Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Key Story Of 2008 Breaks With No TV Coverage

Lee Spencer from Fox Sports was up at 1AM to author this (click here) story on the end of a legendary NASCAR family franchise.

Several hours later, followed with a blurb (click here) about the same issue. No reporter's name was mentioned, but the details were the same. Even with the Petty name possibly tied to the new merged company, Petty Enterprises was officially closing.

It was only a couple of weeks ago that Petty VP Robbie Loomis (click here) was busy denying merger rumors and painting the future as bright. Now, the reality was finally playing-out on a national stage. Unfortunately, that stage did not include TV coverage.

On SPEED, the lifestyle programs continued to race by on Wednesday as the off-season frenzy of truck towing and auto auctions was in full swing.

This (click here) single story by Tom Jensen on talked about the Petty legacy and the reasons this situation was about to have a profound effect on the sport in general. Jensen was not seen on Wind Tunnel, the SPEED Report or any other SPEED TV program. NASCAR on SPEED is closed for the winter.

The nerves were raw at ESPN because the breaking sports news was overwhelming the capabilities of the on-air crews. "Welcome to the machine," said the ESPNEWS anchor on Wednesday morning as the 24-hour network continued to grind out the "content."

Denver's Mike Shanahan was fired, Brett Farve might need surgery and the coaching wheel in the NFL was in full swing. LeBron James and Dwyane Wade were going head-to-head in the highlights. Alcoholic golfer John Daly was suspended by the PGA and Charles Barkley was busted for DUI. NASCAR's Petty story had no chance.

Over on the "mothership" of ESPN, the SportsCenter franchise had already made its final statement of the year where NASCAR was concerned. The season's best video clips in all sports had rolled-by and most of them were predictable. But, when it came to NASCAR, ESPN had selected the best moments of the season. Well, as far as they were concerned.

"Michael Waltrip is the worst driver in NASCAR," growled Clint Bowyer again during the red flag in Bristol. Then, Kyle Busch and Carl Edwards showed the best face of the sport with post-race slamming and spinning on the high banks. Topping it off were the threat and response soundbites from both those drivers.

ESPN inserted the Petty information as a blurb on the lower third ticker and credited Spencer and for the confirmation. So, there it was. Petty Enterprises had effectively gone out of business as a lower third graphic on ESPN on a Wednesday morning.

The background of TDP is blue to celebrate Richard Petty's 50 years in NASCAR. Regardless of the bad business decisions, the end of Petty Enterprises is a major story in the history of NASCAR. With the passing of Dale Earnhardt Sr., there was perhaps no more recognizable and iconic figure in the sport than Richard Petty.

We are weeks away from the start of the NASCAR TV season. Perhaps, both SPEED and ESPN will take some time to follow-up on the Petty story and put this transition into historical perspective when they return to the air. Today, there will be no opportunity to see a reporter or hear an expert to help fans understand this news.

The Daly Planet welcomes comments from readers. Just click on the COMMENTS button below and follow the easy instructions. The rules for posting are located on the right side of the main page. Thank you for taking the opportunity to stop by.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

NASCAR Not Good Enough For Primetime On SPEED

Finally, a brand new TV series from the professionals at The NASCAR Media Group is coming to SPEED in January. The title of the series is NASCAR 39/10 and it is a big chunk of programming that should be a blast for fans.

Consisting of ten shows each three hours in length, this series will review the 2008 Sprint Cup Series with lots of never-before-seen-footage and interviews. Just what NASCAR fans want after a long holiday break.

“January is all about getting jacked up for Daytona,” said SPEED President Hunter Nickell. “We’re going to give race fans a chance to relive their favorite moments from 2008 in a unique way, while at the same time, setting the stage for the new season."

What Nickell did not tell fans is that they may have to take a very long lunch break to see any of the thirty hours of NASCAR 39/10.

The shows air from noon to 3PM Eastern Time on Wednesdays and Thursdays starting January 7th. Say it with me, noon to 3PM.

SPEED has decided to keep the "reality lifestyle" programs like PINKS, Living the Low Life and Wrecked in primetime. NASCAR apparently does not make the grade.

Looking at the SPEED TV schedule on the network's website, there does not appear to be a re-air of NASCAR 39/10 currently scheduled. Perhaps, that might change before next week.

This situation once again forces fans to get their hands on a DVR, VCR or TiVo in order to record and then watch the NASCAR-themed programs on SPEED. Thirty hours of brand-new quality shows from NMG that sum-up the entire 2008 series should be a great way to start the new year. If you can see them, that is.

It seems strange that SPEED chose to bury this entire program series in an afternoon timeslot. The NASCAR Media Group only had six episodes of NASCAR Confidential on SPEED during the entire 2008 season. This type of glossy and high-end programming has been missing from SPEED for years.

With shows like Trackside, The SPEED Report and Daytona specials set to begin later in January, it certainly would have been nice to see a new NASCAR TV series be given one airing in primetime.

Given the current issues affecting NASCAR and the fact that SPEED is currently one of NASCAR's key TV partners, watching thirty hours of quality NASCAR TV air up-against the local news at noon and the soap opera block is more than just a little painful.

The Daly Planet welcomes comments from readers. Just click on the COMMENTS button below and follow the easy instructions. The rules for posting are located on the right side of the main page. Thank you for taking the time to stop by.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

NASCAR TV Needs To Continue In December And January

Saturday, it was NASCAR Now Lead Reporter Marty Smith breaking the news that Elliott Sadler was out at GEM and AJ Allmendinger was in. Click here for the story.

He told NASCAR fans the details on the website. Where else could he do it? NASCAR Now was long since off the air.

There is so much going on right now in NASCAR and so many questions to be answered that fans are looking to the NASCAR TV partners for answers. They find none.

SPEED discontinued The SPEED Report , Wind Tunnel and This Week In NASCAR for the winter and is exposing TV viewers to marathons of "lifestyle reality" programming like Pinks and Living The Low Life.

ESPN did get Marty Smith to appear on ESPNEWS several times during the off-season, but those sporadic reports cannot make-up for the fact that NASCAR is certainly generating enough news for a weekly version of NASCAR Now.

There are several sports that have regular programs on ESPN when the season is not active in terms of events in progress. NASCAR should be one of them. Especially, when this year is crucial for ESPN in terms of generating enough viewership early in the season to make things pay-off for the network during The Chase for the Championship. The final seventeen Sprint Cup races are on the ESPN/ABC family of networks.

Apparently, one weekly TV show on SPEED of even thirty minutes in length focusing on the NASCAR news is too much to ask of a TV network that just spent millions renovating a building and then moving north of Charlotte to be closer to the NASCAR shops. That irony is not lost.

The question TDP asked during the last off-season still fits. Why do fans need any of these seasonal NASCAR news shows when websites like Jayski and others always provide up-to-date information about the sport all year long?

This is a new era of instant communications and without a year-round commitment of ESPN and SPEED to keep NASCAR news on the air fans might not be inclined to return.

Instead of dumping NASCAR like a hot potato after the banquets, perhaps taking some time to fan the embers of the remaining interest in the sport might have been a better idea.

The Daly Planet welcomes comments from readers. Just click on the COMMENTS button below and follow the easy instructions. The rules for posting are located on the right side of the main page. Thanks for taking the time to stop by.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Television Ratings Information Can Be Interesting

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - USA Network has regained its crown as the year's most-watched basic cable channel, while football and election coverage dominated the top of the programing chart.

USA has averaged 2.8 million viewers year-to-date in primetime, edging out last year's winner, Disney Channel, by about 463,000 viewers.

USA, the 2006 champ, was boosted by shows like the veteran series "Monk," which averaged 7.6 million viewers per first-run episode, while Disney boasted hits including the TV movie "Camp Rock" (10.1 million), which ranks as the year's most-watched entertainment program.

Election coverage helped boost Fox News Channel three places to No. 4. TNT remained at No. 3, while ESPN fell a spot to No. 5. TBS slipped one to No. 6.

Ranking as the year's most-watched basic cable telecast was ESPN's Monday night coverage of the Philadelphia Eagles-Dallas Cowboys NFL game September 15 (18.6 million). In fact, NFL games on ESPN accounted for 13 of the year's top 20 telecasts.

Coverage of the presidential election also had a big presence in the top 20, with CNN's Election Night programing taking No. 2 (15.2 million) and four other spots, while Fox News' coverage of the October 2 vice presidential debate (11.1 million) landed at No. 17.

The only non-NFL or -election coverage ranking in the top 20 was TBS' coverage of Game 7 of the American League Championship Series between the Boston Red Sox and Tampa Bay Rays on October 19. The game came in at No. 4 with 13.3 million viewers.

