Friday, August 12, 2011

ESPN's Goals For Watkins Glen


When ESPN begins the Sprint Cup Series telecasts, there are some "advancer" stories that are prepared by reporters working the local beats. Click here for the story titled "ESPN ready to rock its NASCAR coverage at Watkins Glen International."

The story by Shawn Vargo is featured at TheLeader.com, which is a Corning, NY publication. What's great about Vargo's story is that he uses quotes from Rich Feinberg, ESPN's VP of Motorsports, who is pictured above.

Here is Feinberg talking about ESPN's approach to NASCAR coverage being a simple one.

"We have our style and philosophy of how we broadcast a race," Feinberg said. "The focus of everything we do is about the drivers and the competition and not about us. People are tuning-in to see the NASCAR stars, the drivers, the racing. That’s where we try to keep our eye on the ball."

Here is Feinberg speaking about the in-race technology.

"We have to make sure our technology doesn’t get in the way of documenting and telling the story of the race,” Feinberg said. “(Technology) can enhance it, make it more entertaining, provide insight into what’s happening and perhaps help us foreshadow what’s going to happen. But it’s important for us to remain balanced in our usage of everything we have at our disposal."

Finally, Feinberg summarizes ESPN's goals when televising Sprint Cup Series races.

"Whether it’s the technology, the number of announcers we use or whatever makes up the entire picture, (the goal is) to balance out the use of all those elements, to ensure that our overall broadcast remains focused on what’s happening on the track."

"ESPN is in close to 100 million homes throughout this country," Feinberg said. "Our job is to serve those fans. We try to make the most compelling, entertaining coverage of a NASCAR race, on a weekly basis."

"The tricky line we try to walk is offering general basic storytelling to new viewers, while not alienating hard-core fans who really want the nitty-gritty and the strategy of what’s happening on the racetrack and we try to serve both with everything we do. At the end of the day, they all want to be entertained."

This is a very timely picture of Feinberg's mindset as ESPN gets into the very heart of the season and heads for the Chase. As most fans know, Feinberg made a very big decision just one week prior to the Brickyard 400. Allen Bestwick was brought in as the lap-by-lap Sprint Cup Series announcer and Marty Reid was asked to continue on the Nationwide Series telecasts.

This helped fans to understand that perhaps ESPN finally got it. When something isn't working, just fix it. Feinberg also shelved the infamous Draft-Tracker and several other gadgets along the way and this year seems to have the right pieces in the right places.

While ESPN sometimes is blind to the work of other networks, NASCAR fans see various SPEED personalities every race weekend handling a lot of the support programming like practice and qualifying sessions. There no bells and whistles involved, it's just NASCAR people talking NASCAR.

This weekend, SPEED puts the unlikely trio of Leigh Diffey, Kyle Petty and Larry McReynolds together in the TV booth to handle Sprint Cup Series practice and qualifying. Those are the kind of colorful characters that make good TV. This combo should also make for some interesting uses of the English language.

It's not really the memories of TNT that the ESPN coverage is compared to, but the fact that SPEED is right there side-by-side at the track and seems to have few problems covering exactly the same content. This weekend, it seems that SPEED is doing the heavy lifting once again.

Friday and Saturday, ESPN will be deeply involved in Little League Baseball coverage. There will also be tennis and soccer coverage on the air while SPEED handles live on-track session after session from Watkins Glen.

Unlike FOX and TNT, there will never be a reporter, host or analyst on the ESPN staff shared with SPEED for this support coverage. Like it or not, ESPN sometimes appears to be a network that shows up for the race and leaves when it is over.

Fortunately, there is real potential for this weekend's mix of practice, qualifying and racing to produce some of the best NASCAR TV of the season. If Feinberg and his crew stay focused, the network might come away from the Glen with the best momentum ESPN's NASCAR coverage has enjoyed in years.

We invite your comments on reactions to Feinberg's comments and also on the SPEED coverage from Watkins Glen on Friday. The complete TV schedule is on the left side of this page. Thanks for stopping by The Daly Planet.

