Sunday, January 31, 2010

Rolex 24 Live On SPEED (Part 2 - Finish)

SPEED is ending the Rolex 24 with a long stretch of live coverage this Sunday. The smaller field made for great racing on Saturday. It should be interesting to see if the remaining cars make for a very empty track after teams falling out overnight.

Leigh Diffey, Dorsey Schroeder and Calvin Fish are up in the announce booth. Bob Varsha and David Hobbs are in the infield studio.

This post will host your comments during this final block of Rolex 24 programming. To add an opinion on the TV coverage, just click on the comments button below. This is a family-friendly website, please keep that in mind when posting. Thanks!

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Rolex 24 Live On SPEED (Part 1 - Start: 3PM ET)

The racing TV season starts with the Rolex 24 as the first major event. This sports car race from Daytona is a classic, despite the recent changes in rules. The field is smaller this season, with perhaps a more specific focus on Grand Am cars.

We will keep this post open for the 3-10PM coverage to get your comments on how the race is being produced, the announcers and your level of interest in watching a variety of drivers participate in this American endurance event.

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.

Friday, January 29, 2010

TV Week In Review: Showtime, HBO, JGR and Haiti

What a week of NASCAR TV news! Since we will all be watching sports car and NASCAR racing this weekend, the TDP week in review is up one day early.

We begin with recap of the changes coming to NASCAR TV this season. Kyle Petty in and Jimmy Spencer out at SPEED for RaceDay and Victory Lane. Michael Waltrip in and Kyle Petty out at Showtime for the new Inside NASCAR series. Click here to read all the details...

One tidbit added after that article was that Shannon Spake will be filling various roles for ESPN in addition to pit reporting. This includes hosting NASCAR Now, reporting stories for that show and offering content for SportsCenter and other ESPN programs. Veteran fans may remember Spake as hosting various shows for SPEED prior to her switch to ESPN.

This week TDP caved to the pressure and opened a fan page on Facebook. It turned out to be a blast! Currently, we have links up to view Jimmie Johnson's first HBO show online, pics of the new Nationwide Series cars and even a raging debate about the new Hooters sponsorship on SPEED. Click here to stop by!

SPEED entered the second week of the new Race Hub show even as NASCAR was still cracking down on what it called "negative reporting." Located right in NASCAR's backyard, SPEED is walking into a whole new challenge reporting weekday news on Monday through Thursday. Click here for an overview of those challenges.

From out of the blue, NASCAR used its own Media Group in partnership with SPEED to produce a moving and emotional Haiti Earthquake Relief special. Rick Allen, Michael Waltrip and Jamie McMurray hosted a program that used footage from many sources including Hendrick Motorsports. The result was fantastic.

Also working quite well was the first of a four episode special series on SPEED called JGR's Countdown to Daytona. Instead of dramatic hype, the program took a realistic look at the company as it moved toward the first race of the season. Footage from all kinds of sources blended well to produce a balanced hour show. Click here to read about the Haiti special and the JGR program.

Leave it to HBO to come out of the gate at full speed. The first episode of the four 24/7 programs featuring Jimmie Johnson aired on Wednesday. It treated Johnson as a millionaire professional athlete. It made no bones about what he does and why he does it. Ultimately, it put a very new and modern face on the sport at just the right time. Click here to see the episode online for free and leave a comment.

To wrap-up the week, our friends at Showtime dropped a little bomb. Fans had been advised that the Inside NASCAR series would be available for viewing online and via cell phone. We were told this by NASCAR's own TV folks. In discussing the specifics with Showtime, they were quite clear in saying as far as they were concerned, fans needed to subscribe to Showtime to see the program.

Showtime only has about 17 million subscribers, so perhaps letting the other 75 million cable homes see the show either with ads or for a nominal fee might be a good idea. Click here for a little review of the online bomb falling.

You can leave a comment at the bottom of any link by clicking on the comments button on that post. Please feel free to leave your comments on any of these topics right here as well. Thanks for taking Friday to look back so we can all finally watch some live racing this weekend. The TV schedule is on the right hand side of the main page. Thanks for stopping by!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Tuesday TV Notes

The weekend featured a stellar TV special produced by an extraordinary amount of cooperation between many parties. NASCAR, SPEED, Hendrick Motorsports and others contributed interviews, footage and information to make SPEED's Haiti Earthquake Relief Special come together.

Rick Allen, Michael Waltrip and Jamie McMurray provided the studio portions. Allen set the right tone for the program and both McMurray and Waltrip contributed the NASCAR presence. Before the taping, McMurray took the photo above. The mix of content, information on donating to the Red Cross and limited commercial elements worked like a charm.

The special first aired on Sunday night up against the live NFL playoff game. On Monday night, it was scheduled to re-air at 8PM but someone at SPEED's network operations center did not get the message. After thirty minutes of Super Cars Exposed, the special did air completely beginning at 8:30PM.

For those of you who may have missed it, SPEED will be re-airing it again at 8AM ET on Tuesday morning. That's a good opportunity to record it for later viewing or to keep for a while. That one is going to be good to watch again. It's a great reality check.

The first JGR Countdown to Daytona program aired Sunday and proved to be a well-produced show offering the kind of casual behind-the-scenes content that perhaps the sport needs a lot more of this season. The highlight was JD Gibbs leading cameras on a walk through the JGR facility. There are three more of these one-hour programs to go. TDP has the complete NASCAR TV schedule on the right side of our main page.

Race Hub returned on Monday after an ill-timed absence last week right in the heart of the Charlotte Media Tour. Rick Allen and Randy Pemberton led guests Larry McReynolds and Jamie Reynolds through some polite talk about preseason topics.

McMurray is proving to be a thoughtful presence on TV. McReynolds is cleary accentuating the postives of everything happening in the sport as the build-up to Daytona begins. He has clearly chosen the cheerleader role so far this season.

SPEED toned down the new Monday Race Hub sponsor this week. Hooeters used to be a longtime friend to the sport. Last week, the hosts said "Hooters, it's more than a mouthful Monday" several times with big Hooters logos adorned on the set. No pun intended. This time, the off-camera voice-over announcer handled the sponsorship and the commercials that ran luckily contained more cheeseburgers than cheesecake.

