Tuesday, June 16, 2009

TNT's Digger Slam Upsets Fox Sports Chief

Just when you thought it was over, Digger is in the national news again. Now that the endless animation, the pre-race cartoon and the endless shilling by Darrell Waltrip has faded from your psyche, Digger makes USA Today.

Michael Hiestand is the TV sports writer for the newspaper and he took the time to throw a little zinger in recently to stir things up. Here it is:

Race Buddy, the animated mascot of TNT's NASCAR coverage, last week appeared in an online video sealing a manhole cover on the trackside hole of Digger, the animated mascot of Fox's NASCAR coverage. On one level, that might just seem like some fluff to remind viewers NASCAR coverage has moved from Fox to TNT. But, as Fox Sports Chairman David Hill suggests, corporate calculations shouldn't ignore sensitivities: "Digger won't call or take my calls. He's upset that he's being attacked and mocked. He's terribly upset." Hill's staffers at Fox know not to disturb him when he's trying to contact Digger.

For those of you who have not seen it, click here for the SportsBusinessDaily story by Michael Smith that offers a link to the video. TNT was smart and only emailed this to fans, making it rather hard to find online.

The statement being made by Turner is very clear. The nonsense and hype of Fox is being replaced by the technology and race-focused coverage. Regardless of your opinion of TNT, they certainly took the time to make a statement on perhaps the most controversial part of the NASCAR on Fox coverage.

TDP welcomes your comments on this topic. To add your opinion, just click on the comments button below. This is a family-friendly website, please keep that in mind when posting. Thanks for taking the time to stop by The Daly Planet.


Nathan Brice said...

I would plead with everyone to boycott FOX's pre-race show next year if they keep Digger and Chris Myers. If they get rid of them, then everyone can watch it again. It is insane that FOX thought that would actually work.

SallyB said...

To Mr. Hill from race fans:


Nathan Brice said...

I know he said that. That is why FOX has the worst pre-race show.

Nathan Brice said...

I think that you should have said to race fans from David Hill.

Nathan Brice said...

I would plead with ESPN to try to make a bid for the entire NASCAR Sprint Cup package when bidding is opened again. They could also bid on part of it and maybe let TNT have some of it.

TexasRaceLady said...

I have to echo SallyB and tell Mr. Hill


Jack from PA said...

Perhaps Mr. Hill should be concentrating on making NASCAR on FOX's joke of a 2009 season better for 2010 instead of worrying about a cartoon character's feelings. That would make sense though, right?

Sophia said...

oh PUHLEASE. As Sally & TRL said, to you Mr. Hill?


Sweet answer isn't it?

Karma is a bear. Deal with it and your rotten coverage.

If some of us had our way, TNT would be on HALF THE SEASON if not more.

Anonymous said...

We did not like Digger & Mr. Hill told NASCAR fans


Well Mr. Hill - how do you like it? Who cares!


Note - Digger is imaginary, a mere cartoon, sir. Unlike NASCAR fans who have what you crave $$, and TVs with remotes which we use to flip off Digger.

Maybe you would fix the mess you call coverage,sir.

Haus14 said...

I think all of us planeteer are on the same page on this one. I read JD's column and clicked over and read the article as well. While clicking the link to see the posts I was going to let David know I had just one word for him. Evidently, so does many other on this page as well. So I will echo the sentiments of others and say, "Tough!" I would also like to say I think it is hilarious and even if it was meant to be a slam against digger I still think it is absolutely hilarious. These are cartoons for cryin' out loud! David, you really need to build a bridge and get over it. Your part of the season was abysmal. It was your fault. Stop blaming the fans, stop blaming the car, stop blaming the weather or the tracks or any other excuses you want to come up with. Get over yourself and give the race fans what they want. Racing!!! We don't want digger, we don't want a clown act for a pre-race show, we don't need all of the fluff. Take a cue from your sister network, you know the only one who has seen improved ratings for the racing series they cover, and give us racing.

The Loose Wheel said...

"We kid because we care"

Guess not when the shoe is on the other foot.

Karen said...

"Digger won't call or take my calls. He's upset that he's being attacked and mocked. He's terribly upset."

What world are you living in, Mr. Hill? Talking to Digger sounds like you're in the Twilight Zone. You know Digger is not real, don't you?

jdh417 said...

"I’m telling you, the varmint is on his way out. Expect TNT and ESPN to give Fox some ribbing over their mascot at some point during their coverage."

Yes! I totally called it!


Jimbacca said...

