Monday, May 4, 2009

SPEED TV Rides To The Rescue In Richmond

Nothing beats live sports on TV for excitement. Sometimes, things get interesting long before the game, race or event begins. That was certainly the case with the NASCAR on Fox telecast from Richmond on Saturday night.

Cable TV network SPEED was on the air with RaceDay when viewers saw reporter Wendy Venturini suddenly standing under an umbrella. It was shortly after 5:30PM, a little more than two hours before the planned start of the race. The promised rain had begun.

Sports fans watching the regional baseball games on Fox began looking at their watches around 6PM. The NASCAR on Fox telecast was scheduled for 7PM and last year a clash between baseball and NASCAR got very ugly.

Sure enough, by the time 7PM rolled around the worst possible scenario was in place. All the Fox baseball games were still in progress, the rain had stopped and NASCAR was starting the race on time.

It was RaceDay host John Roberts who delivered the words that many NASCAR fans thought should have been said last season. Roberts told viewers at 7PM that the full NASCAR on Fox telecast would begin on the SPEED network.

Moments later, there they were. Chris Myers, Darrell Waltrip and Jeff Hammond were in the Hollywood Hotel and all of it was on SPEED. NASCAR fans had a viable alternative for viewing the coverage and baseball fans got to see their games end.

Credit goes to the Fox and SPEED executives who had discussed and planned for this scenario in advance. Even the Fox baseball producers in the field managed to get their announcers to mention that live NASCAR coverage was available on SPEED. That is like getting the Hatfields to promote the McCoy's new general store.

As the regional baseball games began to end, viewers could see something for the first time. A simulcast of a primetime NASCAR race on both Fox and SPEED. Unfortunately, the transition from baseball to NASCAR was rough for many local Fox TV stations. Some played over six minutes of commercials and promos while trying to sync-up with the Fox network for NASCAR.

Depending on the time zone, some TV viewers wound-up joining the telecast in the middle of the National Anthem while others caught the tail-end of the invocation. Since Fox did such a good job of making changes since last season, perhaps getting the stations quickly from baseball to NASCAR next time will be a more orderly transition.

Once everyone was on board, the Fox team thanked SPEED and the cable network returned to regularly scheduled programming. Motorcycle fans had their Supercross, NASCAR fans had their racing and all the Major League Baseball games had been aired to their conclusion.

This was a good example of planning ahead and then executing that plan as the situation unfolded. In the future, Fox will no doubt add graphic elements to the baseball games with the SPEED logo promoting the coverage. In addition, SPEED viewers tuning-in at 8PM found themselves staring at NASCAR instead of motorcycle racing with no graphic update.

All-in-all, this was the best use of the Fox-owned cable network possible. SPEED has helped out in the past with Monday races and even served as a platform to carry an ESPN-produced NASCAR race due to scheduling conflicts with the World Wide Leader.

Perhaps, using SPEED in other situations for additional NASCAR programming might be a result of this very successful Saturday night experiment.

TDP welcomes comments from readers. Just click on the comments button below to add your opinion on this topic. This is a family-friendly website, please keep that in mind when posting.

Thanks for taking time out of your day to stop by The Daly Planet.


Lou said...

Although I was not able to watch the race. I did follow on TDP in progress and on espn on my phone. Good to see that lessons were learned from last yr to this yr.

Although I did not watch the race for work reasons. Thank you speed and fox for the transition that JD brought up in his column.

And of course thank you to TDP posters and JD to make me feel like I am watching the race when there are times like last evening I could not.

Dot said...

That explains all those commls! Thanks JD.

I was more than confused last night about who was seeing what. I swear I did not see/hear anthem. Would have muted the TV as usual. I read here that people saw it. Crazy.

Then I was thinking about how those different baseball games were running late with a tie score like NYM/PHI. I'm grateful to the Planeteers for clearing that up. Different games, different innings. Duh.

The good part is that we got to see the entire race. (I wish it would've ended differently). I hope the TV partners just drop their egos and work together. Whether it be SPEED/FOX, BSPN whoever.

I do feel sorry for those w/o SPEED channel. It's hard to justify adding it to your cable pkg with the non racing shows on all the time.

HarpAmy/Amy in FL said...

