Monday, October 31, 2011

Agreement Reached in DirecTV vs. FOX Dispute

Confirmed: Shortly before 6:30PM ET, the news was released that an agreement has been reached in the ongoing dispute between DirecTV and FOX. Cable networks like SPEED, FUEL and FX will be unaffected and the agreement extends to other FOX cable networks and local broadcast stations. Thanks for your patience, more details will be added when released to the media.

It's crunch time for the latest media crisis involving the struggle between content providers and distributors. This time, DirecTV is facing off with a slice of the FOX franchise that provides cable network content.

The equation is simple. The current agreement for a package that includes FX, SPEED, FUEL and the FSN regional sports networks is set to expire. DirecTV has indicated that FOX is seeking a substantial increase in payment for delivering these services. Numbers used to describe the increase range from 25 to 38%. DirecTV is not going to agree to the increase and will remove these networks on Nov. 1 from the service.

There is no love lost between these two parties. The current CEO of FOX used to run DirecTV. FOX has a long history of playing hardball with distributors. The DirecTV strategy is to set a deadline for removing these networks and negotiate against that deadline.

In essence, DirecTV is using the only real weapon it has and that is to discontinue distributing content to the 19.4 million homes it services. In response, FOX expanded the online propaganda to include statements that were not true. DirecTV then complained to the FCC.

"Fox is using misleading advertising informing DirecTV customers that 'soon, in some markets, you may lose your local Fox station,'" DirecTV Executive Vice President Derek Chang wrote to the FCC. "Even if the Fox cable channels are no longer carried on Nov. 1, the broadcast stations are covered under a separate agreement, which does not expire until Dec. 31."

FOX had begun to say online and in media releases that the FOX News Channel and local FOX over the air TV stations would be lost in this agreement. That is not accurate and is intended to mislead consumers.

The last update on the negotiations was Saturday before the parties broke for the weekend. At that time, the sides were far apart. In a nutshell, FOX is trying to ram this agreement through using the current hit shows on FX as the leverage. Sons of Anarchy, American Horror Story and others have given the FX primetime a boost.

One real issue on the table is that FOX has constructed a series of cable networks that simply "churn" content during the daytime on weekdays and depend on primetime and weekends to provide original and popular programming.

SPEED is a good example of this type of network. Between 3AM ET and 6PM on weekdays the network is a hodgepodge of content. There has never been an original morning show, there is no content designed for afternoons and currently the Monday through Thursday primetime line-up is a disaster.

SPEED recently moved NASCAR RaceHub out of primetime in the heart of the NASCAR season and replaced it at 7PM with two re-airs of the "drag racing" show Pass Time. Click here for a story on the new series SPEED ordered for 2012.

DirecTV has a point. What FOX is offering is basically several series on FX and the regional sports networks showing NBA, NHL and MLB programming. It should be interesting to see how negotiations progress today as the Nov. 1 deadline approaches.

Update #1: At 12:55PM, the Hollywood Reporter confirmed negotiations are in progress, but both sides declined comment.

Update #2: At 1:30PM ET all the SPEED twitter accounts are now tweeting the link to the Facebook page containing the FOX anti-DirecTV video. It never mentions the substantial rate increase demanded by FOX, only tries to scare DirecTV subscribers about losing FX shows and sports programming.

Update #3: At 2PM FOX fired back at the perception they are the bad guys in this dispute. Latest from "Yes we are still negotiating and are hopeful the parties can reach an agreement," said Fox senior VP of communications Scott Grogin. "We plan to leave our signals up and available to DirecTV. If the signals come down, it will be because DTV took them down," he added.

Update #4: 3:30PM and Variety updates that no information is out, both sides continue to negotiate. SiriusXM's Pete Pistone tweeted DirecTV spokesman told him to expect SPEED and other nets in deal to be removed at midnight PT.

Update #5: At 5:30PM, DirecTV said "We are actively in discussions & hope to reach a fair agreement." Told both sides talking, but no hint of resolution at this time.

Update #6: at 6PM, DirecTV on FOX actively encouraging existing DirecTV customers to cancel service and switch to cable TV - "Switching only helps FOX charge a higher price, and will result in a higher monthly bill for you, no matter who you get your TV service from. News Corp and FOX are by far the most aggressive programmer in the industry. They want you to switch so they can put more pressure on DIRECTV to agree to their outrageous price increase. FOX will then take that new price to all the other TV providers, demand they also pay the new higher price, and start scaring their customers into switching service."

We will continue to update this story and post updates on this main page. Today is a critical day for both sides to either agree to a compromise deal or stand their ground and let the services in question go dark. Stay tuned.

To add your comments on this topic, just click on the comments button below.

Race Wrap: ESPN in Martinsville

The short-track in Martinsville, VA proved to be the undoing of ESPN this season. There are simply no words to describe how awful this telecast was once the race started. It defied description.

The pre-race show was solid and really worked well to set-up what everyone knew would be a tough day of bumping and banging. Rusty Wallace was absent due to the passing of his father on Saturday. Nicole Briscoe hosted with Dale Jarrett, Marty Smith and Brad Daugherty in the studio.

Marty Smith replayed an interview with Brad Keselowski and contributed to the topics on the pre-race show. His presence was refreshing and worked well with Jarrett. Wallace has been re-signed by ESPN through 2014. No word on Daugherty's future.

It was Allen Bestwick, Dale Jarrett and Andy Petree in the TV booth. Jamie Little, Dave Burns, Mike Massaro and Jerry Punch were on pit road. Tim Brewer was in the Tech Garage.

Once the racing started it was made very clear that this race was going to be the tightest-framed and most awkward coverage in the five year history of ESPN since returning to NASCAR. The leaders were immediately framed when the green came out and the racing and incidents in the field were never seen.

It was replays that were used to explain to TV viewers time and time again what had actually happened on the track and pit road. The full-screen insertion of commercials for the first half of the race made it even more miserable. ESPN was caught in commercial when caution came out repeatedly.

ESPN has made it clear that this "hyper-tight" coverage is the way they are going to produce NASCAR races. In the body of this telecast, there were entire segments where the cameras never extended beyond showing two cars in the frame. The race recaps were presented with single car camera shots, despite the fact that the racing was under green.

To add insult to injury, the aerial camera was only used as the transition into commercial breaks. The low-angle speed shots were rarely used. Instead, the director zoomed-in on one or two cars at a time. Then, he shifted to one or two other cars as the announcers were instructed to talk about those drivers.

One key to the tension in this telecast between the broadcast booth and the producer and director in the TV truck were the frequent times when what was being discussed did not match what pictures were being shown. Bestwick would be yelling about the beating and banging at the back of the pack while the director zoomed-in on the leader of the race. After a moment of silence, Bestwick would be made to talk about the pictures. It was awful.

The restart with 27 laps to go saw ESPN shoot the leaders only and again miss a spin in the pack, this time involving Ryan Newman. It was a typical restart scenario for ESPN on this day. Zoom into the leader, then replay what happened that TV viewers never saw. Many fans seemed to be as frustrated as some of the drivers.

It's not rocket science to allow the cameras to show the cars racing on this short-track to the TV viewers. It's a track that has been covered on TV for a very long time by lots of different TV networks. Ultimately, it takes effort to make the kind of mess ESPN made Sunday.

The drivers offered a lot of action. The stories were unfolding at a hectic pace. It was a critical race in the Chase. There were multiple caution flags. Tempers were boiling. The TV response was single-car camera shots with forced storylines.

We invite your comments on this telecast. To add your TV-related opinion, just click on the comments button below.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Live Blogging Sprint Cup Series From Martinsville (ESPN - 1PM ET)

Great fall weather at Martinsville means NASCAR gets an opportunity to put on a good show as the season winds down. The pre-race show on ESPN today is only thirty minutes, but the green flag does not fall until 1:58PM ET.