Finally, HBO is set to air the first of four episodes of its 24/7 documentary series that focuses on Jimmie Johnson and his preparation for Daytona. Tuesday at 10PM the premium service rolls-out the first thirty minute show. It should be interesting to see what is included in the final product.

HBO is in about 38 million US homes serving primarily people who are entertainment oriented. Cable nets like SPEED, TNT and ESPN are more than double HBO's size. HBO Sports has been around for a very long time, but that division cancelled Inside the NFL a while back, which is how it got on Showtime. How many folks tune-in to see a documentary about a NASCAR driver on HBO should be interesting to find out.

One last note. The annual Toyota All-Star Showdown from Irwindale, CA will be the first taste of live NASCAR racing on Friday and Saturday night at 10PM ET. This is a wild event with NASCAR regional series all-stars combined with some "ringers." There are Late Models, Super Late Models and Camping World regional classes. Over 125 cars have been entered for this year's races.

Please feel free to offer your comments on 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. Thank you for taking the time to stop by The Daly Planet.

Monday, January 25, 2010

SPEED's New Challenge: NASCAR News

Monday, we start the NASCAR TV news season for real. SPEED has one week of Race Hub before ESPN's NASCAR Now joins the mix on Monday, February 1st. This year, fans will have the choice of two TV news programs every Monday through Thursday.

ESPN has a three year jump on NASCAR news. SPEED steadfastly refused to offer any TV news during the week, opting instead to focus on the weekend activity at the tracks. Adding Race Hub late last year on the fly showed both the best and worst results of jumping into the deep end of the NASCAR TV news pool.

So far this season, everything on Race Hub has been polite, scripted and planned. In other words, the actual racing has not yet started. The PR releases have been orderly, the smiles have been easy and Mike Helton was the featured guest on the show last week.

As with any professional sport, there are a myriad of issues and stories that the Race Hub producers can choose to feature or discard. Over the past three seasons, NASCAR Now has taken topics like Jeremy Mayfield's drug suspension, Goodyear's tire failures and the COT woes head-on without blinking.

Click here for an article discussing the subject some in the media are concerned about. Despite the claims of letting the drivers police themselves this season and that rubbing is just racing, NASCAR has stepped-up efforts to blame the media for problems within the sport.

They told drivers in closed meetings that expressions of emotion and frustration on NASCAR topics were bad for the sport. Specifically pointed out that the drivers and their public statements reported by the media were directly affecting the TV ratings. In other words, despite the social media outreach and the Fan Council mentions, NASCAR is putting the clamps on free speech.

Click here for the TDP column on Jack Roush and his recent rant against the NASCAR TV partners. He pointed directly to Darrell Waltrip and Rusty Wallace as each having a personal ax to grind on the air.

Into this delightful atmosphere walks SPEED with a brand new TV series featuring NASCAR news directly from the personalities who make it. That was a key reason the network rolled out Race Hub from the North Charlotte, NC studios. Suddenly, anyone and everyone who was in the news could take a short drive and be on national TV in the evening hours speaking to NASCAR fans directly.

SPEED's on-air track record in dealing with hard news stories is anything but stellar. Monday night's TWIN purposefully focused on highlights and refrained from reporting news. The network offered no other weekday NASCAR shows until the practice and qualifying coverage started from the tracks on Fridays.

In 2009, it was sometimes ironic that the best NASCAR news coverage was offered by The SPEED Report, a show intended to cover all forms of motorsports on Sunday nights. Meanwhile, programs from NASCAR Live to RaceDay routinely avoided hard news in favor of race preview information.

One factor in whether or not Race Hub gets credible is the host. SPEED has decided to rotate its current crop of on-air talent through this assignment rather than designate a fulltime person for the position. While names like Krista Voda and Randy Pemberton are used to dealing with news, announcers like Rick Allen and John Roberts are more in tune to directing on-air traffic.

This is a big shift of gears for SPEED. The network has not done a daily NASCAR news program in a very long time. The challenge is to see past the NASCAR edict and dive into the reality of the sport regardless of whether it might be viewed as positive or negative. Studio guests should face real questions and offer more than the PR spin on an issue.

So, after a short trial run last season and some polite conversation this year, Race Hub faces the challenge of establishing itself as a credible source of NASCAR news for the fans. Rick Allen and Randy Pemberton co-host on Monday and we'll be watching.

TDP wants 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.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

TDP Has A New Fan Page On Facebook

Just when you thought it was cool to have Twitter and read TDP, things are getting even more interesting. At the urging of some friends who actually understand all this technology, we have started a fan page on Facebook.

Amazingly, in the first couple of days we have had over 525 people sign-up and many leave comments on our questions, articles and photos. Facebook makes it easy to post pictures and that has been a big request of many fans. We get tons of pictures from TV networks, program providers and media outlets.

Our goal is to give you a place to check where you can always leave a comment or see something new. Once the season begins, we will be allowing Facebook users to post photos showing NASCAR TV personalities, television equipment or anything else media related from the track and other locations. That should be interesting!

We will also offer a question of the day, video links and continually updated TV and media news. If you have not stopped by, click here to check us out on Facebook and thanks for helping with this new effort.

TDP's main blog will remain as a source for a daily column, TV listings and the "Tweets of the Day" feature. Don't worry, we're not doing anything but growing!

Friday, January 22, 2010

New TV Series Changing NASCAR Landscape

The four day event called the Charlotte Media Tour is now over. Mixed in with the team and NASCAR announcements was a good amount of TV news. Let's talk about the shows and programs that were mentioned to set the tone for 2010.

Michael Waltrip got our attention by confirming that he was the third panelist on Showtime's new Inside NASCAR series. Kyle Petty's name had been put out several weeks ago, but that information proved to be incorrect. Both Showtime and Waltrip clearly loved keeping that secret until Thursday morning.

It will be Chris Myers from Fox Sports hosting the series. Myers has a long track record of hosting studio shows on networks like ESPN and The Tennis Channel. ESPN's Brad Daugherty will also appear on the show. This is a great opportunity for Daugherty to escape the confines of ESPN's structured on-air product and engage in some spirited and opinionated conversation.

The final panelist is SPEED's Randy Pemberton. While perhaps the least well known to some, Pemberton has been connected with the sport for decades. In his previous appearances on SPEED's Tradin' Paint series, Pemberton showed that he is informed, opinionated and not afraid of anyone. Those are good traits to bring to this new series.

