Monday, June 28, 2010

Tough Sell For Daytona 3D Coverage

TNT announced last week that there would be a 3D experiment at the Coke Zero 400 in Daytona. As most sports fans have heard, 3DTV is coming and several media companies are actively involved in developing that technology.

The race telecast is Saturday night at 7:30PM ET. The 3D video was originally going to be made available only through DirecTV and the website. To view it, fans will need a 3D computer monitor or TV. Yes, you also have to wear the glasses. DirecTV has been at the forefront of distributing 3D sports coverage.

Since that time, three big cable system operators have joined the project. Comcast, Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks will offer the 3D feed on selected cable systems. This really shows the interest of the big cable companies in this new technology.

“One of our goals here at NASCAR is to continuously explore ways to improve the viewing experience for our fans,” said Jay Abraham, COO of the NASCAR Media Group. “Offering the Coke Zero 400 in 3D on NASCAR.COM and select television distributors is a great example of that consistent exploration. Our fans have been asking us about 3D for several months so we’re excited to deliver that to them for the first time ever in what will likely change how NASCAR is consumed moving forward.”

“At Turner Sports we pride ourselves on innovation through testing, learning and exploring new products and technologies that can better serve our audiences on a multitude of platforms,” said Lenny Daniels, Turner Sports EVP and COO. “We see this as an opportunity to showcase our marquee primetime race in Daytona through our signature Wide Open format on TNT, as well as to learn more about 3D through this unique presentation online at NASCAR.COM and through DIRECTV.”

What Abraham and Daniels are talking about is the fact that 3D seems to be the next big thing. ESPN is actively involved in 3D for other sports, but has denied any 3D plans for NASCAR this season. More than likely, moving forward with complete 3D coverage for any race would have to be a financial issue shared by several parties.

Turner operates and has a working partnership with the NASCAR Media Group that includes video content. This is probably the only race of the season that would make sense for a 3D experiment.

The way this project was explained is that there will be two different 3D channels for the race. Turner explains the first as "strategically placed cameras around the track designed to maximize the effect of 3D." Perhaps, those would be the low-angle "speed shots" that fans are used to seeing.

The second 3D feed will be a designated camera on pit road. Shown above is the TNT jib camera that hangs out over pit road and has been part of RaceBuddy since the network first rolled out that online application. Perhaps, this will be the camera location where a 3D perspective would make the most sense.

As we all know, the curious part of this entire project is that 3D television sets are rare. Looking at prices continues to reinforce the belief that spending over two thousand dollars for a base model 3DTV is not really on the minds of many Americans right now.

As we move forward with more specific information on the Daytona 3D project, we will pass it along. On one hand, it certainly is an interesting step forward in new technology. On the other hand, it's a curious decision to allocate time and resources in this direction when NASCAR TV is struggling with ratings and credibility.

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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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Your Turn: Sprint Cup Series From New Hampshire On TNT

The TNT gang covered New Hampshire with one hour of pre-race and then live green to checkers TV.

Lindsay Czarniak anchored the pre-race with Kyle Petty and Larry McReynolds. The Pride of NASCAR featured Dale Inman. Czarniak took a ride with Jeff Burton, Wally's World talked flat track and Denny Hamlin was the on-set guest.

Adam Alexander called the race with Petty and Wally Dallenbach Jr. in the TV booth. Matt Yocum, Phil Parsons, Ralph Sheheen and Marty Snider reported from pit road.

The race featured the typical style of flat-track racing that features the inside cars bumping the outside cars under green. The tempers were rising, but the race was less than exciting in terms of content for the TV team.

The normal amount of start and park cars ended the day early, but TNT continued to avoid this issue in much the same manner as the SPEED truck series gang. Pit stop coverage was standard, but green flag stops still throw a wrench into this coverage.

There were no technical problems, the weather was clear and the race ended as scheduled. TNT again left the air prior to the scheduled broadcast time without following up some stories from the race. Those were reported on the post race show which uses the TNT staff.

This is your opportunity to offer post-race comments on the TV coverage. 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.