Monday, February 13, 2012

A New York State Of Mind


Update: Tuesday morning NBC Sports Talk confirmed it had booked Danica Patrick and will be opening the door for NASCAR content. Great news.

The conversion of VERSUS TV into the NBC Sports Network is complete. The concept behind sinking tens of millions of dollars into creating a major cable sports network is easy to understand. NBC wants a piece of what ESPN already has.

In addition to working hard on buying the rights to live events and promoting the Olympic agenda, one piece of the ESPN pie is already under attack. Despite airing for more than twelve hours daily on several ESPN networks, SportsCenter has become a parody of itself.

Originally intended to be a way to effectively get highlights out to sports fans nationwide, time has long since left this concept behind. While the 1980's were tailor-made for distributing sports highlights via cable TV, technology has changed the entire sports media landscape.

SportsCenter now uses a seemingly endless cast of in-house experts to try and entice fans to spend time watching cable TV. It's a tough sell. Smart phones, laptops and an endless number of league and team websites offer the same video content with even more official footage and information.

The SportsCenter franchise worked best when it was limited in time on the air and driven by memorable anchor personalities. Now, it's a TV factory and has much the same feel as watching CNN Headline News (HLN). After a while, it's obvious the same content is being played-back off the hard-drives with different faces reading the teleprompter.

As NASCAR fans know, the struggle we have detailed for the past six years is the inability of SportsCenter to integrate NASCAR content into the mix. Whether airing a preview, conducting a live interview or showing highlights, the animosity between many of the SportsCenter anchors and NASCAR is plain to see.

It's still a badge of honor to be anti-NASCAR in Bristol.

NBC Sports Network's daily news show is called SportsTalk. Anchored at 6PM by Russ Thaler, the one-hour weekday series focuses on the exact same content as SportsCenter. That is Thaler pictured above on the left with Pro Football Talk's Mike Florio. The twist on SportsTalk is in the diversity of personalities on the program.

Thaler draws not only from the heavy-hitters at NBC like Bob Costas, but also from diverse sources like Sports Illustrated, Yahoo! Sports and the Comcast regional sports networks. Where SportsCenter is limited to the ESPN family, SportsTalk is thriving by including rather than excluding journalists and reporters. There are, however, some growing pains.

Last week, there was not a word about NASCAR on the SportsTalk program. Michael Phelps and Misty May-Treanor stopped by to push the Olympic agenda while journalists of all kinds talked stick-and-ball sports non-stop.

While ESPN is deeply invested in the Red Sox, Yankees and now Tim Tebow, NBC is even more deeply furrowed into its own sports cave. Where NBC Sports is concerned, it's a New York state of mind. That's New York City for those of you without a Billy Joel CD in your collection.

Click here for the NBC Sports homepage. NASCAR can be found by going to the "More" tab, then the "Motorsports" tab and finally the "More on NASCAR" section at the bottom of the page. The most updated story not from a wire service is on Dale Earnhardt Jr. being named most popular driver. Don't click on it, because the link has long since been removed.

If NBC wants the new NBC Sports Network and the flagship SportsTalk show to be taken seriously, there had better be some effort put into freshening the NASCAR content in a timely fashion. The sport is coming off its most successful championship title fight in years and boasts a diverse group of ongoing stories as the season gets underway.

There was a time when NASCAR fans had fond memories of NBC. It was 2006 when the network parted with the sport after a six year run. Now, the challenge for the new-look NBC Sports Network executives is to reach out far beyond the Hudson River line and create a NASCAR state of mind.

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.

18 comments:

OSBORNK said...

Whether it's NBC, CBS or ABC, if it doesn't interest the folks in NYC or LA, it doesn't matter. Anything in "Flyover" country and south of the Mason Dixon Line east of the mighty Mississippi is not worthy of attention.

I have spent most of my 64 years living near the Bristol Speedway and my TV and newspapers originated from that area. They were managed and operated by local people with a deep interest and pride in all things local. We had tons of racing news and programs that catered to all things NASCAR. However, all of the local media outlets have been bought out by large conglomerates headquartered in large cities. Now management is transferred to the area as either larger markets training or from larger markets as punishment. They have no real interest in local happenings and as a result, we get the news focus of the Northeast and left coast. The shift from a local focus to a national focus has really hurt racing oriented programs and news.

Garry said...

I agree with OSBORNK:Even Tony Kornheiser said years ago, that he felt Colorado was a place to "change planes" on the way to L.A. My hope is that NBC Sports, through their growing pains, can see that not everyone needs to be dumbed down with silly tag lines, or as Bob Costas so aptly put it about Sportcenter: "It seems as thought it's open mic night at The Chuckle Hut". I'd give anything to have the Lakers, Celtics, Red Sox, and Chicago Bulls go through 5 full years of losing records, so the networks would have no choice but to acknowledge that there 40 other states in the union with Sports teams.

Wisconsin Steve said...

Unless or until NBC gets back into covering NASCAR races, I doubt the sport will get much airtime on SportsTalk. When ESPN was away from the sport in the mid-2000s, NASCAR races didn't get mentioned on SportsCenter until late in the hour. Even the 2004 Hendrick plane crash was glossed over 45 minutes into 11pm show the day it happened.

Maybe NBC will behave differently this season, but with most of the networks, it seems like if they don't have an event to promote along with the story, the story doesn't get covered.

Daly Planet Editor said...

Steve,

If Danica Patrick gets pushed to a win in the Daytona 500 by the current Sprint Cup Series champ, NBC will be scrambling to get on board.

Stranger things have happened!

JD

Ir42nate2bhere said...

