Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Dirt Knights Open The 2011 TV Season

You can look all you want on the homepage for motorsports and all you will find is old IndyCar highlights. Only by typing "Dirt Knights" into the search box will the website reveal the new motorsports series that will open 2011 for racing fans starved for anything of substance.

This time of year, ESPN is long gone to college sports while SPEED is deep inside the endless replays of Barrett-Jackson auctions and assorted lifestyle shows. You have to wonder just how many times each episode of PINKS has been aired?

It seems ironic that a new homegrown TV series centered around some dirt track racers on VERSUS would be first out of the blocks. Click here to view the promo for Dirt Knights on YouTube. This show seems to have the same feel of THC's Madhouse without all the phony acting between the racing sequences.

Corey Dripps, Scott Green, Al Hejna, Mike Spaulding and Jon Tesch are the Dirt Knights. They race in the Unites States Modified Touring Series (USMTS) and are looking to transfer their love of racing through the TV show.

"This is a project that has been in the works for more than two years now," said Dripps in a media release. "For some, racing is a hobby and for others it’s how we make our living, but either way, we all love and respect this sport. We hope that people will tune in and be entertained, but at the same time we want to
convey what the racing life is really all about."

That just might be music to the ears of race fans who have been left scratching their heads over the lack of this type of programming on SPEED. In the meantime, VERSUS picked-up a Whelen Modified package last season and also carried the Quest for the Cup show during the Chase for the Championship. Now, that network expands again with an exclusive new series that already has fans buzzing.

Click here for the Dirt Knights Facebook page. Even before a single episode of the show has aired, there are over 13 thousand fans along for the ride. Click here for the Dirt Knights website, where much more content will be unveiled down the road. Right now, it contains a preview of the debut episode.

There is a lot of heart and soul in this TV effort. It's not a high-priced production company trying to manufacture drama or get ratings. It's a group of real racers putting themselves out there for all to see for better or worse. This is their money, their effort and the result of their hard work. What better story is there to tell?

Sunday at 6PM ET is the first airing and don't miss it because there is no West Coast re-air that night. VERSUS is kind of strange like that as the network's Comcast owners continue to try and figure out how to program a cable network. Each of the 13 Dirt Knights shows will be one hour long and it should be a kick to see this grassroots series finally on TV.

Clicking around the Internet can bring a lot more information about the drivers and series. Each driver has a website and the show is being discussed on motorsports forums all around the web.

Without a drop of NASCAR to be found on TV, Dirt Knights has chosen a nice time to debut the series. It might not be for everyone, but getting some original programming at this time of the year is a nice touch. Perhaps this can inspire other drivers and owners to get together and bring more stories of real racers to national TV.

We invite you to comment on this topic. To add your opinion, just click on the comments button below. This is a family-friendly website, please keep that in mind when posting. Thanks for taking the time to stop by The Daly Planet.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Silence Is Golden

The off-season has been strangely quiet on the NASCAR TV front. As if we needed a reminder, both the Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series struggled on TV. The trucks again escaped that fate, content with a smaller package on SPEED that continued to return consistent ratings.

In the past, ESPN has announced changes in on-air talent shortly after the final race of the season in Homestead. This year, there was silence. For those who believed the new president of FOX Sports, Eric Shanks, might change some faces in the NASCAR on FOX line-up, he has not even addressed that topic.

So, it looks like FOX opens Daytona with Darrell Waltrip doing double-duty in the Hollywood Hotel and then the broadcast booth. Chris Myers has wrapped his first season of Inside NASCAR for Showtime and he is set to return as the NASCAR on FOX host.

Jeff Hammond has been a consistent presence for SPEED on Race Hub, the studio news and interview show. With that series returning on January 24 with host Steve Byrnes, fans should have several weeks of seeing Hammond before Speedweek rolls around.

Byrnes is intending to pull his own double-duty early in the year. He will host Race Hub Monday through Thursday, then travel to the FOX Sprint Cup Series weekends and return to his role as a pit reporter. SPEED has yet to announce if Byrnes will also work any practice or qualifying sessions. Krista Voda, John Roberts and Mike Joy filled that role once Byrnes left last season.

That puts Mike Joy back in the booth with Waltrip and Larry McReynolds. Voda, Byrnes, Matt Yocum and Dick Berggren are the pit road gang while Myers and Hammond man the Hollywood Hotel.

On the Nationwide side, ESPN seems set to return Marty Reid to his play-by-play role with Dale Jarrett and Andy Petree alongside. Allen Bestwick, Brad Daugherty and Rusty Wallace should man the Infield Pit Studio. Jamie Little, Dr. Jerry Punch, Vince Welch and Dave Burns are the pit road reporters.

The unknown in the ESPN equation is Ray Evernham. If he has made up his mind whether or not to return to TV in 2011, he has not passed it along. Evernham was said to finally be free of his legal ties to RPM and was mulling his future.

The truck series on SPEED also appears to have no changes. Rick Allen, Phil Parsons and Michael Waltrip are the team in the booth while Adam Alexander and Ray Dunlap report from pit road. Krista Voda is the pre-race host.

While SPEED has committed to the January test at Daytona, the network has still not released the talent line-up or the specifics of the planned mix of TV and rumored online streaming coverage. In the past, these shows have consisted of recaps after the fact because no TV production trucks were on-site to cover the track. It should be interesting to see what SPEED can do this season, especially with streaming coverage.

Behind the scenes, veteran Charlotte Observer reporter Jim Utter passed along that he was told James "Shifty" Shiftan will step into the ESPN race producer role vacated with the removal of Neil Goldberg last season. Shiftan took a leave of absence from NASCAR last year, leaving Coordinating Producer Jill Fredrickson to produce the final races.

So, as we make the turn and head once again into another NASCAR season it's very quiet in the TV world. It might just be that the NASCAR TV partners are trying to let the memories of 2010 slip away before turning their attention to the new Daytona pavement. Sometimes in TV land, silence really is golden.

We welcome your comments on this topic. To add your opinion, just click on the comments button below. This is a family-friendly website, please keep that in mind when posting. Thanks for taking the time to stop by The Daly Planet.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The Queen Of Social Media

You might not know her name or even her face. FOX, ESPN and TNT don't know she exists. She has never won a major NASCAR race. She does not live in North Carolina. She does not sacrifice her dignity in TV commercials. She does not have a rich family.

Yet, Jennifer Jo Cobb has some of the most loyal fans in NASCAR. Cobb races full time in the Camping World Truck Series and runs a limited schedule on the Nationwide side. Although she has not yet won, to many fans that is not important.

In a racing world of egos and millionaires, Cobb is a refreshing change. Since her entry into the truck series, Cobb has chronicled her NASCAR experiences firsthand. Using her marketing and journalism background, Cobb has sidestepped the mainstream NASCAR media and created a direct link with her fans.

There is perhaps no better example in NASCAR of someone who has used social media, amateur NASCAR blogs and the Internet to develop effective sponsor exposure and a strong fan base. All of this is necessary due to one well-known fact.

"No one covers trucks, they just don't," said a popular NASCAR journalist to me in November. The drivers who get the most attention on TV in the truck races are the cross-overs from the Sprint Cup Series. Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick are big draws when they race a truck. For a single truck team owner/driver like Cobb, there is simply little help with exposure from the NASCAR media.

Cobb's answer was to make it personal. She has a thriving community on Facebook of pages for both her race team and for herself as a driver. On Twitter, Cobb speaks easily with fans and has created lasting bonds with many. The Internet is full of NASCAR blogs with stories and features on Cobb.

Here are just a few. Click on the title to read the story.

Jennifer Jo Cobb Is Quietly Making A Name For Herself from Female Racing in October.

Jennifer Jo Cobb's Big Night Out from Corrina B's World in November.

Women In NASCAR Series: Jennifer Jo Cobb from Skirts and Scuffs in October.

