Thursday, February 18, 2010

Daytona 500: The TV Aftermath


It's been a couple of days now since the Daytona 500 was telecast by the NASCAR on FOX team. Jamie McMurray has gone off on a whirlwind media tour and shown himself to be quite handy on TV. NASCAR and track officials have offered explanations on "bondo-gate" to anyone who will listen.

Click here to review the fan postings on TDP immediately after the race that focused on the telecast. Now, I'll add my opinion and let you comment.

The NASCAR on FOX team handled the Bud Shoot Out the weekend before the Daytona 500. Almost exactly the same group worked on the Thursday Gatorade Duels for SPEED as well. Both telecasts served to excite fans who were not only welcoming back racing, but were welcoming the NASCAR on FOX team into their homes for the tenth season.

What better possible way to preview the big race than by having both "heat races" come down to inches for the win. In both programs, the TV booth team of Mike Joy, Darrell Waltrip and Larry McReynolds reminded us just how good NASCAR on TV can truly be with their excitement level and flow of information to the viewers.

Chris Myers returned on Sunday to anchor the Daytona 500 telecast. Myers is a well respected TV professional who has hosted high profile series for networks like ESPN and the Tennis Channel. This season, NFL fans also saw him as a sideline reporter for games on FOX. Unfortunately, NASCAR calls for something a little different.

During his time in the Hollywood Hotel, Myers is an actor. After ten seasons of NASCAR, Myers must act as if he knows nothing about the sport. He must make corny jokes at the expense of others. Even as Myers hosts a sophisticated new TV series on Showtime called Inside NASCAR, on FOX he is nothing more than a court jester.

Darrell Waltrip and Jeff Hammond know the routine. They roll their eyes at Myers during their time together. They say silly things and make funny faces. They joined Myers in acting their way through the pre-race.

It was only then that the real agenda of FOX this season was revealed. Waltrip and Hammond awkwardly made their way outside of the Hollywood Hotel. Waiting there was the new A-Team van. It was movie promo time. A theme that would dominate the coverage as it did last season.

Instantly, no one remembered what Waltrip or Hammond said about the race as they performed the goofy A-Team skit. Waltrip had turned from credible analyst to shameless shill. The bottom line is, you cannot work both sides of the street.

The in-race coverage suffered horribly from commercial placement. A full length movie trailer was played before a full length commercial and other trailers played over the racing action in a small video box on the screen. As fans noticed, commercials were placed in the racing despite the pothole delays.

Ultimately, inserting a commercial with twenty laps to go while racing under green was just heartless. Even in a race of normal length, that would have been tough to take under green. But after hours of delays and frustration, it was inexcusable.

Mike Joy has been the heart and soul of NASCAR on FOX since these telecasts began. Nothing could have prepared viewers for what happened on Sunday. In our live Twitter race chat, fans were asking if Joy was under the weather. It was that bad.

For whatever reason, Joy had a very tough day. It certainly did not help that he was trapped handling various commercial elements and promos in the event. Periods of silence from Joy while cars raced under green was a very new phenomenon. Hearing him in a monotone talking about various teams and topics instead of calling the action was also very different. Over the last three seasons, fans had taken to calling that "the ESPN approach."

One memorable thing Fox and ESPN share is the incredibly poor timing on use of the in-car cameras. Time after time, key action on the track was missed because the TV team could not resist pushing the in-car button.

Nothing brought this more into focus than the final laps. From seemingly out of nowhere, Dale Earnhardt Jr. appeared and tried to squeeze his car between two others on the backstretch at full speed. Incredibly, the Fox Director took Junior's in-car camera at that moment. It showed nothing but the single car ahead of Jamie McMurray.

The biggest pass of the race had been completely missed by FOX. It was made by the most popular driver in the sport. It was made after two long red flag periods. It was made during a green/white/checker finish. It was a ridiculous TV mistake. If Junior had won the race, Fox would have missed the pass that set it all up.