Russ Wallace, the father of Rusty and Kenny passed away last night after an illness. Kenny was replaced on SPEED's RaceDay by Larry McReynolds. Rusty will not be replaced, but the Infield Pit Studio will host several guests. Nicole Briscoe is hosting with Brad Daugherty alongside.

An interesting Marty Smith interview with driver Brad Kesewloski will air during the Countdown show. Also on the table will be the Chad Knaus pre-race conversation picked up by's RaceBuddy at Talladega. Jack Roush again this AM denied team orders were in place last week, despite Trevor Bayne saying he was told to leave Jeff Gordon and pick up a Ford late in the race.

Allen Bestwick will call the race with Dale Jarrett and Andy Petree alongside. On pit road are Dave Burns, Mike Massaro, Dr. Jerry Punch and Jamie Little. Vince Welch informed us he is off this weekend as his daughter has a cross-country track meet. Tim Brewer will be in the Tech Garage.

Martinsville is short-track racing defined. It will be impossible for the "hyper-tight" ESPN coverage because there is always a pack racing or something going on. The ability to pick and choose who to cover is gone.

It's a shame that ESPN did not experiment with Nonstop coverage for this entire race. One commercial of three minutes in length under green flag conditions seems like an hour at this track. Instead, only the final half of the event will have the side-by-side commercial format. will continue to offer RaceBuddy. This consists of a collection of in-car cameras with two fixed speed shots of the racetrack. Listening to the team radios should be interesting today.

This post will serve to host your comments on the ESPN coverage of the Sprint Cup Series on ESPN. To add your comments, just click on the comments button below. Thanks for taking the time to stop by.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

FOX And DirecTV Battle Set To Affect NASCAR Fans

It's a scenario cable TV and home satellite dish owners know all too well. A powerful company that provides programming wants more money and the company that must pay to distribute those services says it's a raw deal.

DirecTV has slightly less than 20 million home dish customers in the US. The company is not large, but serves a very distinct market and has been influential in the growth of specialty programming and home satellite services.

The term to remember in this tussle is "bundling." What FOX (and parent company News Corp) wants is a significantly higher fee for providing a group of networks to distribute. DirectTV claims the requested rate hike is almost 40%. FOX called that ridiculous, but will not state a number or percentage.

"We already provide News Corp. nearly a billion dollars a year for their channels and we have no problem continuing to compensate them fairly." DirecTV said in a media release. "The deal being offered is unfair and unwarranted."

The issue is that FOX will not value the company's networks separately. While networks like FX have been on a roll, increasing fees for the likes of SPEED, FUEL and the NatGeo Channel is debatable. There are also Fox Regional Sports Networks in the deal. FOX will not "unbundle" the network package.

New Corp has put in place the website. The list of all the FOX networks involved in this dispute is featured. The idea is to spin the rate increase as just a fair deal for DirecTV that is in line with the other FOX partners. That is far from the reality.

DirecTV has set November 1 as a date for FOX to get things settled or those network signals will be removed from the home dish service. Needless to say, most consumers are not interested in the broader issues despite the fact that increased costs will be passed along as usual to the end-user. People just want their TV shows.

NASCAR fans have already been emailing with concerns about losing SPEED and that programming at a critical time of the racing season. Featured programming affected would be the Camping World Truck Series, NASCAR shows from the various Sprint Cup Series tracks and the Monday through Thursday RaceHub news and interview program.

One very interesting twist in this equation is the gentleman pictured above. In 2008, at the time of this photo, Chase Carey was the CEO and president of DirecTV. He helped grow the company through strategic partnerships with sports providers. He made his mark and has now moved on.

Today, he is the president of News Corp and leads the bargaining team to the table with detailed knowledge of exactly how DirecTV works and where the company is vulnerable. Imagine having a former CEO as an opponent in a financial dispute.

As usual, it's getting ugly. The site has lots of anti-DirecTV "news" stories posted and features comments from consumers worried about not seeing different shows or series. DirecTV continues to paint FOX as a money-hungry monster that can't deliver the goods to justify a rate increase of any kind.

All we know is that this weekend things will be fine, but come Tuesday there could be a significant void in the ability of NASCAR to distribute some key programming to a very important segment of the TV marketplace.

We will be updating any news on this topic that happens on the TDP Twitter, Facebook and blog sites. Should this issue press right up to the deadline, we will offer a live blog next Monday of the ongoing negotiations. These things have a history of getting resolved at the last minute, so as they say on TV...stay tuned.

Please feel free to add your comment 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.

Live Blogging Truck Series From Martinsville - (SPEED - 1:30PM)

It's cold, but the rain has stopped and some rubber has been put down on the track. It's time for the Saturday truck series race at Martinsville Speedway.

Krista Voda kicks things off with the Set-Up pre-race show. Rick Allen, Phil Parsons and Michael Waltrip will call the race. Ray Dunlap and Hermie Sadler are the pit reporters.

SPEED's TV package is a familiar one. Martinsville should lead to some very interesting racing as the field is very diverse with many different agendas and levels of experience. Matt Crafton, pictured above, is on the pole.

This post will serve to host your comments on the SPEED TV coverage of the race. To add your opinion, just click on the comments button below. Thanks for stopping by.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

SPEED Suddenly Pawn In TV Face-Off

DirecTV released a new statement in relation to the most recent strong-arm tactics being employed by FOX in the ongoing rate dispute involving FOX cable and regional sports networks. SPEED is included as a key piece of the puzzle in this issue.

DIRECTV has always been able to fight on our customers’ behalf and settle its business behind the scenes – where it belongs. But unfortunately that’s not the case with News Corp and FOX.

FOX has had very public and nasty rate disputes with Cablevision, DISH, and Time Warner Cable - and that’s only in the past year. No TV provider is immune to their bullying tactics.

By comparison, DIRECTV has quietly closed deals with hundreds of different programmers in the last few years, representing thousands of channels, and we are prepared to do the same with FOX. We wish you weren’t put in the middle. But we’re listening and talking to Fox daily.

We’re hopeful that FOX will soon become more reasonable with their demands and we can put all this behind us.

Sons of Anarchy creator Kurt Sutter, who is not a FOX employee, took to the airwaves before his most recent series episode on FX. In his recorded message, he took DirecTV to task for possibly forcing subscribers to miss the final five episodes of his hit show. He also posted a profane message on his personal blog accusing DirecTV of using their own subscribers as leverage in the dispute.

It's a tad ironic that Sons of Anarchy actor Ron Perlman, shown above in PIR's Victory Lane, is doing the introductions for ESPN on all of the NASCAR Chase for the Championship races this season.

"All of these shenanigans are interesting to read about, but DirecTV is putting its focus towards getting a deal done that will keep our customers' monthly TV bill at an acceptable level," said DirecTV spokesman Robert Mercer to the website. "We've been in discussions every day with News Corp and Fox and are perfectly fine paying a reasonable amount for the channels, but asking our customers to absorb a 40 percent increase in tough economic times is just not fair."

So, there you have the most recent update. DirecTV clearly stating once again that the individual FOX regional and cable networks being "bundled" together and offered at one price are not worth a significant increase that will ultimately be passed along to DirecTV subscribers. The 40% number was again used publicly.

Meanwhile, FOX denies that it ever asked for anything approaching that kind of increase and says it offered to continue to let DirecTV broadcast all the various networks while a deal is being hammered out. The FOX contention is that DirecTV drew the line in the sand of November 1 for a blackout of the networks in question.

This weekend is a good example of the impact losing SPEED would have on NASCAR and the fans. SPEED is handling the Friday and Saturday programming from the track in Martinsville with over 12 hours of live coverage on those two days alone.

Expect more finger pointing and posturing on Thursday as these two parties battle over a huge contract renegotiation. What we do know is that SPEED will be on the 20 million DirecTV homes this weekend. What we don't know is just how long the network will be in the dark if DirecTV removes it from service next Tuesday as planned.

