studio (which has no ESPN branding inside), and use it as the Hollywood Hotel, or TNT's pre-race center too. A graphics change on the front of the desk will do.

I don't want to re-hash this as a who's who though, plenty of threads before now discuss that. I do disagree strongly though with a lot of what Nathan Bruce said though. Bestwick has to be in the ESPN booth, Joy in the Fox one. I would like Krista in the Fox pre-race too, although that means they would need to replace her in the pit lane - how about sharing Lindsay Czarniak with TNT?

Chris Fowler should not be let near a Nascar telecast, period.

Other cost cutting could include loosing some of the talking heads - Brad, Rusty, Brad. Use Rusty to spell DJ when he wants time off, same with Brewer for Petree. Maybe Fox and ESPN could share pit reporters where feasible too. Maybe a normal ESPN pre-race of Doc and Brewer, and Brewer could nip downstairs to a cutaway car, like Hammond does. (AB is in the booth of course).

Also saving cost would be to get rid of all the producers/directors who don't know what they are doing (cough - ESPN) and share the good ones (like the TNT or Trucks ones).

Finally, make Hammond pay for his own tanning sessions and products!

majorshouse said...

I don't get why Mike Joy has to go. He is one of the best announcers in sports let along NASCAR. I would love to see Krista Voda in the Holloywood Hotel if they are still going to use it along with Jeff Hammond. She has shown time and time again on the pre-race set up with the truck series and even during the sidelines for the Cotton Bowl how good she really is

Anthony said...

As I wrote in a response to an earlier story about the Hotel, I don't see why Myers and Hammond (and the TNT and ESPN people) can't just stand along pit road or sit at a little desk. That really would save the networks some money.

Honestly, SPEED's prerace coverage is enough, so maybe that could just be on until it's time for the race. If you watch NFL Countdown on ESPN and then tune to FOX or CBS for the actual football game, why couldn't we do that for the races?

FOX (at least) could use the SPEED stage for their coverage.

And, for Nathan Brice...while I respect your opinion (and those of everyone who writes comments on TDP), I wonder why you think that "Mike Joy has to go" while "Jerry Punch can stay, for now." A lot of your other comments I do agree with, but if you would offer more insight into those feelings, I, for one, would appreciate it.

Anonymous said...

Jarrett and Petree are a great combination. Evernham, now out of work apparently, needs more air time because he's still one of the 2 or 3 best crew chiefs around, and his insights are right on. Jerry Punch annoys me because he makes so many errors. I like Darrell Waltrip, now that he's calming down and doesn't talk excessively about his brother's team. Others have commented they don't like Mike Joy, but I do. The pre-race shows bore me, especially anything with Spencer or Kenny Wallace. We all seem to have our preferences, don't we.

Richard in N.C. said...

JD- Do you know whether or not there is anything proprietary about either FOX's H-Hotel or EESPN's Pit Studio - such that one network would not want the other to see what is inside? If not, it would seem to me to make sense for FOX & EESPN to share & leave one in Texas for use west of the Misssisssippi and use the other mobile studio in the east.

Finances can make strange bedfellows, but do you really think EESPN can play nice with others?

Would one of the real "needs" for a mobile studio be for rain delays? However, might FOX, EESPN, and SPEED actually use/share the SPEED stage in some places in place of the H-Hotel or Spit Studio?

Daly Planet Editor said...

Richard,

The agendas of the two networks are so different that the only way facilities can be shared is with a third party like The NASCAR Media Group stepping in.

Each of the two units in question, the Hollywood Hotel and the ESPN Infield Pit Center were built specifically by each network for their own use.

Like I tried to say in the column, this is going to be one interesting countdown to Daytona.

JD

Anonymous said...

Anthony,
Not everyone wants to watch NFL Countdown instead of Fox's NFL pre-game show. I watch both. I watch the frist hour of ESPN and then switch to Fox for their show.

Like many NASCAR fans, I do not have SPEED, so if that was the only show, I would feel cheated. If a network makes a boatload of money on a program, they are not about to just give it to another network.

Like most things in life, if you make one change, it impacts other things. NASCAR TV contracts are set til 2014. NASCAR, the car owners, track owners, drivers, etc. would not like everything to go to SPEED. Not enough money or exposure.

Nathan Brice said...

