Sunday, June 7, 2009

TNT Just What The TV Doctor Ordered

They may be the smallest player in the NASCAR TV scenario, but TNT started the network's six race run with a bang. The philosophy was simple, try to give NASCAR fans everything they wanted. What a novel idea.

Fans who wanted to concentrate on the TV coverage found a responsive and fun group presenting 90 minutes of pre-race coverage. Marc Fein anchored a panel that included Kyle Petty and Larry McReynolds. These three talked through a wide variety of NASCAR topics and presented several quality features.

Bill Weber and Wally Dallenbach used the final 30 minutes to talk about race topics and offer a look at the new Wally's World feature. The famous TNT cocktail table is back, but the pre-race shows were well-constructed and set a very different table for TV viewers than the previous efforts of Fox.

During this time, fans who were also on Twitter discovered something brand new. Petty was actually taking pictures and texting with fans while he was on the pre-race show. Amazingly, this continued throughout the race and ushered in a new level of direct contact between NASCAR fans and the TV booth.

Bill Weber was sporting a new light blue blazer, but his presence in the booth was anything but obtrusive. He did a great job of directing traffic between his three analysts and four very busy pit reporters. Weber's calm and organized manner on the air let Petty and Dallenbach take center stage.

Petty is the star of this show and he proved to be a responsive and interesting presence during the telecast. Once the race began, Petty repeatedly directly asked questions on the air that fans were sending to him via Twitter and RaceBuddy. Issues like caution flags, pit road reports and even the location of the debris on the track were brought up for all to hear.

Many fans fired up the computer and opened the free RaceBuddy application offered by Four additional camera angles, a designated pit reporter, texts from pit road and the ability to chat and message made for a great added value. RaceBuddy can be plugged directly into HDTV's, giving NASCAR on TV a whole new look.

Larry McReynolds once again provided the strategy and the cutaway car demos from the infield. His presence really rounds-out a solid broadcast team. Ralph Sheheen, Lindsay Czarniak and Marty Snider have not been on the NASCAR TV beat this season, but worked pit road without missing a story.

The TNT production team offers wider views of the track and lots of recaps of the field as the race progresses. On the restarts, the cameras focus on the two and three-wide action regardless of how far back in the pack it is happening.

Pocono has not been known to produce the most exciting races, but Petty kept viewers interested with his commitment to bring-up any topic and demand the kind of on-track accountability that was not present earlier this season. Rarely has the Lead Analyst been on the air asking his Producer to show the debris on the track that brought out the caution flag.

TNT waited out a rain delay and then wrapped-up the race with a good explanation of the gas mileage strategy that won the race. TNT has to consider eliminating the fake pylons and other electronically inserted objects left over from their older coverage.

In addition, the split-screen frequently used may have looked good when it was composed, but the rolling checkered flag effect behind it is tremendously distracting, especially in HD. The boxes also have thick gray and black edges that do not fit in with the graphics package being used.

The TNT coverage also did not commit to letting the lead-lap cars cross the start-finish line and missed both Jimmie Johnson running out of gas and Kasey Kahne spinning in the final corner. At a huge track like Pocono, fans deserved to see the cars race to the finish.

All in all, this was a solid effort by TNT that resulted in a very watchable telecast. Adding the Twitter and RaceBuddy features let fans get much more interactive than ever before. Having a designated pit road reporter only for the online users was also a clear winner.

Note: We will get the details of why TNT left the air and moved the post-race show online to before the scheduled off time shortly. Being told right now it was a call made in Atlanta. Missed some good interviews on the TV side.

What did you think of the TNT efforts at Pocono? TDP welcomes comments from readers. Just click on the comments button below to add your comment on this topic. This is a family-friendly website, please keep that in mind when posting.

Live Blogging The Sprint Cup Series Race From Pocono On TNT

There were over five hours of pre-race programming on ESPN2, SPEED and TNT. Now, it is time to race at Pocono. Bill Weber, Kyle Petty and Wally Dallenbach take center stage for the next six races.

TNT is throwing a ton or resources at these broadcasts. In addition to Larry McReynolds holding court in the infield with his trendy stage and cutway car, TNT is once again offering RaceBuddy.

This season, the Internet application will have new features. They include PRN's Jim Noble as a designated online reporter, embedded messaging from sources like Twitter and text messages directly to RaceBuddy users from pit road about the teams.

On the TV side, ESPN's original NASCAR Director Mike Wells returns this season for all six races. His directing style is evident right from the start of the first race. Wells uses wideshots and follows the best racing on the track regardless of where it is happening.

Petty has changed the tone of these telecasts with his good sense of humor and his ability to poke fun at himself. Down on pit road, local TV station sports reporter Lindsay Czarniak surfaces for these six races with her enthusiasm and nose for news. Veterans Ralph Sheheen, Marty Snider and Matt Yocum round-out the pit reporter corps.

