Wednesday, June 30, 2010

"Inside NASCAR" Faces New Challenges


There are lots of things happening in NASCAR TV where studio shows are concerned. SPEED has just expanded Race Hub to an hour in length four nights a week. ESPN2 has a one hour NASCAR Now Sunday night review show that returns in July. That puts five hours of NASCAR Now on the air each week.

The Showtime gang producing Inside NASCAR has their own unique challenge. By the time Wednesday night rolls around, over eight hours of TV programming focused on reviewing the previous racing weekend has already aired on other networks.

This leaves an interesting set of TV circumstances. First, the race highlights have already been seen. Second, the relevant topics have been discussed. Finally, the NASCAR personalities involved have already been interviewed.

In responding to this situation, Showtime turned to social media. Inside NASCAR's Facebook page has over 115 thousand fans. The show's Twitter account carries a running stream of comments and pictures as the show is being put together leading up to the Wednesday taping.

NASCAR Now and Race Hub are still struggling to figure out social media and fan interaction. Neither show has more than 2200 Facebook fans. Tweets are random and rarely interactive.

Wednesday, Inside NASCAR is going to welcome Jimmie Johnson as the featured guest. Johnson will be answering fan questions solicited through social media by the producers on Monday and Tuesday. What a nice and simple way to get fans together with top drivers and personalities.

Kyle Petty will be the second guest. Petty is promoting TNT's 3D venture this weekend. Showtime has no obligation at all to promote another network, but this series has been very consistent in selecting guests and topics that focused on the sport in general.

Chris Myers hosts Inside NASCAR and luckily he left his Hollywood Hotel act back in California. When he is working in Charlotte, Myers is the kind of focused TV interviewer that fans know from shows on ESPN and the Tennis Channel.

Brad Daugherty, Michael Waltrip and Randy Pemberton have turned out to be an interesting mix of personalities as they make up the show's expert panel. While each of them is packing some NASCAR baggage, that does not seem to be an issue for Showtime.

This show is appealing visually, unlike the very formal NASCAR Now and the sometimes rather scattered Race Hub. Veteran director Mike Wells is consulting on this series and his impact has been felt. Wells was ESPN's original NASCAR race director and now handles the TNT races in the current TV package.

As with most television series, there is always a frustration or two. Showtime has no plans to offer the series a la carte to non-Showtime subscribers. As we documented in earlier columns the Showtime universe is small, much of the content is adult and subscription costs vary widely depending on the cable or satellite distributor.

After all that has been asked of Johnson over the last few days, it should be interesting so see what different issues the Showtime team will cover and what questions were submitted by the fans.

The original airing of this program is 10PM ET each Wednesday, but viewers should check the local listings as the shows repeat several times. Happy to have your comments on this program. 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.

31 comments:

Anonymous said...

Being Canadian Nascar comes at a low premium, although there is a strong fan base within the Province of Ontario Canada, Nascar still hasn't found a loyal audience north of the border. Perhaps much has to do with Nascar coverage. All TV shows on digital cable must have a percentage of Canadian content in accordance with the CRTC (Canadian Radio Telecommunications Company), so many of these excellent Nascar shows aren't available to us Canadians...which is a disappointment to many. I've aired my frustrations with my cable provider and in written form to the CRTC, but our concerns continue to go unheeded. I feel much has to do with the Nascar Sprint Cup drivers not racing here in Canada...I would give anything to watch a live Nascar road course race here in Canada involving the Sprint Cup drivers. I wish there was more Nascar coverage available to us Canadians, allowing us to participate in panel discussions regarding changes we would like to see to the sport...Canadian voices should be heard, because we also contribute to the Nascar community through our attendance at races, purchasing items on ebay and the various team owner race shops.

Ryan said...

Even though Race Hub has made some good changes, I still like NN better. Race Hub has too much fluff and not enough good interviews and info like NN.

MRM4 said...

JD, just curious about something. When you said each carries some baggage, what is Randy Pemberton's baggage? I know he was off the air for some time after TNN lost NASCAR and it's good to see him again.

Daly Planet Editor said...

MRM,

Just as Brad and Michael are Cup owners, Randy's brother Robin is the head of competition for NASCAR and one of the top executives when it comes to shaping the future of the sport.

JD

allisong said...

What I like about "Inside NASCAR" is they seem to have resurrected the "Beyond The Wheel" way of reviewing the races. I missed that show when SPEED took it off, but here it is on "Inside NASCAR".

The show on SPEED, "NASCAR Hot Wired", is similar, but has a pre-determined focus on a particular driver or team. What they use on "Inside NASCAR" is more of an overview of the race, using scanner from many different teams.

So yes, while the race may have already been "reviewed" on other shows, the way "Inside NASCAR" does it is unique.

