Sunday, July 15, 2012

NASCAR TV Makes The Turn

It's that time of the year once again. The final weekend for TNT is coming up, the FOX portion of the season is a distant memory and soon ESPN will take over for the final seventeen Sprint Cup Series races.

So, where are you on the NASCAR TV coverage at the halfway point of the season?

It was Darrell Waltrip welcoming his brother Michael to the Hollywood Hotel and putting Jeff Hammond outside looking in that started the year. The Waltrips were the dominant TV voices for the sport during the NASCAR on FOX races. The network cannot get enough of these two and loved the fan reactions, both good and bad.

FOX also started the ball rolling on the fan backlash over TV commercials. With all the real-time information now available on various social media sources, fans became acutely aware of just how much content was being missed while FOX was in commercial. To add insult to injury, when FOX went to the side-by-side commercial format in the final hour of each telecast, the live video box often featured the car or driver starring in the commercial playing alongside.

TNT arrived with the promise of being different and delivered. While the network's telecasts featured top flight pit reporting, the complete lack of excitement and attention to the actual racing from the TV booth made these telecasts very different. It was not in a good way.

Pre-show host Lindsay Czarniak left for ESPN last year and TNT chose to replace her by asking play by play man Adam Alexander to double-up. Alexander hosts the entire one-hour pre-race show and then moves to the broadcast booth and calls the races. While at home during the pre-race, Alexander has sounded out of sync with Kyle Petty and Wally Dallenbach Jr. on race coverage.

TNT picked up the momentum of FOX's commercial overload and drove that point home just like a stake into the hearts of NASCAR fans watching on TV. With roughly one-third of the racing action taking place while TNT is in commercial, the anger boiled over at Kentucky Speedway when a Kentucky Fried Chicken advertising buy had Junior wrestling Pop Pop over side orders for three straight hours.

While this anger peaked with several mainstream media articles on the topic, TNT once again saved the day with the Wide Open coverage from Daytona. This time, commercials appeared in a small video box while the live racing action rolled-on in the background. With so much green flag racing this season, it made a huge difference.

In Daytona, TNT learned of AJ Allmendinger's suspension for a failed drug test about an hour before the pre-race show. The producer chose to let viewers watch eleven minutes of the scripted program before offering even a basic report on this breaking story. TNT may know drama, but they certainly do not know how to handle a breaking news story in this format.

The fuel mileage and track position race on the flat track at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway this weekend will be the network's final event for 2012. There is a buzz going around that TNT may not return after the existing contract ends in 2014. The bigger buzz is that FOX wants those six TNT races.

Turner Sports larger agenda with NASCAR was operating the sport's official website and owning the digital (online) rights to all NASCAR footage. Now, after paying a hefty fee, NASCAR regained control of those assets for 2013. Without RaceBuddy, the online pay services and the digital integration of content it may not make sense for TNT to even return for the final two seasons of it's limited race package.

ESPN is geared up to make a return at the Brickyard 400 with all of the familiar faces in place. Once the network steps back in, NASCAR suddenly regains a place on shows like SportsCenter and the ESPNEWS network. ESPN lives for hype these days and nothing fits that mold better than the Chase.

Allen Bestwick will be a wonderful change of pace from Adam Alexander, but what ESPN brings is baggage from five seasons of struggling to reconnect with the sport. The formality of ESPN is out of place in the NASCAR world. ESPN's format of focusing on the Chase to the detriment of other teams is well known.

As the teams take to the track Friday for practice and qualifying, perhaps you could summarize your season of watching the Sprint Cup Series telecasts this year. To add your opinion on this topic, just click below. Comments may be moderated prior to posting. Thank you for stopping by The Daly Planet.


ThinkingBrian said...

Damn, well said. You didn't miss a beat in capturing what some fans including me are thing about FOX, TNT and soon to be ESPN covering the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races.

FOX was ok to decent and at least I could follow the race and get informed. Of course Mike Joy actually called the race, but could use less of the Waltrip Brothers with all of those stories.