Meanwhile, USA also reigned in the advertiser-friendly adults 18-49 demo, averaging 1.3 million in primetime, followed by TBS (1.1 million), ESPN (1.02 million), TNT (1.01 million) and FX (712,000). That's nearly the same as last year, with the exception of TNT and ESPN swapping places.

In the younger demos, Disney won in primetime among kids 2-11 (1.3 million), kids 6-11 (1 million) and tweens 9-14 (842,000), while Nickelodeon won in total-day (1.2 million, 674,000 and 498,000, respectively).

Thanks to our friends at Reuters and The Hollywood Reporter.

30 Years At ESPN For Nice Guy Chris Berman

There was a time when it was very lonely in the studios of ESPN. Back in the 1980's I worked the overnight shift in SportsCenter with the late Adrian Karsten as my fellow Production Assistant.

What made the nights bearable was the presence of a dynamic personality who brought the kind of enthusiasm and pure fun to TV sports that was hard to describe. He was a part-time local TV sports anchor. His name was Chris Berman.

He introduced the concept of having fun on TV at a time when cable television was still struggling to define what it would be in the future. His unique approach of giving sports personalities nicknames would help to put ESPN on the map.

There were only a handful of people working at ESPN at 2:30AM and even less watching the late night edition of SportsCenter. We used to joke that it was primetime in Guam so we had to be on our best behavior. Seven days a week, regardless of the time of year, we created an hour of live TV that ended at 3:30AM.

Needless to say, that kind of experience bonds a group of people for life. This week, ESPN has put a good deal of effort into reminding sports fans that Berman has been a fixture on their TV screens for 30 years. Here is the full story:

BRISTOL, Conn. (AP) — The highlights this time accompany what's known as "The Greatest Game Ever Played" — the 1958 NFL championship between the Colts and the Giants.

The narration for the ESPN special on the 50th anniversary is typical Chris Berman, enthusiastic but not reverential, full of the shtick that has made him famous, complete with "rumbles, stumbles, bumbles and in this case, fumbles!"

He's made his career this way — being respectful of the sports he covers but having fun with them, too.

Hired by ESPN nearly 30 years ago from his job anchoring weekend sports on local television, Berman has helped change how sports fans get their news and how sportscasters approach their work.

"He created an overall perspective that many others covering sports at that time did not, of keeping it light," said Malcolm Moran, director of the Center for Sports Journalism at Penn State. "It's not war, it's a game. He maintains a tricky balance of keeping his shows informative, without taking himself too seriously, and that can't be easy to do."

Berman was hired in 1979, just weeks after ESPN went on the air, to anchor the 2 a.m. "SportsCenter" program. But he made his mark handling the NFL, where he's covered the draft since 1981 and started hosting "NFL Gameday," ESPN's pregame show, in 1985. At 23 consecutive years, Berman is television's most tenured pregame football show host, besting Brent Musburger's streak of 15 years from 1975 to 1989.

Berman got his biggest break in 1987, when ESPN won rights to broadcast a Sunday night football game and exclusive extended highlights of the afternoon contests. Berman and former Denver Broncos linebacker Tom Jackson were named to host the 60-minute "NFL Primetime," which quickly became the crown jewel of ESPN's football coverage.

Viewers tuned in for Berman's humor and antics as much as for Jackson's analysis.

Berman calls players by wacky nicknames (Curtis "My Favorite" Martin), wears a genie headdress to predict games as "the Swami" and famously imitates Howard Cosell's exaggerated touchdown call ("He could .. go ... all ... the ... waaaaay!"). He readily acknowledges that he's part sportscaster, part entertainer.

"Just don't call me a personality," he said. "What is that? That's a morning disc jockey. I entertain, but I take what I do, the journalism part, seriously. Sportscaster, that's fine. That encompasses all of that."

ESPN considers him to be more than that.

"He is our most important person," said Norby Williamson, ESPN's vice president of production. "He is the face of ESPN."

Berman's career coincides with an unprecedented growth in the NFL's popularity, and some credit Berman with at least part of that success. Others accuse him of being more style than substance; a master of self-promotion.

"He could have become the sage voice at ESPN by now, a voice of maturity, credibility and wisdom," New York Post columnist Phil Mushnick said. "Instead, he's the voice that does the imitation of Chris Berman. He's the head clown in the circus over there."

Former ESPN ombudsman George Solomon said it's not that simple.

"When you are that big, and you're that important, it's difficult," said Solomon, former sports editor at the Washington Post and now a faculty member at the University of Maryland. "You tend to lose your role. He wants to be a journalist. He could be a journalist, but at this stage of his career, its not as easy. But he's certainly a major force in television sports."

ESPN dropped "NFL Primetime" in 2005 when it won rights to Monday Night Football. NBC, which now airs the league's Sunday night name, carries the NFL's extended highlights on its "Football Night in America" program hosted by an all-star team of Bob Costas, Chris Collinsworth and former ESPN "SportsCenter" anchors Dan Patrick and Keith Olbermann.

Berman and Jackson still work ESPN's Sunday afternoon preview show, and Berman hosts a short highlight package that runs during "SportsCenter" on Sunday nights.

"We miss that ("NFL Primetime") more than anything we've ever done," said Jackson. "That was his baby, and mine as well, and we miss it."

During football season, Berman says he works the phones like any journalist, calling coaches and team sources to get tips on who's playing and what viewers should expect at kickoff.

"He's one of those guys who can talk to anybody," said Eagles coach Andy Reid. "He can talk to the president of the United States, he can talk to a football coach."

"He'll ask how (quarterback) Donovan (McNabb)'s feeling. He's been around me and Mike (Holmgren) long enough to know what plays you have in, he's seen it enough."

Though he still covers some other big events — opening day of the baseball season, the Home Run Derby, the World Series, and golf's U.S. Open — Berman said he is happy to be known as the face of the network's NFL coverage.

Berman's children are now grown, and he says he doesn't see himself still at the network when he's 65 years old, or even 60. His contract expires on his 55th birthday. He won't say how much he makes, or whether he wants a new deal.

But at 53, describing action as "rumbling, stumbling, bumbling" still feels right.

"It's kind of fun having been one of 80 (ESPN employees) in the beginning and now there are what, 5,000 or whatever the number is," Berman said. "We all have our little hand in the cornerstone, and I kind of like that."

It seems like only yesterday that ESPN had a couple hundred employees and the NFL Draft was a big event. Now, leads the way down the sports information highway as the tail wags the media dog. The global reach of the company is second to none.

Congratulations to Chris Berman on a continuing legacy in the sports TV world and for leaving a generation of sports fans with fond memories of the original ground-breaking SportsCenter. It seems like only yesterday.

Thanks to Pat Eaton-Robb from the AP for the story content.

The Daly Planet welcomes comments from readers. Just click on the COMMENTS button below and follow the easy instructions. The rules for posting are located on the right side of the main page. Thanks for taking the time to stop by.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Morgan Shepherd's True Spirit Of Christmas

TDP highlighted Morgan Shepherd's annual Christmas time trek into the Virginia mountains to provide funding, gifts and supplies to areas long since forgotten by fast-paced modern life.

Well, this year's trip was apparently quite a success. Thanks to our friends at BP Sports, here is an article about this season's effort:

At the age of 67, Morgan Shepherd’s best racing days are behind him, but don’t let that fool you. In April, with a grossly underfunded team, he was able to finish on the lead lap at Talladega in the NASCAR Nationwide Series, finishing in 13th place and prompting praise from his competitors.

But the man who made his Sprint Cup debut some 39 years ago — accumulating four wins and 168 top 10s in that series and 15 wins and 67 top 10s in the Nationwide Series — isn’t racing for praise or even respect. All you have to do is take one look at his green No. 89 Dodge Charger to see the reason he is racing.

Plastered on the back fender is a large decal that reads, “Racing for Souls.” And on the hood, the decal reads, “Racing with Jesus.” If that isn’t clear enough, his ministry is called “Victory in Jesus Racing Ministries.”

For the past 22 years God has been using Shepherd as he takes a team — including many NASCAR drivers — into the mountains of Virginia during the Christmas season to help those who are most in need. It was an idea that was born one day when Shepherd was talking to his good friend Ken Lanter.

“We were talking about something we could do for someone at Christmas,” said Shepherd, a member of Gateway Baptist Church in Newton, N.C. “And Ken said, ‘Morgan, I know the perfect person. I was up at the fiddler’s convention in Galax, Va., and I was talking with this gentleman. He was all humped over. He was probably not more than 4 feet tall because he was all bent over.’”

The man’s name was Billy Shough. Ken asked the man what he would do if he ever received $1,000 and Billy said he’d never had the kind of money, so he didn’t know, but he said he would probably fix his roof and paint his house trailer.