Finally, Showtime promises to make the series available online, through cell phone streaming and on cable television Video On Demand services. This will allow those fans who cannot or choose not to subscribe to Showtime to still access the programs. The series begins on Wednesday, February 10 at 10PM ET and runs all season long. We will pass along the streaming and VOD specifics when they are announced.

Over at ESPN, things remain almost the same. NASCAR Now will return on Monday, February 1 with the same three hosts. Allen Bestwick will anchor the Monday hour program, while Mike Massaro and Nicole (Manske) Briscoe will handle the remaining duties. The only change is that due to earlier race start times, the weekend morning edition of the show will move to 9AM ET.

Meanwhile, over at SPEED there were wholesale changes in the TV line-up. Kyle Petty will replace Jimmy Spencer on both the NASCAR RaceDay and Victory Lane programs. Petty will team with Kenny Wallace and John Roberts on both shows. Wendy Venturini and Hermie Sadler also return.

Spencer moves to a Monday night 8:30PM ET timeslot with a still developing thirty minute program titled What's the Deal? Explained to TDP as an issue-oriented talk show, SPEED wants to allow Spencer to voice his sometimes controversial opinions in a different format. More to come on this topic, no doubt.

What's the Deal? will occupy the second half of the hour that used to be filled by This Week in NASCAR. After 14 years, that series has been cancelled. SPEED felt the show had run its course.

Filling the thirty minute slot at 8PM on Mondays will be a recap version of the NASCAR in a Hurry show. This program will essentially be an extended version of "Scanner Chatter." Using video and audio captured by The NASCAR Media Group over the weekend at the races, the show will feature content not seen on the TV coverage and offer the kind of emotional behind the scenes moments NMG is famous for producing. Several existing SPEED announcers will voice the show on a rotating basis.

That makes the new Monday night line-up Race Hub, NASCAR in a Hurry and What's the Deal beginning at 7:30PM. SPEED also has several program concepts in the hopper for later in the season as well as returning the fan favorites on the weekend from NASCAR Performance to Wind Tunnel.

Over the next couple of weeks, the specifics and additional information on these shows will be made available. In the meantime, let's ask for your comments on the pending line-up of studio and news programs on NASCAR TV for 2010.

To give us your opinion, just click the comments button below. This is a family-friendly website, please keep that in mind when posting. Thanks as always to you for taking the time to stop by The Daly Planet.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

NASCAR Team Owner Blasts TV Networks

Right in the middle of the Charlotte Media Tour, an article appeared on the official website written by a longtime friend of the sport, Joe Menzer.

Veteran owner Jack Roush took this opportunity to pass along his ideas on who exactly is to blame for the sport's recent slump. His conclusion? Television, of course.

Click here to read the entire article on the website.

Here are some excerpts from the Roush comments that we are going to discuss:

"We have not had the level of support from the TV studio box that the other sports have. I would hope that FOX and ESPN and everybody else (would) really think about what they are doing."

"The complaints have come from reporters and the media that has maybe a vested interest -- if you look at [announcers and former driving champions] Darrell Waltrip and Rusty Wallace and all the ex-drivers and ex-crew chiefs that are out there. It's not unreasonable to say they've got some ax to grind over something that frustrated them in their careers when they were on the firing line. We need to reel that back in; that needs to be something that's not carried out front to the fans and to the public."

Needless to say, ESPN spokesman George McNeilly was quick to respond. His point was that ESPN hired five former Cup champs who were credible on the racetrack and are now credible providing commentary and analysis away from it.

Over at Fox Sports, a spokesman provided the following statement to TDP:

"Our on-air team is as passionate about NASCAR as any driver, owner, crew chief or fan, and our analysts speak their mind based on the immense experience and success they enjoyed during their on-track careers."

"The broadcast booth is not a pulpit, neither is it a mouthpiece, and FOX Sports respects that. It is place from which to describe the action and provide thoughtful commentary, which all fans deserve. NASCAR fans know their sport and they’ll know if a broadcaster holds back, and once you cross that line, all your credibility is gone."

The frustration over a lackluster season began to be pointed at the media last year after a relatively harmless interview of three TV personalities took on a life of its own. Reporter Dustin Long, the President of the National Motorsports Press Association, spoke to Kyle Petty, Larry McReynolds and Jimmy Spencer.

The three TV commentators spoke rather passionately about what they would like to see changed and how the sport could get back on the right track. Unfortunately, that was not the way NASCAR saw it. Within days, McReynolds was calling Long a liar and saying he should not be trusted.

Petty shrugged his shoulders and kept a low profile. He was suddenly absent from Twitter for months. Wednesday, SPEED announced that Spencer had been relieved of his duties on both NASCAR RaceDay and the post-race TV show called Victory Lane. Those two shows were his TV career for years.

Freedom of speech is never going to be affected on the Internet, but television is a very different story. There are only three sets of analysts who call the entire Sprint Cup Series season. They are hired by the television networks who hold the rights to show the races, practices and qualifying.

Roush may be a little odd at times, but he is a smart man. Only weeks before the season begins, he uses Menzer and to fire a shot across the bow of the three Sprint Cup Series TV networks. He even called out Darrell Waltrip and Rusty Wallace by name.

It should be interesting to see how Fox, ESPN and SPEED react as they all begin coverage of Speedweeks. A major Cup Series owner points directly at the TV coverage as causing harm to the sport and says publicly that commentators have a personal ax to grind because of their past.

Where do you fall on this issue after watching the series all last season? To add your opinion on this topic, just click on the comments button below. This is a family-friendly website, please keep that in mind when posting. Comments may be moderated for content prior to posting. Thanks for stopping by The Daly Planet.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

SPEED Shifts Gears And "TWIN" Is The Casualty

News Update: Michael Waltrip announced on Thursday morning that he is joining the cast of Showtime's new "Inside NASCAR" series. Click here to jump to our Facebook page for more news and comments on this topic.

Well, this is certainly going to be an interesting column to write and it should get equally interesting reactions. No topic in the three years of TDP has ever gotten more email and comments than This Week in NASCAR on SPEED.

In 1996, then SpeedVision Executive Producer Bob Scanlon tried to get some NASCAR programming into the mix for the new cable network. He enlisted the help of the old Sunbelt Video Studios in Charlotte, NC. The result was an iconic show that ultimately became a cult hit for a small audience of hardcore race fans.