Beyond The Cockpit: Jennifer Jo Cobb from Frontstretch in April.

The bottom line is that there has never been a better time for a female driver to make inroads in the sport. Even with 50% of the fan base being female, it's apparent that Danica Patrick did not click with the stock car set.

Cobb has a racing heritage from the Kansas City area where her father still battles on the dirt at Lakeside Speedway. Unlike Danica, fans have been able to watch Cobb make her way into the sport and interact with her from the start.

We all know the big sponsors in NASCAR, but there is just something about an owner/driver who started out with sponsorship from the Kansas City T-Bones Baseball Club, Wagner's Collision Repair and Take-N-Bake Pizza. Cobb is old school and makes no bones about where she came from and where she wants to go.

This year, some help did come from SPEED. The network televises the Camping World Truck Series and featured Cobb dressed as Ginger in the annual Halloween pre-race show. It got Cobb some TV exposure, but more than that it showed her as someone who gets it. A driver not too self-important to poke fun at themselves.

Tuesday, Cobb continues to leverage her position in the sport by appearing on CNN. In the 10PM ET Anderson Cooper 360 show, Cobb will be talking about the very different lifestyle that she has chosen both on and off the track. It's ironic that during the dark time for NASCAR on TV, the only person getting national TV exposure is a mid-pack single team truck series owner/driver.

In February, Cobb is set to make another splash when she shows up in NASCAR 2011: The Game. The new official NASCAR video game offering will have Cobb in the #13 red Ford Fusion with her own racing apparel company on the hood as the sponsor. This will put Cobb on the track with the big boys on gaming systems around the world.

There are plenty of young female drivers currently lurking just outside the three major NASCAR series. There is little doubt that they are watching Cobb navigate her way through the sport in control of her own team with financial and management responsibility. In this changing economy, Cobb may just be laying down a blueprint for female drivers to follow in the future.

We welcome your comments on this topic. To add your opinion, just click on the comments button below. This is a family-friendly website, please keep that in mind when posting. Thanks for taking the time to stop by The Daly Planet.

Monday, December 27, 2010

The Ethanol Time Bomb

It was December 2, 2010 when NASCAR Chairman Brian France made the announcement that NASCAR was switching fuels in 2011 to a 15 percent corn ethanol blend under the American Ethanol banner.

"NASCAR and American Ethanol are ideal partners," said France. "American Ethanol's new partnership with NASCAR is much larger and more ambitious than a typical sports sponsorship. Here we have an entire industry looking to NASCAR to communicate its message that America is capable of producing its own renewable, greener fuel."

In 2011, NASCAR will be using television and radio to communicate exactly that message. TV viewers will see and hear about American Ethanol during every single race weekend for the ten months of the season. While France may have believed he was reaping a bumper crop of sponsor dollars, he may in fact have put NASCAR squarely in the middle of a raging national energy debate.

"Ethanol is 20 to 30 percent less efficient than gasoline, making it more expensive per highway mile. It takes 450 pounds of corn to produce the ethanol to fill one SUV tank," said Dr. Walter Williams, economics professor at George Mason University. "That's enough corn to feed one person for a year."

“There is nothing more American than NASCAR and there is no fuel more American than ethanol.” said Tom Buis, CEO of corn ethanol promoter Growth Energy. “We are so proud that the bounty which America’s farmers produce throughout the week will be used in NASCAR racing on Sunday.”

"Not only is corn ethanol wildly inefficient, I mean, it takes more energy to produce it than it ends up providing," said conservative TV host Glenn Beck of Fox News.

“I am a strong believer in the future of ethanol,” said Brandon Hunnicutt, president of the Nebraska Corn Growers Association. “A marketing partnership between American Ethanol and NASCAR following NASCAR’s switch to E15 is clearly a powerful move for the American ethanol industry.”

To test ethanol fuel efficiency, Dan Edmunds of twice drove from San Diego to Las Vegas and back in a flex-fuel car. First, he fueled up with standard E10 gasoline.

"On E10 gasoline, we made the round trip with 36.5 gallons," said Edmunds. He then repeated the trip using E85, the gasoline replacement fuel for vehicles being promoted by the corn ethanol lobby. "On E85 it took 50 gallons, 37 percent more fuel, to make the round trip," Edmunds says. "Same distance, same vehicle." Click here to read the entire story.

"Higher blends of ethanol do not significantly impact miles per gallon," said Growth Energy's Buis to the San Antonio Express-News. "Since NASCAR has moved to E15, its drivers have not detected any notable decline in MPG. Instead, they've seen an increase in horsepower."

This news from the Wall Street Journal last week: "Although ethanol advocates cite research saying E15 won't damage vehicles, auto makers hold that E15 could harm car and light truck engines and void their warranties. The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, representing Ford Motor Co., General Motors Co., Toyota Motor Corp., and other auto companies, filed a petition with a U.S. appellate court in Washington on Monday challenging the EPA's approval for the sale of gasoline containing 15% ethanol."

Needless to say, that directly puts three key NASCAR manufacturers publicly against the exact same fuel that NASCAR has just committed to run for the 2011 season.

"Anytime you have Paul Krugman (NY Times) agreeing with the Wall Street Journal (News Corp.), Reason Magazine (Libertarian), Investor's Business Daily, Rolling Stone Magazine, the Christian Science Monitor, John Stossel (click here to view), The Ecological Society of America, the Heritage Foundation (Republican think tank), George Will and Time Magazine you know that corn ethanol has to be one of the most misguided public policies in US history," said University of Michigan economics professor Mark Perry.

Get used to the term "American Ethanol green flag." That's right, NASCAR's green flag is now sponsored and will have the AE logo imprinted on it. This term will be used on TV and radio coverage for all national NASCAR events on starts and restarts.

All of this comes at a time when NASCAR is significantly changing how it deals with the public and the media. Click here for a review of the influence that the Taylor marketing firm is having on the sport.

In 2011, NASCAR will have an even tighter leash on what can be said about the sport and who can say it. The positive marketing of all things NASCAR will be the emphasis and public relations for NASCAR, including social media like Facebook and Twitter, will be controlled by professionals used to promoting products to consumers.

The corn ethanol lobby has already flooded the Internet with positive stories, using the same online marketing tactic as companies like ExtenZe and US Fidelis. A casual Google search for information on corn ethanol forces users to sift through tons of content created by brand marketers.

Next season, NASCAR fans will be confronted with a extensive campaign championing corn ethanol as a great American innovation for energy independence. NASCAR will be positioned as the perfect example of what is right with this energy product.

Whether the American Ethanol sponsorship turns out to be a financial windfall for NASCAR in a tough economy or an ill-advised strategic move that ultimately drags the sport into an even wider debate about renewable energy has yet to be seen. Either way, this could wind-up being the big media story of 2011.

We welcome your comments on the media, NASCAR and the new Sunoco E15 promotion. We are not looking for comments on the positive or negative aspects of ethanol, but rather how this change by Mr. France for the sport will play-out on television, radio and in the NASCAR media. To add your opinion, just click on the comments button below.

This is a family-friendly website, please keep that in mind when posting. Thanks for taking the time to stop by The Daly Planet.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Happy Holidays To Our Wonderful Readers

The Daly Planet started on a wing and a prayer after some encouragement from friends and support from my family.

Now, after four seasons, I have an entirely new extended family. It's been wonderful to interact with NASCAR fans all over America. Thanks to the wonders of the Internet, our readership also extends to many countries around the world.

I will be taking a short break over the holiday weekend and resuming with original columns early next week. In the meantime, thank you once again for helping with this project and I hope you have a wonderful holiday season.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Can A Video Game Save NASCAR?

Stranger things have happened. As NASCAR continues to look for a way to break through to younger folks, there continues to be nothing on TV or the radio targeted for that audience.