Digger is real.. You just have to believe... or be on alot of items to alter your state.

Funny that a short cartoon can upset someone. Let's ask all the real people Fox upset this year.... Oh wait we did and you told people where to go.

BTW checked out the stats on the one site that breaks down each race. Wow Just WOW how astronomical the FOX minutes of promo are compared to TNT. But it goes back to my saying. Fox has race breaks from commercials. TNT has commercial breaks from racing.

Suck it up look in the mirror to see what the real problem is. In case that is too vague. It's you.

TNT has made your coverage look like a 4th grade school report by a kid that wrote it 2 minutes before he had to turn it in.

stricklinfan82 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
stricklinfan82 said...

As I said on this blog the first time I saw that Racebuddy video, major kudos to the Turner group for taking off the gloves and putting Hill in his place.

We can now officially add the Turner NASCAR Online employees to the majority of race fans, the world of bloggers, print media, and electronic media, and at least one unnamed high ranking NASCAR official that have spoken loudly and clearly against Fox's cartoon nonsense.

Plain and simple, Hill screwed up.... yet again. He insulted the hockey world with the glowing puck. The hockey world spoke out, he listened, and threw it out. He insulted the baseball world with the cartoon baseball. The baseball world spoke out, he listened, and threw it out. He insulted the football world... oh wait, I'm sorry, he would never dare insult the football world by making Tony Romo and Adrian Peterson share the screen with a screaming cartoon robot diving out of the way "to avoid getting run over" during a live play... my fault.

Anyway, the point is that Hill has now insulted the NASCAR world. The NASCAR world has now spoken loudly and in no uncertain terms. It's now time to give the NASCAR fans the same "make good" he gave to the hockey and baseball fans.

Everyone makes mistakes, we're all human. If Hill will kindly admit his latest and put Digger & Friends through the same shredder he put the glow puck and Scooter through years ago we can all forgive and forget and move on.

bevo said...

Is Mr. David Hill actually Lennie in "Of Mice And Men" with his rabbits or is he Elwood Dowd in "Harvey"?

Scary to think that someone with that kind of mentality is in charge at Fox. I feel sorry for the people who work for him that will lose their jobs because he's more concerned with a cartoon than reversing their plummeting ratings.

Guess Mr. David Hill will just tell them "TOUGH"

Anonymous said...

I thought the clip of RB covering the man-hole was very funny. Having said that, I still like Fox better than TNT. Also, with all the hype of double-restarts, new network, no Digger, the tv ratings for TNT are still 13% lower than last year and lower than Fox's.

Bobby said...

The scary part of RaceBuddy covering the "manhole" is that it disrespects motorsport, as street courses have to weld manhole covers and trouble has developed, as crashes, cautions, and even ended a race.

The 2004 Deutsche Tourwagen Meisterschaft in Pudong (China) near Shanghai had manhole covers pop open, causing crashes; a water runoff drain opening led to a caution at two different races at the permanent road course in Shanghai (and Ambrose was involved in the V8 Supercar incident there). A 1990 Group C event in Montreal ended early when a major crash was caused by a manhole cover splitting a gas tank.

And too it disrespects the ground-level cameras that have been used in all motorsport for over 20 years -- the original "tread cam" at ORP, the design of Iowa Speedway (Sunday's IRL (ESPN Broadcast), plus August Nationwide (ESPN2) and September Camping World Truck (Speed) races) with such a camera embedded in the asphalt of the track, and something that could mean more importance than ever -- officials being able to use them to catch line fouls (something NASCAR uses at plate tracks and the IRL uses in oval qualifying).

ESPN scares me. Can you say pay-per-view? Remember, they've seized the five BCS games to premium cable and the economics of the BCS likely will result in a pay-per-view championship game.

ESPN can't take a shot at the Fox starter mascot who's everywhere on their Race Trax feature when you're covering races at Iowa, where Digger (without the WWE-ish gimmick mascot) was designed into the track.

TNT doesn't have any races at Iowa, so they don't have to worry about the gopher or similar cameras.

Andrew said...

I'm not sure what's worse - Digger itself or David Hill's wholly unprofessional approach to sports. There's nothing wrong with having fun; TNT has a lot of fun without being silly. But Hill doesn't quite seem to get where that line is drawn.

Anonymous said...

- Mr. Hill speaking on behalf of a cartoon rodent and is explaining his imaginary feelings to the media. (cartoon = not alive Mr. Hill)

- Mr. Hill's focus seems to be defending his fictional character rather than improving his channel's broadcasts and accepting the criticism of millions.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Hill, what comes around goes around. From us stewpid Nascar fans (or so you think we are) one word for you:


TNT Rodent Free

Anonymous said...

