Sunday, June 7, 2009
TNT Set To Change NASCAR TV Forever
They may have only six races, but last season the NASCAR on TNT crew put on a show that captured both the attention and imagination of fans across the country. This summer, the network is bringing the type of technical innovation that will change how fans want to view races forever.
It was a simple online application called RaceBuddy that TNT offered last year as a companion for the TV coverage of the race. Computer users could access several cameras directly as well as driver audio feeds. The cameras included in-car views, a dedicated pit road camera and a camera up on the grandstand roof that continually followed the best racing on the track, wherever it was happening.
By simply adding that online offering to viewing the TNT coverage of the race, it was easy to get deeply involved in directing and producing a personal version of the live races. TNT supplied the raw materials and told the fans to simply have fun.
This summer, beginning on June 7 in Pocono, TNT returns with all the usual suspects from last season. Marc Fein and Larry McReynolds will share the infield stage while Bill Weber, Kyle Petty and Wally Dallenbach will call the six races. Down on pit road will be Matt Yocum, Marty Snider, Ralph Sheheen and Lindsay Czarniak.
TDP fans will also appreciate the return of Director Mike Wells who frames NASCAR races from a true fan's perspective. Last season Wells and his crew showed viewers the power of effective camera work and a thorough understanding of the sport. Click here to read the TDP summary of TNT's 2008 effort. Some of the reader comments really tell the tale.
This year, TNT may have really pushed the NASCAR TV envelope to a new level. The network has decided to pour a ton of resources into an expanded RaceBuddy that will change the viewing experience of NASCAR racing once again.
Back by popular demand will be the battle-cam. This is the "high" camera that just scans the track for the best racing regardless of position. Also back will be the various "speed shots" offered via track-cam. These are the fixed cameras around the track that feature the field roaring by with full audio as well.
Once again this year, fans will be able to vote online and help select the driver's in-car cameras that will be used in RaceBuddy. The cameras will also change throughout the race as the stories unfold on or off the track. The final returning element is the mosaic wall, where fans can watch four cameras at once on a single page.
Now, for the new stuff. TNT is not only keeping the pit road camera, but this season there will be a pit reporter assigned to RaceBuddy to offer commentary only for the online fans. This feature will be called Pit Road Plus and is simply a great idea. How about a TV network stepping-up and offering a different stream of audio commentary while the main race is in-progress?
Adding to the online information will be live texts from the pit reporters when they are not on the air directly to RaceBuddy users. This feature will be called PitBuddy and should finally give lots of fans the information sorely lacking on current broadcasts. No more being in the dark about why your driver went from tenth to twenty-fifth on one pitstop.
As we all know, the world of social media is spinning around us and seems to often be split into many pieces made of different Internet sites. TNT is taking a big swing at harnessing all of this into one place during their six races.
Gathering Twitter, Facebook and MySpace technology together on the RaceBuddy program will allow users to text and message during the race across all these different applications at the same time. Basically, allowing fans to keep the RaceBuddy program open and still be able to connect with friends.
This is a major undertaking by TNT and one that should really put ESPN in a tough spot when they begin Sprint Cup Series coverage in July. After these six TNT races fans will return to no online video application of any kind. Once again, all of us will be watching one box as the only source of racing video.
RaceBuddy shook-up the NASCAR TV scene last season, but absolutely nothing came of it in terms of expansion to other network broadcasts. Perhaps, this huge and aggressive move by TNT and the Turner Interactive Group this summer will motivate the different parties to get together and set-up a full time online companion for all Sprint Cup Series races in 2010.
For now, NASCAR fans can only look forward to Pocono and wait to see what this latest technical innovation will really bring to the sport.
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