Mike Joy still think that the one car teams can compete on a regular basis. Jerry Punch understands this and does not really discuss them at all. Mike Joy wants to live in the 1960s. Jerry Punch wants to make NASCAR modern. Mike Joy hardly knows anything about other sports. Jerry Punch knows almost every sport. I hope that ESPN gains control of the entire Cup Schedule in the next round of TV contracts. As for the Nationwide and Truck Series, I would not mind them having all their races on ESPN2. Every Cup Series race should be on ESPN, not ABC. That way ESPN could lead into a post-race show every week. That is what should happen. GET RID OF FOX!!!!!!!!!!! I hope that I cleared some things up for everyone.

diane said...

No Hollywood Hotel, no infield pit studio or commentators. Just pit reporters and people calling the race. And no Evernham. Anthing that keeps him off my TV is a good thing.

Bill H said...

Since NASCAR is over I, like many of you, turn my attention to football. Last weekend I was watching the NFL network before the game on Sunday. For 3 or so hours they talked about nothing but the teams and the players. No Hype, no gimicks (other than the cool slow motion glowing football), no music videos, just straight football. It had to be pretty cheap, it was only one studio and 2 or 3 people on screen.

If Fox, ESPN, SPEED, TNT want to look at saving money and broadcasting a great prerace show, they should look at these low budget shows that just focus on the players (notice the plural). Talk about the drivers, the teams, the owners. No movie stars, no american idols, no wallys world.

Bill H

Anonymous said...

I hope that I cleared some things up for everyone.

Oh, yeah. Now we know where you're coming from.

Of course, I think about 97.6% of race fans will disagree with you, but you're entitled to your opinion.

Geeze said...

No infield studio's,no tech center's,lighten up on the graphics, switch Punch and Bestwick and just show us the race.

Anonymous said...

Alex,
"alex said...
"Mike Joy has to go."
- Nathan Brice (1:00 am)

Huh? Please elaborate.

January 5, 2009 12:24 PM"

I agree with you. IF I had a say, Mike would be my first choice, and then let him pick whoever he wanted to work with, without any fear of repercussions, anonymously. :)
Marybeth

HossEllington said...

With a new Nascar youth movement taking over the leadership of our sport: Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin, Joey Logano, AJ, Scotty Speed, Vickers, Davey Ragan, we need a younger group of announcers at Fox. Waltrip, Hammond, Mcreynolds may have understood the old car and drivers like Elliott, Earhnardt and Labonte but they don't understand the new generation and have zero experience with our new car.

Anthony said...

Anon 2:51 PM,

Good point about not having SPEED. I forgot that some people still don't have that network.

I do wonder, though, what percent of the 5 million people that watch NASCAR on FOX, TNT, or ABC/ESPN on a weekly basis actually have the SPEED network. Exposure on that channel might not be as bad as we think. I'm not saying that everything should be on SPEED; that's pretty clear based on SPEED's reality/lifestyle programming. But if most of the weekend coverage is going to be on SPEED, why not present a nice, 2 hour prerace show that's a little calmer and more formal than RaceDay is and add a nice 1 to 2 hour postrace show that reviews the race and interviews every driver possible?

SPEED has coverage from the track every weekend, including 23 or 24 full Sprint Cup weekends (even TNT and ESPN races), so that's why I don't see an issue with having an "official" prerace on SPEED, too.

Now if we had a NASCAR Network, things might be a bit different.

I agree though with the fact that a move like this would not happen until the new TV contract was designed.

Anonymous said...

Ad rates charged by networks is based on viewership. It's totals and has sub-totals such as the different demographics. Last year:

SPEED - about 1 million viewers
Fox - 9.325 million
TNT - 5.722
ESPN - 5.452
ABC - 5.98

If NASCAR changed to SPEED, they would take a blood-bath in revenue losses. Since the owners get 25% of tv revenues, the little guys would close up shop immediately. The biigger owners, like HMS for example, have other revenue streams. HMS has an engine shop and builds about 700 engines a year. And that's only a small part of their business.

And if some people have to cut back on cable, the shows on network tv become even more valuable.

Anonymous said...

OK then, put SPEED's pre-race show on FOX, and if they'd like simulcast on both SPEED and FOX. Everything is already in place...just add Hammond and DW and Larry Mac, which they already do on certain big weekends anyway. I remember watching Homestead weekend with JR, Jimmy, Kenny, Byrnes, Hammond, & Larry Mac, just add DW.

Anthony said...

I just read on Jayski that Punch will continue to be Lap-by-Lap announcer next year. Vince Welch will take Mike Massaro's spot on pit lane, and Marty Reid will do Lap-by-Lap of the second-half N'wide races.

When's ESPN going to figure out that Punch can't be the announcer?