Last week, we saw the offerings from SPEED for 2011 and the only NASCAR show listed was the same old tired highlights program. FOX, TNT and ESPN offer nothing. SPEED's Race Hub has Ms. Sprint reading tweets every week, but nothing for the teenage audience.

This February, hopefully well before Daytona, there will be a new official NASCAR video game released. It's not hard to understand that getting the younger demographic actively involved in a top-notch video game creates a nice pathway for leading those players to watch the sport on TV.

It's called NASCAR 2011: The Game. Here are some details:

Players can choose to play as themselves or as one of the sport’s real-world drivers as they battle it out for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship. Each Sprint Cup Series driver behaves in the game as he does in the sport.

Damage is meticulously detailed and multi-car wrecks are the most extreme ever experienced in an officially licensed racing game. From the 22 real world tracks to full pit stop strategy action, NASCAR The Game 2011 captures the real atmosphere, sense of speed and spectacle that embodies NASCAR. Players can even feel the thrill of a win with the interactive celebration mode.

The game also includes in-depth multiplayer modes which allow up to 16 players to battle it out for the win online. In both online and offline races, players earn NASCAR experience points which help unlock rewards such as decal packs or special car designs, as well as career sponsorships and special races throughout career mode. Everything you do on the track counts!

“It was crucial to take a fresh look at what makes the sport so popular," said Ed Martin from game design company Eutechnyx. "We’re working very closely with NASCAR, the drivers, the teams, the tracks and the sponsors to get all the minute details right, and give this game the polish and push the fans deserve.”

A fresh look is exactly what so many tired areas of the sport need. This future release is the buzz on gamer websites worldwide. The creators of NASCAR 2011: The Game are renowned for putting together detailed and exciting video games with driving themes. This one is intended for Xbox 360® video game systems from Microsoft, PlayStation®3 computer entertainment systems, and Wii.

Needless to say, there is a website that has lots to offer. Screenshots, a video trailer and information about the new gaming features and how they were developed is fascinating. The attention to detail from speaking to fans, watching races and having drivers relate how they would act in certain situations is pretty amazing.

Strolling through the 43 car field was an experience. Among the familiar names are some that one would perhaps not expect. Danica Patrick, Michael Waltrip, and Kevin Conway are in the field. So are Ryan Truex, Scott Speed and Todd Bodine. It seems that even when putting together the video game of the sport, NASCAR had a tough time with a full field.

NASCAR 2011: The Game also features pit stops and a Chase for the Championship. I'm not a gamer, but it was interesting to see that the game creators managed to add-in pit stops. Supposedly, the in-car perspective gives players the experience of being inside the car for the stops on pit road complete with full crew working in real time.

Click here for the video game's Facebook fan page that is almost at six thousand members. I would expect that this number is going to swell as we approach February. The developers and NASCAR have done a good job with this project in terms of keeping active players, potential buyers and even us hardcore fans involved in the process.

At a time when FOX, ESPN and SPEED are getting ready to roll-out the standard TV coverage of the three national touring series at Daytona, it might just be a stroke of genius to release a video game with drivers from all three series.

Fans of the game drawn by the speed and racing can be led to the TV and online coverage as Daytona approaches with some coordinated marketing efforts from NASCAR. It should be interesting to see just how well NASCAR'S new Integrated Marketing Communications group based in Charlotte, NC handles this challenge.

If the racing on the actual track matches the antics in the video game, NASCAR might finally get some new young eyeballs on Daytona. What an advantage to get new fans simply because they like how a certain driver handles himself on the track in the game and now want to see how he or she handles themselves in person.

Expect to hear a lot more about this major video game effort after the New Year. NASCAR may have an instant hit on its hands as well as the first new attention-grabber for teens across America. Ultimately, the challenge will be for the drivers to keep the new fans they gained through technology and gaming once the real green flag falls.

We welcome your comments on this topic. To add your opinion, just click on the comments button below. This is a family-friendly website, please keep that in mind when posting. Thanks for taking the time to stop by The Daly Planet.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Post-Season Open Comments

Just days before the holiday break we are waiting. Information from SPEED should be coming in shortly. The network is going to mix TV and online streaming to cover the January Daytona testing. That should be great news when it arrives.

No personnel changes in TV land in front of the cameras to report. The Charlotte Observer's Jim Utter passed along that James Shiftan, a veteran ESPN producer, will be taking over as the network's lead NASCAR producer for 2011. Shiftan is well liked and the immediate reaction to this news from crew members was overwhelmingly positive.

Despite the new president at FOX Sports, it seems that all hands are back on deck for the upcoming season of NASCAR on FOX. The NFL on FOX theme music will be used for NASCAR this season, but the good news is that Digger is once again nowhere to be seen.

We are a little over a month away from the first NASCAR TV news show returning. Race Hub on SPEED is back on Monday, January 24. Steve Byrnes returns to host and will also be pit reporting for the NASCAR on FOX team. That should make for a long couple of months.

So, if you have a question or issue that you would like to leave in the comments section, we will be answering questions all day Wednesday and updating any news that flows in. To add your comment, just click on the comments button below. This is a family-friendly website, please keep that in mind when posting.

That is the Capitol Christmas tree in Washington, DC, my home town. Click on the picture to see it full size. Enjoy.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The Money Train

Before we turn our attention to the Daytona 500 and the new season of NASCAR on FOX, there is some unfinished business with ESPN. Jeff Gluck of SBNation reported recently on a post-season poll he conducted. After wishing Dale Earnhardt Jr. was running better, the number two thing on the wish list of NASCAR fans was the request for side-by-side commercial breaks on the Sprint Cup Series telecasts.

This first drew my attention back in 2006 when a young reporter named Marty Smith prepared this (click here) article on the topic for the website. Smith did a wonderful job of exploring the topic and interviewing the parties involved in the issue.

Back in 2006, ABC/ESPN spokesman George McNeilly told Smith that the network would enjoy the opportunity to bring side-by-side coverage to NASCAR fans, but obstacles abound. It's not as easy as simply doing it.

"ESPN is on the cutting edge of technology and would like the opportunity to pursue side-by-side with NASCAR, but we are contractually prohibited at this time from doing so," said McNeilly. "We see side-by-side as an opportunity to serve sports fans so they don't miss the action and still provide great value to advertisers on the telecast. We'd like the opportunity."

Ramsey Poston was the NASCAR spokesman back in 2006 and this was his response on the topic. "We are always interested in finding the best way to showcase our racing in a manner that serves fans, sponsors and the networks," Poston said. "Up to this point we have not seen a split screen solution that accomplishes that."

Money was said to be at the heart of the matter. ESPN is NASCAR's largest TV partner and paid a hefty sum to return to the sport. This huge TV contract put ESPN in charge of not only the final seventeen Sprint Cup Series races, but made the network the exclusive TV home of the Chase for the Championship.

Fans remember all too well the significant amount of commercial inventory run in the NASCAR on ESPN telecasts this season. Many believe that this is the primary revenue source for the company and being directly used to pay the NASCAR rights fees. Nothing could be further from the truth.

The reality is that ESPN has its own money train. It delivers each and every month and is full of items that may look familiar. Those are your hard-earned dollars spent to maintain cable or satellite TV service so you can watch NASCAR. ESPN's money train is full of your cash.

Reporter Anthony Crupi of calls ESPN the Uncle Pennybags of sports broadcasting. Pennybags is the jovial type who takes your money on a regular basis in Monopoly and never hides the fact he is flush with cash. Here is Crupi's take on the current college football situation.

Perhaps nothing illustrates ESPN’s rapacity (greed) quite like the college football bowl season. After blowing Fox Sports out of the water with a $500 million bid, ESPN won the rights for the Bowl Championship Series through 2014. In so doing, it now plays host to 33 of the 35 bowl games, including the Oregon-Auburn title match on Jan. 10.