I definitely prefer the TNT coverage and Race Buddy is excellent. Weber never bothered me so much and Wally, Kyle, Larry and Matt are great. Can't stand Digger and change the channel everytime he comes on during the Fox portion of the season. Mike, Larry and the pit reporters are the Fox highlights for me.

At any rate, reading the David Hill comments, it seems to me he was saying them tongue in cheek and got a kick out of the manhole video. I think we would all be overly optimistic to think Digger is going away. It sounds like Mr. Hill made the comments in jest when prodded by the reporter writing the blurb. From his point of view, it's just more coverage for Digger....

Tracy D said...

Okay, I'm late to the party, but. . .
It seems to me that David Hill's response is tongue-in-cheek and meant to be funny. I was amused.

Digger doesn't amuse me one iota, however.

Mark said...

TNT's covering of Digger showed that NASCAR on FOX and David Hill are not "Tough" at all so "Tough"

alex said...

Oh, please. After pulling the stunt of forcing a gopher character into professional sporting events, FOX deserves all the ridicule we can give to them.

Aven said...

I'm still seeing adds on the Fox network station pushing Digger stuff. Enough already! Fox just cannot let well enough alone and let the critter die.

Zieke said...

Hey Mr. Hill,
Maybe TNT is onto something, like some actual good reporting instead of some stupid cartoon character on a race broadcast.
Tell me something TNT; You did'nt by chance have room in that sealed hole for Waltrip, did you?

KRBama said...

This is absolutely ridiculous. Now we are not only keeping Digger, but we are talking about it as if it has feeling and is a person. Great.

Dot said...

Digger won't call or take Hill's calls? Does Hill fall under NASCARs drug testing program? This guy needs help.

This reminds of when my daughter was small and wouldn't say what she was getting the cats for Christmas in front of them. Good grief.

He brought this on himself. That's what he gets for not listening to the fans.

Kudos to TNT. LMAO at the cartoon.

Karen said...

Strick said ...He insulted the hockey world with the glowing puck. The hockey world spoke out, he listened, and threw it out. He insulted the baseball world with the cartoon baseball. The baseball world spoke out, he listened, and threw it out.

Did Fox make money on the glowing puck or the cartoon baseball by having shirts, mugs, fuzzy little pucks, etc. or hadn't Hill thought of making those two things into something saleable? I wouldn't hold my breath he's going to apologize for Digger. If it makes money, it's staying.

Bret said...

May I remind you all of David Hill's comments from a May 30 column written by JD:

In USA Today, Fox Sports executive David Hill again rejected the notion that his animated creation called Digger is responsible in any way for alienating fans from the sport. As we all know, the Sprint Cup Series TV ratings have been down about 15%.

"It's the biggest crock of (stuff) I've ever heard," said Hill of the Digger issue. He went on to relate that over half a million dollars of Digger merchandise has been sold. Hill called Digger the Mickey Mouse of NASCAR.

Seems that all Mr. Hill cares about is the revenue Digger is generating for FOX. Anything else is dismissed with expletives.

I hate missing pre-race shows because of all the info and commentary provided, but FOX's was so bad with Digger and all, I stopped watching them. I waited until the race was on the pace laps to return to viewing FOX.

bowlalpo said...

To David Hill,

"Now you don't have to seal Digger up because RaceBuddy already did!"

Love, Bill & TNT

Anonymous said...

All of a sudden, I LOVE TNT!

Mallards Motorsports said...

Obviously Hill's comments were tongue-in-cheek but this just shows he doesn't get it. I follow quite a few NASCAR-related websites and the vast majority have nothing but ill will for FOX. They don't seem to understand the show is about a NASCAR race and not about themselves. Digger just brought them to a new low of absurdity. Here not my advice on how to watch during the FOX portion of the NASCAR season:
Step 1: Watch the prerace show on Speed Channel (and yes I know Speed is owned by Fox but you'd never know it by watching it)
Step 2: Skip the Fox pre-race altogether.
Step 3: Record the race on your DVR - skip all commercials, FOX promos, Digger inserts and any time Chris Myers or Larry Mac are talking; turn the volume down a bit when DW is talking; and hit repeat each time Krista Voda is on camera...

Newracefan said...

Tongue in cheek maybe, if so I'm glad but leave the lid on for next year will ya. If he's seriously upset, one word TOUGH

Unknown said...

