Sunday, June 28, 2009

Saturday's Classy TV Presentation Of Two Struggling Series

It was a long TV day for many motorsports fans who watched a twin bill of NASCAR and then tuned-in to watch Danica and the IRL boys run in Richmond, VA.

Marty Reid joined the NASCAR on ESPN team as that group televised the Nationwide Series race from Loudon, NH on ABC. Things got off to a shaky start as one Nationwide driver asked an ABC pit reporter why the just-completed NASCAR Modified race was not televised on SPEED. At least it was a good question.

Things settled down a bit as Allen Bestwick handled the pre-race show. One big surprise was his cohort Rusty Wallace lowering the boom on Kyle Busch on national TV. Wallace explained that he did not like the way Busch had treated the media or the fans recently. Wallace said on TV what many fans had said online. Time for Busch to grow-up.

Dale Jarrett and Andy Petree were both back from vacation and returned in fine form. Coupled with the veteran Reid, these three made a great combination on the air that may have raised some eyebrows back in Bristol, CT.

Reid led the two through the race by calling the action on the track and letting Jarrett and Petree stick to adding their expertise as the events unfolded. This new dynamic worked well because Reid also used the pit reporters relentlessly during the entire race. This may well have been the best event of the season for ESPN where information from the pit reporters was concerned.

Reid also established the tone by calling the start-and-park cars out every time one left the track. Although the producer chose not to follow-up with any interviews, Reid made it a point to explain to the TV viewers whenever a car went to the garage. This honest and upfront approach was very different from the head-in-the-sand world of other NASCAR broadcast teams.

The New Hampshire flat track once again featured passing on pit road during caution flag pit stops. ESPN has recently been struggling with this issue on TV and did again during this event. Basically, the network sets-up three cars in video boxes and provides a long view of pit road. Viewers watch the three cars get service and then are able to watch all of them race to the pit exit.

Now, ESPN cuts cameras inside the pit stops, completely losing any perspective that has been established for the fans and also missing the field as they leave the pits. For a TV network that prided itself on establishing this production piece, things have certainly changed.

Luckily, the on-air team continued to do a great job with the commentary while those pit issues were underway. The commercial timing was great and the pictures were once again super in HD. Speaking of HD, several emailers asked about a less-than-crisp audio mix during the NH portions of the race that cleared-up when ABC showed commercial breaks. My tech guru suggests some transmission issues may have compressed the audio.

The ESPN crew also has a very good two-box video effect used for many situations, including pit reports under green and also Tim Brewer's updates. Perhaps, prior to the upcoming Sprint Cup coverage, the team might consider keeping the racing in the big box and trying the reporters in the small one.

Even with the flat track and not a lot of passing, the commentary from all ten of the NASCAR on ESPN announcers made the race enjoyable. It was good to have Jarrett and Petree back in the booth and it was amazing how well they responded to Marty Reid. Ironically, a nice Kyle Busch interview was featured post-race. Maybe he did listen to uncle Rusty.

SPEED was up next with the trucks and Krista Voda was handling the pre-race show from a steamy Memphis. To her credit, Voda hung-in on pit road for the entire thirty minute show in blazing temperatures. Voda is a Pittsburgh resident, so that kind of heat is going to make for a good story in the off-season.

Everyone knows the trucks are struggling and SPEED updated the fact that a meeting next week may change the complexion of the series for 2010. The SPEED team has done an amazing job with this series over the years and hopefully it will be able to continue despite the tough economic times.

Rick Allen and Phil Parsons were without Michael Waltrip and some of the excitement viewers are used to hearing from the SPEED team was lacking. Ray Dunlap and Adam Alexander did great work on pit road, but the field was dominated by Ron Hornaday and was just a bit thin to create any good battles on the track.

Once again, the TV cameras could not hide the fact that the crowd was small. Seven trucks pulled off before lap 30. Only 21 of the 38 starters were within 50 laps of the leader when the 200 lap race was over. Something is going to have to change soon to help SPEED get through this season.

Ironically, the IRL race was next on the Versus TV Network and immediately one thing jumped out again. The side-by-side commercials that allow the racing to continue on the screen and offer the sponsors additional signage while the spots play is outstanding. Certainly, for both the Nationwide and Truck Series this has to be considered soon.

It was a good double feature of NASCAR on Saturday, but we would like to know your thoughts on this coverage. 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 the time to stop by.

To view the picture of Kyle Busch catching the checkered flag in New Hampshire, just click on it. Thanks as always to Getty Images for the help with great photos.

TDP will be live blogging the Sprint Cup Series race on TNT Sunday afternoon. Please join us.

Live Blogging The Sprint Cup Series On TNT from Loudon, NH

The big news on Sunday morning was that TNT's Bill Weber had been sent home from New Hampshire. Ralph Sheheen is going to step into the play-by-play role for Weber during the live telecast. As you can see from the photo above, Sheheen is not stranger to NASCAR.

According to, Weber was involved in a loud and public confrontation late Friday night at the TNT hotel. Shawn Courchesne of the Hartford Courant reports Weber received a one race suspension for his actions. No further information has been or is expected to be released by the network.

The TNT booth announcers were not involved in the Friday telecasts, although the pit reporters participated in the coverage of practice and qualifying on SPEED. Weber was at the track on Friday and the incident in question was apparently much later on Friday night.