During both red flag periods, the best pit reporting team on TV got busy. They began to talk to the drivers and fill time while repairs were done on the track. Eventually, the booth talent and the Hollywood Hotel crew were also used. Unfortunately, that was not enough.

As the delay wore on, fans never saw a replay of the thrilling finish of the Gatorade Duels. There was no recap of the Bud Shoot Out from the previous week. NASCAR personalities like Junior Johnson or the Wood Brothers, celebrated before the race, were never brought into the Hollywood Hotel. The endless pit road interviews simply kept on going.

Finally, after some social media urging on Twitter, a NASCAR official addressed the issue on TV. Unfortunately, it was Brian France. Standing alongside the Fox team who were neatly dressed in shirts and ties, France offered a very basic overview of the situation. It was not his words, but his appearance that was the problem.

Just like his ill-timed comments over the last several seasons on topics from Mauricia Grant to drug testing policies, France appeared wrinkled, confused and uninformed. He may be just the opposite, but that is the point. To fans watching on television, France simply looked disheveled.

NASCAR has a new policy that has been repeated to media members and drivers alike. It attempts to tie anything that is not happy or perfect into some kind of vendetta against the sport. Happy talk now fills NASCAR radio, official websites and many TV programs. Negative talk is for those who hate NASCAR.

In the TV world, NASCAR enjoyed a solid Speedweeks. We previously mentioned the Bud Shoot Out and the Gatorade Duels. SPEED's veteran truck series team had a blast calling the tight finish of that race on Friday night. Even better was ESPN's debut with Marty Reid in the booth and Dr. Jerry Punch back on pit road in the Nationwide Series race. Click here to review that glowing article.

As we all know in real life, things aren't always rosy. The Daytona 500 telecast on FOX was not. Credit certainly goes to FOX for hanging in there during the delays. But, why was this telecast so different from the other races during the week? These were the exact same announcers, the exact same cars and even the exact same track.

Maybe this weekend in Fontana will find the FOX crew settled back into the familiar rhythm fans have enjoyed for a decade. Then again, FOX may believe that everything from Daytona was perfect. These days, everything is always perfect in NASCAR land.

There is no truck race this weekend and ESPN2 gets Danica on Saturday. Chris Myers appears at 2PM ET with the NASCAR on FOX pre-race show. Green flag is 3:10PM.

Feel free to add your comments on the topics mentioned above. To add your opinion, just click on the comments button. There is nothing to join and we do not want your email. We just want NASCAR fans to have a place to express their opinions on the NASCAR TV provided in 2010.

Our website is family-friendly, please keep that in mind when posting. Comments may be moderated for content prior to posting. Thanks for stopping by The Daly Planet for the fourth season.

28 comments:

Illpolo said...

Let me be the first to say that your recap of the Daytona 500 is probably the best recap of media coverage I have ever read. End of story.

David said...

Couldn't have said it any better. When FOX isn't trying to pedal product down the street they do a fine job and are the 2nd best product out there with the best booth/pit combination but Daytona was just sickeningly bad.

Movie trailers? Endless commercials? A beautiful red flag coverage piddled away by more poorly placed commercials?! Lets hope Fontana is much much better.

I was shocked to hear MRN will not be airing full qualifying sessions anymore, PRN is still TBD just as a side tidbit.

The camera work and choices made by the production team/director/producer need to improve.

Please, less moving around/controlling the onboards and more letting the pictures tell the tale! if your constantly moving the camera around you cant get any idea of where your at and what is going on!

Anonymous said...

Am I the only person who doesn't think there needs to be an announcer talking every single second? It's nice to be able to listen to the cars and the action on the track. I really don't get why that's such a bad thing. Plus, it's tv for cryin' out loud. I can see what's going on during the race, and thus I don't think the play-by-play guy has to mention every single move. Especially for the season opener, it's ok for the commentator to remark on the various changes during the offseason, for example.

I agree with most of the other stuff mentioned, but then again, thjis has benn going on for the last ten years. It's not really anything new.

Charlie said...

