Monday, June 28, 2010
SPEED Jumps In Deep End Of The News Pool
The folks at SPEED have a very good relationship with the NASCAR Media Group (NMG). Both companies are located in Charlotte, NC. In fact, SPEED moved to that city with the goal of becoming a fulltime NASCAR TV network. It never happened.
Instead, NMG has spent years producing most of the NASCAR content seen on SPEED. The shows from the SPEED Stage, NASCAR Hot Wired and the Race in 60 series are from NMG. Since NASCAR controls its own footage, NMG has a virtual lock on producing the NASCAR TV content.
Monday, SPEED finally takes a step in the right direction. After years of side-stepping the issue, SPEED has decided to put the time and effort into creating an independent NASCAR news presence. At least, that is the theory.
NASCAR Race Hub will be a one hour program seen at 7PM ET Monday through Thursday for the rest of the racing season. The network has not released the plans for the series during the off-season.
The network tried Race Hub in a thirty minute version, but it just did not work. Instead of news the program was a mix of softball interviews, pro-NASCAR analysis and NMG provided highlights. After three hours of review programs had already aired on SPEED Sunday night, Race Hub wound-up missing the mark during the week.
Recently, FOX Sports chairman David Hill was given direct control of SPEED. Since that time, many things have changed. Hill is actually pro-NASCAR despite his antics with Digger, Pizzi and race start times.
What Hill also does is embrace outspoken on-air personalities. This has been the hardest thing for SPEED to provide in this era of tight NASCAR control on content. Unlike ESPN's NASCAR Now series that has several reporters dedicated to NASCAR, Race Hub has no reporters and a steady stream of different hosts.
Starting Monday, everything changes. SPEED needs to establish a news presence with a regular cast of on-air characters dedicated to providing the latest information gathered that day. This is SPEED jumping into the big boy end of the news pool.
Steve Byrnes and Krista Voda are the most experienced studio hosts currently on the SPEED staff. In just a couple of weeks, ESPN takes over both the Cup and Nationwide Series coverage. This should provide some free time for Byrnes who normally hosts SPEED's practice and qualifying coverage. Voda continues to host the truck series pre-race shows and co-host The Speed Report.
If SPEED can get these two veterans to establish a NASCAR news presence, the rest of the show will fall into place. It's great that NASCAR personalities come into the studio, but interviews need to touch on the issues in the news whether good or bad.
Sirius, PRN and ESPN all use members of the NASCAR media corps as guests. Race Hub has yet to learn that lesson. It's not more of Larry McReynolds, Darrell Waltrip and Jeff Hammond that fans need to see. The news should come from those who report it regularly. The remaining handful of fulltime reporters working in NASCAR news are almost all based in Charlotte. It only makes sense to hear from them.
Other than a phone call to Wind Tunnel, SPEED has failed to maintain any real on-air contact with NASCAR fans. Race Hub has a golden opportunity to use technology and social media to get the fans actively involved in this program on a daily basis.
As with all TV series, Race Hub will have to grow into this new one-hour format. Hopefully, the creative minds at SPEED will now finally have an opportunity to put their stamp on an original program series.
What would you like to see featured on Race Hub? Behind the scenes video? Jimmy Spencer's "crying towel?" Fan phone calls and tweets? Weekly updates from SPEED's pit reporters? A fan cam? There are lots of possibilities.
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