Inside Winston Cup Racing was a familiar title. Ned Jarrett had hosted a show by that name on TNN also produced by Sunbelt. But, now TNN was gone. The title moved over to Mondays on SpeedVision, flexing over the years with the changing sponsors and emerged in 2009 on SPEED as This Week in NASCAR.

Monday, reporter Michael Smith of The Sports Business Journal offered an advance peek at SPEED's NASCAR TV plans for 2010. Click here for the full article. One paragraph jumped off the page:

The network's stalwart This Week in NASCAR on Monday nights has been cancelled. The news and analysis format, hosted by Steve Byrnes, Michael Waltrip and a variety of other guests, "just wasn't connecting with the fans anymore," SPEED President Hunter Nickell said.

One original member from this TV series is Waltrip. He addressed this topic on his Twitter feed:

"So TWIN was an incredible 14 year experience. I'm happy I was part of it. Alan, Kenny, Johnny, I'm thankful we had the chance to hang out. Steve, me and you are veterans. I'm glad we got to hang. Greg, Chad, Jimmy y'all were a joy to work with."

SPEED has already rolled out a new Monday through Thursday evening NASCAR news and interview show called Race Hub. Smith reports that the network will also revamp Monday nights with some new NASCAR oriented programming.

From the Sports Business Journal article:

Among the new programming: A show that delves into the lifestyle of the fans who tailgate and camp at the track; a show that recaps the Sprint Cup race through scanner communication between the drivers and their crews; and Jimmy Spencer's own show, a first for the former driver and outspoken co-host of Speed's at-track show, NASCAR RaceDay.

While the tailgating show is new, fans of TWIN may recognize two elements of the old show that are being retained. The "Scanner Chatter" feature where NASCAR Media Group video and audio footage is edited into highlight form was always popular on TWIN. Expanding that content into a stand-alone show is not a new concept, but it's better than losing it all together.

Jimmy Spencer was added to TWIN during the 2009 Chase for the Championship. He was the odd man out from the beginning and never fit in. What he did bring to the table were his passionate and outspoken rants on various NASCAR topics.

It seems that SPEED may believe that Spencer's willingness to put himself on the NASCAR firing line will pay off in ratings. The format of Spencer's new TV offering has still not been made public. One thing is for sure, Spencer does not keep a low profile when the cameras are on. The RaceDay program confirms that.

Most goodbyes in TV are awkward and sometimes they never even happen. Suddenly, something is just gone. The abrupt departure of Allen Bestwick and Johnny Benson from TWIN years ago backs-up that reality. There will be no highlights show from SPEED of the best moments of TWIN over the last 14 years.

The garbage truck emptying the dumpster outside the studio's flimsy garage door. Someone having the bright idea to give Michael Waltrip a slo-mo replay controller. Bestwick about to have a coronary because the show was completely out of control. Kenny Schrader asking Mike Helton every season how much he made, for information purposes only.

Over the years dogs have wandered through the set, hundreds of NASCAR personalities have been guests and thousands of topics have been discussed. While the show had declined over the past several seasons, the efforts to revive it by SPEED and the NASCAR Media Group seemed half-hearted. Maybe, the time is right to move on.

How do you feel about the cancellation of this long-running show? Do you have a favorite memory that made you a NASCAR fan or stuck in your mind forever? Do you feel that this timing is right or would you have liked the show in some form to continue?

Please take a moment and give us your comment. To add your opinion, just click on the comments button below. There is nothing to join and we do not want your email or any other information. This is a family-friendly website, so please keep that in mind when posting. Comments may be moderated for content.

Thank you for helping us with your opinion on this topic.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

NASCAR TV Scarce For Charlotte Media Tour

Update: Monday night just before 8PM, SPEED's Randy Pemberton announced that SPEED will be carrying the NASCAR press conference from the Charlotte Media Tour live. Unofficial information sets the telecast for Thursday at 1PM ET. We will confirm this ASAP.

NASCAR staggers into 2010 still bearing the scars from a rough ending to the previous year. During the off-season, the sport made wholesale changes in an effort to return the Sprint Cup Series to national prominence.

There are four TV networks that televise the practice, qualifying and race action during the year. Two of those networks, ESPN and SPEED, offer daily news programs about the sport. NASCAR Now is seen six days a week on ESPN2 and Race Hub is aired Monday through Thursday on SPEED.

NASCAR Now airs at 5PM ET, before ESPN2's primetime line-up gets clogged with live sports coverage. The network also tries to re-air the program after midnight for the West Coast audience. "Tries" is the operative word in that sentence.

SPEED added Race Hub into the mix late last year, seemingly from nowhere. There was no build-up, no hype and little planning. Whatever happened at the network caused a ton of resources to immediately be allocated to what was a long forgotten cause, NASCAR news during the weekdays.

Having two daily NASCAR news programs on TV is going to be great for the fans in 2010. NASCAR Now in the early timeslot will focus on using its own reporters to deliver updates on the sport and mix interviews with pre-produced features.

Race Hub is designed to host NASCAR personalities live in the Charlotte, NC studios of SPEED. The mix between the buttoned-up style of ESPN and the casual style of SPEED should be fun to watch.

This week, writers and reporters from across the nation make the annual trip to the Concord, NC area. The Charlotte Motor Speedway hosts a media tour that provides coordinated visits to team shops and NASCAR locations during a four day media blitz that begins on Monday.

This is the time when the teams offer new information and answer questions. Drivers, crew chiefs and owners have media conversations that set the tone for the season. NASCAR itself hosts the media at the Research and Development Center and usually announces updates and changes during this function.

There is also a stop at the NASCAR Hall of Fame to update the progress of that immense facility scheduled to open later this year. A visit to the SPEED studios was not on any published agenda that I received. That is not a good thing.

Unlike past seasons where the power of the NASCAR media was firmly rooted in print publications and their online websites, the tide has changed with the recent demise of NASCAR Scene. Many veteran reporters were fired in a one day event that changed the face of the NASCAR media.

In a rather de facto manner, television is about to become the leader in putting the NASCAR headlines front and center for the fans. Then, fans can go and search for those same topics online. With hundreds of various NASCAR websites around and the number growing, the two NASCAR TV news programs are going to be a guiding light for fans.