23 comments:

Anonymous said...

We'll see how the weather cooperates with the coverage. There is a good chance of rain and/or storms both Saturday and Sunday in the Watkins Glen area.

Do the Nationwide cars still have the option for racing in the rain even with the new car? I really hope so because I find few things in racing more fun than racing in wet conditions.


It should be good to watch a road race also with Allen announcing. Watkins Glen races can often bring some great excitement throughout the race.

Spencer said...

leigh diffey, interesting

Anonymous said...

hot air from a ESPN exec. I doubt there will be any change

Gymmie said...

Yes Brian posted that they expect rain all weekend :(

I believe I recall seeing a tweet the other day that mentioned the N'wide cars would be able to run rain tires if necessary.

Bobby said...

Love to see the Sprint Cup cars on on rain tyres, especially since Tony Stewart did a short rain tyre run during the Mobil 1 Car Swap.

Anonymous said...

I, for one, am not interested in listening to that trio today. I live close to the Glen. Today is gorgeous,but the weather people say steady rain Sunday into Monday. The good news is that they're not often correct. If Feinberg says that his priority is the racing, then why does he have so many air heads sitting behind microphones? e.g. Briscoe, Rusty, Big Brad,etc.

Sally said...

So far I've been pleasantly surprised by the ESPN coverage of the races. It does appear that they finally started listening to the fans they depend on to make their coverage a success, and have made some of the appropriate changes. The KISS method really is the best for covering races. If they can actually stick to that philosophy, they should make a lot of fans happy.

GinaV24 said...

well, while I'll concede that Feinberg has made some positive changes, I'm reserving judgement on whether or not ESPN "gets it" as far as NASCAR goes. Still too many people talking IMO. Plus will they revert to the "script" when the chase gets here?

Also, ESPN continues with their conflict of interest cast of broadcasters, esp with Cousin Carl entering the booth next year.

The road courses are always a challenge, but I expect that Allen will do a fine job of the PXP. Hopefully the camera work will keep up and the rain will stay away!

Feinberg can put out all the press releases he likes about ESPN's goals, but I'm still from Missouri - show me!

Wisconsin Steve said...

Leigh Diffey and Larry McReynolds... so is Kyle there to translate?

Kidding, I like all of them.

Don said...

They've promised us racing in the rain many times over the years. I'd really enjoy seeing it, especially with the tight points race that we have going. It probably favors the ringers, but this is the year for first-time winners so have at it boys.

Will ESPN put on a good show? I'll reserve judgement till afterwards. I like Bestwick. I wish we heard more from Kyle Petty during the Sprint Cup races. I distrust ESPN's stick & ball mindset but they did a great job back in the Eighties and maybe they can do a comeback. Without DW there is always hope.

Anonymous said...

This is another NASCAR road race. The racing is horrible, so don't expect much from the broadcast.

One other thing, JD you need to start a countdown for the start of college football season, when the nationwide series suddenly becomes invisible.

52 yr. fan said...

Vargo's column reads like an ESPN placed PR item. Maybe the PR folks or Feinberg should send copies to the production group.

I'm looking forward to the coverage
today but may have to activate
closed caption to follow Diffey and Larry Mc.

Hope the weather holds off for one of the better races of the year!

w17scott said...

Mr Editor -
Leigh Diffey, inceed ...what a miz w/Kyle and Larry Mac ...we'll see how an F1 background translates to NASCAR ...Marty Reid's best effort came with the straight-liners and excellent editing ...as for Feinberg's comments - looks like he may consider EXPN's NASCAR coverage a work in progress with changes already made ...as for the remainder of the NASCAR season, racing will always yield to the stick-and-ball agenda, so nothing should surprise viewers ...SPEED holds the key for fans seeking current and active coverage ...Leigh Diffey, indeed - Tally Ho!
Walter

Anonymous said...