And here’s the corker. Despite the towering expenses associated with hosting the BCS games, ESPN could air the championship event commercial-free and still walk away fat and happy.

The reason is very simple. ESPN charges cable and satellite operators an average of $4.40 a month per subscriber. Multiplying that by ESPN's 99.8 million subscribers means an annual cash stream of $5.27 billion. That, my friends, is one heck of a money train.

Remember the commercials? ESPN stands to make over a billion dollars in advertising this season, but that pales in comparison to the cash flow that is ultimately from consumers. As we all know, prices for cable and satellite services have never gone down. ESPN's windfall is here to stay.

This reality check should push open the door for a revamp of the dismal failure that was the 2010 Sprint Cup Series telecasts on ESPN. If these production and commercial problems existed with another major professional sport on ESPN, a solution would have already been found.

Side-by-side commercials and less inventory is the only way to let fans watching at home actually see the final seventeen races. What ESPN hopes you conveniently forget is that you are already paying to watch it with your monthly cable or satellite bill. Add in the incredible amount of commercials, and ESPN is smiling all the way to the bank.

We welcome your comments on this topic. To add your opinion, just click on the comments button below. This is a family-friendly website, please keep that in mind when posting. Thanks for taking the time to stop by The Daly Planet.

Monday, December 20, 2010

SPEED Will Not Be The NASCAR TV Network

It's been lots of fun watching the changes at SPEED since former Fox Sports chief David Hill took over the day-to-day senior management of the network. He recently put veteran TV executive Patti Wheeler in charge of both the programming and production departments.

With Wheeler's extensive NASCAR background and Hill's affinity for the sport, the rumor that SPEED would become a full time NASCAR TV network was suddenly supercharged. Now we know that is not going to happen. In fact, we know a lot more about what Wheeler and Hill are planning.

Click here for the article that featured Adam Carolla, who is pictured above. It was June of 2008 when Carolla was supposed to be hosting the US version of the popular Top Gear program for NBC. Needless to say, the series wound-up appearing this season on The History Channel with SPEED's Rutledge Wood in Carolla's role. Now it appears that SPEED will be giving Carolla another chance. reports that Carolla will be fronting a new show for SPEED. Here are the details:

Carolla will star along with Pulitzer Prize-winning Wall Street Journal auto writer Dan Neil, ex-NBA star John Salley and Matt Farah from The Smoking Tire website. Carolla has been eager to do an auto-based TV show for some time. The show has been described as a cross between Top Gear and Fox Sports Net’s old The Best Damn Sports Show Period franchise, which featured Salley as a regular. According to the pitch, the show will feature news and conversation centered around cars, as well as pre-recorded features shot on the road.

In a press release, SPEED president Hunter Nickell detailed that SPEED is not developing original NASCAR-themed programs for prime time, but more celebrity-driven lifestyle and enthusiast shows. The lone NASCAR entry is once again a highlights program.

"SPEED has a history of success with original enthusiast programming," said Nickell. "We are aggressively communicating with the production community, teaming with some of the biggest names in the category as we develop the 2011 weekday prime time lineup."

This February, here are the new shows that will debut on SPEED weekdays after Race Hub.

Car Warriors (Wednesdays at 9 p.m. ET, 60 minutes) – This hyper-charged automotive build show will pit a team of eight "all-star" builders against a team of average Joe's from local garages in a 72-hour challenge to turn a basic car into a work of art. Judges include iconic car designer George Barris, hot rod craftsman Jimmy Shine and electronics wizard Mad Mike Martin.

American Trucker (Thursdays at 10 and 10:30 p.m. ET, two 30-minute episodes) – Hosted by designer/artist and fanatical truck expert Rob Mariani, a finalist on HGTV's Design Star, this new show introduces the audience to iconic trucks, the famous routes they followed and the cargo missions that made history.

Car Science (Wednesdays at 10 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. ET, two 30-minute episodes) – The producers of the popular franchise series Sports Science and Fight Science bring a mad-cap scientific approach to the world of automobiles.

Speed Makers (Thursday at 9 p.m. ET, 60 minutes) – Speed Makers takes a look at the iconic builders and epic innovators of acceleration. From celebrated mega-structures like Daytona International Speedway to behind the scenes at Aston Martin, this show celebrates the masterminds of engineering power.

Ticket to Ride with Dan Neil (Tuesday at 8:30 p.m. ET) – Pulitzer Prize-winning Wall Street Journal automotive writer Dan Neil takes viewers inside the business of cars, offering insightful test drives, interviews and commentary with a trademark wit that has made Neil a must-read for car lovers. Adam Carolla and others are along for the ride.

The 10 (Wednesday at 8 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. ET, two 30-minute episodes) – A fast-paced list program, highlighting the best of the best from the world of NASCAR. First season topics include Most Bizarre Finishes, Throw-downs, Talladega Moments, All-Time Races, Closest Calls and Earnhardt Moments.

Hunter's only comment on any sort of original NASCAR-themed programming is that there are some projects still in development. Well, being in development at a time when other shows are signed, sealed and delivered is not exactly a good thing. There was a time when SPEED worked very hard on creating NASCAR content, but it seems those days are over.

On January 24, the network returns Race Hub Monday through Thursday at 7PM with host Steve Byrnes and reporter Danielle Trotta. This weekday NASCAR news series took SPEED years to finally produce amid failure after failure of enthusiast and lifestyle shows. Now, ironically, it is the cornerstone of SPEED's prime time line-up.

It does seem amazing that SPEED will not support its own coverage of the Camping World Truck Series with a weekly show. Also, original programming concepts from NASCAR Wives to a Humpy Wheeler interview show seem to have fizzled once again.

Meanwhile, click here for the story on CWTS driver Jennifer Jo Cobb's new TV project titled The Ride.

Recently, we saw The History Channel produce a season of Madhouse, Max Siegel create Changing Lanes for BET and Showtime offer Inside NASCAR every Wednesday during the season. Even Hendrick Motorsports got into the act with Jimmie Johnson 24/7 on HBO.

It's a bit of a surprise that SPEED is going to focus on the weekend coverage from the tracks and Race Hub as the primary NASCAR offerings. Monday nights on SPEED used to have a big NASCAR theme and serve as a wonderful platform to attract fans still buzzing about the races from the weekends.

It seems that once again programs connected in some way to actual racing have given way to made-for-TV entertainment as SPEED continues to push what it calls enthusiast programming in prime time for another year. My take is that the identity crisis at SPEED continues.

We welcome your comments on this topic. To add your opinion, just click on the comments button below. This is a family-friendly website, please keep that in mind when posting. Thanks for taking the time to stop by The Daly Planet.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Time For Some Daytona Streaming

We don't normally see tracks streaming NASCAR content online because the rights to footage and interviews are actually owned by other companies. Thursday, the Daytona International Speedway starts the season off right by streaming a press conference for all the fans through the track's own website.

At 12PM ET from the Infield Media Center, track president Joie Chitwood will be joined by NASCAR's Robin Permberton live online. Drivers attending will be Jeff Burton, Kurt Busch, Jamie McMurray and Bobby Labonte.

Click here for the direct link to the webcast. The address is for you folks who prefer to type.

Although it's only an hour long, the reason I am so excited about this is because it moves slowly toward breaking down the technology wall for NASCAR fans. Normally, we hear reporters ask questions on webcasts but it would be just as easy to get some fan questions live on the phone or from Twitter or Facebook.

Letting down the walls and streaming from the various track websites in advance of races would allow fans to begin to feel involved behind the scenes. SPEED and the various NASCAR partners deliver the on track action and some news recaps, but social media and online streaming is different. It's portable, it's personal and it's interactive.