But FOX wouldn't even hold a candle to TNT and yes the key note would be Kentucky Speedway race. it was pretty bad and it was even worse that on Twitter, KFC was more talked about than the boring race that was going on on-track and the loud announcers in the booth.

But unfortunately I'm basically expecting the same pointless coverage of Kentucky at this weekends race in New Hampshire and its too bad too considering New Hampshire could be a good race. Will we see KFC again?

As for ESPN, hope that it gets better this season with side-by-side coverage and without the garage, otherwise its 17 races of nothing but top chase drivers and the hell with everyone else. Come on ESPN, save this TV coverage and delivery some good coverage for all us NASCAR fans...

RichmondFan said...

Glad TNT is coming to an end. They have fewer commercials than FOX, but they are all the same commercials over and over again. If I see an ad for the schizophrenic crime solver one more time, I'm going to be ill.

I have mixed feelings about ESPN. I really like Allen Bestwick, but he alone cannot save what is generally a low-energy broadcast. As much as the Waltrip brothers annoy me, ESPN puts me to sleep on my couch.

I really yearn for a network - any network - who can cover the race like MRN can. They call a race with the excitement of a horserace and provide a lot of the information that we complain is always missing from the TV broadcasts. If I were the head of programming, I would just pipe in the MRN audio and hire a director who could keep up with their calls. Think how much better the broadcasts would be!

I am really dreading the final TNT race this weekend, and probably won't watch. I just read on SceneDaily (or whatever they call it now) that passing at New Hampshire will be almost impossible on the track. GREAT! Like I really want to watch cars that can't pass.

RPM said...

I hope the commercial approach TNT took in Daytona sticks around in the future with other networks. That was the most seamless integration of sponsors during a live telecast that I have ever seen. It didn't interfere with the program, it got the sponsors message across and I'd dare say more people actually watched the commercial than would during a traditional break. They may have actually done something right for a change.

AB will be a welcome voice on race day. He is the premier NASCAR PBP man for a reason. Mike Joy is very good, but AB is The Man. Now if we can just get Schrader in the booth with him...

The Loose Wheel said...

JD, you pretty much hit the nail on the head in regards to FOX. Commercials and a Waltrip-dominated broadcast have made for a long season. The biggest technical issue has been super tight shots for the last couple years across all TV partners. TNT has been a little better in that respect, but the booth needs a lead guy who has control and excitement. Really would love to see Rick Allen get a shot. The guy is for my money the BEST play by play guy right this moment. He has energy, can even keep the Waltrip's in check. I love Mike Joy but FOX has broken him down over the years.

Halfway through, it hasn't been the worst season I've watched but I can't say I am jumping for joy to get to ESPN.

I really wish ALL of the networks would cut their scripts and cover the ENTIRE field.

Buschseries61 said...

There have only been 3 great broadcasts this season: Daytona 1, Talladega, Daytona 2.

I've said my case against FOX many months ago. For my own mental health, those memories should stay in the past.

TNT has been such a disappointment this season. It shifted from the annual breath of fresh air to the continuation of a bad dream this season. The fantastic depth of camera views and perspective of the field that used to define TNT was MIA (except for Daytona).

Alexander flunked play-by-play for the third season in a row. The duo of Dallenbach & Petty have lost their luster stuck in a boring conversation with Adam Alexander. The duo never had chemistry with Alexander and never will. Here's some fan input TNT: switch Adam Alexander with Ralph Sheheen and watch the broadcast transform into something so good, nobody will be fighting over mac-and cheese or mashed potatoes.

I do have high hopes for ESPN. Allen Bestwick is currently the best tv play-by-play announcer in the sport. Andy Petree has been the rock of ESPN's ever changing lineup for a reason. Dale Jarrett just came back from a really long vacation.

If the pictures work with the broadcast booth and the commercials fit well with the race, ESPN could be crowned best Cup broadcast team 2012.

I'm curious what ESPN's plans are for side-by-side this season. RaceBuddy would be nice as an online option - letting fans see the race while ESPN pays the bills.

With the right choices, ESPN can finally make things work in NASCARland.

Jonathan said...