Shepherd made it happen, and it was just the beginning.

His team heard about a woman who was suffering with polio. They found her. She was living in what Shepherd referred to as a “little cracker box house.” They built her an 1,800-square-foot modular home and completely furnished it. Then they took care of her until she passed away a couple of years ago.

On and on the stories go.

“I found out in life that if you pay attention, God will give you a direction,” Shepherd said.

Shepherd’s caravan travels from one city to the next during its annual trip, handing out gift bags with food, T-shirts, racing memorabilia and other things to more than a thousand low income and needy people. He works with a church in the area to pinpoint those who are most in need.

As Shepherd and his people pass out the bags, Shepherd tells them the true meaning of Christmas — about the one true shepherd who came to earth and then died for their sins so they could have eternal life.

On Dec. 15, the caravan traveled to Stuart, Va. While Shepherd was there, he donated $30,000 to an organization that helps provide educational opportunities for the mentally and physically challenged.

Sprint Cup driver Carl Edwards and former Sprint Cup driver and current ESPN NASCAR announcer Dale Jarrett donated a significant amount of money to make the trip a success this year. NASCAR drivers Dennis Setzer and Brett Rowe were part of the caravan.

They stopped in Galax, Va., after their stop in Stuart, and donated another $5,000 to needy citizens through the Catawba County Sheriff’s Department near Galax.

This trip is even more interesting when put into a racing perspective. Here is Mary Jo Buchanan from The Bleacher Report:

Pit boxes are a staple in the NASCAR world. Every team has their own version of their "war wagon", assembled each and every race weekend.

Pit boxes serve as critical places to sit for the crew chief, as well as other important race team members, including parents, spouses, and significant others. They also serve as the center of the pit crew's universe, showing replays on television monitors, displaying scoring and lap times, and sometimes even providing that welcome bit of shade during a sunny race day.

Some pit boxes are incredibly elaborate, with multiple television screens, including race broadcasts, as well as satellite feed. Many also include video cameras, VCRs, DVRs, computers and a warm up hub with lug nuts for the tire changers to practice before each pit stop.

At the fall race at Dover, I became fascinated by the parade of the many pit boxes. Having the great opportunity to watch them being set up before the Sprint Cup race on Sunday, I saw pit boxes of all different shapes, sizes and complexities.

Some of the pit boxes took hours to set up, with multiple satellite dishes and lots of technology. Others were much more simplistic, boasting the bare minimum of "bells and whistles".

We happened to set up our spot for the race right behind the pit box for Morgan Shepherd. In fact, his pit box is pictured in the photo that accompanies this article.

Shepherd's team was obviously not one of the most well-funded endeavors. In fact, his race team runs on faith and is appropriately named Faith Motorsports. Shepherd’s pit box actually sports the "Ten Commandments" as one of its focal features.

Rather than having seats on top of the pit box under a canopy for shade, Morgan Shepherd's wife and team owner Cindy, perched herself instead sitting cross-legged on the box, keeping lap times and other scoring information in her trusty notebook.

There were no television monitors, no computers, and most certainly no bells or whistles on their Faith Motorsports war wagon. There was only a rag-tag pit crew that serviced the car the entire race.

Although Shepherd finished two laps down, he did indeed finish the entire race, something not all that common for this race team. It also fascinated me to see the media, including the television reporters, throughout the race constantly stopping by, asking Cindy questions and for race information.

Morgan Shepherd's pit box was by far the smallest and least technologically savvy on pit road. In spite of that, his team showed such determination and grit the entire race. They truly did put their faith into action in spite of their teeniest of all pit boxes and team equipment.

I had not thought about that pit box or that race until this past week when I heard that Morgan Shepherd had announced his Charitable Fund had yet again donated over $30,000 to the PARC Workshop in Stuart, Virginia. This was Shepherd's 22nd year of visiting the handicapped individuals who rely on the Workshop for employment and socialization.

Shepherd said that this visit was the highlight of his race year. He loves to go each and every year, sharing whatever money and gifts he can find, just to hear those enthusiastic youth and adults shout, "Morgan, Morgan is here".

And that's when it truly hit me. It’s not the size of any racer's pit box that matters. Instead, it is the size of his heart that truly makes a difference, especially during this holiday season.

So, thank you Morgan Shepherd. It was a treat to sit right behind your smallest of pit boxes, watching your race team in action that sunny day in Dover. The size of your heart and the commitment that your team showed that day, and the faith that you all continue to demonstrate through your charitable work each year, really is the measure of your true success.

I don't know about you, but those stories certainly seem like a nice way to celebrate Chistmas and re-align our priorities as we head into 2009. You can read more about Shepherd at the website.

The Daly Planet welcomes comments from readers. Just click on the COMMENTS button below and follow the easy instructions. The rules for posting are located on the right side of the main page. Thanks for taking the time to stop by.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Have A Safe And Happy Holiday Week

At TDP we are celebrating our second Christmas online and this certainly has been an interesting adventure to say the least.

The last two years have been perhaps the most dynamic in NASCAR TV history and 2009 appears to be on the verge of ushering in big changes for all of the NASCAR TV partners.

Many thanks to all of you for stopping by, this year we are poised to top 3 million pageviews. In addition, your comments have been read by the top NASCAR TV executives and many others in the industry.

After a week to catch our breath, it will be time to document the countdown to the "new look" TV networks as they prepare to roll into Daytona.

Have a safe and healthy holiday, TDP will return on Sunday, December 28th.

As usual, please feel free to offer your comments below.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Ron Scalise Remembered One Year Later

This is a re-post of the original column from December 23, 2007 that relayed the news about a Christmas tragedy that caught the sports TV community by surprise.

Amid all the current economic gloom and NASCAR struggles, it is this type of memory that serves to put things back in a realistic perspective very quickly. There are several worthwhile links in this column and many wonderful reader comments from last year to help us remember the late Ron Scalise.

Word started to circulate through the sports TV community on Friday morning. One of ESPN's best known "crew guys" had lost his life late Thursday night in a single car accident on a Connecticut highway.

Ron Scalise was only 54 years old. In his decades of hard work on the road, Scalise had become an audio legend. As we said many times this season, the ESPN audio of the NASCAR races was outstanding. It had to be if Ron was in charge.

Over the years, Scalise had moved-on to become what many consider the "audio guru" of sports television. He wanted to educate both the industry and the public on the incredible changes taking place in the audio side of the television world. The technical innovations that he helped bring to TV sports coverage will never be forgotten.

NASCAR fans may remember during the "old" ESPN days when Ron pushed the "natural sound" from the cars right-up against the announcers voices. Even though the announcers were actually high-up in an air conditioned booth, Ron still made them "talk over" the real sound of the race. It made all the difference in the world.

Remember loudly hearing your first "air gun" on a pit stop? How about the tires of a car squealing as it left pit road? When a car spun, hit the wall and you actually heard it home. That was Ron.

Few people in the sports TV business had the single-minded focus of Ron Scalise. As a part of his drive, he met and befriended many young people who were willing to work hard and learn the audio side of the business. One outstanding testament to Ron's influence can be read by clicking here for Frenchy's blog. Make sure to read the comments.

Ron influenced the importance of audio in almost every sports telecast, and he was able to do it because ESPN was on-the-air every day for 24 hours. As the network grew, Ron was able to pass along his belief that a strong natural sound "bed" should be a vital part of every sports event. Sports TV viewers grew to expect that if they saw it, they should be able to hear it.

In the middle of a screaming crowd at a Duke vs. Carolina basketball game, ESPN viewers could hear the players sneakers squeaking on the floor under the basket. When Tony Hawk or Shaun White tipped slowly off the lip and headed down the "vert ramp" at The X Games, all four wheels of that skateboard made their way right into your home.

That was the whole idea. While the announcers told you about the action, and the cameras showed it to you, there was only one way to make it real. That was to hear it.

In my ESPN NASCAR days, it was Ron Scalise at one analog audio board behind a glass window mixing the entire race by hand. He sat in the same part of the TV truck as the Producer, Director, Technical Director, Graphics Operator, Assistant Producer, and Associate Director. It made for cozy confines and rather stimulating conversation.

Decades later, Scalise was moderating seminars on how Digital Dolby Surround Sound should be used in major sports venues. His success was due to hard work and seemingly endless dedication to his cause. We can only hope that the generation of audio mixers influenced by Ron will keep his memory alive by passing on his passion for using audio to bring the event right into the viewer's home.

Ron Scalise won 14 National Emmy Awards and called Kenmore, NY his home. The sports TV world will go on, but it will never be the same. Wonderful tributes to Ron are contained at, a site that was set-up for that purpose.