Weber has come a very long way since his NBC days and seemed to gel with Petty right from the start. He hosts a thirty minute pre-race show and then calls the race in his new role. Since fans have not seen him on NASCAR TV since last season, Weber is the wild card in this mix.

This post will serve to host your comments about the TNT coverage of the Sprint Cup Series race from Pocono. To add your TV-related opinion, just click on the comments button below. This is a family-friendly website, please keep that in mind when posting.

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

Kyle Petty Leads TNT Into A Challenging Sunday

This week, the TV network televising the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races changed. Gone is Fox with all the good and not so good things they brought to the table. Starting a six race run is TNT. The star of their coverage is Kyle Petty.

This year, Petty decided to ride his motorcycle to all six races with SPEED's Rutledge Wood stowed in the sidecar. On this first trip to Pocono, he decided to make a couple of stops. One was very special to him for a simple reason. Petty loves guitars.

That is Petty above at the CF Martin Guitar company holding up a hand-made guitar that will retail for over one hundred thousand dollars. It is clear to see that this stop was a great call. The smile on Petty's face could not be any bigger.

Sunday, Petty gets to walk into a sport that had a very tough weekend so far on TV. Friday's Sprint Cup activity from Pocono was washed away completely. The Friday night Camping World Truck Series race from Texas featured a starting field of 33 trucks. 10 of them pulled off the track and headed straight for the garage before the first pit stop for fuel. They were fake teams with no agenda of ever racing.

Saturday brought a Nationwide Series qualifying session that was started late due to live college baseball on ESPN2. It was not switched to ESPN Classic, but instead was collapsed in awkward style by simply dropping segments of the program. It made the announcers, the network and the sport look ridiculous.

Hours later, the Nationwide Series race from Music City USA (Nashville, TN) was run live with the TV theme that a new face was going to be in Victory Lane. Carl Edwards and Kyle Busch had flown from Pocono to race, so the Nationwide regulars only had to get by two Cup drivers to win.

Kyle Busch then dominated the race, decimated the Nationwide regulars and lit his tires on fire doing a burnout. But, he saved the very best for last.

He then stepped into Victory Lane and smashed one of the most treasured trophies in NASCAR to pieces. It was a guitar. Artist Sam Bass had hand-painted a custom-made Gibson Les Paul model guitar. It is a trophy as historic to Nashville as the grandfather clock is to Martinsville. Instead of appreciating it, Busch broke it to pieces on national TV.

The ESPN telecast crew did not know what to do or say. Busch is a talented driver who works for Joe Gibbs Racing, one of the most respected teams in the sport. ESPN let Busch completely off the hook and closed the show without a moment of explanation to the shocked TV audience.

Into this mess steps Kyle Petty. While he is joined by Bill Weber, Wally Dallenbach and Larry McReynolds, it is clear that Petty is the show. TNT has 90 minutes of pre-race programming before the Pocono race. The first hour features Petty and McReynolds.

Kyle cut his TV teeth on the now cancelled Tradin' Paint show on SPEED and also on his six race TNT assignment. On this Sunday, a lot of eyes will be on him as he wades through the mess of this very strange weekend. The good news is that Petty has the capacity to handle it and the experience to be credible when he does.

This first Sprint Cup race without Digger, Darrell Waltrip or the Fox attitude could not have come at a better time. The TNT crew handled the Cup happy hour telecast on Saturday and it appeared that they had not missed a beat since last year. NASCAR needs a change of pace, a breath of fresh air and a TV perspective that is not tainted with team ownership or sponsor commitments.

TNT has all kinds of video features ready for the pre-race, from Petty's ride to the track to a profile of NASCAR legend Dave Marcis. Reporter Lindsay Czarniak goes fishing with Ryan Newman and his dad near the track while Wally's World goes green screen. This year, Dallenbach is going to be superimposed on each track to explain the specifics of what to watch for in the race and how to get around the different circuits.

TNT hits the air at 12:30PM with NASCAR on TNT Live and then at 1:30PM with Countdown to Green. Race coverage starts at 2PM. TDP will be live blogging the race telecast, please join us.

NASCAR fans can get the early news from NASCAR Now on ESPN2 at 10AM. Mike Massaro is in the studio with Boris Said while Angelique Chengelis and Nicole Manske will be reporting from Pocono. RaceDay on SPEED starts at 10:30AM and Jimmy Spencer is back on the set. His reaction to the Kyle Busch incident might be well worth watching.

TDP welcomes comments from readers. Just click on the comments button below and follow the easy instructions. This is a family-friendly website, please keep that in mind when posting. Thanks for taking the time to stop by.

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.

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 the time to stop by.