So, Sheheen will jump into the play-by-play role that is familiar to him. Sheheen is a TV and NASCAR veteran who can usually be seen on SPEED handling the various motorcycle coverage. As veteran fans know, Sheheen has a long history in NASCAR and continues to live and work in the Charlotte area.

The TNT analysts Kyle Petty and Larry McReynolds did not mention a word about their broadcast partner Weber during the pre-race shows. Wally Dallenbach also passed on the opportunity when he was shown in the TNT booth with Sheheen.

New Hampshire is a flat track that tests the patience of both the drivers and the TV crew. Little passing and slow spins in the corner are the TV profile of this track. Veteran fans may remember that soft walls were added after two high-profile fatalities years ago.

TNT's coverage of pit road is going to be key to the telecast. Passing will happen under caution as the cars race away from stops and the pass for the win may well happen because of the pit crews. TNT has been working hard on the pit stop coverage and this will be perhaps the biggest test.

Rain is in the forecast. Should the track get wet, TNT's options are limited. The infield stage is open and has proven to be useless in bad weather. It will be up to Sheheen, Petty and Dallenbach to fill the time.

There are plenty of storylines in this event. TNT has done a great job of treating the teams equally and leaving the Dale Junior and Kyle Busch hype for others. Petty continues to Twitter during the race and RaceBuddy again is going to add four additional race cameras and a dedicated pit reporter to the coverage.

TNT is gearing-up for the Wide Open coverage at Daytona next weekend. It should be interesting to see how Sheheen handles a full Sprint Cup Series live telecast.

This post will serve to host your comments on the TV coverage. To add your opinion on this race, just click the comments button below. This is a family-friendly website, please keep that in mind while posting. Thanks for stopping by.

Bill Weber Removed From Sunday's TNT Broadcast

This post will remain up during the TNT pre-race shows to see how the network deals with this issue. TDP will then add a new post for the actual coverage of the race.

This statement was issued by TNT early Sunday morning:

"Bill Weber will not be part of TNT's NASCAR coverage of the Cup Series from New Hampshire Motor Speedway this weekend,” said a company statement released by senior vice president Sal Petruzzi. “As this is a private issue, it’s the policy of the company not to discuss personal matters involving our employees.”

Update: Veteran Reporter Dustin Long saying the issue is personal and Weber has not been fired. (11AM)

Update #2: From That's Racin': According to witnesses, Weber got into a loud, public confrontation over the weekend at his hotel in Manchester, N.H. He was at the track on Friday.

Update #3: Reporter Shawn Courchesne of the Hartford Courant is calling this a one race suspension by TNT because of the incident mentioned above.

Ralph Sheheen will step in for Weber on today's telecast. TDP will update this story if and when more information comes in.

We welcome your comments on this topic. Just click the comments button below to add your opinion. This is a family-friendly website, please keep that in mind when posting. TDP will live blog the TNT coverage beginning at 12:30PM ET.

Fox's David Hill Turns Efforts Toward The Internet

The creator of Digger has now turned his efforts toward the Internet. David Hill of Fox Sports has a problem. The website has been struggling for years now. He has some ideas for solutions. Here is an update from MediaWeek:

Fox Sports chairman David Hill believes the Internet is following the same evolutionary pattern as television. “When TV was in its infancy, it was basically run by the engineers,” says Hill. “Technology innovations were driving it, until finally the programmers began to take over. And that’s when television took off.”

Hill believes that for the past 10 years or so online media—particularly sports sites—have been overly controlled by techies, or engineers, as he calls them. And because the programming executives have for the most part gone along with this, just about every sports Web site looks the same or offers the same basic content and design.

“All of these sites, including our own, are dominated by highlights of games from the night before and interviews of players talking about games that already happened,” Hill says. “Everything is past tense.” And most of the sports sites feature a preponderance of sportswriters, rather than television sports commentators, he adds.

While these sites do have some prognosticators who, via video, are discussing future games or longer-term trends, Hill believes there should be more cross-pollination of TV sports commentators on He also wants to inject a little more irreverence into the commentary to offer viewers a distinct destination.

“ is not broken,” Hill points out. “We are in a good place right now. But we need to bring more innovation to the site. Right now, most content on sports sites is past tense. We want to make it more forward thinking.”

Currently, while just about all of the Fox Sports NASCAR commentators do video reports on the site during the racing season, the only other Fox Sports TV reporters doing extensive online video are Ken Rosenthal, who is a field reporter for Fox baseball telecasts, and Jay Glazer, a former New York Post columnist and now senior National Football League writer for

Once his on-air talent is entrenched on the FoxSports site, Hill plans to slot promotional spots on each of the Fox Sports TV telecasts to alert viewers of the online programming and drive them to the site. Hill says he hopes to also beef up the fantasy sports area and “down the road” wants to offer more video coverage of sports at every level, including high school.

Hill says the entire redesign and inclusion of new video content could take up to a year to be fully implemented.

Click here to read the full story from MediaWeek.

Many of you have emailed and commented on the lack of quality NASCAR websites that bring you the up-to-date information without a TV network or corporate agenda. Fox Sports is a leader in sports website volume, so it should be interesting to watch what changes they make. The changes recently made got both positive and negative comments, but drastically changed the ability of many fans to get the information they want in a timely fashion. We will provide updates on the NASCAR changes from as time goes on.

TDP welcomes your comments on this topic. Just click the comments button below to add your opinion. This is a family-friendly website, please keep that in mind while posting. Thanks for stopping by, TDP will be live blogging the Nationwide Series race later on Saturday.