Here are selected TDP reader comments from that day:

Mark said...
Ron has been a friend of mine for 20 years and I will miss him.

Mike Watt said...
I worked with Ron for many years when he ran The Nineteen Studio in Glastonbury and I steered him to ESPN more than 20 years ago. My prayers go out to his fiancee and his children at this heart-breaking news.

Terri Parsons said...
Ron has been a friend of Benny's and mine for many many years.He and Benny had been friends longer than the 16 years that Benny and I had been married.
My heart goes out to the Scalise family.

Denis Ryan said...
Ron was my boss, mentor and friend from the first time I worked at a NASCAR race in 1991. He instilled in so many of us the desire to bring racing fans the full excitement of NASCAR through sound and challenged us to constantly look for ways to make it better. Sleep well, brother. You will be missed.

Craig Bulmer said...
It was with shock and profound sadness that I learned of the sudden loss of our dear friend Ron Scalise while on location at the New Orleans Bowl last week.

My heartfelt sympathies go out to his family as we share in the loss of their beloved son, husband and father, and our long time friend so unexpectedly - especially at the holidays.

I had the good fortune to share some time with Ron just last month at the NASCAR Nextel Championship at Homestead, FL.

With the likes of Jeff Gordon, Kurt and Kyle Busch, Ward Burton, and Dale Jr. gunning their way past our infield studio, Ron was truly in his element listening to every little nuance of the mix that poured from our monitors.

We've certainly come a long way since running around the country with Scotty Connal, Joe Commare, Jeff Willet, Doug Dodson, Bruce Dumas, and ESPN's fleet of five original mobile units.

Throughout it all, Ron remained a class act, a cool, calm and diplomatic leader, and one of the company's greatest ambassadors of goodwill and professionalism.

In addition to expressing my condolences to his family, it would be an honor and a privilege to share in any good work that may be pursued in tribute to his memory.

Fultzie said...
I knew Ron for many years and can truly say it was an honor working for him, and with him.... He always strived to be the best but being the best was never good enough... there was always something that could make things sound a little "sweeter". Or make the broadcast a little better. It was this quest for perfection which brought out the best in everyone and made audio crews try harder and harder to do things the right way. I was looking so forward to my 6th season of doing Winter and Summer X. I still am but it's going to be very different this year... I'm gonna miss the "What's up Fultzie , you all good"? Ron gave me many opportunites and it is much appreciated. I think I can speak for all of the A1's and A2's out there when I say a legend is gone, but will never be forgotten.
He will be missed. peace, brother.

dawna scalise said...
It is hard for me to even begin to express my gratitude for the outpouring of affection that you have all showed after this heart wrenching blow to our family this week. I knew my Ronny worked with many, many people and I have heard each and every one of your names at least once at one time or another, but I obviously never, ever imagined the actual impact he made.
Ron was my best friend, my confidant and the love of my life. I now understand how people can die from a broken heart. I shared Ron with his ever-demanding career and with all of you which made our life together extremely unconventional, as many of you can understand. However, two people could not have been more in love or more in tune with each other than my Ronny and me. In our minds, we were already married. My Christmas present to Ron this year was to change my last name to Scalise, which I did last Tuesday. I will now carry his heart in my heart and his name proudly for the rest of my life.
To all of you who work with ESPN or related businesses, I implore you to please be careful in your day-to-day traveling. We never think an accident will happen to us. Work hard, but rest just as much. Take care of yourselves and slow down.
I know that Ron has left many, many stunned and hurting friends and loved ones in his wake. We have all truly lost a great man and an amazing talent. Ron had many segments in his life and he shared a different talent and passion in each one. And, in each one he
left devastated friends and loved ones. To all of you I can only offer what’s left of my heart (which isn’t much). We will all mourn together and forever hold in our hearts what he personally brought to each and every one of us.

With love,
Dawn Trainor-Scalise

Thank you for joining us in taking a moment to remember Ron at this difficult time of the year. Comments can be added below.

Friday, December 19, 2008

What Can Terrell Owens Tell Us About NASCAR And ESPN?

The drama that played-out on the ESPN family of TV networks and across the Internet over the last two weeks was perhaps familiar to some folks. Those would be NASCAR fans.

ESPN veteran journalist Ed Werder first reported (click here) that there was trouble in the Dallas Cowboys locker room. The center of the trouble was the always interesting wide receiver for the team who is pictured above. His name is Terrell Owens.

Unfortunately, Werder decided that his story was to be supported only by anonymous sources within the very locker room where Owens had taken up residence with his Cowboy teammates. That did not sit well (click here) with some folks.

This drew a line in the sand between those that (click here) agreed with Werder's accusations and those that believed (click here) ESPN had simply created the entire story.

There is an interesting video (click here) where several Cowboys fans actually confront Mr. Werder while he is trying to work and generally express to him the feeling that without credible sources it appears ESPN is once again catching "the hype train."

This past NASCAR season, TDP has gone at it with ESPN over several issues that appear to be strikingly familiar. David Newton was once again (click here) using anonymous sources to "report" stories before the rest of the professional NASCAR media types were ready to publish the same material.

Incredibly, ESPN actually went ahead with Newton's story despite direct claims from the actual parties concerned (click here) that Newton was not telling the truth. In other words, even the folks in the story were angry at both the reporter and the TV network.

Then, from out of nowhere, ESPN launched a well-planned assault on Truck Series driver Ron Hornaday Jr. with allegations of (click here) steroid use for performance enhancement.

This company-wide "project" (click here) took months to plan and involved hundreds of ESPN employees who work for the various TV networks, the Internet site and ESPN's high-profile sports news division. It was timed to coincide with the first Chase for the Championship Sprint Cup Series race weekend.

In much the same way that Werder created an NFL story that was red-hot for a short while, ultimately demanded a response from the principals and then (click here) fizzled like a snowman in the sunshine, NASCAR fans remember the same type of hype during the 2008 season.

This (click here) is the final TDP story about David Newton and Ryan Newman. We also have (click here) the spectacular flame-out of the Ron Hornaday steroid scandal.

NASCAR fans were left with the same puzzling look on their faces that now adorns those of many Cowboy fans. The questions are the same. What was that really all about? Why did ESPN choose to go forward with it? Was this whole thing a ploy to generate money and exposure for ESPN?

At the end of the day, ESPN moved-on and the 24-hour TV machine continued to grind. Left in the wake of this type of hit-and-smear journalism are the real lives of those who have been singled-out for attack. This is (click here) a good example of the aftermath.

Athletes like Ryan Newman, Terrell Owens, Ron Hornaday Jr. and others were simply used to create "content" that spread the ESPN brand and directly generated revenue for the company.

NASCAR is about to go through the roughest January in many years. The countdown to the Daytona 500 and the beginning of the new season can be greatly influenced by the media coverage from The Worldwide Leader in Sports.

The question is whether fans and TV viewers will see hardcore NASCAR reporters like Marty Smith, "hype kings" like Newton or electronic assassins like Shaun "Mr. Steroids" Assael in 2009?

Which of the many faces of ESPN will be looking at NASCAR as it struggles to survive?

Where do you come down on the issue of how ESPN's news reporters have treated NASCAR over the last two years? As a fan, has this helped or hurt your attitude where NASCAR is concerned?

Thanks for taking the time to leave us a comment. Just click on the COMMENTS button below and follow the easy instructions. We do not want your email address and there is nothing to join. We just want your opinion on this issue.

The rules for posting are located on the right side of the main page, thanks for taking the time to stop by The Daly Planet during the off-season.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Media Reaction To Grant Settlement Should Be Interesting

The words from NASCAR were brief and relatively easy to understand:

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Dec. 18, 2008) – At a mediation held in New York on December 3, 2008, Ms. Mauricia Grant settled her discrimination lawsuit with her former employer, NASCAR. Ms. Grant was represented by her attorneys Morelli Ratner PC. NASCAR was represented by Jackson Lewis. Neither NASCAR nor Ms. Grant admits liability or wrongdoing by way of the settlement.

“We’re glad to have the case settled on mutually acceptable terms,” said NASCAR Managing Director of Corporate Communications Ramsey Poston. “NASCAR remains dedicated to maintaining a professional work environment for all employees at all times and we wish Ms. Grant well in her future endeavors.”

The specific terms of the settlement agreement remain confidential and both sides agreed not to publicly discuss the details of the case or the terms of the agreement going forward.

This action allowed NASCAR to cross one item off the list for 2009 at a time when the sport itself finds crisis management a full-time job.

Since this release came out on the Thursday before Christmas week, it should be interesting to see just how much national and international media exposure it gets.