Right now, there is absolutely no opportunity to use a laptop, iPad or desktop to access NASCAR video content from the tracks. Sure, TNT gives us RaceBuddy but I mean the meat and potatoes of the Friday practices, qualifying and live news.

Turner Sports is the online audio and video rights holder for NASCAR. The website they operate,, does not even provide a live garage cam with sound for the racing weekends. It just might be time for the tracks to step-up and get in the game.

It should be interesting to see the fan response to the press conference tomorrow. There is no NASCAR Now or Race Hub, so there is only a slight chance some video might leak onto SportsCenter or the FoxSportsNet recap show. Slight being the keyword.

Since all the Sprint Cup Series tracks have professional PR folks who are very familiar with online technology and social media, it would be great to have them open up the online window for the action at their respective tracks with a garage cam, some live streaming of media events and even hosted news updates.

TV might be the big dog on the block, but after what the tracks have been through with attendance over the past season, it might be worth the risk to get some active streaming and social media interaction going early and carry it through the racing.

Let's get the fans back by getting them involved long before they have to tune-in to a TV network at a set time to watch something once again that excludes any interaction and instead sandwiches NASCAR content between all too frequent three minute commercial breaks.

Thanks, Daytona for starting the ball rolling. Let's hope it picks up speed once the season starts. You can click on the picture above or any of the testing pics below to see them fullsize. Right click to save to your computer.

We welcome your comments on this issue and the live press conference on Thursday. To add your opinion, just click on the comments button below. This is a family-friendly website, please keep that in mind when posting. Thanks for taking the time to stop by The Daly Planet.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Wednesday Daytona Tire Test Pictures

Just passing along some pictures sent on Twitter from the Daytona International Speedway Public Relations folks. Thanks @DISUpdates! Looks great.

Wednesday Media Notes

There is still a lot going on in the NASCAR TV and media world. Let's talk about some topics that will be in the news on Wednesday and over the next several weeks.

The Goodyear tire test Wednesday and Thursday at the newly repaved Daytona International Speedway will have no television or streaming coverage. While tire tests normally do not, it's pretty obvious that the elephant in the room is the repaved track with Sprint Cup Series cars at speed for the first time.

There was a rumor that would provide some basic online streaming video with sound so fans could see the cars, but that is not going to happen. Both SPEED's Race Hub and ESPN2's NASCAR Now are on hiatus, so don't expect any updates on TV.

At 12PM ET on Thursday, DIS will offer streaming of a press conference to get drivers reaction to the new track. Available at, it will feature Robin Pemberton from NASCAR and Joie Chitwood from the infield media center at DIS along with several drivers.

Also, more good news is that fans are going to be welcomed during the testing for free. Just walk through the main lobby of the DIS ticket office and out the back door where the tour trams exit. That will lead to the Oldfield Grandstands. It's going to be chilly, so dress warm. The infield Fan Zone is not open for these two test days.

We should see some fan videos posted to YouTube during the day. If you follow us on Twitter at we have several friends of TDP who will be at the test and will pass along what info they can get from scanners and conversation.

Drivers scheduled to test include Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jeff Gordon, Mark Martin, Jamie McMurray, Brad Keselowski, Juan Pablo Montoya, Kurt Busch, Matt Kenseth and Jeff Burton.

The ARCA Series will be testing at the speedway on Friday, December 17 and the same free admission procedures will be in place.

DIS also announced that the Daytona 500 flyover would be done by the Air Force Thunderbirds. That will certainly start the season off on a good note. Speaking of notes, we are still looking for the announcement of who will sing the national anthem for the big race.

Unofficially, Race Hub will return to SPEED on Monday, January 24, 2011. That is the Monday after Daytona testing. The show will continue to be one hour in length and 7PM ET should be the original air time. Hopefully, the execs at SPEED will stay true to the original promise and repeat the show at 7PM Pacific Time for West Coast fans.

It looks like NASCAR Now will return to ESPN on Monday, February 7, 2011. The first week of shows are all thirty minutes, with the one-hour Monday roundtable returning on February 14.

Updated: The folks at SPEED are passing along that they will offer wrap-up programs with highlights and interviews on the Daytona testing days in January. More details on this when the air times and on-air talent is assigned. This should include coverage of the big press conference with Brian France on January 21 from the DIS infield. That is rumored to be the official announcement of possible changes to rules in both the Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series.

We will have more information on Daytona TV schedules and any changes in on-air personnel whenever news breaks. Right now, there have been no changes announced by ESPN, SPEED, FOX or TNT for 2011. Steve Byrnes will handle both Race Hub for SPEED and continue his pit reporting duties for FOX during that network's Sprint Cup telecasts.

Any media tidbits coming out on Wednesday will be posted here. Check back with us throughout the day.

In the meantime, please use this post to comment on the tire test or any of the topics mentioned above. To add your opinion, just click on the comments button below. This is a family-friendly website, please keep that in mind when posting. Thanks for taking the time to stop by The Daly Planet.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Be Virtually Assured Commercial Content Is Growing

In August of this year, ESPN divested itself of the familiar BASS fishing and outdoor organization. Acquired in 2001 with much fanfare, BASS was supposed to be the cornerstone of an exclusive line-up of outdoor programming on the ESPN networks.

Now, instead of owning sports media companies, ESPN's new thrust is technology. There is a fledgling 3D TV network and a rebranded that delivers content through broadband and XBOX Live channels. Monday, ESPN quietly made another purchase.

Click here to view the website for PVI Virtual Media Services. Formerly owned by cable TV giant Cablevision, the company's employees and assets are in the process of being transferred over to the ESPN/Disney family.

At the core of this purchase is what are called intellectual property rights. Basically, ESPN is not only buying technology but also what it has already been used to create. If PVI developed it, ESPN now owns it.

How does this relate to NASCAR? It's pretty simple to understand. What PVI specializes in is using technology to insert graphics and advertising inside of live sports TV programs. It's actually called "virtual insertion" because the computers take the live picture, insert the additional content and then send it off to the cable TV viewers. Fans at the event never see a thing.

NASCAR fans may remember the TNT guys inserting start and finish line markers, turn labels on a road course or even virtual logos over the track to provide more information. Buying PVI gives ESPN an in-house company that can overlay almost any graphic or logo on a live sports event in real time.

"This is another acquisition that augments ESPN's leadership position in innovation and technology development," ESPN executive vice president of technology Chuck Pagano said in a media release. "PVI has developed some of the television industry's leading virtual content, and now the addition of their engineering team will help ESPN continue to invent ground-breaking production enhancements for our fans."

There are absolutely some aspects of PVI technology that enhance a sports telecast. The yellow line instantly marking the first down in football has become a fan favorite. Our discussion today, however, centers on what is being reflected in the picture above. The Subway logo is being "virtually inserted" into a New York Rangers NHL game shown on the MSG network.

While many hockey fans watching on TV were outraged by the distraction, quite different feelings were being expressed by the MSG management. "Virtual ads are the truest form of immersive advertising," said Dan Ronayne, executive vice president and general manager of MSG Networks. "This puts a brand right in front of a game in a way that is prominent and impactful."

ESPN carries the entire season of Nationwide Series races and the final seventeen Sprint Cup Series events, including the Chase for the Championship races. Each race is a multi-hour affair with no restriction on where the cameras point. There is no ball to follow, no puck to chase and no base runners. Where virtual advertising is concerned, NASCAR is a target rich environment.

This type of additional sponsor element is quite different than the Digger disaster of NASCAR on FOX several years ago. That animation ended the announcer's conversation, required the TV truck to playback an element with sound effects and completely disrupted the telecast. That was then, this is now.

In ESPN's new virtual world, the Nationwide cars may come down the backstretch at Daytona with advertising logos on the grass, track or SAFER barrier. PVI could insert a virtual Jumbotron style scoreboard, a blimp or any other graphic element created for the event.

