Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Wide Open Coverage Glimpse Of Future

The fan frustration boiled over last weekend with the Sonoma coverage, but it had been building for some time. In a world that technology has altered dramatically, little has changed with NASCAR racetelecasts. Full-screen commercial breaks come early and often.

TV viewers see the racing in disjointed chunks. Announcers are forced to spend time in the racing segments trying to catch fans up on what happened during the two minute and thirty second long commercial breaks. In a word, it's awful.

At Infineon Raceway 143 minutes of race coverage mixed with 52 minutes of commercials to make up the slightly more than three hours of on-track coverage. The good news is that the final TV segment of racing was a long one. TNT also stayed for the first time this season and filled the scheduled NASCAR TV time with post-race interviews.

This week the network moves to Daytona for a Saturday night race in primetime. For the last five years, TNT has been using a new commercial approach to this event they have labeled as "Wide Open" coverage. It could not come a moment too soon.

The thrust of this style of coverage is to recruit a group of advertisers that appreciate innovative TV. That is no easy task. The line-up this year includes Coke Zero, Coors Light, Pfizer, Sprint, Toyota and Warner Brothers Films. In return for getting on board, the advertisers get extended exposure on the air while TNT gets to use a side-by-side commercial format.

Ultimately, TV networks that paid top dollar to NASCAR for these races have to figure out a way to pay the bills. Despite the tremendous changes in online and smart phone technology, TV has basically plodded along trying to use the old method of full-screen commercials, ratings and household exposure.

TNT's goal every year for this race is to not miss a lap of green flag racing. Sure, they have to sneak some full-screen local breaks in for the cable companies, but doing that under caution flag periods has proven to be a tremendous success. That way, only the side-by-side style commercials air during green flag racing.

The toughest task of this telecast falls to Adam Alexander. Instead of simply leading to commercial, TNT's play-by-play guy has an extensive menu of sales features to try and integrate into the live race telecast.

A tremendous benefit during the TNT races has been the online RaceBuddy application available for free at the website. Once again this weekend, RaceBuddy will offer ten video sources including four in-car cameras. There is also an "iso-cam" on pit road and a battle-cam that follows the best racing on the track.

Between the Wide Open coverage and RaceBuddy, what TNT is ultimately doing is providing race fans a peek into the future. RaceBuddy is now available on iPhones, iPads and android phones with the Sprint Mobile app. The entire live race may have some added TV commercial content, but it will not block the racing action from start-to-finish. That's a pretty nice package.

Today's younger consumers just won't stand for full-screen TV commercials that block live professional sports action. They don't have it with the NFL, the NBA or the NHL. The devotion to brands, drivers and manufacturers that we veteran fans grew up with is an alien concept to young folks.

As NASCAR desperately tries to get a foot in the door with the 18-35 demographic, it will be technology and not racing that ultimately tips the scales. It should be interesting to see how this technology-driven group responds to the fifth season of "Wide Open" coverage from Daytona.

We welcome your comments on this topic. To add your opinion, just click on the comments button below. Thank you for taking the time to stop by The Daly Planet.


Anonymous said...

I used to not care for the Wide Open deal, but Ive come to realize its actually a better deal than the FOX/ESPN spilt screen stuff. The racing is sorta full screen while the commercial is in the small box. Cant argue with that. But they have a TON of those commercials. Some lasting 3 minutes. Thats the part I dont like about it.

Now to a question. Ive never watched Wide Open Coverage in HD. Always had SD and to my understanding it was a widescreen telecast with the picture moved to the top and all the graphics on the bottom covering up the black empty space. So my question is, Since HD is widescreen, Does this mean the picture is going to be really narrow on HD or do they just put the graphics over the video? Cause If they do that there goes a third of the screen, and that is not going to go over well with me.

Robert Powell said...

I love the Wide Open coverage and wondered why it wasn't adopted by the NASCAR broadcasters right after it first appeared during IRL races. We are much less likely to fast forward through commercials if there's still action to be seen. When the race continues in the shrunken window, it causes me to concentrate on the TV screen even more which in turn puts their advertising directly in front of my dumb slackjawed face. I think it's a good idea and can understand why the advertisers agree.

Anonymous said...

I hope for something like soccer has in the u.s..........segments of coverage sponsored by a single advertiser.....with mini adds or what not during there time period.....prolly not feasable tho

Anonymous said...

Hats off to TNT for putting forth the effort to "modernize" nascar. Some may not care that much for their broadcasts, but at least they have management that are willing to try. All we get from fox, espn, and nascare are excuses. MC

Anonymous said...

"""So my question is, Since HD is widescreen, Does this mean the picture is going to be really narrow on HD or do they just put the graphics over the video? """

The part that sucks is that the window size that you are used will be the same. They fill the background with crap graphics. Instead of filling the whole screen, they dummie it down to the same size as SD...

Andy D said...