Brian France has said all along that NASCAR would not admit wrongdoing and denied the allegations brought by Ms. Grant from the beginning. Now, he gets to walk away without any admission of guilt and with the promise that the issues will not be discussed by either party in public.

Between the holidays, the economy and the very public struggles of the US automakers, it will be interesting to see if the Grant issue simply fades from sight after a brief flurry of Internet posts. Since there is absolutely no NASCAR TV right now, it will be up to ESPN to offer any TV exposure on this issue.

Please tell us where you see, hear or read about the Grant settlement in your area, whether it is online or the local TV news. You can also relate just how you think NASCAR handled this issue from the start. Thanks again.

To add your comment, just click on the COMMENTS button below and follow the easy instructions. The rules for posting are located on the right side of the main page.

Despain Inked For Two Years By SPEED

The Wind Tunnel franchise is apparently safe on SPEED for two more years. Thursday, it was announced that the network has signed host Dave Despain to a new TV contract through 2010.

The shrinking amount of content on SPEED that relates in any way to actual sanctioned racing has been a concern as the network plows ahead with multi-million dollar "lifestyle" shows at full speed.

Wind Tunnel is part of a three hour block of highly visible and successful SPEED programming on Sunday nights that includes The SPEED Report and Victory Lane.

Despain originally hosted Wind Tunnel five nights a week or more and it became the home to great discussions of various racing topics with fantastic guests from all over the world of motorsports.

Now, Despain presides over a very quick hour of programming that tries to tie-in live guests, co-hosts, email and viewer phone calls. The program essentially has taken-on the persona of adding additional content to the stories featured on The SPEED Report.

TDP has many times compared Wind Tunnel with Despain to CNN's Larry King Live. The combination of the show and the host has become one of the strongest brands on SPEED. No other show carries the journalistic weight of Wind Tunnel on the network.

With the global economy affecting racing like never before, SPEED would perhaps be wise to consider cranking-up Wind Tunnel in January and providing the only connection on-the-air to race fans other than the website.

Waiting until Speedweek in February to start the program may cause SPEED to completely miss-out on the biggest stories that will be shaping the face of racing in North America and around the world for 2009.

Please give us your thoughts on Wind Tunnel and what you like and perhaps dislike about this program series on SPEED.

The Daly Planet welcomes comments from readers. Just click on the COMMENTS button below and follow the easy instructions. Comments will appear shortly after they are submitted. Thank you for taking the time to stop by.

Krista Voda Heads To Cotton Bowl For Fox

It will be January 2nd at 2PM ET when Krista Voda takes her reporting skills to the Cotton Bowl game on Fox for the third consecutive year.

Voda will be reporting from the sidelines while Brian Baldinger and Pat Summerall will call the action. Also, Jeanne Zelasko will be handling the hosting duties.

“I couldn't be more thrilled to have been invited back to the Cotton Bowl,” said Voda. “The Cotton Bowl and the people who work for it are top-notch. I have never witnessed better hospitality or more passion for an event!"

“This year, once again, should be an incredible match up...Texas Tech vs. Ole Miss...especially with so many hometown kids coming back to play in the Dallas area,” she continued. “One of my favorite things about covering the Cotton Bowl, or any event, is that the storylines are the same. Similar to NASCAR, you have athletes overcoming obstacles and also the thrill of competition. How could it get any better?”

Voda has a diverse TV sports background that includes The Kentucky Derby, NFL football and even men's college basketball. This college football special usually features Voda working hard to follow the storylines of the game and also handling all the special TV features that go with a Bowl setting.

There is no doubt that Krista Voda is one of the most underutilized "talent" on the roster at both SPEED and Fox Sports. This past season she established herself as a regular co-host of The SPEED Report, but that interfered with her pit reporting duties on the NASCAR on Fox broadcasts and also made for some tough airline miles when she returned to Charlotte after hosting the Truck Series pre-race shows.

How SPEED and Fox utilize this versatile announcer in 2009 with the looming budget issues should be very interesting to watch. Voda has strong studio hosting skills, is an experienced pit reporter and has earned her stripes with the entire Fox family of networks over the past several seasons.

Up next, however, is the Texas Tech vs. University of Mississippi match-up that will thankfully not have tire troubles, single-file racing or a pit road speed limit.

The Daly Planet welcomes comments from readers. Just click on the COMMENTS button below and follow the easy instructions. The rules for posting are located on the right side of the main page. Thanks for stopping by.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Thanks For The Great Questions, New Readers Can Check The Comments

Thank you for another good session of Q-and-A. See the comments below for the questions asked by the TDP readers.

Thanks for stopping by The Daly Planet during this busy week. Before we go to the Christmas break, we are going to try a final Q-and-A session for 2008.

We are trying to answer as many NASCAR TV and media questions today as possible. Several folks are going to help us behind-the-scenes with some answers, so we should be pretty well-informed.

The way this works is readers simply hit the COMMENTS button below and submit a question. The questions will appear shortly after they are submitted. Just check back to see when your question is answered.

These sessions have worked very well in the past and have often suggested topics for further comments and columns. Thanks in advance for all your help this season with our Q-and-A's. The rules for posting are located on the right side of the main page, so have at it.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Fans In A Lurch With No NASCAR TV News

Last December, TDP talked about the role of the various NASCAR-related Internet websites when it came to keeping fans up to date during the off-season.

This December, with the issues confronting the sport and the nation, this high-tech supply-line of information has become vital to communicating the top NASCAR stories as the sport struggles to survive the troubling economy.

The real problem for fans is that NASCAR news coverage on TV comes to a grinding halt after the last wheel is turned at Homestead. Despite the coverage of the three national touring series banquets, the NASCAR TV partners are long gone as Christmas approaches.

A quick search of ESPN and SPEED reveals just how barren the landscape has become. There is no NASCAR-related TV programming scheduled and the 2009 schedules are not yet formulated because of the changes in the testing rules.

Last year, fans enjoyed several weeks of SPEED offering a January testing recap show that featured interviews and testing footage. This season, with no testing allowed, the first cars on the track at Daytona will be in February as Speedweek starts for the Daytona 500 build-up.

Both during this off-season and the last, there has been a constant stream of news and information coming out of the sport in general. Unfortunately, ESPN has packed up NASCAR Now and does not even offer a once-a-week thirty minute show. SPEED has no regular NASCAR news show and puts everything from the SPEED Report to Wind Tunnel on hiatus for the winter.

It certainly would be nice to see reporters like Marty Smith and Wendy Venturini talk about the news from Mooresville, NC. Even nicer would be personalities like Ed Hinton, Darrell Waltrip and Dale Jarrett talking about the wild changes in the sport right now and what it will mean for the future.

While the Sirius NASCAR Channel does a great job of involving the fans and hosting various NASCAR personalities, there is something very different involved in seeing a panel of experts rather than just hearing them.

No matter how much print and Internet content is created, there is a notable absence of personalities from ESPN, SPEED and Fox on TV during this time of the year. The only way to combat this in the future is to allow a news-oriented NASCAR TV series to continue through the off-season. Lack of racing on the track certainly does not equal a lack of NASCAR news being generated by the industry.

Click here to see the 2009 "silly season" team chart from Jayski that will at least give fans a thumbnail view of what the Sprint Cup Series will be putting on the track next season. This is exactly the type of information that should have a place on TV right now.

Perhaps, with the Grand-Am Series testing and racing in Daytona on SPEED in January, that network might revitalize a weekly show like The SPEED Report. Right now, the TV listings for SPEED in January have not yet been made public.

Over at ESPN, NASCAR is non-existent on that family of TV networks. This is the stick-and-ball time of the season and racing is nothing until Daytona in February. has done a very good job of keeping on top of the NASCAR stories with a combination of writers, but none of them have turned their stories into video segments or aired them on shows like SportsCenter or even ESPNEWS.

This is only the second off-season of the new TV contract. It might be time for both SPEED and ESPN to take a long hard look at how NASCAR fans are being left out in the cold where news, information and discussion of important topics on television are concerned.

The Daly Planet welcomes comments from readers. Just click on the COMMENTS button below and follow the easy instructions. The rules for posting are located on the right side of the main page. Thank you for taking the time to stop by.

Monday, December 15, 2008

TV Contract Key To Saving NASCAR

The words leap off the page of the New York Times website:

In hindsight, Mr. France’s broadcast deal, which brings in about $500 million a year, may be the main thing that saves NASCAR from ruin.

Click here to read the entire article from Susanna Hamner entitled "NASCAR Sponsors, Hit By Sticker Shock."

Ms. Hamner calls NASCAR "particularly vulnerable" to the problems with the economy and points-out that automakers provide approximately one-third of the total sponsorship in the sport.