The actual cars would be seen on TV racing right past, over top or even through the logos as if it was magic. These virtual elements could be added to in-car cameras, pit stops, caution periods and even passes for the lead. The potential uses are infinite.

While fans at the track would be unaffected, it's going to be the good old NASCAR TV viewers that would once again see their world changing rather drastically without much of a choice. It's going to be very interesting to see if virtual ads make their way into the 2011 NASCAR television package, what networks use them and how they affect our viewing experience.

We welcome your comments on this topic. To add your opinion, just click on the comments button below. This is a family-friendly website, please keep that in mind when posting. Thanks for taking the time to stop by The Daly Planet.

Monday, December 13, 2010

All Quiet On The Western Front

Daytona International Speedway sits quietly. Clad in a new coat of asphalt, the symbol of the sport is ready to greet yet another season. This one, however, is unlike any season before. It's not the changes at the speedway that make it different. It's the inability of the sanctioning body to adapt to the reality of the world around it.

This is year five of a television contract that has been nothing short of a disaster. The sport is also saddled with an official website run by a third party with a different agenda. Televised track activities, including races, are not streamed online. The only NASCAR cell phone app is limited to Sprint Cup Series races and available from only one cell phone company.

In short, the sport is mired in a tangled web of media agreements that are slowly bringing it to a grinding halt. The absolute proof was delivered during the 2010 Chase for the Championship. Great racing, interesting stories and compelling images were lost on a viewing public long since turned off by the other problems.

The silence in the NASCAR press at the moment is driven by the fact that many discussions are now taking place behind the scenes. All of the media contracts that have splintered the television, radio and online coverage still have years to run. None of them are going to be easily changed, but that is exactly what must happen in the next two months.

The thrust of this entire changing media landscape is the word "portability." While it has different meanings, our use is rather basic. Consumers today want the same sports content services available to them as they move from one media device to another.

As a civilization we are rapidly moving away from using traditional media devices like TV sets and radios. Instead of just watching or listening, we now desire what is being called "connected experiences." This means that consumers, especially younger ones, expect to participate and ultimately control their involvement in all types of media.

This is an especially tough challenge for NASCAR. There is only one consumer video choice for the Daytona 500. Fans must access their local FOX TV affiliate and sit in front of the television for more than three hours at a specific time in order to watch the live action.

The pressure is squarely on NASCAR to make Sprint Cup Series races available live online for the entire season. In addition, the practice and qualifying sessions already being televised should also be available over the Internet and on smart phone apps.

Turner Sports, the current online rights holder for all NASCAR content, has already made the RaceBuddy online application familiar to fans. Made available online during the six summer TNT races without charge are additional cameras, a designated pit road reporter and live chat directly connected to multiple social media applications.

In 2011, NASCAR desperately needs to be able to compete on a level of media sophistication with the other major professional sports. The real issue behind declining ratings is not the Chase, the COT, Dale Earnhardt Jr. or any of the other frequent topics heard on a regular basis. NASCAR is simply serving up the same tired television product it did twenty years ago. In today's world, that is not going to cut it.

In order to get on equal footing, NASCAR needs to embrace new media technology in every facet prior to February. Despite the protests of FOX, the Daytona 500 without online streaming and a RaceBuddy-style application is going to begin a cycle that is all too familiar.

Three self-serving television networks each with its own agenda, sales goals and colorful personalities will take a turn in the spotlight. The current NASCAR TV contract is built to serve the TV partners. FOX fills time before the NFL season, TNT keeps its toe in the NASCAR water and ESPN gets to crown the champion.

It might have been good in theory, but the reality of 2010 drove home the point that today's fans want more. Surrounded by laptops, smart phones and iPads in everyday life there is simply no way to pretend that sports TV alone can keep today's younger fan actively involved in a ten month long racing season.

It seems ironic that fans at the track for Sprint Cup Series races can rent Sprint's Fanview unit. This handheld device features live race video, additional camera views and team scanner audio. In addition, users get all the real time driver and race stats. Finally, Fanview can also provide television programming from the TV networks handling the weekend's activities.

NASCAR can put this technology bundle in the hands of the fans at the track, but can't deliver the same package to the millions of fans who are not there. Instead, it's time once again to sit in front of a TV set each weekend from February through November. The extensive user interface for this sophisticated piece of equipment involves making the decision to turn the volume up or down.

We should know what media and technology changes NASCAR has negotiated before Christmas. This is a wonderful opportunity to change the sport forever in a positive way. Wouldn't that be a nice little gift at just the right time.

We welcome your comments on this topic. To add your opinion, just click on the comments button below. This is a family-friendly website, please keep that in mind when posting. Thanks for taking the time to stop by The Daly Planet.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Weekend NASCAR Potpourri

What a week it's been for big topics. It's really not the off-season for NASCAR TV and media issues. Next week should bring an update on possible TV or video streaming coverage of the December tire test at the newly repaved Daytona International Speedway.

Also, we should have dates for the return of Race Hub in January and an update on possible video streaming for 2011 racing weekends.

Meanwhile, here is a brief recap of some issues we addressed over the past several weeks. Many of these topics are going to be sprouting up again before the 2011 season begins. Click on the title to read the entire column and leave your comments.

By request: Hail to the Chief originally published November 23, 2010.

The topic was Brian France's interview with the NASCAR media in Homestead. Here is an excerpt:

"ESPN is our partner and they have been an enormously good partner, and they actually have a younger demo on ESPN network than does their sister network, ABC. I suspect we'll sit down in the off-season and talk about that and we are going to share everything with them and they have been a great partner. By the way, I think the broadcast has been as good as I've seen in a long time. I think the energy level and the calling of the action, the on-air talent, I think is top-notch right now on their network, and they have been working at that for a few years to get all of the things just right, and I think they have."

One of the most popular TV personalities this season has been Ray Evernham. A while back, he shared some news and promised some more shortly.

Waiting For Ray Evernham To Get Back In The Game was originally published on November 29, 2010.

It's no secret that Ray Evernham has been itching to get back in the NASCAR game. Confined to ESPN's Infield Pit Studio as the third wheel behind Rusty Wallace and Brad Daugherty, Evernham is limited to a sentence or two in his TV comments.

Sunday morning Evernham dropped the following message on Twitter: "Firming up 2011 plans and will make a formal announcement when it all comes together. Will make sure to tweet before announcement is made."

This week came news that both the NFL and Howard Stern would be heard on Sirius Internet radio next year. Online coverage is the way to go. With a full time NASCAR channel already on Sirius but not available online or by cell phone app, how much longer can the parties involved allow this situation to go on?

NASCAR's Got A Sirius Situation was originally published on December 2, 2010.

With the advent of smart phones in the marketplace the ability to open the phone, press a button and listen to Sirius XM 128 would accomplish several key elements. One, it would increase the subscriber numbers dramatically. Two, it would finally make NASCAR truly portable, a key element in today's world.

Finally, it would accomplish a goal that has frustrated NASCAR all season long. It would provide an application that would be popular with younger fans. The days of listening to MRN in the garage are long gone. Appointment viewing of NASCAR TV shows, including races, has plummeted. It's got to be portable and available now.

NASCAR has hired an outside marketing company to reshape the media interface with fans including social networking, television coverage and radio content. The sport's public image next season will be crafted by product marketers. That sounds like fun, right?

NASCAR Fans About To Be Rebranded was originally published on December 3, 2010.

Editor Greg Bailey of the Gadsden Times has his own way of explaining the changes:

"The various press releases announcing this are filled with corporate-speak gobbledegook that numbs one’s brain. Translating it into English, NASCAR is putting its media relations, marketing and team/sponsor relations efforts under one roof in hopes of better selling a sport that has fallen on hard times."

Taylor (marketing and PR company) gets to continue to represent its existing NASCAR clients. It will now also advise NASCAR on how to proceed with a marketing-driven agenda across the board. Finally, Taylor will create the systems to manage all aspects of the media associated with the sport.

