Saturday, July 5, 2008
This is always one very interesting race to watch on TV as the TNT Network once again unveils their "wide open" coverage. The Saturday night Sprint Cup Series race from Daytona makes for a lot of discussion when it is over.
TNT debuted "wide open" coverage last season with good results. Essentially, the network moves the screen around to allow video of the race to continue in some form during the national commercial breaks. The only time commercials run for the viewers at home is when the local cable systems insert their breaks.
The way TNT sold this to sponsors was the opportunity for them to create custom-made video pieces that will convey their messages to the viewers in a different kind of way. TNT will also add logos and animation elements on the screen during the broadcast, but the big thing will be the lack of full-screen commercial breaks.
TNT's pre-race coverage starts with NASCAR Live On TNT! hosted by Marc Fein. He is joined by Larry McReynolds and Kyle Petty on this one hour show. It will be Matt Yocum hosting this week's edition of The Pride Of NASCAR, as Yocum sits down with legendary driver Marvin Panch.
The NASCAR Future Stars feature will focus on Colin Braun, a young driver who races in the Nationwide Series. Lindsay Czarniak's regular feature this week will focus on Ryan Newman's crew chief Roy McCulley, whose wife is battling cancer.
The pre-race coverage continues with the Allstate Countdown To Green with Bill Weber and Wally Dallenbach seated at the TNT cocktail table in the announce booth. They will explain the "wide open" coverage that will follow at 8PM and will kick-off with a video from Tony Stewart, Greg Biffle and Jamie McMurray.
Even with the "wide open" coverage, TNT will still offer RaceBuddy for the entire event. This free online broadband service is available through NASCAR.com and features four camera angles and some interactive features.
This is the big moment for the TNT staff of this entire TV package. A lot of work and planning has gone into this telecast, which last season drew rave reviews. With Bill Weber and his announcers having a very good season-to-date, it will be interesting to see if the COT will provide the kind of racing that will create a memorable event.
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Instead of being on-the-air at 6PM and featuring the bustling activity in the garage as the start time of the race approaches, RaceDay on SPEED will be on-the-air at 4:30PM and feature a very different style of TV program.
This season, RaceDay has moved earlier to avoid a scheduling conflict with the pre-race programming of the other NASCAR TV partners. This has changed the entire tone of the show and left it searching for a personality.
Instead of reporter Wendy Venturini talking to the drivers as they mill around before driver introductions, she is standing on the grid with the fans as the cars are covered and the drivers are nowhere to be found. Pit tours walk by in the background.
When SPEED took the step of moving RaceDay into head-to-head competition with the TNT and ESPN pre-race shows, host John Roberts and company really came alive. They were now the final destination for NASCAR fans before everyone changed the channel and the race began. RaceDay was big time. That time is apparently now over.
Saturday night in Daytona, there will be two entire pre-race shows that will take to-the-air after RaceDay is done. Viewers will get to watch Larry McReynolds, Kyle Petty and the TNT gang offer an hour-and-a-half of pre-race content and then transition into the race coverage.
RaceDay was on-the-air long before the new TV contract with TNT and ESPN was a gleam in the NASCAR eye. We have often referred to this program as "the franchise." Watching Venturini and Hermie Sadler navigate their way through the pre-race activity in the infield was a treat for viewers that the other NASCAR TV partners have never provided.
This Saturday, RaceDay will feature live interviews with Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kyle Busch and Michael Waltrip. These may well take place from the "bus lot" as these drivers have not yet even changed into their firesuits.
Venturini's Real Deal will focus on the recent meeting between the Sprint Cup crews and NASCAR where the concept of open testing was discussed. This is a big issue in the sport and Venturini will sample opinions from top NASCAR personalities as to how testing with the COT is changing the dynamics of the sport.
Features within the program will include one on Tony Stewart and his frustrations this season with winning in the Sprint Cup Series. Also, the devastating wildfires of 1998 that affected the summer race in Daytona will be re-visited.
Roberts hosts this series with Jimmy Spencer and Kenny Wallace alongside. Rutledge Wood continues to contribute with off-beat features while the rest of the crew focuses their energy on the racing business at hand.
As the TNT races wind-down, the TV schedules for RaceDay during the ESPN/ABC portion of the Sprint Cup package have now been released. This season, RaceDay will end before NASCAR Countdown begins.
It will be ESPN/ABC that has the drivers and crews on-the-air just before race time. It will be Jamie Little doing the grid walk that Venturini made popular with viewers.
Saturday's show should be fun with the SPEED Stage located outside the speedway and a good crowd of fans on hand. Roberts keeps the show moving and the production staff assembles a big group of interesting elements for the TV viewers. As you watch the Daytona program, perhaps you can keep in mind the issues mentioned above and offer your reactions.
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