Updates on this story will be posted here, on the TDP Facebook page and Twitter account. In the meantime, please feel free to offer your comment on this situation.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Race Wrap: ESPN In Talladega

It was going to be an interesting weekend. Many believed that might be true despite the lack of racing in this new two-car tandem scenario at Talladega.

Nicole Briscoe hosted the pre-race show with Rusty Wallace and Brad Daugherty. Briscoe and her husband, IndyCar driver Ryan, were friends with the late Dan Wheldon and his family. Briscoe worked her way through a tough segment dealing with the recent racing deaths and the risks faced by drivers. Her emotion was very real.

Wallace and Daugherty often reinforce what each other are saying, but for some reason Daugherty was on the Dale Earnhardt Jr. bandwagon. This might not have been bad, but Daugherty kept calling Earnhardt "Junebug" over and over again. It was very strange.

Wallace tried to elicit a reaction from Matt Kenseth, who was an in-studio guest on the perception that Kenseth was essentially....boring. Kenseth would not bite. Wallace is not having a very good Sprint Cup Series season on TV. Perhaps the different dynamic of having Briscoe hosting has affected him.

Allen Bestwick had his work cut-out for him. The tandem racing at Talladega looked more on TV like two cars trying to avoid collisions with one guy driving blind than actual racing. The incidents on the track happened when partners had a problem, not from racing for the lead or position.

Bestwick was accurate and informative, not sugar-coating the lack of racing on the track. The task was to do the best with what was going on and that was accomplished. This is the track where tension between ESPN and NASCAR first became public. A lot has changed since that time.

"It is what it is" has become a catch phrase used to try and explain this type of racing. Dale Jarrett and Andy Petree never made it an issue, just tried to keep the viewers up to speed with the wide variety of agendas being used by the various tandems during the race.

This style of racing forces ESPN to say wide with the cameras as the tandems demand coverage of a "clump" of cars and not just one or two. The "hyper-tight" style of ESPN could not be used. Instead, the wider views made the video watchable and the use of the larger side-by-side video box for more features within the show was a plus.

Tim Brewer tries his best, but sometimes his explanations are just hilarious to a fan base that has watched the sport since February. Many of us have been fans for a very long time, so repeatedly telling us about the fundamentals of the sport is pointless. Give him credit, he is enthusiastic about his role on the telecasts.

The lack of incidents left the pit reporters out in the cold. There simply was not much to do and the cars that came off the track and into the garage were being fixed to return. Even a late caution that caught ESPN in a Nonstop commercial resulted in two cars being parked but no real stories to follow-up.

The final 11 laps were another pushing and shoving match between couples. Regan Smith showed the random nature of being involved in an accident in this style of racing. Luckily, he avoided injury. A late solo move by Clint Bowyer after a break-away with Jeff Burton won the race.

ESPN ran though the standard post-race interviews. There are certainly going to be a lot of new stories emerging in the media over the next couple of days. TV had a tough time keeping up with all the changes on the final restart.

This post will serve to host your comments on the ESPN coverage of the Sprint Cup Series race from Talladega. To add your TV-related comments, just click on the comments button below. Thanks for stopping by.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Live Blogging Sprint Cup Series From Talladega (ESPN - 1PM ET)

Rarely has a Sprint Cup Series race had the national media spotlight like the race today in Talladega. On the heels of IndyCar driver Dan Wheldon's death, motorsports has come once again under the glare of the mainstream media's spotlight.

Publications like the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times barely even acknowledge racing, but are quick to jump on the bandwagon of blame when a serious incident takes place. Online sites like the Huffington Post suddenly "discover" racing when they can lead with a powerful headline referencing death.

Add to this the fact that SPEED has been replaying the death of Marco Simoncelli in the Malaysian MotoGP race today. Adam Alexander has replayed the accident in NASCAR programming all morning long. Even SPEED straddles the line.

Nicole Briscoe gets the assignment of opening the NASCAR Countdown pre-race show. Her husband is IndyCar driver Ryan Briscoe, who was uninjured in the accident that took Wheldon's like. Both families are longtime friends.

Brad Daugherty has just announced a new crew chief for 2012 and the return of Bobby Labonte as the driver for JTG/Daugherty Racing. Daugherty joins Rusty Wallace on the pre-race show with Briscoe. Wallace continues to struggle for sponsors for next season in the Nationwide Series and has recently denied reports his team might suspend operation. Needless to say, it should be interesting to see what topics are discussed on this pre-race show.

The Chase continues under this new points system, but the type of dynamic stories of the past have yet to emerge. Three drivers are still realistically in the game, but the type of tag-team racing that Talladega now demands will no affect the ability of some teams to contend.

Allen Bestwick will have to try and describe the tag-team action and somehow frame it in a Chase context. That is simply not going to be easy to do. Rumor is that teams have designated pushers and that the Chase drivers in contention will always be pushed to the front by any and all teammates as the ultimate goal.

Dale Jarrett had his appendix out this week, but rallied to get to Talladega. He has strong opinions on safety and it should be interesting to hear what he has to say. Andy Petree partners with Jarrett and Bestwick upstairs. Petree continues to be the foundation of this coverage as the only original member of the NASCAR on ESPN team in the TV booth.

Dr. Jerry Punch, Jamie Little, Vince Welch and Dave Burns are the pit road reporters. Little and Welch were involved in the IndyCar coverage from Las Vegas. Little was sent from the track, still in her firesuit, to the hospital in Vegas for updates on Wheldon's condition. There is little doubt that emotions are still raw.

ESPN's coverage is deeply affected by the tag-team racing. The cameras are now forced to frame four, six or even more cars at a time to keep the action in a single frame. It is impossible to isolate on one car, as there are only "combo's" on the track under green.

SPEED produced the truck series race on Saturday and framed the coverage very wide, integrating aerial shots on a regular basis. Effectively mixing the high and low camera angles relays the incredible speed of the track. Lazy directing results in long periods of high angle coverage, which loses the feel of the speed and results in a feeling that the race is actually "boring." No such thing at Dega.

Let's hope the racing is as safe as possible today and NASCAR walks away with the storylines in the media relating to the racing. As usual, eyes are also on Dale Earnhardt Jr. at this track. There is little doubt TV will forget that element.

This post will serve to host your comments on the ESPN coverage of the Sprint Cup Series from Talladega. To add your TV-related opinion, just click on the comments button below. Thanks for stopping by.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Live Blogging Camping World Trucks in Talladega (SPEED - 3:30PM ET)

It's the preview to the big show on a track that was never meant for the truck series, but here we go again. SPEED is at Talladega for a Saturday afternoon drafting contest.

Krista Voda hosts the Set-up at 3:30PM ET to get things started. Ray Dunlap and Hermie Sadler are her reporters. Rick Allen, Phil Parsons and Michael Waltrip will come along at 4PM for the live race.

This is a tough track for trucks. A lot of these teams are not big dollar and time in the wind tunnel and all the slick aero tricks are left for just a handful of trucks. Sometimes, it makes for a boring runaway of a race, but sometimes circumstances work out and keep things exciting.

SPEED always puts on a good TV show and this race should be a good one. The camera angles at Talladega, when worked correctly, make it exciting. After the tragedy of last weekend, one hope is for a safe race. Trucks on this track have always been a bit of an odd fit.

This post will serve to host your comments on the coverage of the truck race. To add your TV-related opinion, just click on the comments button below. Thanks for taking the time to stop by!

Friday, October 21, 2011

SPEED Takes Another Swing At "Trackside"

Updated: Some folks have been asking about all the changes to the Trackside show on SPEED. Here is our post when those first happened. Feel free to update or leave a comment. Thank you.

One of the most popular email questions over the last couple of weeks has been about the continuing changes to the Trackside series on SPEED. The programs over the last couple of weeks hosted by Rutledge Wood have been very different from the show format that viewers had seen for years.