JD, Very well said !!

BToS JD said...

Concur completely on your comment re director's use of in-car cameras. I was so frustrated that I almost threw my beer at the TV, then I remembered how much the TV cost!

Do directors know nothing about racing and the coverage that's necessary for real fan enjoyment??? Play with your toys when you're not on the job. Just show the action, don't isolate on inane items when excitement exists on track.

Same is true using the 'crank up the sound' images right after a restart. We miss so much action with those shots that accompany the sound. Again, just show the ACTION, don't play games with your toys at my expense!

Anonymous said...

That pot hole incident basically cost NASCAR any chance of being picked up in the UK as a live telecast.

No TV station is going to dedicate an additional 2 1/2 hours during Sunday prime-time (in the UK) to a minority sport that already lasts about 4 hours.

In F1 and IndyCar, there is a 2 hour time limit, so no matter what happens (red flags, rain and all) on the track, once the race starts, TV channels know that the race will be over in 2 hours time, and they plan their schedules accordingly.

As we have seen on numerous occasions in the past 24 months (the length of the Sky contract), NASCAR has over-run on so many times that it became ridiculous. I remember California, either last year or the year before, the presenters in the Sky studio, and myself, were up until about Monday morning 3am until we were told the race had been postponed until the next day. That is fine in the US, where the TV ratings are high, but elsewhere in the world it just doesn't work.

When the track is falling apart and it takes 2 1/2 hours to fix it, the product isn't exactly screaming out "professional" and any UK / RotW TV exec tuning in to see if they would pay for live coverage for the rest of the season wouldn't have been enthused to say, "Yes, that looks like a good investment, had we been showing that, we would have just lost 2 1/2 hours of my schedule".

Yes other sports have equipment malfunctions, but they don't tend to take 2 1/2 hours to fix.
Yes Tennis and Cricket are affected by the rain, but how much LIVE cricket is shown in the US? Probably for the same reasons NASCAR now isn't shown live in the UK, outdoor, weather dependent, sports have to have a large committed TV audience to justify the amount of time they can take up. Think it is a coincidence that no non-major tennis tournament takes place outside, or that Wimbledon put a roof on their centre court? Yes the Wimbledon final over runs, but like Daytona, that is the big one, and more people are watching that on TV than any other show and are happy to be doing so. I doubt TV would be happy wait so much for the Hungarian PTA Open or the Pocono 500.

If NASCAR couldn't get their big one right, no one will have faith that the regular ones will be any better, professional or timely, and it's a damn shame. Say what you want about Bernie Eccleston, but F1, in terms of presentation and TV friendliness, is a far more professional organisation than NASCAR.

Anonymous said...

Wow JD
Did you eat your writing Wheaties this morning? Great column!
The other Hill/FOX initiatives to come will be the moronic American Idol meets NASCAR star wannabes-yet another unoriginal sham foisted on true fans of the sport that will do nothing but perpetuate the down-market image of NASCAR and denegrate te fans-all for the short term enrichment of FOX coffers.
A-Team hype. Digger. Boogity. Animated digger next to billboards.
SHUT UP AND SHOW ME THE RACE

MRM4 said...

JD, are you sure the deal with Myers is an act? He's a good sideline reporter and a decent PxP guys for NFL games. But anytime he has the role of host, it's nothing but goofiness and silly stuff. He's that way on his Fox Sports Radio show and he's been that way on the NASCAR pre-race show.

I agree the timing of the final commercial. I was pretty put out with it. You have a total of 2 hours of downtime because of potholes in the track that had to be fixed, but we still have to squeeze in one last commercial break when the race is at it's most exciting. Inexcusable.

glenc1 said...

"NASCAR has a new policy that has been repeated to media members and drivers alike. It attempts to tie anything that is not happy or perfect into some kind of vendetta against the sport. Happy talk now fills NASCAR radio, official websites and many TV programs. Negative talk is for those who hate NASCAR."