Fox gets an F from me they stunk it up in a big way. Have been very busy these past 5 TNT race but from what I saw it wasnt as bad as Fox. I honestly think ESPN will be the network to watch. They have had time to prepare with all the Nationwide broadcasts (some have been stellar) its going to be a fun 17 race strech on ESPN! Cant wait

Ancient Racer said...

I have hope.

Fox 2012 was what it was; TNT 2012 has been what it has been and ESPN will be what it will be and though I do not expect the criticisms to cease I do have hope for the future.

I have hope because this blog, though a small independent, is owned and operated by an acknowledged TV sports professional and by being noisy and persistent has broken through whatever wall exists out in cyberspace and is increasingly being regarded as something the mainstream NASCAR media ought pay some attention to when it comes to the sport and its coverage.

TDP and its followers and posters are no longer viewed anywhere that I know of a curious gathering of congenitally disgruntled malcontents that no one could possibly please because over the 5 or so years of its existence we have been right more often than not and have been consistently unafraid to say when the Emperor was butt nekkid while also quick to say when his outfit was nice.

I believe this effect has been hastened forward and multiplied by the addition of Twitter and the #TDP1 timeline that is active real time in Cup races as with it we are no longer talking just to ourselves. We are also talking (Twitting?) to a larger audience that includes established voices. I could cite a number of examples of these "established voices" but I'll just cite Jeff Gluck during the Kentucky Fried Commercial. Jeff was not at the track. He was watching on TV and his comments during the KFC 400 on occasion went beyond the ones we make.

Covering a NASCAR race is not Rocket Science, folks. I believe, I must believe, the message we have been sending is being received.

I have hope.

w17scott said...

Mr Editor -
FOX - [F] production values missing, video lacking, booth MIA, ego-driven, personality cult. no explanation as to why the professional Mike Joy was removed from broadcasts; ...TNT - [C] production choices better, video improved, PXP missing - suitable PXP (Ralph Sheheen available - not utilized), analysts lack focus, losing credibility.
ESPN - Allen Bestwick brings quality to broadcast; Andy Petree stepped up his game - much improved; the saving grace is that Dale Jarrett spent this time off listening to and learning from his father's work on NASCAR coverage to offer insightful and fan-respected analysis and commentary ...we can hope.
With current NASCAR leadership yielding to broadcast partners at the risk and fallout of losing new and long-time fans, we can hope, can't we?

Anonymous said...

Both the racing and converage have been lacking. Well, that's the nice way of saying it. A more truthful way would be to say it's sucked.

OrangeTom said...

Fox--The constant presence of Michael Waltrip was even more annoying than I thought possible. Sad to see Dick Bergeron retiring. Hope they hold on to Krista Voda. She might be the one bright spot in their NASCAR coverage.

TNT--Very disappointing this year. Kyle and Wally have always been my favorite two color guys but they were just not at the top of their game in 2012. Wally too tentative and Kyle never completely engaged with racing action. Wish I could, but really can't think of anything positive to say

KoHoSo said...

...perhaps you could summarize your season of watching the Sprint Cup Series telecasts this year.

I can best summarize my feelings on this year's Cup coverage on television by referring back to the Willie & Frankie characters played by Billy Crystal and Christopher Guest on one of the previous lineups of Saturday Night Live.

Very, very painful.

LpMv2407 said...

FOX - TOO Many Tight shots. The PxP seemed to actually get better towards the end of their portion.

TNT - Pocono started with SO much promise. Those first 200 of those 400 miles was the best TV coverage all season. The camera shots have gotten tighter since and the commercial load is brutal. I'd rather have have Wally & Kyle than Darrell & Mikey.

Dream Team Coverage:
Allen Bestwick; Larry Mac; Dale Jarrett

Pits: Dick Bergeron; Ralph Sheheen; Steve Byrnes; & Dr. Jerry Punch

Colorado said...