The show originally had host Steve Byrnes with Jeff Hammond, Darrell Waltrip and Larry McReynolds as panelists. It featured two NASCAR personalities on each program being interviewed. When the NASCAR on FOX portion of the season was over, Elliott Sadler replaced Waltrip.

That combo changed when Steve Byrnes moved into the studio to host the Race Hub series for SPEED. It was a big change. Byrnes is a versatile on-air talent who has a long history in and out of the studio. SPEED rotated several hosts through the position in the standard format, but it was very clear things were not clicking without Byrnes.

Another change was the removal of Larry McReynolds. He supplied the serious and focused questions on the show. That often interrupted the flow of conversation and brought things back into a hardcore racing perspective. Sometimes, he got great answers, but there were times when his serious nature was a "show killer."

Over the years, all kind of gimmicks had been tried on the show to make it different. Side-sets included one-on-one interviews with both parties in recliners and ultimately lots of goofy nonsense that filled an hour on Friday nights for both the fans at the track and the TV viewers.

This season SPEED and its new management team have been swinging for the fences. As part of the effort to rid shows like Trackside of the standard questions asked over and over again, there are new faces in new places.

Rutledge Wood has been working as the host and using his rather unique style to make the show as casual as possible. Wood has been paired with Kyle Petty on many TV shows over the years and SPEED seems to think Trackside fits that bill. Wood is a low-key and almost submissive host.

Petty is a rising media star in NASCAR and he splits his time between TV, a live series and the social media outlet called Twitter. Petty keeps a running conversation going with his fans while he is on TV via social media. His following is strong and his opinions are perhaps the most pointed of the current TV personalities.

The odd man out is Jeff Hammond. Once a key part of Trackside, Hammond now sits alone in a tight t-shirt on the set surrounded by a different group of TV personalities with a very different approach to doing business on the air.

The most recent addition is reporter Marianela Pereyra. This bilingual dynamo is a rising star in the Los Angeles TV scene and a University of Maryland grad. She has been working on a wide variety of TV series, but this is her first NASCAR appearance.

Originally scheduled for only four shows, she will now continue on Trackside through the end of the NASCAR season. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that when a person is flown in from LA to appear on one show for only a few minutes as a reporter, there is a much bigger agenda at work.

This Friday, Byrnes returns as host and steps into the new format and personalities. The new Trackside is a long way from the SPEED Stage, the classic TV desk and the darkened crowd of fans. Now things are up close, personal and driven by a clear desire to inject an entertainment slant into the series.

Guests this week are Austin Dillon and Brian Vickers. Dillon is a driver on the rise in the sport with strong family connections, while Vickers is seemingly heading in the opposite direction. Vickers will be replacing Reed Sorenson in the Saturday Nationwide Series race with rumors swirling that Vickers will be fulltime in that series for 2012 since it appears Red Bull Racing will be folding after the season.

It should be interesting to watch how all these pieces come together. Byrnes is great friends with Hammond and may well be the guy to draw him back into the show and get a healthy mix of conversation going. Trackside from Kansas Speedway airs at 7PM ET on SPEED.

This post will serve to host your comments on the changes to this series and also reaction to the Friday night program. To add your opinion on this topic, just click on the comments button below. Thank you for taking the time to stop by.

All SPEED Friday In Talladega

ESPN's Dale Jarrett picked a good week to have his appendix taken out. ESPN is out of action Friday and SPEED has the truck race on Saturday. Despite his surgery, Jarrett will be back in action for ESPN Sunday covering the Sprint Cup Series race.

SPEED starts Friday at 2:30PM from the big track with Sprint Cup Series practice. John Roberts, Kyle Petty and Larry McReynolds on the call. NASCAR Live is next at 3:30PM during the break between sessions with Krista Voda, Jeff Hammond and Bob Dillner. The Cup cars return to the track at 4PM for final practice.

The TV day is capped by the Camping World Trucks qualifying at 5PM. Rick Allen, Phil Parsons and Michael Waltrip will be in the TV booth. Hermie Sadler and Ray Dunlap will be the reporters.

Trackside is on at 7PM. Viewer reactions to the changes made to this show has been strong. Rutledge Wood hosts with Kyle Petty and Jeff Hammond as the expert panel. Newcomer Marianela Pereyra is the reporter.

This post will serve to host your comments about the Friday coverage from Talladega on SPEED. To add your opinion, just click the comments button below.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

NASCAR Limping Toward Convergence

Another slow step by NASCAR toward joining the modern world of technology was announced this week. Sprint will make the six in-car camera views that fans can see on's RaceBuddy available on smart phones.

The live video with in-car audio will appear on the NASCAR Sprint Cup Mobile service for the final five Chase races. The service comes free with any Sprint Everything data plan. It's painless to use and has a lot of interactive features. Sprint continues to be the title sponsor of NASCAR's top series.

Here are some details from the company:

Accessed by more than 2.5 million unique users in 2010, NASCAR Sprint Cup Mobile is a wireless application that provides unique access into the world of NASCAR at no additional charge to Sprint customers with any data plan on capable devices. To download the application, existing customers can text NASCAR to 7777 (standard rates apply) or visit

This move comes only weeks after the giant glacier of ESPN creaked and moaned and actually moved one inch. The result was a trade of content between Turner and ESPN. Happily, it was NASCAR fans who benefited.

The Watch ESPN service for laptops, tablets and smart phones got live NASCAR racing access while the Turner folks got ESPN's live camera views for's RaceBuddy Chase edition.

All of this is part of a much bigger technology shift now in progress called "convergence." Click here for a TDP column on this topic from back in January of 2008 when it first arose.

At the time, SPEED was rolling out it's new website that was loaded with all kinds of video access, including a 30 minute weekly Wind Tunnel Extra that has developed almost a cult status. Kevin Annison, SPEED's online guru had even bigger things in mind.

"This is just the beginning in the evolution of and SPEED Interactive," said Annison. "Where the environment is more conducive to broadband vertical initiatives and digital brand extensions for the linear network."

Got all that? There may be a quiz later. Here is an explanation of all this technology stuff from the 2008 TDP column.

Step back for a minute and look at sites like, and Think about what they have in common. Look at the direction in which they are going and what they are investing time, money and technology in building. If you squint your eyes, it's easy to see. They all want to be your TV.

The term for this is "convergence." The definition of a technological convergence is "the modern presence of a vast array of technology to perform very similar tasks." We have websites wanting to be your video source, TV networks asking for your email, and telephones and hand-held devices that you can use to watch the entire technology battle unfold while group texting your fantasy racing club.

While ESPN paid to provide the "finished" television coverage of the Chase races, the desire of many fans is to have more online interactive options available. More camera views from on-track, in-car cameras with audio and live timing and scoring are the most popular discussion topics.

Ultimately, no matter how it is divided, the bottom line is that NASCAR needs the same kind of technological integration as other professional sports. A single TV network feed and a single radio broadcast is simply not going to allow the sport to grow.

One of the biggest complaints since 2007 has been the complete lack of Sprint Cup Series races available for live online viewing. Fans don't care who produces them or whether they contain ads. The desire is to utilize laptop, tablet and smart phone technology to enjoy racing where ever and when ever the consumers want to do it.

This season NASCAR Chairman Brian France and the ESPN public relations department have been promoting the fact that the first five Chase races attracted almost five million viewers each. Here is a point to consider with that in mind.

A recent survey from the Wireless Association concluded that in the last year the number of active smartphones (and PDA's) was over 90 million. There were also 13 million laptops and tablets in use with this category skyrocketing in popularity.

Think how many millions of connected consumers could be "watching" this year's Chase for the Championship if it was made available online. As the laws of "convergence" preach, ultimately we will have multiple devices that can access the same content throughout our day, our lives and the world.

For now, it's just six in-car cameras on a Sprint phone. As a wise man once said, every journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step. As NASCAR fans it may be a single step but our journey is normally half that distance. Here we go.