“Many of the major sponsors pulling back have been involved in our sport for decades,” NASCAR Chairman France tells Hamner. “They’re making cuts, and we’re affected.”

Perhaps, the most surprising financial figures used in the article were in reference to the Camping World sponsorship of the Truck Series. Hamner quotes Camping World CEO Marcus Lemonis on the fact that Camping World is only paying 2 million dollars a year for the title sponsorship, half of what Craftsman was paying in 2007.

“We told them what we could afford,” says Lemonis. “They were very sensitive to us and offered an appropriate price for the market conditions.”

Ultimately, the single consistent source of income for NASCAR may be the scheduled payments from the NASCAR TV partners. In 2005, Mr. France was part of the team that reached a $4.48 billion, eight-year TV deal with ABC-ESPN, Fox, the Speed Channel and TNT.

At the time, this was viewed as icing on the NASCAR cake. Teams and owners were flush with the cash of sponsors standing in line to get involved with the hottest sport in the nation.

TV networks also wanted their piece of the action and were willing to pay top dollar. Now, Hamner suggests the TV contract may be the only thing that allows NASCAR itself to survive this economic downturn.

As Fox, SPEED and ESPN gear-up to start the season in Daytona, it should be interesting to see what changes the TV networks have decided to make in the overall coverage of the sport given the new financial dynamic.

One thing is for sure. NASCAR will continue to get paid in full over the next six years even as many teams in all three of the national touring series struggle just to survive.

There are 63 days until the 2009 Daytona 500.

The Daly Planet welcomes comments from readers. Just click on the COMMENTS button below and follow the easy instructions. The rules for posting are located on the right side of the main page. Thanks for taking the time to stop by.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

"Ride Of Their Lives" Does Re-Air At 4PM On Sunday (CMT Network)

To start this column, click here for the video link to the Ride of their Lives trailer from the CMT website.

When Kevin Costner appeared at the Sprint Cup Banquet, there was some information being given out about about a future film project to which he would lend his voice.

Like many other media members, I assumed it was a project for 2009. As it turns out, The Ride of Their Lives program is airing Saturday, December 13th at 9PM ET on CMT.

One quick check of the front page reveals absolutely nothing about this project or the fact it is on CMT tonight. Even clicking to the News Center will not help. The Turner folks who run are not very kind to programs appearing on other TV networks. It would seem this is the case with CMT.

Here is the CMT summary of the program:

The history and heroes of NASCAR are brought to life through the men and women who lived the dream. The Ride of Their Lives, narrated by Kevin Costner, is a story of family bonds and personal struggle, rebellion and teamwork. These are the threads that weave through the sport's first 60 years and a half century of Daytona 500 races. From the moonshine runners of the postwar years to the superstars of the 21st century, The Ride of Their Lives celebrates a sport that grew from humble Southern roots to become a national spectacle.

This project is being co-produced by The NASCAR Media Group and CMT Films. DALE was the original project that sparked this follow-up. "On the heels of our success with DALE, which was the largest selling sports title ever and was nominated for 2 Emmys, we are pleased to be working again with CMT and with a talent of the stature of Kevin Costner," says Jay Abraham, COO, NASCAR Media Group. "This new film will give fans an exciting inside view of the history and evolution of the sport from the unique perspective of some of the families that made the sport."

So, it looks like fans lucky enough to catch this program will have some final NASCAR-themed TV programming before Christmas. This two hour program has the original airing from 9 to 11PM Saturday, but also re-airs on Sunday from 4 to 6PM Eastern Time.

Update: TDP will NOT have a review of the program. Comcast, my cable provider, apparently has placed CMT on a tier to which I do not subscribe. This is certainly a new development for me as I have enjoyed CMT as a basic cable service for years.

So, it will be up to the NASCAR fans and TV viewers to add your review and comments about this program over the weekend.

To add your comment, just click on the COMMENTS button below and follow the easy instructions. The rules for posting are located on the right side of the main page. Thanks again for taking the time to stop by.

Friday, December 12, 2008

What A Week Of Stories

Thanks to the guys over at for featuring me on the December 12th podcast. To listen, just surf over to and click on the "listen now" link on the Rowdy Podcast.

To listen once the Dec. 13th podcast is up, just click "listen now" and then "past shows" on the pop-up window. Choose the 12-12-08 selection.

Here are the featured TDP columns for the week. Click on the title to read and comment.

The Sprint Cup Series banquet in NYC was not exactly as "live" as ESPN made us think.

Good old "Digger" from NASCAR on Fox made it all the way to The New York Times.

Toss Marty Reid's name into the ESPN rumor mill for NASCAR next season.

DirecTV officially cancelled NASCAR Hot Pass for 2009 to the dismay of many fans.

Fox Sports announced it would be dropping the live on-location Major League Baseball pre-game show starring former NASCAR reporter Jeanne Zelasko. Does this mean the Hollywood Hotel could become a victim of the cost-cutting at Fox?

Veteran NASCAR reporter Mike Mulhern joined the ranks of the unemployed. Several other members of the traveling NASCAR press corps will also not be returning for 2009. What does this mean for fans?

This certainly has been an amazing week for all the wrong reasons when it comes to NASCAR and its various media components. Please feel free to add your comments to this post on any of the topics listed above. Thanks again for the kind words about the podcast, always fun to work with Buck and Bass.

To add your comment, just click on the COMMENTS button below and follow the easy instructions. Comments will appear shortly after they are submitted. The rules for posting are located on the right side of the main page. Thanks for stopping by.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

NASCAR Press Corps Starts To Dwindle

This column is updated at the bottom of the story.

The talk has been about the TV coverage of NASCAR and cost-cutting here at TDP for the last couple of days. Now, the reality of the economy has been extended to the NASCAR press corps.

There are several high-profile reporters who will not be returning to the Sprint Cup Series beat next season. Mentioned in this article (click here) in the Winston-Salem Journal is a name that is also familiar to NASCAR TV viewers.

Mike Mulhern was great on TV. He brought an attitude and a demeanor that was able to draw the best out in others because they were often suddenly on the defensive. Love him or hate him, Mulhern was a presence on SPEED both during his Tradin' Paint appearances this season and his semi-regular presence on the earlier Pit Bull program.

It was back in 1974 when Mulhern first began to patrol the NASCAR garage and eat the Infield Media Center food. His distinctive voice could often be heard by fans watching the post-race press conferences live on ESPNEWS.

His questions were sometimes hilarious and often outrageous. Mulhern is one of those independent-spirited reporters who is fun to read and even better to listen to when he is talking NASCAR.

Click here for his goodbye video. After reviewing the Homestead race, Mulhern does a great goodbye about two minutes in with some tips for fans. While this may be his final season at the Winston-Salem Journal, it appears Mulhern may be joining the Internet gang with his own website in 2009.

Over on Jon Lowder's blog (click here), he wonders why this had to happen.

"Although any cuts by the paper come as no surprise, I'm wondering why they'd cut the one guy covering a professional sport that actually makes sense here in Winston-Salem? Obviously there's no need for pro basketball or football coverage here, but NASCAR's an institution and Mulhern is one of the old hands covering it."

"Maybe the folks at the paper figure Mulhern will have as easy a time finding a job as anyone given his knowledge of, and connections to, the racing industry. Maybe, but I think they missed one of their best multimedia opportunities by letting him go. I suspect they could have made a pretty penny finding ways to get his expertise syndicated to other outlets as those folks cut back their non-core assets."

I completely agree with Mr. Lowder. Rather than saving money on one reporter's salary, the Journal is losing an asset that it cannot replace. Mulhern was great on paper, fun on the radio and just getting good at his video skills. This combination is exactly what the reporters of the future must possess.

In a couple of weeks, when the 2008 budget year is officially over, we will recap the changes in the NASCAR media landscape. Some of the names who will be either leaving the NASCAR scene completely or trying to venture out into the Internet-only world in which we live are very interesting.

But, for right now we are just sorry to see Mulhern move away from a newspaper that was as deeply intertwined with NASCAR as the Charlotte Observer or the Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Keep an eye on during the off-season. While it is under construction now, there is little doubt Mulhern will make himself heard one way or another before the engines start for Speedweeks.

Update #1 - Click here for the link to the final blog post for Yahoo! Sports Jerry Bonkowski. Yahoo! is downsizing the NASCAR presence and Bonkowski is moving on.

The Daly Planet welcomes comments from readers. Just click on the COMMENTS button below and follow the easy instructions. The rules for posting are located on the right side of the main page. Thank you for taking the opportunity to stop by.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

With Fox Cutting MLB Pre-Game Show Is Hollywood Hotel Next?