Some folks want to see it all live, some think it makes no sense on TV and others only want the highlights without all the scripted speeches. So, that led us to ask the question.

Does The Sprint Cup Series Banquet Belong On TV was originally published on December 7, 2010.

Let's review the choices:

1 - No TV for the banquet. Let the NASCAR reporters, photographers and bloggers send along pictures, stories and clips but leave the night for the teams and sponsors.

2 - Polish up what SPEED tried to do. Use red carpet interviews, highlights and pre-banquet driver interviews to create an hour show and then join the banquet for the awards in their entirety.

3 - Stream the entire evening online using the website. Let the TV professionals record the events, edit a feature program and use it as the cornerstone for a final send-off for NASCAR on SPEED.

Finally, we turned out attention to the struggling NASCAR Hall of Fame. It needs new guests, repeat business and some interesting exhibit inside that changed every single day. Now, what could that be?

Can ESPN Save The NASCAR Hall of Fame was originally published on December 9, 2010.

Perhaps, the solution to this problem might be a little TV show called NASCAR Now. As many of you may know, the Hall is connected to the NASCAR Media Group (NMG) television production facilities in the same complex. Showtime tapes Inside NASCAR in one of the NMG studios.

Reporters like Marty Smith, Ryan McGee, David Newton and Shannon Spake all live in the Greater Charlotte area. Briscoe does as well. Add Dale Jarrett, Andy Petree and Rusty Wallace to that list. You get the point. It only makes sense to originate the daily program covering the sport from where the news is happening.

Thanks again for staying with us during the off-season. Feel free to leave comments on any of these topics on this post or add them to the individual comments on the posts. Thanks again for stopping by The Daly Planet.

Friday, December 10, 2010

With Howard Stern Deal Done It's NASCAR Time

On Thursday the second of three big issues for Sirius XM Radio was solved. This time it was Howard Stern announcing a new deal to stay on the air at Sirius.

It is a five-year agreement that analysts value at $400 million. But the important part for NASCAR fans is what is hidden in the fine print.

Here is a paragraph from the Newsday story on Stern:

The new deal does offer a significant bonus to fans. Stern's show will be available on various platforms besides satellite radio including the iPhone, Android phones and BlackBerrys. "The addition of the mobile apps will be a significant one going forward because it makes him more available," said Tom Taylor, news editor of Chicago-based "It was frustrating to some listeners [that] it wasn't available on both [mobile apps and satellite.]"

NASCAR fans can certainly identify with that last statement. Sirius NASCAR Channel 128 is not available online or through a smart phone app. Way back when, NASCAR sold all the online rights (including audio content) to Turner Sports. NASCAR fans must have a Sirius XM satellite receiver of some type to hear channel 128.

It was Tuesday, November 30th when Sirius announced that it had reached an agreement to renew and expand its contract with the NFL. This time, Sirius got what it really wanted. All NFL games beginning in 2011 will be streamed online through Sirius Internet radio. While the cell phone details are yet to be announced, adding the NFL to the Sirius online offerings is just huge.

The third piece of the puzzle has to be next. Sirius, NASCAR and Turner Sports have time now in the off-season to hammer out an agreement that extends the same sort of online streaming deal for NASCAR. Both on Sirius Internet radio and the Sirius apps for devices like smartphones.

Click here to take a peek and maybe even a listen to just how easy it is to load and go with this technology. As with everything in life, there is a price to be paid, but if NASCAR fans had Sirius 128 on laptops, iPads and all types of smartphones the sport would be much better off for 2011.

With so many things in NASCAR just not going well lately, it would be a welcome move for the parties involved to come together and get this ironed out. NASCAR would join Howard Stern and the NFL as moving online in the Sirius world.

We will update this blog with any news on the topic immediately. In the meantime, we are happy to have your comments on this topic. To add your opinion, just click on the comments button below. This is a family-friendly website, please keep that in mind when posting. Thanks for taking the time to stop by The Daly Planet.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Can ESPN Save The NASCAR Hall Of Fame?

Those of you who have been around a bit may remember the old RPM2Night TV show. What began in a tiny studio near the Carowinds theme park eventually moved into the ESPN Regional Television (ERT) facility in the Ballantyne area of South Charlotte.

Back in 2000, it was ERT General Manager Chuck Gerber who put into words why it was a smart move for ESPN to produce its only motorsports show from Charlotte. "It only makes sense because all of the teams are here," Gerber told Erik Spanberg of the Charlotte Business Journal. "It's a good relationship for everyone." Click here to read the entire article.

In 2011, ESPN2 enters year five of producing the network's only motorsports news program called NASCAR Now. After a terrible start, the on-air and production team have finally hit on a combination that works. An hour on Monday, thirty minutes Tuesday through Friday and a preview show before each Sprint Cup Series race.

When the Chase races come around, ESPN adds a killer Sunday night one-hour show that has all the highlights, information from the track and complete interviews. It's been interesting to watch ESPN take years to sort this series out. Now, it just might be time to take it to the next level.

The current TV contract with ESPN and NASCAR runs through 2014. That means at least four more seasons of NASCAR Now will be produced. It's very possible that with a contract extension this TV series may run for many more years. It's a powerhouse product for NASCAR fans who can't get enough of Allen Bestwick, Ricky Craven and the rest of the gang.

When SPEED decided to get back into the NASCAR news game, they created a series called Race Hub and located it in North Charlotte at the SPEED studios. The idea was that the proximity of the studio and the race teams would make for easy access to drivers and other NASCAR personalities.

This series airs Monday through Thursday and is comprised of same-day interviews, recorded studio guests and features. It has been a welcome addition to the TV landscape, but has not diluted the NASCAR Now franchise in the least.

Ten years after his article on RPM2Night, Erik Spanberg is now the senior staff writer for the Charlotte Business Journal. Click here for his story on the current situation with the NASCAR Hall of Fame.

Needless to say, things are in a funk. The Hall needs something that can regularly attract visitors. It has to be something that out of town guests would remember and tell all of their friends about. Word of mouth is the best advertising. At the same time, North Carolina locals would need something to bring them back for a repeat visit.

Perhaps, the solution to this problem might be a little TV show called NASCAR Now. As many of you may know, the Hall is connected to the NASCAR Media Group (NMG) television production facilities in the same complex. Showtime tapes Inside NASCAR in one of the NMG studios.

Many of us watched the special NASCAR Now shows produced from the Hall of Fame during events like the grand opening, the induction and even the announcement of the inductees. Dr. Jerry Punch is a Hall of Fame voter and he reported for NASCAR Now surrounded by very appreciative fans. Just with that one show, he made a lifetime memory for each and every one of them.

Currently, NASCAR Now is jammed into a corner in the Bristol, CT studios of ESPN2. This fish out of water show takes production resources away from an already overworked facility. While Mike Massaro agreed to move back to Connecticut to co-host the show, both Nicole Briscoe and Allen Bestwick live out of state. There is a whole lot of traveling going on to get this program done each week.

Reporters like Marty Smith, Ryan McGee, David Newton and Shannon Spake all live in the Greater Charlotte area. Briscoe does as well. Add Dale Jarrett, Andy Petree, Rusty Wallace and Punch to that list. You get the point.

Just as Gerber stated back in 2000, where ESPN's coverage of NASCAR is concerned all the teams are in the same place. It only makes sense to originate the daily program covering the sport from where the news is happening. Not to mention the fact that NASCAR has consolidated its own operations in the office complex right next to, you guessed it, the Hall of Fame.

In 2006, I forwarded a letter to ESPN's SVP John Skipper suggesting that ESPN consider originating a NASCAR news show in Charlotte if one was in the works. My response was that ESPN would not spend the money to invest in a High Definition (HD) facility when the Bristol studios were available.