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

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

ESPN Halfway Home In Year Five

Five races down, five races to go in this season's Chase for the Championship. NASCAR has put the TV coverage of the final ten races in the hands of ESPN since 2007. Originally distributed on ABC, the coverage of all but one Chase race has migrated to cable TV. NASCAR has come home to the mothership.

It's been a long and winding road for the powerful media company since returning to the sport. This season has seen the lap-by-lap announcer changed days before the Sprint Cup Series coverage, free online streaming of cameras added and side-by-side commercials used in the second half of all the Chase races.

It was Dr. Jerry Punch and Rusty Wallace who first welcomed viewers to the Chase in 2007. Brent Musburger was the master of ceremonies in his sneakers. The coverage was overblown, scripted and awful. ESPN upset the drivers, NASCAR and lots of fans.

This season Allen Bestwick completed the cycle of working his way back from a Nationwide Series pit road reporter to calling every lap of the Chase races. He is now the face of the NASCAR on ESPN franchise. His TV comeback has been nothing short of amazing.

Dale Jarrett and Andy Petree have teamed in the booth as analysts for several years. Petree is an original member of that team and has quietly and professionally been supplying information and opinions even as on-air personalities came and went.

Punch returned to pit road and brought a quick return to dignity for a crew that struggled in the early years. Limited amounts of ESPN practice and qualifying coverage meant that Jamie Little, Vince Welch and Dave Burns were not the faces Sprint Cup Series teams had been talking to since February.

Now called the Tech Garage, Tim Brewer has been trying his best to use an assortment of NASCAR-related props to offer examples of issues drivers experience at the races. While his response to specific on-track issues is outstanding, the endless repetition on the very basics of the sport is equally infuriating.

ESPN's answer to the Hollywood Hotel has been the Infield Pit Studio. Faces appearing in the host chair have included Musburger, Chris Fowler and Suzy Kolber. A while back, Bestwick was promoted from pit road and immediately put things in order. This season, Nicole Briscoe has stepped into that role for the Chase.

Over the years, ESPN has defined a production approach to the Chase races. It has been nothing short of a painful process. From flashy music videos, scripted stories and endless self-promotion has emerged a style we call "hyper-tight."

While SPEED's focus during the truck races is keeping a good chunk of the field in each camera view, ESPN's Chase approach is the opposite. During green flag action, the coverage is dedicated to one or two cars at a time. Often, the camera moves to cars that are not racing each other, but are rather part of the ESPN "storyline" for that event.

It's unfortunate that so much of the actual racing for position is never seen on TV. The shift from simply trying to show the best racing on the track to following the Chase drivers almost exclusively has been rough. It's a formula being repeated this season.

ESPN did not switch announcers, allow online streaming and provide side-by-side commercials because things were going well. Back in 2008, the first five Chase races averaged about 6 million total viewers for each telecast. This season, that number is 4 million. Click here for a ratings chart from ESPN-owned

Back in 2007, media writer Phil Mushnick of the New York Post was begging ESPN to "fix" Monday Night Football. His complaints were too many voices, too many stats, too many graphics and endless ESPN cross-promotion. "It's a must-see game delivered in a can't-stand TV package," he said.

After five years of fine-tuning, ESPN still brings 11 on-air voices to each Chase race. The in-race graphics are sometimes four different rows of information moving at different speeds in different colors. Despite the fact that points are only awarded after the race, the network hammers "points as they run now" endlessly.

Fans continue to flock to the Internet for sources of information during the Chase races. In the final ten events, drivers not in the Chase simply no longer exist for ESPN unless leading the race. The problem is the fans do not change drivers in mid-season. TV does not seem to understand that driver loyalty is a trademark of the fan base.

In these final five events, it should be interesting to see if ESPN steps outside of the box and tries some new approaches to race production. With a strong lead announcer, a solid infield host and plenty of technology, the opportunity to simply show TV viewers more cars racing at speed on the track might be a good idea.

Instead of the telescope intensity of the "hyper-tight" coverage, Talladega might be a great first opportunity to take a step back and let fans see what is going on from a broader perspective. We will all find out together on Sunday afternoon.

What is your opinion of the Chase race TV coverage this season? To add your comment, just click on the comments button below. We would ask for this topic that you limit your comments to the last five races. Thanks as always for taking the time to stop by.

Monday, October 17, 2011

IndyCar Special: Tragedy In Las Vegas

Marty Reid was leading the ESPN on ABC IndyCar production team into the final race of the season in Las Vegas, NV. Under sunny skies, the race started and then stopped in short order on Sunday afternoon.

Less than 15 laps in, a two-car spin turned into mayhem. Unfortunately, the entire thing was shown on national TV. At high speeds, several cars joined the existing pack of spinning cars and were promptly vaulted into the air and ultimately into the catch fence and SAFETY barrier.

Reid has been in this situation before and has extensive experience working on the IndyCar Series. He slowly allowed the reality to play-out while keeping the viewers informed. The director carefully showed the drivers who were out of their cars and walking away.

Television motorsports has a mode that is rarely used. It was quickly apparent that the ESPN team moved into this mode almost right away. They had good reason to do so. In the TV truck, the producer and director can see all the cameras. It was clear from the reaction of the first responders that one driver was very seriously injured.

Dan Wheldon had been working on some TV telecasts this season as he was unable to get a fulltime ride in the series. For this race, he was added as a special driver as part of a bonus program offering extra money should he win the event.

Scott Goodyear and Eddie Cheever Jr. were the analysts in the TV booth and immediately struck a somber tone. They both answered the questions put to them by Reid, but it was clear they were also in the protective mode due to the possibility of severe driver injury.

The pit reporters talked to a wide variety of drivers. All of them basically told the tale of a series racing on an oval that had a strong potential for trouble. Some made their words stronger than others, but all acknowledged the issue.

After the red flag, ABC remained live. ESPNEWS programming was not used and no SportsCenter studio inserts updated any other sports highlights and scores. It was well after 5:30PM when Reid told viewers a driver's meeting was in progress.

Reporter Jamie Little was sent to the Las Vegas University Hospital to follow-up on information. In today's world, that is not something that is released without approval from the family. Viewers were told repeatedly she was standing by.

Social media relayed a lot of information, but ultimately stalled at the same point as the live telecast. The two issues were Weldon's condition and if the race would resume. ESPN repeated basically the same short segment of recapping the information and having the analysts offer an opinion or two before returning to commercial.

ABC was scheduled to leave the air at 6PM ET. Just minutes before that time, IndyCar delivered the news that Wheldon had been fatally injured in the accident. It had been pretty clear in the thirty minutes leading up to it that the situation was dire.

After the announcement, ESPN replayed the accident from multiple angles. It was a decision I do not agree with, but understand. In today's world, withholding that type of footage is impossible. Reid, Cheever and Goodyear handled it with dignity.

TV stayed and covered the five lap salute that the drivers and owners decided to do to close the season. It was a long time from the accident to the close of the program. ESPN announcers, staff and technicians did a solid job under difficult circumstances.

IndyCar ends the season on an awful note. Wheldon was the test driver who helped to develop the new and safer car the series will use next year. He had recently done a very successful stint as a TV analyst and was added to this field as a promotion spearheaded by IndyCar CEO Randy Bernard.

This is just a special post to allow motorsports fans to offer comments on the coverage and how this telecast may have affected you. On a day with no NASCAR, some folks like me were looking around the dial and found this race on ABC.

Race Wrap: ABC In Charlotte

Long night under the lights from the Charlotte Motor Speedway. Mike Massaro opened the show from the Infield Pit Studio and then worked as a pit reporter during the actual race.

Rusty Wallace and Brad Daugherty were left alone to contribute during a race that saw the kind of "tough to pass" dynamic fans are familiar with on 1.5 mile tracks. The racing quickly sorted out and stayed mostly single-file.