Monday, there will be no NASCAR Now on ESPN2. The series is not scheduled to begin until February 1 this year. The information from the media tour will try to push its way onto ESPNEWS and perhaps SportsCenter. Amid the NFL playoffs, NASCAR is not even a blip on the ESPN radar. Best of luck.

That leaves SPEED to carry the NASCAR banner and it will start the week strong with Race Hub on Monday at 7:30PM. Hosts Adam Alexander and Randy Pemberton will welcome NASCAR President Mike Helton. What a great way to kick-off four days of live media tour coverage. Unfortunately, that is not going to be the case.

The Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday editions of Race Hub are being preempted by the Barrett-Jackson auto auction from Arizona. After only being back on the air for one week, Race Hub is done after the Monday show. The next live news program on the network is The SPEED Report on Sunday evening.

The auction coverage begins at 7PM each night, so SPEED made a choice not to move Race Hub up by one hour and air it at 6:30PM on those three mid-week days. Airing in the 6 to 7PM timeslot are re-airs of "lifestyle programs." Race Hub returns on Monday, January 25.

Ironically, after all the chaos in the NASCAR media during the off-season, getting the pre-season message out during this big week will once again come down to the remaining members of the NASCAR press corps. Unfortunately, both of NASCAR's national TV news shows are off the air for very different reasons.

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. Comments may be moderated prior to posting. Thank you for stopping by.

Friday, January 15, 2010

SPEED Strikes Gold At Last

Well, it certainly was a very long time coming. Veteran TDP readers know the frustration we have expressed over the past several years with the lack of weekday NASCAR programming on SPEED.

Monday on SPEED used to feature This Week in NASCAR in the evening. That show was taped in the early afternoon and focused on racing highlights. Once it was done the long wait began until the network started telecasts from the next racetrack on Friday.

Over the years, SPEED has offered a wide variety of excuses for running and re-running the weekday "lifestyle programming" that one of its executives championed. The original long-form NASCAR programs fell off the radar screen while people towed trucks, chased stolen cars and bracket-raced at drag strips.

Here are excerpts from an article in TV Week several years ago where SPEED VP Bob Ecker talks about why the network dumped racing-related programming on weekdays:

The network’s (new) strategy is to air what it calls "automotive lifestyle programming" in prime time. When Fox acquired control of SPEED in 2002, the network took on part of the company’s NASCAR package and showed racing seven nights a week, said Robert Ecker, VP of Programming.

But, SPEED’s racing programming on weeknights stalled. “It didn’t work. It didn’t resonate,” Mr. Ecker said. That led SPEED executives to start to develop automotive lifestyle programming.

“We have discovered over the course of time that while there are race fans, there are also people that have a love affair with the automobiles but are not necessarily interested in racing,” Ecker said.
Click here to read the article in its entirety.

Well, a funny thing happened last year prior to the week of the NASCAR Hall of Fame selections. SPEED suddenly scrambled to put a half-baked NASCAR news show on the air called Race Hub. It just appeared out of thin air. The buzz was that it actually appeared after a phone call from NASCAR.

Originally, it was so bad you couldn't turn away. Then, things began to change. NASCAR personalities started to appear in the North Charlotte, NC studios of SPEED. They just drove over to SPEED in their blue jeans and talked about NASCAR topics.

Unfortunately, the season ended shortly after Race Hub was just finding a groove. Amazingly enough, SPEED quickly confirmed it would return on January 11 for a new season. The network also added a repeat at 8:30PM Pacific Time to serve the West Coast NASCAR fans. Suddenly, there was an hour of NASCAR on SPEED Monday through Thursday in primetime every single week.

This season, something rather amazing has happened. NASCAR has come alive on SPEED during the weekdays. Steve Letarte, Danica Patrick, Mike Joy, Larry McReynolds, Travis Kvapil and many others have been in the studio. Cars have been brought in to make driver and sponsor announcements, Reed Sorenson being the latest. All this was in just four days of thirty minute shows.

Slowly but surely, NASCAR is awakening to the fact that live national TV exposure is now available literally right down the street. Perhaps, SPEED is awakening to the fact that this sort of program should have been on the air years ago.

Many of the Race Hub shows this week struggled to fit into a thirty minute format. Guests like Mike Joy, Robin Miller and even Danica Patrick seemed to be having fun and could have continued with their racing conversations. Maybe one hour pre-season shows next year would serve to allow even more NASCAR personalities to stop by and chat.

SPEED will continue to rotate its own announcers through this program as hosts. On February 1, ESPN2's outstanding NASCAR Now program returns to offer earlier news updates on the sport at 5PM on weekdays. Race Hub is going to have to exploit the Charlotte location and studio interaction to keep the current momentum going.

Have you watched Race Hub this week? How about sharing your opinion on the format, hosts and potential of this TV series? 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, January 14, 2010

NASCAR Media Notes: Updated DirecTV Information

There are several stories that unfolded Wednesday. They involved the new Showtime TV series, SPEED's former This Week in NASCAR program, changes in the Fox management structure and ESPN moving races between networks.

Thursday update: A break may be happening in the DirectTV stand-off with the VERSUS cable network, which is owned by Comcast. Sports Illustrated reporter Josh Gross said an agreement between the two parties is expected in March. This would protect several of VERSUS sports properties and restore this 24 hour channel to DirecTV.

Radio update: Jayski will be on Sirius NASCAR channel 128 Thursday night at 8:30PM talking NASCAR with Claire B Lang on Dialed-In.

John Ourand of the Sports Business Journal reported the new line-up for the Inside NASCAR series that will debut on Showtime in February. Fox's Chris Myers will host. On the panel are TNT's Kyle Petty, SPEED's Randy Pemberton and ESPN's Brad Daugherty. Those seem to be rather political choices for this new series that is being produced by NASCAR's own in-house TV group.

Petty and Pemberton are NASCAR TV veterans who have extensive family backgrounds in the sport. Myers departs the NASCAR scene after the Fox races and moves to other assignments. Daugherty is an active Sprint Cup Series owner and has fought that issue in his day job with ESPN.

Inside NASCAR debuts on Showtime February 10 and will run for 38 weeks. It will be bundled with Showtimes's Inside the NFL as a sports TV block.