I couldn't agree with that more. It used to be they'd put their best foot forward and try and convince us everything was shiny & bright, but this new tactic of suggesting that any criticism is wrong is just...well, WRONG.

I pretty much agree with the rest of your comments. Particularly, the A Team van made me *cringe*. Camera angles, commercial breaks....let's hope they do better this weekend.

GinaV24 said...

Pefect summary of the mess that Fox made of the 500 broadcast. One of your comments was that DW went from credible analyst to shill during the A-team promo deal. Unfortunately, he lost that for me over the past 5 years with his cheerleading and unprofessionalism in "analyzing" anything. . I simply don't consider DW a credible analyst at all any more.

MRN isn't going to cover qualifying any more? Drat, that was something that I looked forward to listening to on Sirius when I was driving home. I'm losing reasons to keep having "pay" radio.

I hate all the "toys" that everyone feels they need to use in broadcasting the race. Just show me the action, not the interior or front bumper.

As for Brian France's appearance on the broadcast, well, the man simply doesn't look like the top man of any corporation and he when he moves his lips he certainly doesn't bring any credibility to the sport.

NASCAR's continuing effort to strongarm the media and drivers into "everything is beautiful" makes me feel ill and the more they do it, the less I watch. I sat through the entire Daytona race - they need to give me a reason to keep watching and do it pretty quick.

I'm looking forward to watching the ESPN broadcast of the Nationwide race. Even with the Danica coverage, the job that they did with the race was so much better than Fox's that I will most likely watch. California isn't one of the more interesting races to watch on TV so I'm not sure how much of Sunday's race I'll be watching on Fox, especially not in view of their almost complete failure to do it right at Daytona.

Jojaye said...

Thank you for your assessment - its spot on, much more succinct & charitable than anything I could have written on a family oriented site.

How is it that espn finally got it right with putting Doctor Punch where he shines & their coverage got better & Fox starts to fall apart??

West Coast Diane said...

JD...big time ditto.

I knew before we left the track I had not added enough time to the DVR to cover the end of the race. However, I "assumed" I could watch replays of the end and specifically JR's run on all the after shows.

What a major disappointment, to say the least. I kept looking for replays of both GWC's. Thought at least there would be one with a wide sweeping view that would have captured all the jostling and position changes.

Amazing that I was able to see more at the live race, jumping up and down, screaming, than TV with all its cameras.

Come on, it's a RP race where crazy things always happen in the last laps. What don't they get?

JohnP said...

JD, spot on!! Congrats, I think you summed up what the fans overall think. I finally got to see the Shootout on a rerun after being denied of seeing it due to a power outage with the blizzard. I did get to see the Duals live. Between the Shootout and the Duels the cast of caracters was completly different during the 500. So good, then so so bad during the 500. France was a joke. Always looks asleep.

One thing, when they did run the full length movie add, then the full length commercial was the exact same time we were having video failure on our tv on the Fox channel only. There was a green screen, then still pictures of the race. Audio was good. I kinda touched on this in the post right after the race. I assumed FOX was having technical issues and gave them a pass. But I've not heard anyone say the same thing, so maybe it was my area only. But, just looked like Fox was covering up technical issues.

Great post JD, sums up everything we think about the 500 in this house. The ratings of 7.7 is very interesting. Less percent of people tuned in in the first place since 1991. California rating should be interesting now after this disaster at the 500. The second in a row for the 500 by my counting.

Garry said...

I believe that Mike Joy had the same 'flu-like" symptoms that Jerry Punch had: It's called, "Dowhatthedirectorproducerssaysorelse-itis".I firmly believe that David Hill's dirty paws were all over the Hollywood themed production, thinly disguised as a race.I think Mike Joy is like the rest of us: He is a professional, who doesn't like dressing up like Bozo The Clown.So over six hours of being sick; sick of drinking the FOX Kool-aid, he grit his teeth, and swallowed reluctantly. I'd be nauseous too, if my boss told me to act like a clown. I guess that's where DW and Hammond are different. They'd sell their shoes for money. JD, I hope you don't delete my post, I am not trying to be hateful. I am calling it the way it is. Someone, and I know I blame David Hill alot, but SOMEONE thinks it's funny to have a kids show on instead of a race. I posted before about the drivers acting like clowns wearing boxing gloves, even Jeff Gordon saying, "Owwww!" was so sickening, I had to leave the room. Why do the execs at the networks , especially FOX, have to have the drivers acting out some sort of third grade comedy sketch? I will stop typing now, as my headache is worse, and I really don't want to type what I think about David Hill. Thanks for letting me post, JD.