It was Allen Bestwick, Dale Jarrett and Andy Petree in the TV booth to call the race. Massaro, Dr. Jerry Punch, Dave Burns and Shannon Spake worked pit road. Vince Welch and Jamie Little were off in Las Vegas for the Indy Car race.

The ESPN TV team produced a product that featured the style of coverage they have used for five years. Tight shots and moving from single or two-car camera shots under green once the field sorted out.

Racing featured long green flag runs which put TV into the position of showing multiple green flag pit stops. The big side by side video box worked really well once again. This effect is outstanding, it is a shame it cannot be used for the ESPN Nonstop coverage.

The big moment of the night was the accident featuring Jimmie Johnson. ESPN replayed his in-car camera shortly after Johnson was seen limping to the ambulance. This is certainly a video clip that will be replayed on the ESPN networks over the next few days.

The ABC telecast featured a lower-third scoring graphic that is used by the ESPN networks. It remained for the vast majority of the night. ESPN Nonstop was used for the second half of the race, but in this format ABC local station breaks were shown full-screen. There was no RaceBuddy and no Watch ESPN app for this event.

ESPN's format is well-known, the personalities are familiar and the style of racing that they have to cover is now a big part of the sport. We welcome your comments on this telecast. To add your TV-related opinion, just click on the comments button below. Thank you for taking the time to stop by.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Live Blogging Sprint Cup Series From Charlotte (ABC - 7PM ET)

Coverage switches from ESPN over to ABC for this night race. That means no RaceBuddy or Watch ESPN app as ABC is a broadcast network and has exclusive rights. There will be ESPN Nonstop commercials in the second half of the telecast.

Some ABC local stations might be showing local news during the pre-race show, but all will join for the race which has total national coverage live. Please let us know if any station does not join for the green flag.

Mike Massaro is handling the hosting duties for the Infield Pit Studio. Rusty Wallace and Brad Daugherty are the analysts. Tim Brewer is in the Tech Garage.

Rusty and Brad are once again going to be asked to talk about the Chase, but not neglect the race. It's a tough mix that ESPN has struggled with for years. The script this week may be Jimmie Johnson, but keep an eye on the topics featured in the pre-race. They often become the script for the race coverage.

Allen Bestwick, Dale Jarrett and Andy Petree have been on the air for three days now on ESPN working hard. We will see how much gas they have left in the tank for a couple of hours of night racing on the ABC side. The good side is they handled the practice and qualifying coverage, the downside is they have to be exhausted.

Jamie Little and Vince Welch are out in Las Vegas for the final IndyCar race of the season. Shannon Spake and Mike Massaro are working pit road for the race with Dr. Jerry Punch and Dave Burns. Pit road could be a lonely place if this becomes another gas mileage race or a hectic mess if incidents happen on the track.

ESPN has a great Nationwide Series race and a rough Cup telecast last week. Somehow, the Cup races seem to keep the tradition of "hper-tight" coverage rolling along. CMS has a ton of action on the tight two-groove track and it's easy for TV to miss a lot of it with the focus on only one or two cars at a time. Keep an eye out for how ESPN produces the actual racing.

The quad-splits for caution flag pitstops are still outstanding. The ESPN Nonstop makes a big difference. Having Allen Bestwick has made a huge difference and closed the information gap. Punch has been outstanding on pit road. Those are the good things.

The bad is that ESPN still tries to work back to the stories from the pre-race show. Rather than let the racing just happen, it's been about the topics selected in advance and then forced into the telecasts. That has alienated fans and TV viewers.

So, here we go. This post will serve to host your opinion about the ABC coverage of the Sprint Cup Series race from the Charlotte Motor Speedway. To add your comment, just click on the comments button below. Thanks!

Live Blogging Truck Series From Vegas (SPEED - 3PM ET)

Here we go with an afternoon delight from Las Vegas. The trucks are splitting the weekend with the Indy Cars. Ron Hornaday is the story.

Same SPEED story of coverage tactics is in place. Ray Dunlap is covering pit road with Krista Voda once she finished the pre-race show. Rick Allen will be in the TV booth with Phil Parsons.

The trucks are going to be interesting because none of the Cup drivers are in the field. Pay attention to some of the names at the back of the starting grid.

This post will serve to host your comments on the Camping World Truck in Las Vegas. To add your opinion on the coverage, just click the comments button below. Thanks for stopping by.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Live Blogging Nationwide Series From Charlotte (ESPN2 - 7PM ET)

It has been a long couple of days for Allen Bestwick, Dale Jarrett and Andy Petree. ESPN has put the team front and center this weekend at the Charlotte Motor Speedway. Now, after a four hour stint on the air the trio is about to call the Nationwide Series race. It might be time for some 5 Hour Energy drink to be delivered to the TV booth.

In two days of practice and qualifying, the Charlotte track has proven to be lightning fast. Tonight, temperatures are supposed to sink into the upper 50's by the middle portions of the race. It's a recipe for good racing.

Mike Massaro, Rusty Wallace and Brad Daugherty are in the Infield Pit Studio for the thirty minute pre-race show. With Jamie Little and Vince Welch in Las Vegas for the final IndyCar race, Shannon Spake will join Dr. Jerry Punch and Dave Burns as pit reporters for the race.

This has been a rough year for the Nationwide Series that is getting rougher. Reed Sorenson was third in driver points when he was fired from Turner Motorsports and replaced in tonight's race by Brian Vickers. Kevin Harvick is closing his KHI operation and Carl Edwards is leaving the series to move to the Nationwide Series TV team next year.

In a familiar scenario, many expect current Sprint Cup Series drivers to dominate tonight. The scourge of the series is that on TV it often appears to be two very different groups of cars racing on the same track. The "haves" and the "have nots" are easy to pick-out.

ESPN produced the best Nationwide Series telecast since 2007 last weekend in Kansas. It should be interesting to see how the TV team follows that up in Charlotte. The potential is certainly there for an outstanding night of live NASCAR racing.

This post will serve to host your comments on the Nationwide Series race from Charlotte Motor Speedway on ESPN2. To add your TV-related opinion, just click on the comments button below. Thanks for taking the time to to stop by The Daly Planet.

In Praise Of Kenny Wallace

Veteran fans may remember Kenny Wallace from his early days on TV when SpeedVision started the little Monday night NASCAR program that lasted for over a decade. Wallace was not a regular, but rather someone who came in as needed and provided his opinion on, as host Allen Bestwick would say, topics of the day.

Wallace seemed right at home filling-in for Kenny Schrader, Johnny Benson or Michael Waltrip. His personality made him an instant hit on TV and his candid comments were often worth repeating. It seemed his star was on the rise.

Friday night, Wallace will start in Nationwide Series race number 519 as a driver. This start ties him for the most in that series with veteran Jason Keller. Wallace first raced in Charlotte in May of 1989, an event that he won. Those days are long gone.

This week in Charlotte, Wallace told the media he is tired of the sponsor grind and will probably race just one more year in the Nationwide Series. One last try to inch his way up and contend. The one-man band of Wallace will have to deal with the big dollar operations of Danica Patrick and Travis Pastrana, among others.

This weekend the Wallace Toyota Camry is a fan car. His supporters paid twenty dollars apiece to have their names on the race car. The primary sponsor is the University of Northwestern Ohio. In addition, Wallace is eligible for the $100 thousand cash bonus offered by the Nationwide Dash 4 Cash contest. It's going to be a big night.

Younger fans know Wallace in a different way. His weekly appearances on the RaceDay and Victory Lane programs on SPEED offer a very different TV personality than the one seen many years ago. Whether sitting next to Jimmy Spencer, Michael Waltrip or his current partner Kyle Petty, Wallace is over-the-top and has the volume button firmly on loud.

In the truest sense of the word, Wallace is a hustler. Whether doing a commercial to keep his family traveling in an RV or expounding on the virtues of ethanol, Wallace is always paying the bills. A search on Google of his pictures finds him posed endlessly with fans at functions large and small, but always working hard.