I had gone to pick up dinner right at the start of the coverage and my dad called me and told me of the coverage so I just came home and turned to SPEED and then when I heard Chris say something like "We welcome those that have been watching the Rays game", I knew to turn it over to my local FOX station.


You really would have missed a wonderful anthem. It was the President's Own Marine Drum and Bugle Corps. The President's Own Marine Band and Drum and Bulge Corps and all the musicians in the President's military bands are really some of the best. They are on a par with those in the New York Philharmonic and the Chicago Symphony. I am a harpist, organist, and pianist and appreciate excellent musicianship.

Anyways, I too wish that all the networks could work together somewhat when it comes to live sporting events. I applaud SPEED and FOX for working together on this.

Firecracker427 said...

I was upset that the tribute to David Poole ran on Speed's coverage of the race, I think Fox should have reaird it. I know a lot of people wanted to see it and a lot of people don't have Speed.

stricklinfan82 said...

Fox's Handling of the Baseball Overrun:

I said this during the Fox Phoenix debacle and the ABC Phoenix debacle last year and will repeat it again - When there is a reasonable length overrun on a sporting event, coverage should stay with that first event through its conclusion. I said it then and I'll say it again now. Despite by personal bias as a NASCAR fan, Fox made the right decision sticking with baseball to its conclusion and joining the race in progress (as long as they gave the NASCAR fans an alternate channel for the start, which they did). As such I expect the same in return when 'the shoe is on the other foot'

Having said that, my request to the networks is to please warn us of the contingency plan in advance so we can plan accordingly when we're not home. I couldn't watch the race live. Mercifully I was lucky that my market got the CLE-DET game and I only missed a few minutes of the pre-race show. Had my city been a HOU-ATL market though I would have been extremely upset because I would have missed several laps for the sole reason that no one bothered to tell me in advance that the backup plan was to start the race on Speed in the event of a baseball overrun.

Race Coverage:

We still can't manage to get any positive changes from this Fox production crew, in my opinion. The only thing I saw change at all in the broadcast at Richmond was more sponsored segments being added to the mix while the race was going on (the new NAPA thing, the new State Farm thing, 'Marbles' junk, etc.).

Other than that though it was the same old, same old. There are 6 different production trucks that work major NASCAR / stock car racing telecasts in the U.S. - Fox Cup, TNT Cup, ESPN A-Team, ESPN B-Team, Speed Truck, and Speed ARCA. Fox continues to be the only one of those 6 that uses a 4-box with no overall perspective of pit road for their yellow flag pit stops. Fox continues to be the only one of those 6 that uses a limited view flagstand camera shot that makes the cars nothing but colored blurs to show the finish line. And Fox continues to be the only one of those 6 that obsesses over the winner doing absolutely nothing on the backstretch on his cool-down lap while cars are racing for positions to the finish line. At least this year we get blurs in a very small box split-screened with a giant box of the winner doing nothing on the backstretch, which I guess is an improvement but not much of one, in my opinion.

It's one thing for a random fan like me to find fault in a production truck's methods to covering a race. I like to think though that when there are 5 other collections of individuals that tackle the same job as this group, and all 5 of them independently and universally agree that Fox's unique alternative methods aren't a good way to do things, my criticisms have at least a decent amount of merit.

The worst part for me was right after the conclusion of the first round of green flag pit stops. With tons of unanswered questions looming - did the 83 lose a lap after missing pit road?, did the 16 get his lap back by short-pitting?, how about the 9?, etc. - the production truck shrunk the scoring crawl down to a 1-10 display only. Lap after lap we only knew who the top 10 cars were in the field, no one else mattered to Fox. Only after a caution, another round of pit stops, and several laps of racing after the restart did viewers ever get some semblance of an idea how the field got shaken up during those stops. Could that have just been a glitch? Sure it could have, but based on multiple past incidents of this 'uniquely thinking' production truck shrinking the crawl down for no apparent reason, I'm not sure I can give them the benefit of the doubt.

The J said...

good job by those guys to work everything out with the channels. i really think they did a tremendous job making sure everyone who wanted to see the race saw it, and whoever wanted to see baseball, saw that. i enjoyed the coverage of the race. this was the first race all year i sat down and watched without any outside things going on(this site, live leaderboard, etc.) and i liked it. it helped that it was a very exciting race, but i dont see all the problems that others have noted on this site.

allisong said...

