Sunday, July 15, 2012
NASCAR TV Makes The Turn
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.