Wallace is only 48 years old, but this year he looks a lot older. Explaining that he took the advice of longtime friend Mark Martin to heart, Wallace dropped twenty pounds through diet and exercise before the season. It left him with a very different look on TV.

Like most NASCAR personalities who work both sides of the fence, Wallace has his critics for his unwavering support of everything NASCAR in his "TV mode." Perhaps that emotion is softened by recalling the RaceDay trio several years ago in white wigs and judge's robes holding racing court. Wallace also expertly table danced for fans during commercial breaks.

These days, it seems quite clear that Wallace intends to eventually move his family back to his beloved St. Louis area and effectively retire. He has commented on this topic many times over the last two years and seems to be at peace with his plans.

Most TDP readers know and TV viewers can see that SPEED is once again going through a wholesale change of programming, on-air personalities and direction. Shows like Trackside, The SPEED Report and Victory Lane have already been affected.

In some ways, the TV business is even more fickle than racing. Through it all, Wallace has quietly kept his RaceDay and Victory Lane franchise intact in much the same way that he has clawed and fought to keep himself on the track. For well over a decade, he has been successful at both.

Friday is a big day for the entire Wallace family. It just might be the final marquee moment on the track and on TV for this longtime racer, unabashed family man and proud St. Louis Cardinals baseball fan.

On this day, I rise in praise of Kenny Wallace. Your hard work and determination have not gone unnoticed.

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

Thursday, October 13, 2011

NASCAR TV Begins On Thursday

Things are always just a bit different at the Charlotte Motor Speedway. This week is no exception. Thursday afternoon the NASCAR TV cranks-up as ESPN2 handles the on-track activity.

It will certainly be interesting to see if Allen Bestwick has any voice left after this weekend. Bestwick, Dale Jarrett and Andy Petree are set to do iron man duty this weekend as ESPN2 and ABC handle the coverage.

Thursday starts with the Nationwide Series on track for practice at 2PM ET on ESPN2. Jamie Little and Vince Welch are away working the IndyCar race in Las Vegas, so Shannon Spake and Mike Massaro will be handling the garage and pit road interviews.

The Sprint Cup Series cars take to the track at 3:30PM for practice and lead into ESPN2's most popular new show, Sports Nation at 5PM. Colin Cowherd and Michelle Beadle may be just the opportunity that most of NASCAR Nation needs to eat dinner between sessions.

The night time is the right time at CMS and the Nationwide Series starts a doubleheader at 6PM that leads up to Sprint Cup Series qualifying at 7PM ET. Charlotte was the first superspeedway to install the Musco lighting system and still looks great on TV at night.

That's a nice long day for Bestwick, Jarrett and Petree. In the past, ESPN has given the analysts a break and let the infield duo of Rusty Wallace and Brad Daugherty step into the booth for some of the Nationwide Series sessions. It should be interesting to see if that happens as NASCAR races in its own backyard.

Fans are used to SPEED providing this type of support coverage. It is always interesting to watch the two very different styles of the networks. Bestwick has done a very good job of getting things back on track for ESPN and it has shown in the consistent ratings.

Let's hope the network production team stays focused on the stories at hand and continues the outstanding Nationwide Series programming from last week. Since Jimmie Johnson's win, it will be interesting to see how the coverage frames the Chase during these practice and qualifying sessions. Remember the JJ overload of the past?

This post will serve to host your comments on the Thursday coverage from the Charlotte Motor Speedway on ESPN2. Please feel free to add your opinion or ask any questions about the telecasts by clicking on the comments button below. Thanks for taking the time to stop by The Daly Planet.

Updated: Still No "Greenlights" For NASCAR

Updated 10/12/11: There have still been no announcements about any new NASCAR TV programs on any of the NASCAR TV partners for next year.

ESPN might have gotten rid of Hank Williams Jr., but the network just signed an eight year programming deal with the NFL. It adds over 500 hours of new NFL-themed programming annually, some of which is already on the air.

At the same time NASCAR Now, the only NASCAR support program on any of the ESPN networks, was pushed back into a 3PM Eastern timeslot with no re-air.

TNT offers no NASCAR TV programming other than the six races. FOX has nothing on the broadcast side. SPEED's recent new show announcements can be reviewed below. Right now, it's a sad state of affairs for 2012 on the NASCAR TV front.

The original story below was first posted on September 29.

It is the time of the year when TV series are renewed for the following season and new series get the "greenlight" to begin production. SPEED has been chasing a category it describes as "lifestyle programming" for the past several years.

The challenge for SPEED is to develop programming it can use on Monday through Thursday in primetime. This essentially fills-in the gap between the live motorsports-themed programming seen Friday through Sunday.

Originally a mix of cars, boats, airplanes and motorcycles during the network's days as SpeedVision, the new look SPEED is once again in transition and trying to revamp those tough weekend nights. Well, we now have a good glimpse into what viewers will be seeing next season.

Reporter Andrea Morobito of Broadcasting & Cable has just published an exclusive story on that topic. Here is a summary of that information.

SPEED has ordered a trio of new shows as part of its next slate of lifestyle programming including the trivia show Pumped! hosted by comedian Greg Fitzsimmons.

Pumped!, which has been picked up for 20 half-hour episodes, is an ambush-style quiz show set at gas stations where customers will compete for a cash prize by answering automotive and pop culture questions. The series is set to premiere in November.

The channel has also ordered 13 episodes of Hard Parts: South Bronx, a docu-series that follows a business owner and his team as they search for rare auto parts. Another game show, the hour-long Whipped, gives contestants the chance to show off their driving skills on an extreme obstacle course. Both series begin production in October for debuts in the second quarter of 2012.

Along with the new series announcements, SPEED has also picked up an additional 13 episodes of the first season of My Ride Rules. Wednesday night clip show Dumbest Stuff on Wheels has been renewed for a second season, as has Car Warriors and Stuntbusters.

Long-running series Pass Time and the weekend morning block of Stacey David's Gearz, Truck U, Chop Cut Rebuild, Hot Rod TV, Car Crazy, Two Guys Garage and My Classic Car has all been given additional episode orders as well.

SPEED has a Monday through Thursday NASCAR news series called RaceHub and a thirty minute weekly NASCAR clips show called The Ten. RaceHub is produced in-house, while The Ten is produced by an outside company.

Once again this year, none of the greenlighted new series are NASCAR-themed. The days of new NASCAR original series seem to be long gone by. Creative concepts like NASCAR Wives never took off. Reality shows like NBS 24/7, 7 Days and Behind the Headlights are a distant memory.

The ongoing challenge for the NASCAR Media Group is to grow beyond a company that provides at-track TV services and move toward creative programming concepts that can serve the sport in new ways. Those concepts must then find their way to SPEED in a cost-effective package.

Dollars and ownership are two key reasons this slew of "lifestyle programming" gets thrown at the wall every year by SPEED to see what sticks. While the network owns the rights to these program series, anything brought to the table by the NASCAR Media Group is strictly a rental. NASCAR retains the rights to all the footage.

Once again, it's ironic that NASCAR's own footage restrictions affect the partnership with its largest TV partner. Thinking outside the box for new programming concepts that can serve the Monday through Thursday needs of SPEED has so far not been a success for the NASCAR Media Group.

We have suggested a Monday night NASCAR edition of Wind Tunnel, a weekly interactive NASCAR journalist roundtable and a TV simulcast of selected SiriusXM NASCAR programming. None of those concepts has ever seen the light of day.

In the meantime, get ready for more wild and wacky "lifestyle programming" as SPEED continues to target those pesky weeknights with acted docu-series, ambush quiz shows and old YouTube footage of people crashing into things.

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

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

TV Ratings Race - ESPN At Kansas

Update: ESPN got a 2.3 overnight TV rating according to our friends at the Sports Business Journal. That is the same as the fourth race in the 2010 chase held in Fontana, CA. That will probably dip NASCAR below 4 million viewers when final ratings come out on Tuesday afternoon.