I think FOX has reached the tipping point of complete saturation of paid sponsor items. The PxP guy at ESPN gets called out for not calling the action, but I didn't hear Mike Joy calling any action, just introducing segments and sponsored bits. Time for the NAPA segment? Show Michael and talk about him. Time for the Bud segment? Show and talk about Kasey. Show the 43 at every mention of Doesn't matter how any of these drivers relate to the story of how the race is playing out.

Now, if you'll indulge me for a minute, I want to reply to a question John Roberts posed in Race Day and respond to the lecture/scolding that DW gave those us of who don't care for Kyle Busch. Why do we boo Kyle? As for me, it is wholly due to his complete inability to handle anything less than a win with anything remotely resembling class. I know the media tries to sugarcoat it with euphemisms like "he has such passion" and "drive", but I come from the old school, I guess, in that I remember when good sportsmanship was held up as the standard that athletes should aspire to. You want passion? How about Carl Edwards giving everything he had trying to pass the 48 at Kansas last year, and hitting the wall in the process. Or Carl, last week after Talledega, acknowledging that his move caused that crash.

What Kyle Busch displays is the immature behavior of someone who was never taught how to accept adversity. And now that he has had another birthday, can we please put an end to the media excuse, "but he's just (fill in the blank with this year's age.).

I could go on, but I've ranted long enough....sorry, JD

Hotaru1787 said...

This was a suprisingly good call by the networks.

Vicky D said...

Strick, here in Houston, the Fox channel has the warning about the race starting on Speed so we didn't miss any actual racing. After the baseball game was over, however there was about 6 or 7 minutes of commercials way too many I thought. Anyway, we survived the channel switch except for dvr issues. I think the race was better than Phoenix broadcast but still needs improvement.

Anthony said...

The other thing that may have also been as a result of the Phoenix issue from 2008 was that FOX changed the start times. When NASCAR follows baseball, the baseball games are starting at 3:30 instead of 4PM/ET. This gives FOX 4 hours from game time to race time.

bencooper20082008 said...

Stricklinfan I agree with your points but you must know as well as I do that NASCAR, Fox and Espn/ABC are not going to listen to you, me or any other NASCAR fan because they could care less about them the only thing they care about is how to make themselves richer. You might as well talk to a wall because that is the only response you are going to get out of those people.

Dungem said...

I'm so glad I was at the race and not watching on TV. SO GLAD. It was a really good race, and there were a ton of stories with teams like Mayfield's, that I guess never made it into your homes. Watching Shrub pass J.Gordon for the lead was a work of art, and I'm NOT a Shrub fan.

The S&P teams are so sad. It's depressing. But Mayfield kept on working on the car, over and over and over, and running at the tail end like the little engine that could. At least he didn't give up, and I saw that as a victory. Front Row Motorsports didn't even have anyone in their pit. Not a tire. Not a crew member. I guess Joe Nemechek had to quit when he ran out of tires.

BTW, the Charlie Daniels anthem for the NW race was precorded. His voice started singing before he lifted the microphone, LOL.

Anonymous said...

Interesting, you praise Fox for dumping the pre-race an START of a Sprint Cup race to SPEED, though you harshly critcized ESPN for moving a Nationwide pre-race show to ESPN Classic. To this day, ESPN has never missed a green flag.

Smeels awfully like a double standard to me.

Daly Planet Editor said...

Anon 5:49PM,

We were the first to introduce the idea of moving the Nationwide Series pre-race shows from ESPN2 to ESPN Classic when we began TDP back in 2007.

At that time, we were laughed off the planet. Now, it is done easily and is usually the only option.

What you are referencing is the fact that ESPN Classic is available in a rapidly shrinking number of homes and will shortly not be a viable option in terms of size. ESPN has, in fact, tried to sell it or change it several times without success.

Thanks for the comment.


Sophia said...

To Follow stricks comments

Fox continues not to CARE WHAT THE FANS WANT.

NASCAR continues not to care WHAT THE FANS WANT.

The end.:(

reminder Bob Varsha and Robin Miller filling in for vacation DD :)

Daly Planet Editor said...