I understand the desire not to have your concentration broken by going away to commercial. I also understand that nobody wants to have even advertiser's shouting in their face when watching a sport full of rolling billboards.

But it's a 4 hour race. What's the problem with finding out about a lead change two minutes after it happened? Any lead change is irrelevant when you have two hours more racing and several pit stops to go. So what if a crash happens while we're in commercial? They're going to replay it for the next ten minutes from 20 different angles. And come back to it six more times during the broadcast.

Complain about the frequent commercials, promos, screen crawls, brought to you bys, and the logos on the cars but stop complaining that you're missing something vitally important to the outcome of the race.

NASCAR has become one long advertising spree. Five or more hours when you consider pre and post race shows. The King is my man, but he should be excluded from the Hall Of Fame on the basis of having brought STP sponsorship to the sport. It sure was nice when you knew what color your favorite driver's car was.

On a different note. I love Race Buddy but don't need four in-car cams. I don't need any of them actually. I want more battle cams.

GinaV24 said...

NASCAR needs to go to side by side commercials for all the races. Fox has been playing with it on a limited basis but that's not enough.

I enjoy TNT's broadcasts the best of the 3 partners and the wide open race is probably the best race they have to cover. Adam A needs to step up with his PXP though. He currently isn't good enough to do this. Work with Ralph S for heaven's sakes - get some tips and learn.

I had trouble with Racebuddy last week - I could only see the 360 camera - even after I changed browsers. It was really annoying and I hope that I can see it this week.

TV is a lot like the phone service was before the wireless revolution. They are catching up - even if it is reluctantly to the on the go society we now have - NASCAR needs to make a big leap forward and 2014 is too far away to wait for it if they really want that 18-35 demographic AND keep their current fans. A lot of us support drivers (myself included) who will probably be retiring in the next few years. They need to find a way to keep me interested in racing because based on the way things are at present in the sport, when Gordon goes, I plan to as well.

Anonymous said...

You'd think with the size of the average tv these days that this would be a no-brainer. The size of a split screen commercial is probably still larger than the full screen add on the average tv 25 years ago.

Anonymous said...

There are very good reasons you never see commercials during live action for the NBA, NFL, NHL, and MLB games. Those sports changed their rules to keep play stopped for TV to have time for commercial breaks.

GinaV24 said...

Auto racing is NOT stick and ball. NASCAR could go back to manipulating the cautions to produce the appropriate "commercial timeouts".

That IS a joke, folks.

Anonymous said...

"The King is my man, but he should be excluded from the Hall Of Fame on the basis of having brought STP sponsorship to the sport. It sure was nice when you knew what color your favorite driver's car was."

This is quite possibly the most ridiculous post ever. You want Richard Petty excluded from the NHOF because he brought STP into NASCAR & your reasoning is car colors? WTF! His car was always STP red & Petty blue except on rare ocassions. STP & Goodwrench were probably the 2 most commited and consistent sponsors ever.

OSBORNK said...

With the DVR, one would think the sponsors would insist on Wide Open Coverage. With traditional commercials, the sponsors are assured that their ads will be skipped by DVR viewers and ignored by others who channel surf or take bathroom/food breaks during commercials. Wide Open Coverage keeps the viewers watching the TV and the commercial is present and frequently seen by the viewers as they watch the action on other parts of the screen.

Anonymous said...

Wide open coverage might just save the sport, as far as viewership is concerned. The sports needs something that will keep the behinds in their recliners. But, not even this will save this sport as a whole. When a long standing sponsor like Crown Royal is leaving a team like Kenseth, when Jeff Gordon can't find a full year sponsor, not all the TV tricks in the world will save Nascar.

Anonymous said...

Wide open coverage works for Daytona and Talladega. But, as we saw with FOX, if you just follow one car in the box while the commercial plays in the other, it's a waste of time on any other track.

I would even go as far as saying that with the 2 car slingshots at the super-speedways, it's a waste of time there too. When it was 40 cars 3 wide in one pack it was a great service.

Someone mentioned soccer sponsorships earlier. I bet you can sponsor a full half of a soccer game for what you can buy a 30 second commercial for in NASCAR.

Finally, remember that no commercials equals pay-per-view. I'm not ponying up $$ to watch it if it's just like the telecasts now without the commercials. Are you? Unless they have three seperate channels: Hypertight, Mike Wells, and the ESPN incar directors cut.

Bruce Ciskie said...

I like the Wide Open concept, but based on past experience with TNT, if you think Adam Alexander struggles to call the race now, wait until you hear him try to call the race while dealing with all this live commercial traffic.

You're gonna want to keep your radio handy for this one.

Dot said...

@ Osbornk, I so agree with you.

Why is TV still in the dark ages when it comes to commls and sports?

nascar will be talking soon to the TV partners about the new contract. Someone better bring up Wide Open during negotiations.

I read the list of sponsors. I've said that I would buy/use the product of those who agree to show their commls Wide Open. So what happens if a woman takes Viagra?