Regarding the social media angle, all I can say is, there is a reason the skill of interviewing is a profession. Did you see the fan-fest Q&A session from Daytona in February? Cringe-worthy in the extreme. Also, just like the pre-race questions from fans, any questions from fans that the panel would read would be very carefully selected anyway.

GinaV24 said...

Inside Nascar had really good video footage that reminded me a lot of the old Beyond the Wheel show and its a nice idea for all of these shows to become more interactive with the fans since the fans have a different point of view than the media does regarding racing.

I do like the fact that Chris Myers shows that he is a really good sports reporter -- its a shame that Fox insists on the dumb guy act for him. Its a disservice to Chris as well as the fans.

Obviously it will be easier for me to see Nascar Now and RaceHub and I'd like it if they choose to use the updated technology.

I signed up for the facebook page to follow Inside NASCAR but that will continue to be the only access I have - if they use twitter too, I may decide to follow it as well since at this time I have no plans to add Showtime to my cable plan although it seemed to be a well done show from what I saw when it was streamed on Nascar.com.

As you pointed out with 8 hrs of content already on air, IMO I don't NEED to see Inside Nascar on a regular basis to keep up with what is going on in the sport -- actually there isn't so much of interest going on in the sport that it makes me feel like it is "must see" TV.

51 yr. fan said...

I just saw the breakdown on airtime
for Loudon. 2 minutes of racing for
1 of commercials. Think that may
be a clue as to the loss of viewers? The race time probably
included Larry Mc's weekly brake
bias dumb down. I can't wait
for next week's episode of brake
ducts and/or shocks. Thank goodness
for Race Buddy and MLB.

Ken said...

Along with other people, I have a simple plan regarding watching NA$CAR shows. I DON'T WATCH WALTRIPS. The quality of the show doesn't matter because I will never see it to judge it.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Ken. I will never watch a show with a Waltrip! They are simply self-promoting shills for the NA$CAR kingdom. They are part of the reason the sport is in trouble and tanking more all the time. Some day the NA$CAR "media" will wake up and get rid of the Waltrip shills, but the "media" are clearly still snoring.

Gymmie said...

I do wish they would do it ala carte or allow a way for fans to watch. They could set up a "subscription" service or just let fans pay say $1.99 for whatever episode they want if their favorite driver is on if they don't want all of them. Whether it's available through cable/satellite OnDemand or via online/phone would be wonderful.

I don't see Randy as having baggage where it comes to his brothers. Randy has been very professional and has kept his relationships with his brothers the same as if they were anyone else in the garage.

He's even tweeted that he would never try to get Robin to tell him any "inside" information because he wants what he reports to be fair and the same access that Wendy, Hermie, YumYum, Ralphie or any other reporter would have where Robin or Ryan are concerned.

Wendy and Hermie are the same. They have access to teams that other reporters don't have but keep it all professional.

Richard Newton said...

One big problem is that all of the NASCAR car shows have become infomercials. I just about lost it when they said "The cars are coming in for new Goodyear tires and some Sunoco gas." It would be like watching baseball ahs have the announcer say "He caught the ball in his Rawlings glove." Or, "He has his new Nike jersey on now."

I won't even get into the announcing conflicts that you would never see in a major league sport. There's a reason all of the major sports shows ignore NASCAR. It's just one infomercial after another.

TexasRaceLady said...

I might watch the show tonight since Kyle Petty will be a guest.

Otherwise, I usually forget the show comes on.

*busy writing self a note*

Anonymous said...

JD,
Thought TNT & Showtime were part of the same CBS/Viacom corporate family. Seemed like good corporate cross-promotion with Kyle Petty. Either way, hats off to the Inside NASCAR folks for moving quickly into new media. It'll help keep them alive!
- RA Eckart -

Richard in N.C. said...

A few years ago our largest, local radio station was owned by the same radio group that owned the Yankees flagship radio station, so for a year or 2 (in NC) we had the Yankees baseball broadcasts. It seemed to me that virtually everything that happened in the booth was sponsored by somebody - and my recollection is that at least once per game, maybe more, the lady in the booth would announce that she was getting ready to take a drink of X-brand water.

Going back decades, I do not recall when I have ever heard a NASCAR race broadcast when there were not mentions of Goodyear and its then gas sponsor - Pure, then Union 76 for years.

Sponsorships in sports are not unique to NASCAR. After bearing the name Grove Stadium for about only 40 years, a year or 2 ago Wake Forest University renamed its football stadium BB&T field.

The computer has finally found me out. Word Veri = wingna. I'm sure it meant wingnut.

BillDelyon said...

Ya know its funny JD.

I just went through every channel of showtimes schedule for today through tomorrow.

And I couldn't find ONE show that was 'Adult Content'.