OK folks, I appreciate your comments but this column is about the SPEED and Fox TV transition from Saturday night.

We had over 700 race comments on Saturday during the four hours of the event.

If you are searching for good forums to speak to NASCAR issues outside of my topics, just email me and I can provide you a list.



glenc1 said...

my friend is a big David Poole fan, and is pretty upset to come home from her local track to find her DVR without the tribute. I don't know that there was a better solution, but it would be nice if Fox or Speed could put the pre-race up on their videos since so many fans missed it. Again, there's no perfect solution for those with DVRs, I think they just have to realize live TV is going to occasionally have these issues.

red said...

i, for one, greatly appreciated speed stepping into the fray on saturday. espn classic isn't an option for me and i would have missed the start of the race had speed not "done the right thing."
it has to be a tough situation for all involved. the classic business model has the two networks as competitors and yet they worked together this saturday to the benefit of the fans of both sports. unusual, to be certain, and appreciated.

as for the commercials: nascar sold its soul to the networks in the contract and there's not much that can be done to change it. i have never understood the resistance to split screen that is used by IRL on a regular basis: it feels more like a case of "because we just don't want to!" as opposed to a well-considered solution.

finally, i have come to believe that, when discussing the "poor racing," perhaps, just perhaps, the car isn't the biggest problem here. i mean, i listen to fans who go to the races and they generally think they've watched a terrific race. i go to a truck race and then read TDP comments and what i saw is reflected in what i read. the difference is that the truck race team broadcasts The Race whereas the cup and n'wide broadcasts . . . well, commercials. as you say, jd: no one's fault.

except nascar's. greed on the part of the principals of nascar has led to the current situation of race broadcasts of cup and n'wide being overwhelmed by sponsor requirements. once that contract was signed, the sponsors became the driving force in the broadcasts, not the racing itself.

add to that the weak and inconsistent work done by the networks and you have what we have been subjected to for the past few seasons.

right now, the only thing that keeps me watching the cup and n'wide races is the camaraderie of my e-friends, here on TDP and other sites. otherwise, i'd be content to just catch up on the results on monday or go to the track at dover when i can.

i believe that if the broadcasts across all the networks were able to meet a higher standard of professionalism and not be overwhelmed by the sponsor need, we'd see whether the car is actually as bad as some believe it to be. for me, the real issue lies with the lousy broadcasts. remember: n'wide doesn't run the cup car -- and the n'wide racing is thought to be dull as well. common link? hmmmmm.

Newracefan said...

I for one want to thank Fox and Speed for getting this part of the problem correct. While it would have been a hugh problem if I was DVRing the race or did not have Speed it was still better than having no option at all. I stuck with Speed until they welcomed those from the BB game in my area and then switched so I could see it in HD. Last year all I had was baseball so this was a much better decision, rocky transition and all.

Anonymous said...

"Allisong" said he could 'go on and on....' about the 'classy' moves of Carl Edwards compared to Kyle's boorish behavior. He forgot another of Carl's classy moves when he didn't know the cameras were rolling. The one after a race where he and his team mate Matt Kenseth tangled and we saw Carl ready to slug Matt. As for 'emotion', I've never been in a losers locker room where everyone acted like Gentlemen. I don't care which driver you like or dislike---just play it straight. I thought the TV coverage was fairly balanced Saturday night between the leaders and those back in the pack. I chuckled when Chris Myers said it was Kurt Busch's Birthday. Why Fox pays Myers a lot of money for his 'contributions' is beyond me. I wasn't surprised that there was barely no mention of Junior's horrible night. He usually runs well at Richmond. Even the satellite Hendrick team of Stewart/Newman consistently runs up front.No doubt in my mind that changes will be coming soon to the #88 team (probably at Charlotte). There actually was a lot of passing with only a minimum of lug nut problems.Unfortunately,they involved the star-crossed Denny Hamlin. Can't wait for the Southern 500!!

atldude said...

thanks mr. daly for the explanation the way things took place saturday night. i enjoy daryl, chris and jeff on the prerace show and where i live i heard the basbeball people give me the chance to switch so i could see the interview with carl edwards telling myers about his visit with nascar after the talladega we wait for darlington and baseball this saturday...

Daly Planet Editor said...


Thanks for the good words and you can call me JD.


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