I watched the Cup practice with the volume turned off 90% of the time. I randomly turned the volume up. Once, I heard Larry Mac explain that they run the race backwards regarding the pit stops. Now, we've all only heard that 111 times,but the guys in the booth couldn't resist enlightening us all. Another time, I got to hear Jimmie Johson defend the indefensible---that he didn't try to wreck Kurt Busch at Pocono. Race Hub has been showing the replays all week where Johnson turned down on Kurt while they exited Turn One . I incorrectly thought that this was the third time Johnson tried to wreck Kurt in the last three years. But I was wrong. It was the fourth time according to the replays shown on Race Hub. Sooner or later,Jimmie will no longer be Cup Champion. One would think he would lose the title gracefully. Sadly, he's shown a darker side to him. Like when he tried to wreck the #24 a year or two ago. Today, he was making all kinds of excuses for trying to wreck Kurt. By the way, Kurt is near the bottom of my list of favorite drivers, so I'm not carrying water for him. I've always respected JJ, but have lost respect for him lately.

Roadgeek Adam said...

Leigh Diffey was definitely very good for practice play by play. Definitely someone I'd give a chance if needed.

NorCalFan said...

I like Kyle Petty’s ability to speak what’s on his mind combined with a memory like a steel trap.

In Cup practice this morning, Petty called out the #48 for “unintentionally” running out of gas at Watkins Glen and causing the caution flag to come out. He reminded us that just a few weeks ago JJ called out the #37 car for bringing out a caution late during the first practice and ruining his final attempt at a qualifying lap. Then Petty said that with JJ just bringing out the caution late in this first practice (used for setting qualifying order) that he just ruined qualifying runs for about 10-15 drivers. Total silence from his booth buddies.

Anonymous said...

Feinberg took 4 years to get Bestwick in the booth and now you can listen to the show. If Feinberg would change the guys that sit on the bench behind him, you might get a product you could watch too.

saltsburgtrojanfan said...

Anon @ 9:30 AM


I respectfully disagree.

Road courses have been known over the years to put on a good show.

Remeber the Rusty wallace-Ricky Rudd showdowns at the 88 Bud at the Glen and the inagural Sears Point race in 89.

The 91 Rudd screwjob was exciting.

So Road Course racing isn't boring in fact it is exciting.

Bill said...

What a hoot! Leigh Diffie doing pxp for practices and qualifying! I've always considered him extremely annoying with his overbearing and obnoxious delivery during Grand Am and F1 races, especially when compared to the elegant and cerebral Bob Varsha. Bob's ultra dry sense of humor during Barrett-Jackson broadcasts is a riot.

But, Diffie seems well-prepared, and is using his statisticians effectively, and seems to come off far more knowledgeable and comfortable than Marty Reid ever has. Of course, Diffie's skills haven't been tested during an actual race, a slightly more difficult challenge, to say the least.

It's a novelty, for sure. It's so out of place, that it's entertaining, at least for now.

What's next? Larry Mac in the booth and Hermie Sadler in the pits at the Grand Prix of Monaco?

West Coast Diane said...

Like Leigh Diffey and Jeff H is so much better here than with DW. Like two different people.

What network is that article about? Like to see if Directv carries it....lol.

I like the road course races. Beats the Pocono, Fontana, etc snoozers.

West Coast Diane said...

OMG! Larry Mac said "Kez-lowski", not "Kez-a-lowski" during the NNS quals! Was it a mistake or has he finally got it right!!! Thank you if the latter.

Ps...yes a small thing...but it was irritating.

Pss...and yes, Brad said, however...but it is nice to have your name prononced correctly.

Please stop the loudmouth said...

Leigh Driffey ..super loud mouth in
the booth for qualifying. just
what we need .. more announcers
and a stone LOUD MOUTH TO BOOT
He is theeee worst of all of the
folks over at Speed Channel. There
is not one good thing about him
period...

dwight said...

Leigh Diffey was a very good addition. His grammar is good, not something you worry your kids might pick up, and his racing knowledge goes beyond just NASCAR. He is comfortable with road racing. His work with the Grand-Am is good. Speed has a number of announcers and commentators who appreciate racing, and are not limited to just NASCAR.