I have stated before, and I will state again: If the networks want a lesson in how to broadcast a race, PLEASE PLEASE watch a televised hockey game! They call the action (which is faster than NASCAR)let the color commentator do his job, and seamlessly transition back to calling the action. I have watched, and have seen the action called,the quick history on a certain player, stats, scores, line cahnges, etc. all within seconds. Like an earlier poster said, it's not Rocket Science, It's stock car racing. If MRN can call a race like the NHL does on tv, then why in the hell vcan't the networks? They need to quit building celebrities in the booth, and call the action on the track. Where the real celebrities are. I'd like to drive by DW's house and look at his front door. It's probably 8 foot wide and twelve feet high, so he can get his ego through...

Anonymous said...

We watch all the racing and enjoy it all.Fox and their stupidity of keeping the Waltrips around have caused us to use the radio crews for audio.Now that we don't have to listen to the tv booth it makes for good racing whatever network is televising.

Colorado said...

My spell check is off in my brain. My apologies to all.

Anonymous said...

My season in summary: I've discovered MRN and PRN computer streaming. I've been completely disillusioned by the media hype, second guessing, prognosticating and blatant mis-statements by the tv broadcasters (not to mention the goofiness of Speed programming). I used to watch a lot more (Race Hub, Nascar Now, Race Day, Trackside, etc.) but am finding it a general waste of time because they will repeat the same prerecorded story 2, 3 4 times a week. I've been to races so know first-hand what is shown on tv isn't even closely representative of what happens when you see the race live. Will admit, other than the play-by-play, last week's TNT Wide Open Coverage was an incredibly pleasant change.


GinaV24 said...

Along these lines, I read DW's latest article on Fox about "the season of discontent". He hits some good points but of course doesn't realize that he and Mikey are a part of the fan's discontent.

I also saw an article in the WSJ today that was about TV bingeing which apparently is also creating an issue for TV and its advertising $ stream. People are not necessarily tuning in for regular TV where they have to deal with commercials (sound familiar), now they are using Netflix or the like to stream a season's worth of episodes in a marathon session. It's cheaper AND they don't have to deal with commercials.

For myself, I'm really disappointed with both the TV coverage AND NASCAR's management decisions. I know darn good and well that Fox HAS the capability to broadcast the race in a way that would let us enjoy it, they just don't choose to do it. TNT, last year, was the best of the three - this year, they are just out to lunch. ESPN - well, I really like Allen Bestwick, but he is the only bright spot in what I expect to be the usual disjointed ESPN coverage. Allen can only do so much. If the camera work isn't good and ESPN goes into its scripted Chase mode, well, I'm not going to waste nice summer and fall Sunday's on it.

The commercial load and the poor TV coverage, plus the really lackluster "racing" on the track have made it so I am not all that interested in wasting my time with it.

Zetona said...

ESPN have a beautiful opportunity to win the hearts of NASCAR fans. All they need to do is keep showing the racing, not show an obscene number of commercials, not play favorites any more than FOX or TNT did, and maybe find a more exciting color commentator. Allen Bestwick is great, but AP and DJ are not very exciting to listen to.

DaveOnDirt said...

And all will be good at ESPN until the the first kickoff or how things go after the torch is lit in London

Anonymous said...

I tried listening to practice and qualifying today. Only way I could watch it was to hit Mute. When I didn't, I heard talk that was insulting to anyone exposed to Nascar and heard 'news' I've heard a thousand times. I don't expect Espn to be any better than Fox/Tnt. But...hope springs eternal!

PammH said...

I'm sorry I've been sooo absent from TDP these days, but after I read GinaV24's coments, I just don't have anything to add. She sums up my feelings to a T. It's like we share a brain!! Sorry Gina-don't mean to diss you w/that comment in any way...:)

The Loose Wheel said...

I find myself watching SPEED and the ARCA race. The only thing I can say is Rick Allen again proves time in and time out why I like this guy. He calls the action, he sets up the scene, throws to commercials, is informative, and knows how to use the experience of Phil Parsons as a benefit. Two man booth, great balance.

Less is more.

The "racing" this season would not be an issue if every single week the television networks didn't try to forecast a wreckfest that never materializes. Kind of like the weather man, I remain skeptical of anything TV tells me. Stayed informed this season without twitter thankfully, but without Pitcommand I would be totally lost. Tried to watch Michigan without it while I was on vacation and all I can say is that was ROUGH.

atd118 said...