I know you really want NBCSN to succeed, but does this shock you, really? You have one-1 hour show to do your sports, of course you cover the sports that you are in "partnership" with. The advantage of those wall to wall Sportcenters you seem to dislike is the ability to offer more, even occasionally stuff they do not like to show-like Hockey, and NASCAR.
Now on NBCSN, I believe to properly judge them, watch how they cover the next 2 weeks before deciding their NASCAR interest.And JD, you know websites and TV divisions are seperate, so what is online is not a reflection of the TV product. And one more thing, "Sportstalk is Thriving"?,By what standard? Yours? Numbers? Time for some better adjectives. As always I enjoy your blog, just disagree at times, and that is what makes it work

KoHoSo said...

Think about how NASCAR zoomed in popularity from the 1990s into the 2000s. Decades of hard work went into that finally happening. It would have been folly just a few years ago for a major media entity to completely ignore NASCAR. Bad decisions in Daytona Beach in both how the on-track product was presented as well as how the sport was run overall threw away the building respect there was for the sport. Yes, there are many factors including how much the Internet has changed since 2004. Still, I believe most of the blame lies at the feet of people like BZF and Mike Helton for making it so easy for those with a complete stick-and-ball mindset to blow off racing and thus leave us with a world where extra coverage of the sport is decreasing while it goes up for almost everything else.

Bucky Butler said...

Well, since it is still technically the "off season" for NASCAR I could understand the lack of content on NBC Sports Network. I believe once the cars hit the track there will be adequate coverage. Especially once their own Motorsports product gets started, The Izod Indy Car Series in 40 days in St. Petersburg, FL, I believe you'll see greater emphasis on motorsports.

bevo said...

Yes I remember the last year of NASCAR on NBC. "Mailing it in" doesn't even begin to describe their coverage. I don't see it getting any better. Pretty difficult to garner any serious coverage when the Grand Marshall for your biggest race is a pro wrestler.

I thought the obvious thing for NBC to do with this effort to take on ESPN was to avoid the east coast bias but since their decision makers are also there I guess it was a foolish idea. If it's west of the Hudson it's the edge of the world. Don't want to venture forth lest ye fall off.

PhoenixHotZonie said...

Oh my, can you say conspiracy,collusion, plot or scheme. (re JD
10:07am "pushed to a win").

Well, we can say we saw it mentioned here first at the "The Daly Planet".

And yes, stranger things(against statistical odds of probability) have happened in NASCAR.

w17scott said...

Mr Editor -
Time will tell; perhaps NBC Sports will ramp-up NASCAR content as a selling point to make a serious bid for a piece of the upcoming TV package ...you're on point to say Sports Center has become a caricature of itself ...pre-Sports Center, I recall looking to the CNN offering with the late Jim Huber and Nick Charles and Dan Patrick's sports minute on Headline News for info ...oh well, not to fear - the suits will act on their own with the viewers' interest be-damned attitude prevalent of today's media
Walter

Anonymous said...

Wow! Thank you for the new and fresh story! This is interesting and will be fun to follow to see how it develops.

Also, saw that Jim Rome has left ESPN for the CBS sports channel. Looks like they are trying to attack also. Any info on CBS changes?

JR
PS - thanks for not including anything about Race Hub's time slot!

Daly Planet Editor said...

Anon,

None of the CBS changes involve a general sports news show or NASCAR...yet.

Nate,

The assumption that SportsTalk is limited to sports that NBC partners with is the topic of this post. The decision in launching a national TV sports news show is the choice of dealing with the sports landscape in terms of what is happening or what is happening that involves your company/network.

The choice is up to NBC.

JD

Keith_Kagee said...

Can't wait to see how either network mocks NASCAR i.e Three Stooges and WWE.

TX said...

Osbornk, that's exactaly why I wont watch hockey. It's a truely northern regional sport played by everyone one north of the MD line.
Then USA won some game against the Russians and then the next thing you know there's hockey in Arizona Texas and Florida.

Eh??

NBC has a chance but I don't think they will get in fold. I think all the TV networks will get an extension from Nascar.
You know the boys in Daytona have to keep the boys in Atlanta and Bristol and LA happy.

The TV contract to do is a lot of hot air. It's not changing cause like Brian France said we really enjoy our television partners.

David said...

Honestly are you surprised. Considering that NBC's main competitors Turner,FOX,and Disney(ESPN)own the rights to Nascar the people at NBC probably can't get access to a lot of Nascar news plus they have Indy Cars so to be broadcasting their competitors wouldn't make a ton of sense. I just hope NBC gets the rights back.Even though we no longer have BP the TNT guys would do a ton better than the ESPN crew.

b said...

Anything with NBC in the title, or other cable channels owned by Comcast, does not get watched in my house. GE, and continuing with Comcast, decided to alienate half the country with their political and bs global warming agenda over three years ago. NBC does not want me as a viewer, I oblige.

With the Internet, the four networks are becoming increasingly irrelevant. I would much rather listen to a race on MRN than listen to a Waltrip brother take over a broadcast with his cheer leading.

Bucky Butler said...

I'm just now seeing the news that Izod Indy Car Series pre-race host and pit reporter Lindy Thackston will not be returning to NBC Sports Network this season. Being replaced on pit road by open wheel racer Townsend Bell. It's really a shame how the truly talented in the sports TV business get screwed. NBC Sports Network really isn't much different than all the others.

Anonymous said...

Certainly the networks will promote the things that they are partnered with, that bring in viewers thus revenue. This past Super Bowl drew 111 million fans/viewers, while the most I can recall for the Daytona 500 was 17 million.

How much have the decisions made in Daytona to uber commercialize Nascar,or the upcoming TV package bidding affected the coverage? It appears that ESPN for one is backing down its coverage of all things nascar.