I think you should cool your jets with that 'characterization' of showtime. Yes on the weekend they may show one or two 'adult content' shows/movies, but they are always in the AM time zones.

They show movies, PG, PG-13, R rated.

Simmer down ya prude...

Daly Planet Editor said...

Billy,

I have no personal problem with Showtime. The PR guys are great and they are very good TV pro's.

While they have been able to clear Thursday nights on the main channel for the two hours of sports, the problem remains.

The feedback from NASCAR families was that they simply were not going to subscribe to an admittedly adult themed network for one hour of NASCAR each week.

To each his own, but the question we have been asking is whether or not Showtime is the right place for a major one-hour NASCAR show?

The answer from NASCAR is that Showtime paid the bill and NASCAR is delivering the content.

Should have remembered what organization I was dealing with.

JD

PS- The TV audience on Showtime for this program = tiny.

Anonymous said...

INSIDE NASCAR faces new challenges doesn't quite sum it up.

INSIDE NASCAR conquers new challenges is much more accurate.

Any way you cut it - this show has exceeded expectations. It really is top-notch, even with a Waltrip and a basketball star as panelists.

My only complaint about the show is that by Wedensday night, I am done with last week's race. If they could put this show on Monday night it would make it so much better!

Anonymous said...

Holy Moly - now even if a panelist has a family member in NASCAR it is "baggage." With these standards, the only impartial hosts would be the hosts of Monday Night Football!

How about this: Pemberton's family connection is an ASSET to the show, not baggage. Pemberton gets the inside word from his brother on what is really happening, as opposed to others who hear it second-hand.

Pemberton knows NASCAR. He's been around it his whole life. To dock the guys points on any level because his brother is also in NASCAR and has risen to such a high position seems like nitpicking. Can anyone get a break here or is everyone in the bag or compromised? GEEZ

Anonymous said...

From the New York Times (emphasis mine):
A prosperous unit of the CBS Corporation, Showtime posted $1.3 billion in revenues last year, up seven percent over the prior year.

“Showtime has become a high-growth, high margin business for CBS in recent years, as successful original programming has drawn in more subscribers,” David Joyce, a media industry analyst for Miller Tabak, said in an e-mail message. “While they lost some of their higher-cost film product that had been supplied by Viacom, MGM, and Lionsgate (who all formed a competing premium movie channel service called EPIX),
that freed up their capital to invest in more original programming.”

You can't argue with numbers like that. Polls may show NASCAR families won't (in general) subscribe just for a NASCAR show, clearly it isn't the case that NO NASCAR families will subscribe. Showtime doesn't release ratings numbers, but they do release profits, and they are UP UP UP over there, and you have to think that having original programming that gets solid reviews (like INSIDE NASCAR) is the major reason. It's not that people necesarily subscribe for one show, but for a package of shows exclusive to Showtime, and shows like “Dexter,” “The Tudors,” “The L Word,” “Weeds,” and “Californication" -- which are all critically acclaimed. They may be "adult themed" but guess what - NASCAR is an adult sport. When I go to a NASCAR race, I am surrounded by people drinking alcohol, listening to drivers swear on the radio freely, flip the bird out the window, and then thank the beermaker for the sponsorship. I think these folks can handle a few naked boobs, which is about as "adult" as Showtime gets (it's hardly porn!).

Daly Planet Editor said...

Anon 10:03PM,

Seriously?

You said "Pemberton gets the inside word from his brother on what is really happening, as opposed to others who hear it second-hand."

Thanks, that's good to know.

Daly Planet Editor said...

Anon 10:09PM,

No one said Showtime was not making a profit. No one said their adult themed shows were not top-notch.

Just FYI, if you think that "a few boobs" is the extent of Showtime's adult fare, you need to dig a little deeper.

NASCAR is the sport that has an invocation delivered by a Christian religious leader before each race. That's right before the anthem and the flyover.

You certainly have the right to consume as much Showtime content as you choose to pay for, but that type of programming is simply not going to make it's way into very many NASCAR homes IMHO.

The issue is simply that NASCAR put an hour of programming per week on an adult-themed premium network.

Fans already paying for cable TV to see the races now have to pay again to see this show.

It's not a hard topic to understand and it has been a raging debate on Facebook since the "Inside NASCAR" fan page went up.

Some folks don't have extra money and some don't want to watch the other programming.

I talk to the Showtime guys, they know they are right in the middle of it all. Just about life and choices in the end.

JD

Anonymous said...

Sure there is a prayer at the top of the program. But do people who appreciate prayers and go to church not watch R-rated movies? Hardly! A vast majority of Americans are religious, but it hasn't affected the popularity of other adult entertainment.