Press information sent to the media recently lists Michael Waltrip's TV background. Two sentences leapt off the page for us:

“In addition to his role as co-owner, Waltrip has been a popular television personality on SPEED since 1996. He’s an analyst for its NASCAR Camping World Truck Series broadcasts and was an original member of one of the longest running shows on the cable network, “This Week in NASCAR” 1996-2009.”

That would seem to put an unofficial end to rumors that TWIN was returning for 2010. There has still been no comment from SPEED, which has been strangely silent on this issue. 14 years is an amazing run for any cable TV series, Monday nights will just not be the same.

Also, some senior management changes have resulted in shifting TV duties. Fox Sports President David Hill is having his responsibilities broadened to include managing the Fox Cable Networks. While this includes the Fox Regional Sports Networks and FUEL, it also includes SPEED. This puts Hill as the ultimate boss of that network, which has been in transition for several years in terms of programming and direction.

Finally, news broke from ESPN about the final seventeen Sprint Cup Series races of the season. In a nutshell, all but three of those events are going to air on ESPN in 2010. The three in question are Saturday night races that will remain on ABC. In addition, the Sunday Chase races that air in NFL season will have the pre-race show moved to ESPN2, with the race then being shown on ESPN.

This is quite a change in direction for NASCAR. Originally, one big part of the NASCAR TV contract was that the final ten races should be on "free tv," as over-the-air network transmission is called. In 2010, all NASCAR fans will have to get ESPN and ESPN2 to see the pre-race shows and the races themselves.

ESPN is quick to point out many other major sports properties are on cable. NASCAR is also on board with this change, so there is no contract issue. While the decisions have been made and the changes will go forward, there are some things to remember.

NASCAR has been a nightmare for ESPN. Plain and simple, it has been a face-off where every change of format, on-air talent or production technique has been like pulling teeth. It has been three seasons since Brent Musburger stood on pit road at Indy in his sneakers and told us ESPN was the Worldwide Leader in Sports.

Now, Musburger and many of the first year gang are gone. The NASCAR Now show has been completely revamped with great success. Allen Bestwick has brought order to every program originating from the Infield Pit Studio. Jerry Punch has been moved to pit road and Marty Reid is here to call the action in 2010.

ESPN gets the nod on this schedule change because it comes at a time when everything in NASCAR from COT wings to race start times is changing. Something has to be done to get this sport back on its feet other than politics on the radio or good social media PR.

If leading into the Chase races with an NFL Football preview show will help, then let's do it. However, one big issue still remains and only ESPN can solve it. 2010 is the last gasp of credibility for ESPN where producing live Sprint Cup Series races is concerned. There is no other way to say it.

Images of seeing Jimmie Johnson's pit stop replays one lug nut at a time as the field went green are burned into our minds. The awkward silence of Punch at critical moments in races has been documented for three seasons. Who can forget when Johnson hit the wall early and the telecast switched to coverage from the garage? The actual Chase race became an afterthought. For many fans, so did ESPN at that moment.

Kudos to ESPN for making changes once again. Now, it's time to look in the mirror and make changes to help the network's production of this great sport. Those changes are always the hardest. The time is right. A lot is at stake. Here we go.

Please feel free to leave us your reactions and comments on these topics. 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 stopping by TDP.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

"Madhouse" Paints A Scripted Picture

Update: Great fan comments on this post. What a mixed reaction to this first program. No ratings info from History Channel, series returns Sunday at 10PM ET.

When entertainment TV takes on a reality topic, the results are usually interesting. Sunday night, the History Channel offered Madhouse. This program was edited from footage obtained during the 2009 racing season at Bowman Gray stadium in Winston Salem, NC.

It was produced by Triage Entertainment from Los Angeles, CA. Their credits include The Next Iron Chef, Home for the Holidays with Faith Hill and The Mentalist.

Madhouse is called a "docusoap." This hybrid word gives the production company and the TV network a very wide berth in producing the series. Basically, it puts right up front the fact that the series is based on real events that take place. In this case, a summer of racing at Bowman Gray. That would be the "docu" portion.

The wide berth comes with the admission of the "soap" part. From the start of the first episode, it was painfully obvious that a script was involved. It may not have contained specific words for the participants to say, but it was certainly clear that situations were staged and conflict was emphasized.

The goal of this type of series is to get viewers involved and keep them coming back. The premise of Madhouse is not the racing, but the off-track feuds and family conflicts that overshadow the action on the track. To some, this is a travesty as the sport of short track racing is much more than just animosity.

Casual viewers and perhaps those never exposed to racing are almost certainly going to be drawn in by this strange mix of family conflict that seems to be played out at high speeds on a racetrack. Painted as rednecks and compared to the Hatfields and McCoys, the end result was certainly not pretty.

Triage Entertainment made sure to include the angry fans flashing the middle digit. The audience seemed to be there for the fights, not the racing. Compared to gladiators, the winner's pit crew ran down the track after the race screaming "Kiss it, kiss it" to the fans. It was not a pretty picture of Americans.

The voice that tied the program together was a local radio DJ who seemed very clearly to be reading a script created long after the racing footage had been shot. Something had to be done by the producers to create a theme. In this episode, it was that the entire town was excited for this family rivalry to resume.

Madhouse is certainly not for everyone. Opinions were varied even after the preview of the first episode was seen. After opening with footage of one driver ramming his race car repeatedly into a stopped car on the track, this first show closed with a montage of violence off the track.

Profanity, fist fights and insults were used in the closing minutes to entice TV viewers back next week for more. Little of the actual racing, the mechanical aspects or the positive side of the sport was shown. It seems that is exactly how the producers and the network intended it to be.

Here are some early comments from media members:

Shawn Courchesne of The Hartford Courant: Madhouse doesn't paint a picture of short tracks. It doodles a caricature portraying the sport as entirely unkempt and disgustingly violent.

Dave Moody from Sirius Speedway and MRN Radio: Is it just me, or has the first 15 minutes of Madhouse already set the sport back 50 years? Madhouse is an embarrassment to the sport.

Jade Gurss of My impression of the first episode of Madhouse? Two words: Red. Neck.

Alan Cavanna, a Charlotte area TV journalist: It's a show about short track racing in North Carolina. Were you expecting the wine-and-cheese crowd?