Fox Sports has decided to eliminate the on-location pre-game show for the Sunday Major League Baseball games telecast by the network in 2009. Former NASCAR reporter Jeanne Zelasko and MLB veteran Kevin Kennedy were featured on the broadcasts.

According to LA Daily News Tom Hoffarth (click here), the Fox broadcasts will now come on the air at 1PM and the first pitch will be at 1:07PM. The thirty minute pre-game show is gone, which also means the booth announcers will have to deal with rain delays and other stoppages of play.

Several weeks ago, word came out that both ESPN and Fox were looking hard at cutting TV production costs in several major sports properties. NASCAR was high on the list for both networks. Several meetings have taken place where executives from Fox, ESPN and NASCAR discussed what opportunities were available for cost savings.

Obviously, one target for both Fox and ESPN is the custom-made TV trailers that are brought on the road to host the pre-race shows. At Fox, that is called the Hollywood Hotel. Chris Myers and Jeff Hammond are joined by Darrell Waltrip during the pre-race and then Myers and Hammond remain in the Hollywood Hotel for the duration of the event to add opinion and commentary.

This piece of equipment has become sophisticated over the years and now has all kinds of TV effects and multiple camera angles built right in. Basically, it has become a mobile high-tech TV studio.

Since Fox has now stepped forward and confirmed that they are going to be cutting the TV production on the Major League Baseball games of the week, it would seem that February's start of the NASCAR season would be next in line for the financial microscope.

ESPN also begins their Nationwide coverage at Daytona and has not said a word about the changes that it may have in store for the new season. ESPN brings the Infield Pit Studio to all the major Nationwide Series races and all the Sprint Cup events covered by the network.

That facility not only hosts the pre-race programs, but also functions to host practice and qualifying shows as well as Sprint Cup versions of NASCAR Now. Although it may be expensive, ESPN gets a lot of use from this piece of TV equipment.

ESPN also travels Tim Brewer's Tech Center, which is another expensive custom-made trailer that contains a cutaway car and lots of other racing parts. The Tech Center just might not see as many road miles next season if this trend continues.

It should be the next week or so when word comes out about the changes for NASCAR TV production for 2009. Seeing what Fox did with baseball and the recent demise of DirecTV's Hot Pass are unfortunately going to set the tone for what TV viewers will probably be dealing with shortly.

We will update the news as it happens and try to keep NASCAR fans ahead of the information curve during these very strange days.

The Daly Planet welcomes comments from readers. Just click on the COMMENTS button below and follow the easy instructions. The rules for posting are located on the right side of the main page. Thank you for taking the time to stop by.

DirecTV's "Hot Pass" Cancelled For 2009?

We are going to be leaving this story open for your comments. New updates will be posted at the bottom of this column. Hot Pass being cancelled is now confirmed for next season.

The email is flying around the Internet, but as of Tuesday evening we are being told that DirecTV has cancelled NASCAR Hot Pass for 2009. Official word should come sometime on Wednesday. That is the Hot Pass TV production trailer pictured above. Click on the picture to see it full-size.

This service, which provided four "mini-networks" to subscribers, featured two announcers calling the race from the perspective of each driver. Fans got to hear all the in-car radio traffic, see the various in-car cameras and switch between the four feeds anytime during the race.

DirecTV had also added-in some special features like additional driver audio channels and a super-channel that let viewers switch quickly over to the network TV feed of the race itself. Any way you looked at it, this was a bold TV experiment.

Unfortunately, instead of being available to the 90 million cable TV households across America, Hot Pass was only available to the 15 million homes that subscribe to DirecTV. That was a big problem.

This idea was brought about by Fox Sports Chairman David Hill when he was actively involved in the DirecTV operations. Now, Hill has returned to his Fox Sports duties and the Hot Pass experiment is supposedly over.

In the past, we had been told that between 250 and 300 thousand DirecTV users had to subscribe to Hot Pass to make it break even. With the economy tight and times getting tougher, it seems that DirecTV has seen the writing on the wall and will not attempt to distribute the Hot Pass service in 2009.

Many of the top announcers in NASCAR worked on Hot Pass. Wendy Venturini was given the opportunity to handle play-by-play duties and veterans like Phil Parsons and Randy Pemberton could be heard on almost every telecast. The line-up of on-air talent was one of the most impressive parts of the service.

Former SPEED VP Chris Long was handling the Hot Pass service as a part of his DirecTV duties. We have an email into him and will update this post when he responds. Perhaps, he can fill us in a little better on the specifics.

Hardcore NASCAR fans loved the idea of Hot Pass, but many were confined to cable TV service through "bundled" deals with MSO's (Multi-System Operators) like Comcast and Time Warner.

Cable TV operators offer a package that includes TV, phone and Internet service for a discounted cost. That was tough for DirecTV to sell against, especially in urban areas where dish placement was not practical.

This major change in the way NASCAR race video will be distributed for 2009 puts the ball squarely in the laps of the Turner Interactive Group in Atlanta, GA. This company operates the website and offers all the online audio, video and stats features for fans as the races are in-progress.

Internet users saw the future when they enjoyed the online RaceBuddy feature during the six TNT summer races. Now, with Hot Pass ending there may be an opportunity for some innovative thinking from the Turner Group that can result in additional video and audio choices for the NASCAR fans.

This column will be updated on Wednesday morning with the latest information. While we have still not seen an official media release from DirecTV, the word is that the company has decided to cancel the entire Hot Pass service for next season.

Update #1 - As of 8AM Eastern Time on Wednesday, still no comment from either DirecTV or Hot Pass Executive Producer Chris Long.

Update #2 - Confirmed: Thanks to our friend Ray Dunlap for this link (click here) to his personal website that contains his tribute to Hot Pass and confirmation that it has been cancelled.

Update #3 - Click here for the Wednesday story from Jim Utter at comfirming the cancellation.

Update #4 - Chris Long from DirecTV was kind enough to offer that NASCAR and DirecTV are working on a solution for some additional race video and audio to be made available to DirecTV subscribers free of charge for the upcoming season. What form that would take and what would be offered will be disclosed in a couple of weeks. No doubt this has been a tough time for all concerned.

The Daly Planet welcomes comments from readers. Just click on the COMMENTS button below and follow the easy instructions. The rules for posting are located on the right side of the main page. Thank you for taking the time to stop by during the off-season.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Put Marty Reid's Name In The ESPN Rumor Mill

This season, it has been veteran ESPN announcer Marty Reid who has stepped-in to handle the substitute NASCAR play-by-play role. When the Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series are racing at different tracks, it has been Reid and Randy LaJoie who have provided the commentary with good success.

Allen Bestwick has also filled this role for ESPN since Reid has been assigned to the IRL TV package for the last several seasons. In order to move Reid over to the IRL, ESPN removed him from its very popular NHRA coverage and replaced him with Paul Page.

As television motorsports contracts continue to shift, the latest victim of the ESPN space squeeze is Tony George and the IRL. After a long relationship, ESPN told the IRL that it wanted the Indy 500 for ABC and only a few other races for ESPN. Take it or leave it was the offer.

In an ironic twist, George needed to keep the ABC coverage of Indy as the anchor of his entire IRL franchise. So, he took the ESPN offer. The entire remaining IRL schedule wound-up moving to the Versus TV Network. Owned by Comcast, it used to be called the Outdoor Life Network.

What this essentially did was free up Marty Reid from his 2009 TV commitments. This left the door open to include Reid in the upcoming NASCAR efforts on ESPN and ABC.

Before the 2008 season, ESPN VP of Motorsports Rich Feinberg made a series of bold moves. Almost all of them paid-off in spades. Moving Dale Jarrett into the announce booth as the Lead Analyst proved to be just what ESPN needed to stabilize that position.

Rather than release Rusty Wallace, Feinberg shrewdly put him downstairs in the Infield Pit Center. In order to give Wallace the type of professional TV support and structure that he needs, Feinberg brought-in Allen Bestwick as the full-time infield host.

The results were great as Bestwick used Wallace and Brad Daugherty all season long to handle everything from the pre-race show to red flags and rain delays. Having this element handy changed the tone of the coverage.

Now, Feinberg is going to have to handle the one change he did not make before last season. That is addressing the play-by-play assignment for both the Nationwide and Sprint Cup Series coverage. This one is going to be tough to tackle because unlike the other changes, this one has an odd man out.

Should Marty Reid step-in for Dr. Jerry Punch, it would mean removing a long-time friend of NASCAR and a future NASCAR Hall of Fame broadcaster. The problem is that Punch is primarily a reporter and struggled with the lap-by-lap call of the races.

What ESPN desperately needs is a versatile play-by-play announcer who can breath life into the live races. It appears that may well be Marty Reid.