Showtime has some raunchy shows, sure, but they are in the minority. I don't think anyone who subscribes to Showtime thinks they are subscribing to an "adult channel" insofarasmuch as you are using the term adult as a synonym for "x-rated" as opposed to "grown-up".

Also, people know the difference between individual shows and an entire network. My father subscribes to HBO. They have a documentary show about a brothel that shows people mid-act! They have way more boobs-shows than Showtime. They also have a series called Real Sex, one called Hookers on the POint, and on it goes. My father watches none of it - and instead watches the Bryant Gumbel show, the sport documentaries, the exclusive boxing contests, the Sopranos, and even that Bill Maher political talk show. By the same token, I think there are plenty of people - even NASCAR religious folk - who subscribe to Showtime and watch INSIDE Nascar, Inside the NFL, the Showtime Championship Boxing, the Tom Cruise movies, and the Penn & Teller original show. They don't think they are subscribing to an adult channel because they don't watch the adult content. Is it so hard to imagine that NASCAR fans could subscribe to Showtime for the things they like and be smart enough to avoid the things they dont.... or do you assume that all NASCAR fans are so closed minded that if one awful show is on a network, that nothing on that network can be allowed in their house? Silly.

Richard in N.C. said...

JD- I have to pay a fee if I want to read all of Ryan McGee's articles about NASCAR online.

Anonymous said...

Yesterday my kid was watching the Nickelodeon kids game show called Brain Surge. The host looks right at the 10-year-old contestants and says "Whose f---ts" smell worse, boys or girls?"

The fact is that the standard for what is acceptable has radically changed... and I think that people who think of Showtime as something purient or taboo are in the vast minority. I will bet you that if you turned on MTV 10 times at random and Showtime 10 times at random, you'd be more offended by MTV.

Daly Planet Editor said...

Anon 12:20AM,

Showtime is one of the most promoted adult-themed cable networks currently on the air.

Their sports offering are beyond slim. Their current attempt to diversify involves only two one hour sports shows on NASCAR and the NFL.

The Showtime cable universe is 17 million homes. That is a tiny sliver of the cable TV total homes.

Showtime has the right to pay for and produce any programs it pleases.

If a major show like "Inside NASCAR" was on a basic or digital cable network, the impact on the sport would be huge.

JD

Anonymous said...

Showtime is adult-themed? Give me a break. Just because you keep saying it doesn't make it true.

Showtime is a premium channel that shows a variety of content, from sports to first-run movies, to original programming, to documentaries, to talk shows.

You are focusing disproportionately on one aspect of their programming. It would be like you calling CBS a sports-themed network (they air a lot more sports than Showtime does adult shows). My son watched Toy Story on Showtime three nights ago. I guess that was adult, too?

Anonymous said...

Isn't it funny how you claim INSIDE NASCAR is missing the boat by being so exclusive and it has 115,000 followers after only a half-season on the air....and yet this blog claims to be so influential in the world of NASCAR yet has only 200 followers after multiple years covering the sport. Sounds more like jealousy, no?

Daly Planet Editor said...

Anon 1:21PM,

I must have missed the part where we claim to be anything other than NASCAR fans talking TV. If you find it, let me know.

The folks you are talking about have chosen to follow this blog on Google through a feed.

As you may know, we also have a Facebook fan page and a Twitter account that you can follow.

Anon 12:09PM,

Showtime has a variety of digital cable channels here in the US, many of them are themed.

The only thing that put the "new look" Showtime on the map was the original dramatic series that featured adult themes, nudity and homosexuality.

It seems to be working financially and Showtime has a plan in mind to expand their brand. You may have noticed that includes NASCAR.

My views are unchanged.

JD

drdiandra said...

Wait... who was it who said that if you want to reach people who don't already believe, you can't "preach to the choir"?
I assumed NASCAR's objective is not to bring NASCAR fans to Showtime, but to bring NASCAR to Showtime fans.

Anonymous said...

I just watched last nights Showtime show. Kyle Petty was awesome. They asked the panel about Dale Jr driving the Wrangler 3 car at Daytona and when it got to Petty he said "it's bunk. It's just an excuse to sell souvenirs."

WOW. That was so refreshing to hear. They should ditch Brad and put in Kyle. His opinions (later he flat out called one NASCAR dcision pure BS except he didn't abbreviate) are exactly what you want to hear on a pay channel show. He was awesome!!!

Anonymous said...

So list just watched as Chris Myers
ask Jeff Burton what has happened to the TV ratings..... For starters
folks that I know are fed-up with the biased commentary on a small circle of drivers... all you ever here is about johnson, stewart, gordon, harvick, montoya, and lest we forget one of the prodical sons
junior... and Danica... seldom to you hear about the other 35-36 guys that work just as hard to put a car on the track for Sat or Sun
maybe nascar should get some commentators that have more to talk about than these guys