Wednesday, April 22, 2009
Lots Of Commercial Junk In The NASCAR On Fox Trunk
It was apparent from the start of the NASCAR on Fox Phoenix broadcast that something was different. The shorter 312 lap race distance was going to result in some changes for the TV viewers.
Those changes wound-up causing this race to be overwhelmed by sponsored elements and extended commercial breaks. On this night, there was lots of sales junk in the NASCAR on Fox trunk.
Chris Myers led Darrell Waltrip and Jeff Hammond through a 45 minute pre-race show that involved a lot of sponsorship involvement and very little NASCAR information. The stark contrast between the RaceDay show on SPEED and the Hollywood Hotel program was amazing.
Fox had a mission in this telecast and it involved getting as much commercial material and sponsor features in the race as possible. 312 laps apparently was not going to allow coverage of the actual racing, but it would allow the network to show Digger cartoons, three minute commercial breaks, endless sponsor billboards and in-program features that the announcers would read.
When it was time for Mike Joy and company to take a break from the Ask.com questions and the Cheese-It whatever, it was Myers and Hammond's turn to offer more sponsor mentions during a Hollywood Hotel race break. The assault on the senses by this paid material was nothing short of brutal.
Some of the top NASCAR TV announcers work for Fox. On this Saturday night, they were barely able to get complete thoughts out of their mouths before the coverage went to commercial or Joy was forced to interrupt with a paid element.
Adding insult to injury, the Fox team added recorded "bumpers" leading into the commercials that extended the time away from the track. Kurt Busch trying to look tough is perhaps not the best use of twenty seconds while the track is under the green flag. Is there a single fan who does not know Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s face?
The meltdown of the Fox production team was evident on the continued attempts to force the infamous four video box coverage of caution flag pitstops into the tight and fast Phoenix pit road. By the third caution, the video boxes had the wrong cars, none of the timing clocks worked and the 50 plus cameras could not even find the race off pit road. The embarrassed announcers quickly went to yet another commercial.
Returning to the track after that extended break officially put the race into the chaos zone. The green flag came out as the network returned and fans watching on TV had absolutely no idea what had happened or who was where. It was eventually explained that Jimmie Johnson's team had trouble on pit road through a replay.
State Farm Safety reports took the place of race recaps from the pit reporters. Fox baseball promos and Digger popping-up took the place of finding and showing actual racing on the track. The best the TV production team could muster was following the leader and trying to offer some forced jokes between commercials.
By the time Dale Earnhardt Jr. led the field to the green flag at lap 172, it was all but hopeless for Fox. The veteran announcers like Joy and Waltrip just scrambled to try and explain who was where and how they got there to the TV viewers. To see these veterans put in this position was tough to watch.
As in the earlier races on Fox this season, there was no type of rundown given of cars not in the top ten. Nothing like the radio-style rundowns was ever offered and the ticker at the top of the Fox screen offered its normal amount of background information. None.
Ultimately, the race played-out with a popular winner. Who was behind him and how they got there was a mystery. The stories of this race were never told. The TV professionals were buried in commercials and "Monster Moments." But, there was also something else fans missed.
In both the pre-race and the race itself, Fox refused to promote the Nationwide Series race next week at Talladega. The Sprint Cup race was promoted, along with tickets for the race and the phone number to order them. The Nationwide race is on ABC and this seems to be an issue for the Fox executives.
The current feud between Fox and ESPN that has resulted in the lack of on-air race promotion for both the Nationwide and Sprint Cup Series races is disgusting. The decline in TV ratings across the board and the economic struggles of the sport apparently take second place to the Fox egos where actually promoting a race on another TV network is concerned.
No part of this coverage would keep a casual TV viewer interested who channel-surfed over to this event. NASCAR fans with better things to do also left. Many of them added a comment or emailed TDP to make their feelings known about the condition of this sport on TV after two bad race telecasts on the same weekend.
All we can do is ask for your opinion on this telecast and perhaps some suggestions.
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Thank you for hanging in there this weekend and stopping by The Daly Planet.