RyanMcGee from ESPN the Magazine: Watching last night's "Madhouse". A lot of folks are angry over it, but I've been to Bowman-Gray a lot. Love it there. This isn't a stretch.

Time for you to offer an opinion on this first program and how this series makes you feel as a race fan? To add your comment, just click on the comments button below. This is a family-friendly website, please keep that in mind when posting.

Thank you for taking the time to stop by The Daly Planet.

"Race Hub" Returns To Start NASCAR's TV Season

The last time we discussed SPEED's Race Hub , the program had ended 2009 on a high note. Hustled onto the air during the Hall of Fame selection week, Race Hub looked goofy and amateurish at the start.

Too many hosts, too many guests and too much acting did not strike a chord with NASCAR fans. Luckily, the production team also recognized these problems and made some wholesale changes. By the time November rolled around, Race Hub had hit on a comfortable formula that featured conversation and analysis.

During the final weeks of the season, Race Hub hit full stride by combining the network's NASCAR experts with drivers and owners in the studio. The drivers were not shy about expressing their opinions and the analysts provided the topics to stir things up.

This season the Race Hub studio has barely changed. For some reason, SPEED continues to have two anchors host this short thirty minute program. With only slightly more than twenty minutes of actual content, a single anchor could easily handle the format and interviews.

Perhaps, a part of SPEED's fresh approach to NASCAR is a potential expansion to one hour versions of this program. There is little doubt that with the major team shops, top drivers and the majority of the stock car racing industry located nearby, SPEED has an advantage they can put to good use.

Race Hub airs at 7:30PM Eastern Time and this season SPEED listened to the fans and added an 11:30PM Eastern/8:30PM Pacific Time re-air of each program. The series runs Monday through Thursday, filling the days when the sport is back home each week before heading out to the next race.

On this first show, Race Hub featured an interview with Lee White from TRD, comments from Fox's Larry McReynolds and a conversation with IRL analyst Robin Miller. While the line-up was great, each of them could easily have continued their racing conversations and let this show fill an hour of air time.

In three weeks, Race Hub gets a partner as ESPN2 begins the NASCAR Now series once again. On the air since 2007, NASCAR Now starts earlier at 5PM and will be covering many of the same stories SPEED will present on Race Hub.

Watching these two NASCAR TV series jockey for guests and interviews should be interesting. NASCAR Now hits the air first and has the extensive resources of ESPN. Meanwhile, the SPEED studios sit just a quick ride from most of the major team shops and offers national TV exposure later in the evening for drivers, teams and sponsors.

Race Hub will use John Roberts, Adam Alexander, Randy Pemberton and Rick Allen as hosts during this first week. Danica Patrick will be the featured guest on Tuesday via satellite from Indy. Jeff Gordon's crew chief Steve Letarte stops by the studio on Wednesday as does Scott Speed on Thursday.

It's nice for fans to have more NASCAR TV this season and a tip of the hat to SPEED for returning this series after its limited run in 2009.

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.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

ESPN3 Will Come With A "D"

It will be June when ESPN will launch yet another television network. Unlike the many others that have extended the ESPN brand, the risk of this project is daunting.

At a time when many Americans are struggling financially, competition is once again pushing the providers of original television programming to use the latest technology regardless of cost. The result is that the new ESPN3 will come with a "D."

Click here to review the recent article recapping ESPN's plans in USA Today. Here is an excerpt:

The venerable sports network will launch ESPN 3D on June 11 with a World Cup soccer match, creating what it says will be the first all three-dimensional television network to the home. ESPN 3D expects to showcase at least 85 live sporting events during the first year. They'll be no reruns initially, so the network will be dark when there's no 3D event. ESPN is committing to the 3D network through June 2011.

Let's answer some 3D TV questions. Yes, you do need an entirely new TV to see this product. Yes, they are expensive. Yes, you still need those wonderful 3D glasses to watch each program. Yes, you will be paying your cable service or home satellite dish provider more for the 3D programming.

Panasonic is one of the manufacturers that is right in the middle of the 3D television movement. Click here for an article suggesting sales of new 3D TV's may top one million in the next year.

As the article relates, Panasonic will partner with DirecTV to get three channels of 3D programming, including sports, up and running this summer in the same time frame as ESPN. There is little doubt that DirecTV will try to keep as much of that 3D programming exclusive to the home satellite dish service as possible.

ESPN has not been immune to the financial realities of the world. Click here for an explanation of how the media company is partnering with Sony to actively get involved in 3D sports. In fact, ESPN has already completed sponsorship deals with Sony for 3D sports telecasts.

NASCAR's Chase for the Championship belongs to ESPN and ABC. In fact, the company televises the final seventeen Sprint Cup Series races of the season beginning with the Brickyard. Few sporting events can match the visual images of a NASCAR race. NASCAR in 3D might be something that could contribute to the rebirth of the sport after a tough couple of seasons.

While the NBA and NFL have already experimented with this technology, NASCAR has just completed the long process of building and staffing a new studio and office complex in downtown Charlotte, NC. The entire facility is geared toward High Definition television production and video storage. 3D technology was not on the list.

With ESPN, DirecTV and the entertainment industry driving the 3D boom, there is little doubt that NASCAR will eventually have to seriously consider the 3D potential of live race telecasts and archived footage for future use.

One significant issue is that for sports TV networks to offer both HD and 3D telecasts, they have to use two completely different sets of equipment. That means two crews, two production teams, two satellite transmission pathways and lots of extra cost. The picture above is of a 3D television camera.

As this technology and agenda advances, we will keep NASCAR fans updated on if and when it may enter the sport. There seems to be little doubt that there is now a strong push to move this technology forward as quickly as possible.

Amid all this fancy new technology, one thing is for sure. It will come at a higher cost to the what networks call "end users." Unfortunately...that would be us.

TDP welcomes 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 Starts The 2010 NASCAR TV Season

Well, how was your vacation? If you are a NASCAR TV fan, I ask because Sunday it is all over. At 7PM ET, The SPEED Report hits the air and eleven months and thousands of hours of NASCAR TV begins again.

It will be Adam Alexander and Bob Varsha co-hosting this first telecast. TSR has transformed itself into an outstanding program featuring news, results and features on all types of motorsports. NASCAR is expected to be front and center on this day.