Garry said...

Sorry, I want want last thing to say: If we as race fans think that they (FOX) is going to change thier Hollywood theme, we have another thing coming. They are racing in Fontana, and they always seem to think that California means we HAVE to have celebrities, movie promos, Grand Marshalls that are in an upcoming movie, celebrity interviews(Why, yes Mr. FOX pit reporter, I have never been to a race. This is exciting.")Ad Nauseum.

Vicky D said...

JD, excellent column. I think I mentioned in another post about Nascar not coming on air earlier to give us some idea about what was going on and then BF is there all disheveled. I think it was something else that was the issue but wouldn't repeat it here. And Mike Joy was a big disappointment. ESPN gets much better and Fox falls apart - how can that be?

Anonymous said...

Spot on JD. Mike Joy's problem is the production truck idiots who feed him the garbage. The in-cars are paid for billboards period--Stickers and decals everywhere. The former president of Clear Channel said it best: "Programming is bait for advertising-whatever draws the demo that advertisers are looking for". They don't even try to fool us about that anymore.

Sophia said...

I was not home, but mentioned last year, it matters not ONE WHIT who is in the booth if the IN CAR/BUMPER CAM direction continutes to ruin the race.

Jr made the coolest move in years and we saw it from an in-car cam??

UNBELIEVABLE.

But if I deleted & skipped the 500, what's the odds of watching other NASCAR races? NOT GOOD.

depressing.:(

Zieke said...

Looks like JD has the situation at hand. I've also been saying that all anyone needs in a broadcast booth is an announcer and a color person. Three is a crowd, especially when Waldrip has to spout his drivel on the race fans. Too bad that Jack Roush can't fire him too. And finally- please Lord, don't ever let Fox broadcast a hockey game. A groundhog might pop up at a blue line.

Dannyboy said...

Well, as far as directors giving you camera views that YOU the fan want: TV will always do what TV thinks is in THEIR best interest and never mind what fans want. They have their own agenda and it's the only one they care about. We're non-existent as far as they're concerned. My wife and I have complained for decades about TV's insistence on closeups when a wide shot would convey more information to the viewer. Example: the old IWC show, where they were all at a single desk and the director would keep the shot wide so you could see all the kidding and kibbitzing between Mikey and Schrader et al. After SPEED/FOX changed to a chair-based set, all you got were talking heads. And they cancelled the show saying ratings were down. Well DUH!

I didn't watch every second of the coverage. When there was a yellow, I went and did other stuff to make productive use of the down time. When there was a red flag I did same, only checking back occasionally to see when it went back to yellow so I could catch the green.

Thus I missed a lot of what everyone's complaining about. However, when they went to a commercial with 20 to go after spending so much red flag time without commercials, I cussed them in my mind, if not out loud.

And I'm sorry, the end of the race was so good that for me it overshadowed the bad job they did in presenting it.

:-D

Barbie Hiltz said...

We just have to hope that this week is better, I hardly remember Mike Joy making any comments at all! and he is my favorite announcer. I just felt that we were hung out to dry all day! I absolutly despise all the goofy behaviour, why do they feel the need to try and act like comedians? That was why I always liked Mike Joy, he didn't feel the need to do that, so Sunday was a real departure for him! And the bit with the van!!! I felt like I was in the twilight zone. SO! come on FOX, act like professionals!

Kenn Fong said...

J.D.,

As you and some of Planeteers know, my interest in NASCAR has been waning of late, and so I just couldn't get excited enough to post until now.