What role Punch would fill leads us into a very interesting discussion. ESPN produces the final seventeen Sprint Cup races, including all ten Chase races for ABC. The high-profile Sprint Cup Series events certainly demand an Infield Pit Studio and a Tech Center. The question is, does the Nationwide Series need the same level of TV production?

Word is that ESPN is trying to cut NASCAR production costs for next season to the tune of several hundred thousand dollars per event. While the NASCAR Media Group controls the TV compound at the races, the TV networks bring-in their own TV trucks and specialized equipment like the Tech Center and Infield Pit Studio.

When Feinberg looks over at SPEED's coverage of the Truck Series, he sees only five announcers with no TV toys. SPEED has no Tech Center, cutaway car or infield studio. The pre-race host stands alone with one camera to set-up the race.

It should be interesting to see what changes Feinberg makes for next season. As TV logistics go, those changes are actually being made right now. Contracts, schedules, travel, crewing and other duties have to be buttoned-up before the new year.

While Fox and TNT produce their slice of the Sprint Cup pie and then leave town, it is really ESPN that bears the deepest production costs in terms of producing the entire Nationwide Series and the final seventeen Sprint Cup races.

When February rolls around, TV viewers may see some new faces and less of the bells-and-whistles that have come to define the ESPN coverage over the last two seasons. TDP will keep you posted if and when any on-air changes become official.

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Monday, December 8, 2008

Truck Series Banquet Closes A Strong Season For SPEED (Updated)

Rick Allen and Krista Voda set a classy tone for the Truck Series banquet on SPEED Monday night. These two are veteran hosts of this event and that was apparent in their easy banter with the crowd despite the formal attire.

After introducing the head table that included champion Johnny Benson's two children, comedian Tom Papa tried a little something new. He augmented his routine with footage and interviews shot at a Truck Series race. It was a nice idea, but a little bit of a tough sell right at the top of the show.

Just like the Nationwide Series event, this edited banquet TV show was fast-paced. It was a bittersweet moment for Johnny Benson as he accepted the Most Popular Driver award. Fans know all too well that Benson will probably not return to NASCAR in 2009 and this was a strong final testament to his appeal to the fans.

Colin Braun was next to pick-up his Rookie Of The Year award and he did so with good humor and a polished presence for a youngster. It was a scripted speech, but it was clear that fans would be seeing a lot more of this driver in the future.

The TV program shifted gears over to the "talk show" setting for the Top Ten driver awards as it has in the past. Voda and Allen both asked questions of each driver and it was clear they were well-prepared. Allen Bestwick and Shannon Spake were also successful with this format during the Nationwide Series banquet.

Once again, the folks at the NASCAR Media Group put together great highlights for each driver as they were introduced. The fact that this show was edited and post-produced allowed things to be tightened-up and the program to keep a quick pace.

While this TV format is shorter, it certainly is better than the scripted monotony of the Sprint Cup Series function. During that evening, even the Master of Ceremonies reads the Teleprompter all night long. Letting the owners and sponsors be mentioned during the highlights is a great idea.

The debate is always going to rage whether to include the comedy and musical acts in the TV show or allow the drivers more time to talk. During John McLaughlin's musical performance the non-points awards were highlighted in brief snippets. It seems the editors and producer tried to strike the best balance possible within the timeslot.

The video tribute to Craftsman was well-produced. The parade of drivers speaking about what Craftsman has meant to them was impressive. NASCAR President Mike Helton appeared at the end to present Craftsman's top executive with an award of thanks. It was a classy move.

As the driver interviews moved to the Top Five, host Rick Allen was strangely eating dessert at his desk while Krista Voda spoke with driver Matt Crafton. Update: Rick was eating it courtesy of Crafton, who was following-up on a joke from the 2007 banquet. Thanks to the SPEED gang for the update. Some drivers answered questions that had nothing to do with racing and focused on life away from the track. It was an interesting mix.

As the introductions started of the championship team, it was back to the Teleprompter for crew chief Trip Bruce. While he said all the right things, it would have been nice to have some conversation to go with the scripted remarks.

Needless to say, when Bill Davis stood to accept his award as the winning owner it was a memorable moment. He also read his remarks, but they were well-written and heartfelt. It certainly is a shame that his racing future is in jeopardy.

Mike Helton did the honors of speaking on behalf of NASCAR. He handled the rings given to both Benson and his wife with dignified words under the circumstances. Benson moved to the podium and delivered exactly what fans expected.

Benson's words were outstanding and reflected the personality that race fans have come to enjoy. Humble and thankful, Benson made his way through his list of thank you's and walked away as the series champion.

SPEED is not going to please all the fans with this abbreviated banquet coverage, but NASCAR seems to have hit on a TV format for the Truck and Nationwide Series. This was a fast-paced ninety minutes that was well-edited and accomplished the goal of allowing the series to present itself in a professional manner and close the season with an emotional speech from Benson.

Fans who would like to see Johhny Benson's championship image above full-size to save as a wallpaper can just click directly on the picture and let it load full-screen. Then, right click to save in the location of your choice. Thanks to the NASCAR PR group for this official image.

The Daly Planet welcomes comments from readers. Just click on the COMMENTS button below and follow the easy instructions. The rules for posting are located on the right side of the main page. Thank you for taking the time to stop by.

Here Is "The Insider" Link To The Bachelor Story

Here is the attempt by host Lara Spencer of The Insider to catch-up with four NASCAR bachelors. Click here to see the entire video.

Thanks to NASCAR fans, the video has Kasey Kahne's last name edited out because the announcer originally pronounced it wrong. Thank goodness for email.

Please feel free to leave your comments, new column about the Truck Series banquet tonight after the show. Thanks.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Truck Series Banquet Officially Closes TV Season

It seems somehow fitting that SPEED would be the NASCAR TV partner to close-out the 2008 season. NASCAR coverage first began this year with SPEED's John Roberts anchoring the January testing coverage from several tracks.

We sometimes get caught-up in comparing the different styles of the three NASCAR TV partners who cover the Sprint Cup Series. That allows SPEED to fly under the radar.

While that network covers practice and qualifying sessions for the Nationwide and Sprint Cup Series, it is the "support programming" like RaceDay and Victory Lane that most NASCAR fans remember.

The only NASCAR series totally served by SPEED is the Craftsman Truck Series. With the Camping World sponsorship set to begin next year, SPEED is delivering to both NASCAR and Camping World the only national racing series with significantly higher TV ratings for 2008.

Contrasting the style of SPEED while producing the Truck Series races with the three Sprint Cup TV networks is always interesting. ESPN ended the season with four announcers in the infield studio and three in the broadcast booth for a total of seven. SPEED used three during the year.

ESPN used four pit reporters to cover the teams while SPEED used two. By including Tim Brewer on the team, the ESPN total number of on-air voices during the actual race was twelve. Since Krista Voda stepped aside after the pre-race show, the SPEED number was five.

As TDP reported many times over the season, Truck Series Producer Keith D'Alessandro chose to keep things simple and focus the coverage of the event on the racing. While this concept seems basic, it was the key problem for all three of the Cup Series TV partners. During the races, there was always something else going on.

SPEED was helped by a good cast of characters who raced in the Truck Series last season and the racing itself was fun to watch. Play-by-play announcer Rick Allen and color analyst Phil Parsons have bonded with the series and made this a real franchise for SPEED.

Added to the booth line-up for some spice was Michael Waltrip. At first an unabashed Toyota cheerleader, Waltrip found himself this season and decided to complement Allen and Parsons. The results can be seen quite easily. A tremendous rise in the TV ratings and a fantastic season of NASCAR racing on TV.

It will be Allen and Voda who host the post-season banquet coverage on SPEED. The program airs on Monday at 8PM and will once again be the casual "talk show" format that worked so well for Allen Bestwick and Shannon Spake during the Nationwide Series TV show. Click here to read that review.

The Truck Series holds the banquet almost immediately after the season at a hotel in the South Florida area. The post-produced presentation of this banquet has actually been fun to watch on SPEED for the past couple of seasons.

Popular comedian Tom Papa is returning. In the past, he has brought the house down with his personal style that involves those attending the banquet and really helps to break the ice for the nervous drivers and teams. The musical guest is John McLaughlin.

Unfortunately, SPEED is not preceding the banquet program with the Truck Series year in review program. The network remains firmly focused on filling the weekdays with reality-based "lifestyle" programming. On this night, NASCAR is following PINKS, Pass Time and Unique Whips.

There will be a full column up about the Truck Series banquet shortly after it concludes. To add your thoughts about the Truck series coverage on SPEED this season, just click on the COMMENTS button below and follow the easy instructions. Comments will appear shortly after they are submitted. Thanks for stopping by.