Update #2: Final TV rating grew to 3.1 cable households, allowing the total viewer number to top 4 million total. That is pretty stout up against the NFL.

We are getting some very interesting and thoughtful comments from readers, so this will continue as the lead story. I hope you will add your opinion to the conversation as well. Thanks.

Once again ESPN faced up to another race that centered around fuel mileage and little passing. Pit stops and race strategy were at a premium from start to finish.

Nicole Briscoe hosted a pre-race show that included one Sprint Cup Series driver in the Infield Pit Studio. If there was any doubt that Carl Edwards is going to be joining the NASCAR on ESPN telecast team in 2012, it should have been erased by that appearance.

Rusty Wallace and Brad Daugherty are often times more amusing than informative these days. Brad is the cheerleader and Rusty tries his best to address issues in the sport selected for him well in advance. Wallace and Daugherty did not look very happy that Carl Edwards was once again invading their territory.

Allen Bestwick knew early on this was going to be a race of survival. He changed from calling the laps to leading discussions on various topics and working the pit reporters and Tim Brewer on issues. There was little racing except on restarts and no accidents. It had that familiar smell.

After a Nationwide Series telecast that featured all kinds of changes, the Cup telecast stayed true to the script. Tight shots from the start and coverage that jumped from one car to another made it tough to watch. "Hyper-tight" is apparently here to stay.

Kudos to the pit reporters who have worked very hard in the last two races climbing up to talk with the crew chiefs as the race is going on. That is the perspective that is needed with this type of racing. Learning why decisions were made is super.

Petree was on his game and his analysis has been sharper this season than ever before. He has been with ESPN from the start and is a veteran of all these changes. Jarrett worked well, but Petree continues to set the pace in the TV booth.

A late caution allowed for some drama and a final dash to the finish. A Jimmie Johnson win sets-up some good stories for the media this week. A ten minute post-race left time for a solid set of interviews. ESPN left the air on time.

This post will serve to host your opinion of the ESPN coverage of the Sprint Cup Series race from Kansas Speedway. To add your comment, just click on the comments button below. Thanks for stopping by.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Live Blogging Sprint Cup Series From Kansas (ESPN - 1PM ET)

If the Saturday Nationwide Series race was any indication, this could be the best race of the year. With a lot on the line, the Sprint Cup Series races at Kansas up against the afternoon NFL games on TV once again.

Nicole Briscoe will open the telecast with Rusty Wallace and Brad Daugherty from the Infield Pit Studio. The choice is to tell the story of the race or concentrate on the Chase. It should be interesting to see what topics are selected to discuss.

Allen Bestwick will call the race with Dale Jarrett and Andy Petree alongside. This trio is having a good Chase, with Jarrett fading into the background. Petree is much more opinionated and often the telecast finds Jarrett agreeing with his points over and over again.

Dr. Jerry Punch, Jamie Little, Vince Welch and Dave Burns will be on pit road. These four will probably being saying the words "fuel mileage" a lot today. Tim Brewer will be in the Tech Garage.

ESPN made a wholesale change in the Saturday race. The network focused on the Nationwide Series regulars and did not interview big names like Carl Edwards and Danica Patrick until the end of the pre-race show. The actual telecast was also different.

The coverage looked like a Camping World Truck Series race on SPEED for the first half of the event. Cameras stayed wide, aerial shots were uses and the director chased the best racing on the track instead of staying with the leaders.

In the second half of the race, the "Hyper-tight" coverage returned and immediately missed a key incident on the track. While the finish line coverage was outstanding, ESPN still cannot resist continually zooming-in on one or two cars at a time. It's a curse.

The weather is great, the stories are good and ESPN has all the bells and whistles to make this an outstanding telecast. Media types have picked Carl Edwards as the car to beat.

This post will serve to host your comments about ESPN's coverage of the Sprint Cup Series from Kansas Speedway. To add your TV-related opinion, just click on the comments button below. Thanks for stopping by.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Live Blogging Nationwide Series From Kansas (ESPN2 - 3PM ET)

Just when the Nationwide Series was about to fall off the map, changes have brought it back to life in the media. Reed Sorenson, pictured above, was fired over the phone earlier this week. Sorenson says it was over money, his owner Steve Turner says it was over performance.

Vince Welch from ESPN will speak with Mr. Turner in the pre-race show, college football time allowing. This dismissal of the third-ranked driver in the series and the subsequent insertion of Brian Vickers into that seat is a hot topic.

As the sponsorship woes continue on the Sprint Cup Series level, some Nationwide Series sponsors have migrated up one notch due to the ability to get more for the same money. Clint Bowyer joined MWR for 2012 and took Rusty Wallace's 5 Hour Energy sponsor.

Wallace is on the pre-race show with Brad Daugherty and host Nicole Briscoe. Daugherty has been useless this season and it should be his last. Wallace continues to be riddled with conflicts of interest every time he speaks. It will be very interesting to see how he approaches the topics in the new today.

Marty Reid will call the race with Dale Jarrett and Andy Petree. We asked ESPN to bring in a second set of analysts for this time of the year, but instead Jarrett and Petree have been doing double-duty. This does not allow them time to prep for the Nationwide telecasts and it shows.

Dr. Jerry Punch, Welch, Jamie Little and Dave Burns will be on pit road. Depending on who is covering what teams, it could be an interesting day to watch the activity of these reporters. Instead of another Cup dominated event, now there are stories to pursue.

Kansas makes for good racing with the normal struggles to pass. Restarts are outstanding and the layout of the track allows TV to make great pictures. ESPN has all the tools for a good one, let's see how it goes.

This post will host your comments on the ESPN2 telecast. To add your TV-related opinion, just click on the comments button below. Thanks for stopping by.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Taking A Moment For Steve Jobs

"Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose."

That was Steve Jobs in 2005 delivering a heartfelt commencement address at Stanford University. Jobs lost his battle with cancer on Wednesday, surrounded by family members.

Every day I interact with people who send me text, pictures and videos from their iPhones. My favorite songs are neatly arranged on playlists in my iPod. My Christmas gift to my 80 year-old mom last year was an iPad.

Let's take a moment for Steve Jobs. Here are some comments on his passing and legacy.

From his family:

Steve died peacefully today surrounded by his family.

In his public life, Steve was known as a visionary; in his private life, he cherished his family. We are thankful to the many people who have shared their wishes and prayers during the last year of Steve's illness; a website will be provided for those who wish to offer tributes and memories.

We are grateful for the support and kindness of those who share our feelings for Steve. We know many of you will mourn with us, and we ask that you respect our privacy during our time of grief.

This from President Obama:

Michelle and I are saddened to learn of the passing of Steve Jobs. Steve was among the greatest of American innovators - brave enough to think differently, bold enough to believe he could change the world, and talented enough to do it.

By building one of the planet's most successful companies from his garage, he exemplified the spirit of American ingenuity. By making computers personal and putting the Internet in our pockets, he made the information revolution not only accessible, but intuitive and fun. And by turning his talents to storytelling, he has brought joy to millions of children and grownups alike. Steve was fond of saying that he lived every day like it was his last. Because he did, he transformed our lives, redefined entire industries, and achieved one of the rarest feats in human history: he changed the way each of us sees the world.

The world has lost a visionary. And there may be no greater tribute to Steve's success than the fact that much of the world learned of his passing on a device he invented.

In our little NASCAR world, it seems ironic that just yesterday on Twitter we had an extended discussions about the pro's and cons of the new iPhone. It is a device that is all over the garage, grandstands and TV compound at every race.

While the word "visionary" was used repeatedly in many news stories, Jobs really influenced our entire culture with some of the innovations that made their way into our lives. It was a fascinating life.

Happy to have your comments on Jobs passing and what thoughts it brings up in connection with the changes in your life, technology-based or not. Just click the comments button below to add your thoughts. Thanks for taking the time to stop by.