Because of my work schedule, I had to leave before the first delay was over. I set my DVR to record an additional two hours, but that wasn't enough. So I missed seeing the finish of the race until I found an abbreviated version on FoxSports.com.

Anonymous from the U.K @5:51 AM makes a good point. Many of us have other things to do with our life than make an open-ended commitment to watch races 36 times a year. The races take too long to complete and may be forcing more of us into using our DVRs which will ultimately cut into the commercial revenue.

Regarding your comment about commercials during green flag racing, I wonder if the rates are different if a spot is guaranteed during green flag racing as opposed to any open availability. This might explain why there were so few breaks during the delays.

It seems to me that during the racecast, the usual rules apply: "Home On The Range." ("Where seldom is heard, a discouraging word.") Since Daytona and NASCAR are both owned by the France family, I wouldn't hold my breath waiting for NASCAR to force a track repaving.

It's instructive to note that apparently no one has the cojones to hand Brian France a mirror and comb before he appears on television each time. He lacks gravitas. There are few more convincing examples of the old proverb, "A picture is worth ten thousand words."

Although my driver Dale Jr. finished a strong second and my least favorite driver (remember what Jeff Foxworthy said?*) Jimmie Johnson had a bad race, I'm still not willing to commit 36 afternoons or evenings to Cup. I'll watch when it's possible, rather than plan my weekends around it.

Kenn ("West Coast Kenny" was the rabid fan)

*He said "Every NASCAR fan has one driver he loves and one driver he hates."

Anonymous said...

Zieke...Fox had hockey for several years...don't remember the 'glow puck' lol? Nothing new for them.

Chris from NY said...

Great review, JD.

I hope this ends up costing FOX its "exclusive agreement" for Speedweeks in 2014. Even if I have to wait 6 years for it, I would wait and see NBC/TNT get the Daytona 500 back.

FOX does not care. Besides, the Daytona 500 is not the Super Bowl. Hyping up the Daytona 500 as the Super Bowl of NASCAR screwed it up for everyone. FOX feels this is the perfect time to "ad" to their broadcast. When it comes to timing these commercial breaks, they aren't even as keen as their namesake. I don't even know why they bother with two movie previews because I could guesstimate that 8 out of 10 NASCAR fans do not care about the movies they are pushing (because I don't, and no one else seems to).

TNT, on the other hand, could go a whole segment of the Bud Shootout, or even the whole race, given the chance, without a commercial. That furthers this argument that FOX does not deserve to keep this exclusive right. They blew it, and they should get repaid for their actions.

The only time a movie preview should be shown during a race is during the pre-race show, or not at all. It would only make sense to show it during the race if the movie advertised was a NASCAR or any type of motorsports-related movie.

NASCAR should also come up with a rule limiting commercial breaks under green. After all, the green flag runs are never last too long, do they?

51 yr. fan said...

Great column JD. It's like you are
reading my mind. Fox and ESPN have
definitely reversed positions on
production qualities. I was
watching golf from Pebble Beach
on CBS during the red flags and
thinking how nice it would be
to have someone that professional
to announce for Fox.

Shirley Buttacavoli said...

I agree with everyone that agreed with you, JD.

I would like to add that it seems ALL NASCAR-related shows are totally scripted. I hope that is not the case with Fox coverage of the Sprint Cup series.

Maybe the race at Fontana will bring back the professional Fox team NASCAR fans love and respect.

If not, I've got Sirius NASCAR channel 128 and the Driver2Crew channels.

PammH said...

We've lost Kenny!!! Okay, smart aleck aside, yep-you nailed it JD!

Gymmie said...

I had to listen via radio last week but saw the tweets when I logged in from my phone and man did it seem to be frustrating!

MRN only had Joie Chitwood on they didn't have any NA$CAR peeps on.

I cringed when I saw the tweets that Baby Brian was making an appearance. I still don't know why they don't let Mr. Helton be the official Spokesman.