Well, since that time some things have changed. ESPN has acquired an immense amount of new college and pro sports that each require a studio presence. Meanwhile, NMG has a state of the art HD television facility in downtown Charlotte looking for more work. Finally, attached to that facility at no extra charge is the NASCAR Hall of Fame.

With a nice low price from the NMG folks, ESPN could free up studio space and production time back in Bristol to serve the new stick-and-ball sports programming. NASCAR Now could have free run of the Hall of Fame, providing the folks who operate that facility with a unique attraction that would change every single day.

Putting the show out among the exhibits, the fans and the history of the sport would provide a unique backdrop. It would also allow ESPN the daily contact with the sport it has been lacking with the series produced in Connecticut.

NASCAR Now is not slated to return until February. That leaves plenty of time for some good conversation, some good imagination and as the bottom line, some good common sense. Maybe ESPN and NASCAR can actually agree on something that will make both of them better once it's done.

We welcome your thoughts on this topic. To add your opinion, just click on the comments button below. This is a family-friendly website, please keep that in mind when posting. Thanks for taking the time to stop by The Daly Planet.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

ESPN Throws Numbers At NASCAR Critics

As we continue to look back at the TV issues of the 2010 season, we have been aided by a recent press release from ESPN. After some media members and NASCAR pundits blamed cable TV for the fading ratings of The Chase, ESPN has fired back.

Before we review the ESPN document, let's go back to the issue. This was the first season that the vast majority of the Chase races had been moved to ESPN. When the first TV contract was done after the Chase, there was an emphasis on the fact that the final ten races would be seen on "free over-the-air TV."

Unfortunately the reality of rain, red flags and long delays under caution made the Chase races a mess for broadcast TV. Trying to serve four timezones was almost impossible and the stories of ABC local affiliates either not carrying the pre-race show or leaving at the checkered flag for local news came in on a regular basis.

So, the subsequent shift to ESPN brought pro's and cons. The flexibility of cable TV meant a designated pre-race show, complete coverage and an extended post-race show for every Chase race. The cons were that once the NFL began the pre-race show was on ESPN2.

One other drawback frequently mentioned was that those without cable TV service would not be able to see the final ten races. Of course the Camping World trucks were on SPEED and the Nationwide Series raced on ESPN2, so those same fans would not have seen any of those races. In addition, the summer Cup races were on TNT so the same fans would have also taken the summer off.

The thrust of the argument for free TV was that the rough economy had caused many households to drop cable TV service. Some had been rumored to be "cord cutting," which became the new buzzword. That means dropping cable TV service and using the Internet for video streaming instead.

In October, ESPN had a series of meetings with NASCAR. The topic on the table was the cause for the substantially lower ratings. Certainly, the elephant in the room was the NFL and the incredible ratings success of the 1PM ET games on Sundays.

The other big topic fed by some media members was the shift from ABC to ESPN and the loss of those households that had dropped cable TV service. The new ESPN survey helps to address just what is happening with cable and Internet homes in the marketplace.

Click here to read the data released by ESPN. While not exactly spoken in plain English, what the survey says is the erosion of homes is very small.

Here are a couple of key sentences:

The study found that just 0.28 percent of homes in the Nielsen sample dropped multichannel service but kept their broadband Internet connections.The study also showed that the number of multichannel homes adding a broadband connection was nearly five times as large as the "cord cutter" group.

ESPN and ESPN2 are now over the 100 million home mark in the US. This means the penetration of these networks is almost equal to over-the-air TV distributed by local stations. Coupled with the information that few existing cable customers dropped television service, it gives ESPN a strong case that distribution was not the big issue with the Chase problems.

If we can close that door now once and for all perhaps attention can be turned to the reality of the Chase and the many problems of providing television coverage of a race within a race.

TV Problems With The Chase Easy To Understand was a column focusing on the issues faced by ESPN as they navigate through the tangled web of racing scenarios. Click on the title to read the column and the comments.

Those Footsteps Might Sound Familiar was originally published in August as a preview of the trouble that the NFL might bring to NASCAR yet again. Click on the title to read the column.

On January 21, Brian France will be speaking to the media during a test at the Daytona International Speedway. After the TV struggles of NASCAR's top series down the stretch, France will be announcing his decision on what changes will be made for 2011.

With NFL football continuing to dominate the ratings and ESPN proving there is no distribution problem, the focus is going to be on the sanctioning body to deal with two issues. The Chase format and poorly produced TV coverage are now the remaining cards on the table.

How NASCAR chooses to play this hand may serve to determine who walks away with the TV jackpot and who walks away empty-handed.

We welcome your comments on this topic. To add your opinion, just click on the comments button below. This is a family-friendly website, please keep that in mind when posting. Thanks for taking the time to stop by The Daly Planet.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Does The Sprint Cup Series Banquet Belong On TV?

We had some wonderful comments on SPEED's coverage of the Sprint Cup Series banquet last Friday night from many readers. The opinions were all across the board. Not about the actual banquet, but about how it translated to TV.

Now that some time has passed, let's take a look at three scenarios for deciding what to do with that post-season function when it comes to television coverage.

Option one is easy to understand. Don't cover it. The argument in support of this choice is that the function is simply an evening designed for the teams, sponsors and others who have worked hard all season long in the sport.

The mainstream media at the event will provide pictures and clips of the festivities. SPEED will provide coverage on The SPEED Report. ESPN, FOX and others will provide stories and interviews as well. Option one is no TV at all.

Option two is what SPEED did this year. Basically, the attendees arrive and go into the ballroom. They get a greeting, a musical number and then an hour of dinner. It isn't until after dinner is completely done that the awards portion of the evening begins.

SPEED taped the arrivals and interviewed participants on the red carpet. Steve Byrnes and Jeff Hammond then hosted an hour show mixing those interviews with various edited features recapping the season. Several drivers stopped by the outside set to offer their reactions on that same topic.

This hour of content was used to bridge the time that the dinner was taking place. SPEED then joined the program inside the ballroom when the awards and additional entertainment began. It was a good effort, but oftentimes awkward due to the reality of the function.

So, option two is to keep things as they are, using the red carpet and interviews to fill an hour before joining the live awards and watching the drivers read their speeches. It was 12:52AM ET on Saturday morning when Jimmie Johnson finally appeared on SPEED to accept his championship earnings.

Option three is a combo platter. Use the website to stream the entire function online live from start to finish for hardcore fans, including dinner. Not a big polished production like SPEED creates, but basic coverage of an event like delivered for other events in Vegas and during the season.

That would let SPEED and the NASCAR Media Group do what they do best, record everything that goes on and edit it for a later airing. Let's say the following week SPEED sends NASCAR out with a bang by putting together a final evening or perhaps an entire day of the best of the year programs ending with the banquet.

Let's review the choices:

1 - No TV for the banquet. Let the NASCAR reporters, photographers and bloggers send along pictures, stories and clips but leave the night for the teams and sponsors.

2 - Polish up what SPEED tried to do. Use red carpet interviews, highlights and pre-banquet driver interviews to create an hour show and then join the banquet for the awards in their entirety.

3 - Stream the entire evening online using the website. Let the TV professionals record the events, edit a feature program and use it as the cornerstone for a final send-off for NASCAR on SPEED.

One final note before you respond. The format of the Sprint Cup Banquet is not going to change. For those who enjoyed the combined Nationwide and Camping World Truck Series banquet on SPEED, the format of brief interviews in a talk show like setting is not going to apply. That's one key reason we narrowed our discussion down to three choices.

What do you think about how or even if the Sprint Cup Series banquet should be on TV now that you have seen SPEED's effort for this season? To add your opinion, just click on the comments button below. This is a family-friendly website, please keep that in mind when posting. Thanks for taking the time to stop by The Daly Planet.