Last saturday I saw a woman at the walmart here in upstate NY wearing a digger t shirt, I think I found the only digger fan!

Anonymous said...

The real message is that NASCAR seems to sanction the Digger slam. They prominently featured the animation of the RacceBuddy sealing the gopher hole on NASCAR.com when the coverage switched to TNT. I don't recall Digger EVER being on the official NASCAR homepage.

I can't believe that NASCAR likes Digger any more than we do.

The Loose Wheel said...

NASCAR.com is run by turner though so that would explain why the site doesn't have digger and why it would promote the racebuddy slam on digger.

Honestly, the sooner Digger fades from our minds the better.

I've loved FOX's coverage for a very long time but its too much about the "show" now and not about the racing and that really hurts.

They show their potential every single weekend with SPEED's amazing ability to cover the sport with some serious tone yet FOX hits the airwaves and its like everyone on the staff has a mass IQ drop.

Less time trying to sell product, more time talking about serious issues that affect the sport next year Mr. Hill. Please.

James Crooks said...

The first time I saw Digger, I thought the cartoon was cute... for about 5 seconds. Then I hoped that Fox would just make Digger a one time deal. Apparently a lot of other people felt the same way.

I like certain aspects of Fox's race coverage, but by this point in the season, TNT is a refreshing change for me personally. I like Kyle Petty a lot, and have slowly become a fan of Wally over the years as well.

I used to not enjoy the TNT broadcasts much, but beginning last year, I have become a fan of their coverage. For some reason, Bill Weber gets on my nerves rather quickly though! :-)

Richard in N.C. said...

I do think FOX went overboard with Digger, etc., but I saw somewhere that they sold 500,000 units this year and I'm told the Digger sites draw big response at the tracks. I haven't had a chance to ask my 7 year old grandson, who lives out of state, but I do think Digger might get his attention, and you can't hook new fans too early.

But then I'm not a big hockey fan and I loved the glowing puck - made it easier for me to follow the game - as I remind my hockey fanatic son-in-law on occasion, usually followed by smoke coming out of his ears.

Anonymous said...

>but I saw somewhere that they sold
>500,000 units this year

Actually, that was Dave Hill in a USA Today article, and he was bragging that they sold $500,000 worth of merchandise, not 500,000 units.

But when you consider than most of the gear runs $25-40, 500,000 means that maybe 15,000 fans have bought Digger items. That is about 1,000 people per race, when the race usually draws anywhere from 90,000-220,000 during the FOX portion of the season. So out of about 1.5-2 million live attendance fans during the FOX portion of the season, only 15,000 fans bought a Digger item. That represents 0.75% of race fans attending bought gear.

Now when you factor in that probably half the gear sold thru DW's website or thru TV sales, it is possible to assume that after buying a gear trailer, spending all the money on inventory, pushing the promotion down our throats, etc, that FOX only actually had 7,500 paying customers in 12 live races. Seriously, even Marcos Ambrose sells more souvenir stuff than this!!!!

Anonymous said...

At the Vegas race this year Fox probably had five or six little booths throughout the midway and behind the stands and every time I passed them there seemed to be ten or fifteen people in line on a consistent basis.

Anonymous said...

Dave wrote
"Last saturday I saw a woman at the walmart here in upstate NY wearing a digger t shirt, I think I found the only digger fan!"

WOW! David Hill's wife shops at Walmart??!!

Anonymous said...

Fellow Orbiters

I agree with those who sense that Hill's comments were toungue-in-cheek.
That said, the whole "diggerr" thing and its incessant inclusion despite protests from fans is a clear indictment of what happens when television execs and announcers (Hill and D Waltrip) are permitted to financially participate in the back end sales of something like Digger.
At any other broadcast entity, this behavior would be considered a violation of ethics. Not so at Rupert's house, it seems.

BillPear said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
BillPear said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
GinaV24 said...

I think David Hill needs a nice long rest -- it's a cartoon, man, a cartoon -- they don't HAVE feelings. LOL -- I thought TNT's manhole cover was awesome -- obviously they got the msg that NASCAR fans didn't like the gopher.

I think boycotting Fox's pre-race show next year is a great idea. Wait -- I already don't watch -- but maybe more people should do that.

ESPN? For the whole season? Perish the thought -- not if Jerry Punch is still doing the PXP! No way.

Anonymous said...

Digger is not for the adults it’s for the kids :)

Anonymous said...

interesting they would do this when both the race producer and larry mac work on both fox and tnt broadcasts.