There are many things to gripe about on all the networks that cover the sport.. My biggest one is all the tight shot and in car views.. There is nothing worse than going to those tight shots when someone is passing anybody.. It makes no sense. I would actually like to see the damn pass. Its so frustrating how the producers time and time again things it a good idea to go to that shot every time when the racing is close.

Jonathan said...

Watching the ESPN Nationwide Series race and I have to say I give em props this is one hell of a broadcast so far. They were fixing to go to a break (top 5 pictures up top of screen) but the battle was hot and BK was holding of Harvick and they held off for a good 2-3 minutes showing the great racing before going to that break. that was awsome thats how it should be and me as a fan knows that a commercial break is needed no matter what happens but ESPN did as much as they can do to show u what was happening before they took that break! (I can recall many many Fox broadcasts where the pictures showed a battle for the lead and bam when it was commercial time it was commercial time no matter what was on track they were into that commercial fast and when Fox cam back the infamous replay showed us what happened during that break. Espn is winning me over big time with the Nationwide Series broadcasts, there great AB is on his game and its showing. Rusty, Brad and NB were gelling like no other in the pre race for todays race it was awsome. I feel ESPN is going to go all out for the Sprint Cup Series!!! I may be wrong but im feeling something good

Jonathan said...

been putting a few down today dont mind my spelling everyone u get my drift im sure

Sally said...

The Nationwide race today was the prefect example why there's no one better to have in the pits than Doc Punch. Had a concise explanation of what happened to Ricky Stenhouse and how he was doing. from a real doctor. Perfect.

Anonymous said...

Watching the ESPN Nationwide Series race and I have to say I give em props this is one hell of a broadcast so far. They were fixing to go to a break (top 5 pictures up top of screen) but the battle was hot and BK was holding of Harvick and they held off for a good 2-3 minutes showing the great racing before going to that break. that was awsome thats how it should be and me as a fan knows that a commercial break is needed no matter what happens but ESPN did as much as they can do to show u what was happening before they took that break

I noticed that as well. When you see that graphic come up with the top 5-10 and the voice changes pitch a bit, you know a break is coming. Then it didn't...I was amazed.

Buschseries61 said...

I'm watching the Truck race and just loving what I see.

Rick Allen is doing great play-by-play and not running a conversation.

The cameras are following the battles. When the field got spread out, they ran through the top 10 trucks.

When Buescher had his tire failure, Ray Dunlap did great reporting. He talked to Good Year and examined the tire himself. How many tv pit reporters do we see doing that?

The SPEED cameras saw the hard racing between the #33 and #98 and we caught the incident live from its beginning in turn 1 to its end in turn 4.

It amazes me why this is difficult for FOX and TNT.

Anonymous said...

I also got to watch some of the truck race. Amazing (or a shame) that fox, tnt, and espn cannot be as good. MC

GinaV24 said...

PammH, I am flattered that you think my comment reflects your feelings. What is it they say? Great minds think alike!

papaserge said...

Pretty much in lockstep with everyone else on Fox and TNT. TNT was far worse than Fox this season, sad considering how low the bar was set. I would not care to see Adam Alexander on a NASCAR telecast ever again, he's definitely more of a "radio guy." He's awful at play-by-play, lets Wally and Kyle ramble and isn't much better as pre-race show host.

That being said, really looking forward to what ESPN brings to the table this time around. Bestwick might be alongside Squier, Jenkins and Joy regarding all-time great play-by-play men. Petree might be the best booth analyst in the sport right now. When they deviate from the script, the camera work is also stellar -- heck, it made last season's August Pocono race entertaining (the one where the final 85 laps or so went commercial-free).

Lord knows we need some great TV coverage right now. ESPN should take note. They have the resources.

Anonymous said...

NASCAR on TNT coverage was HORRIBLE!! To many commercials as usual!! But on to ESPN which puts NASCAR on the back burner to other sports it covers, NASCAR fans tend to have to wait while other sports run into NASCAR coverage time.... UGHHHH!!! This just is NOT right!!!