One hour of general motorsports featuring NASCAR is a good way to get back into the TV groove because this year is going to be very different. Monday through Thursday, there will be now be two NASCAR specific television programs on the air for the entire season.

ESPN2 returns NASCAR Now beginning February 1 with hosts Allen Bestwick, Mike Massaro and Nicole Manske. The one hour Monday show gives way to thirty minute versions on weekdays and an hour preview show on weekends. Ricky Craven has confirmed that he will be back as a regular panelist, as will ESPN's cast of race analysts and news reporters.

When the ESPN motorsports executives fixed this program by changing announcers and format, the series came alive. 2009 featured some outstanding interviews, features and even a cameo from President Obama during a White House visit to promote the sport. This year, the show is going to face a new challenge.

Race Hub on SPEED is also back beginning Monday and that is good news for fans. The drawback of NASCAR Now is that it originates from the ESPN studios in Connecticut. Pre-arranged satellite interviews and phone calls are the primary contact that the series maintains with the Concord and Mooresville, NC areas where the vast majority of the teams are located.

SPEED is still settling into the new HD studios right down the road from the Charlotte Motor Speedway. In returning Race Hub, the network has committed to a Monday through Thursday show that is intended to get NASCAR personalities live in the studio to discuss the issues of the day.

Randy Pemberton, John Roberts, Adam Alexander and Rick Allen will all take turns hosting this week. Guests are still being firmed up, but Danica Patrick's name has been bounced around as being on the program on Monday. That would be a nice touch for both SPEED and Ms. Patrick as she gets her feet wet in the sport.

Update: Danica is now confirmed as a guest on Tuesday's Race Hub on SPEED.

While there is no TV scheduled from the Speed and Sound event this weekend, the Daytona Fan Festival will feature two live programs on Jan. 15 and 16 on SPEED. Over on HBO, the first of four programs in the 24/7 documentary series focusing on Jimmie Johnson preparing for Daytona airs on Jan. 26. Finally, details of a four part TV series focusing on JGR will be out shortly. The first of those programs airs on Jan. 24.

Slowly, during the month of February, the remainder of the NASCAR TV series will return and lead us up to the first weekend of racing. We will welcome a new Wednesday TV series on Showtime even as we wait for word from SPEED on the return of This Week in NASCAR. We continue to be cautiously optimistic.

TDP will have a full multi-network composite TV schedule on the main page that includes all the network announcers and guests. In short order, the information will start coming in and the NASCAR TV scene will get right back up to speed.

How was your off-season? Should SPEED and ESPN maintain some sort of presence on the air during December and January? Did Twitter and the Internet more than make up for any off-season TV show as far as NASCAR information is concerned? Would you have watched more off-season programming like races, reruns of shows and historical programs?

Help us out with your opinion on these topics by clicking 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, here we go again!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Surprising Changes Signal NASCAR's New Media Direction

There was a time when official NASCAR publications were a lifeline for young fans like me. Before live races were regularly televised. Before cable TV existed. Before cell phones, the Internet and satellite radio.

NASCAR came alive through pictures we never would have seen and words we never would have heard without the photographers and reporters whose names became household words. One of those publications was called NASCAR Scene.

Originally called Grand National Scene when it was started back in 1977, it grew to become the nation’s largest weekly publication devoted exclusively to NASCAR’s top three touring series. It was a wonderful weekly update on what was going on at the top of the heap.

Three decades later, things have changed. Motorsports newspapers and magazines are defenseless against the relentless technology onslaught based around the Internet. Instead of pictures from last week's race, the iPhones of team PR reps send fans pictures of their favorite drivers while the race is still in progress.

Tweets from NASCAR itself, most of the teams and endless racing websites now scroll by in real time giving us sometimes too much information about the sport. Last season, drivers like Juan Pablo Montoya, Kevin Harvick, Denny Hamlin and others added to the technology mix with their candid comments made directly to fans on Twitter.

Like many, I no longer have any subscriptions to print publications about the sport. Technology has changed my expectations where NASCAR is concerned. When I look for information, I want it now.

Just as we have seen with other motorsports writers across the country, change came to Charlotte and the NASCAR Scene family on Tuesday.

Veteran editor Steve Waid was released along with reporters Jeff Gluck and Mike Hembree. Also, Lee Montgomery, Rea White, Jared Turner and David Exum were out. Finally, Ben White, Mark Sluder, and Shea Alexander were among those let go.

All in all, slightly less than 30 employees of NASCAR Scene and NASCAR Illustrated were released by the Street and Smith Sports Group. Jim Utter from the Charlotte Observer advised that one main website will emerge from the rubble, blending the content of and NASCAR Illustrated. The actual publications are rumored to be ceasing operation.

Update: Told will continue, along with the monthly magazine, NASCAR Illustrated. The NASCAR Scene weekly newspaper looks to be the casualty.

Still employed are familiar names like Bob Pockrass, Jeff Owens and Kenny Bruce. Expect their content to be shared across the various websites owned and operated by Street and Smith, including the Sporting News. A major revamp of the company, including the various sports properties, is sure to follow. A move like this was not preceded by a successful operating year. Things are tough and this is the result.

It seems ironic that many NASCAR fans had just discovered some of the now unemployed journalists through Twitter. Jeff Gluck hosted pre-race "tweet-ups," a meeting of race fans at almost every track. You may remember NASCAR Chairman Brian France attending one. Steve Waid chimed in with his veteran perspective and Mike Hembree put his sense of humor on display. What seemed to many as a golden opportunity to watch journalists talk about the sport is now gone.

Ultimately, paying the bills drives the bus. The challenge for Street and Smith is to determine the best Internet and social media strategy for 2010 NASCAR coverage and set about putting it into motion. Competing with the likes of ESPN, Fox and Turner is not going to make that an easy task.

While there are lots of bloggers out there like us, this situation did not occur as a result of interested fans or amateur reporters flooding the Internet with NASCAR opinions. This exact dynamic has affected print publications from the New York Times to Reader's Digest. The technology struggles of print publications have been well documented.

We have been fortunate enough to become friends with many of those who now join other motorsports journalism veterans in redefining their media careers. We will keep TDP readers up to date with the information on those involved in the Tuesday changes.

Please feel free to express your opinions on this topic. Just click the comments button below to add your thoughts. This is a family-friendly website, please keep that in mind when posting. Thanks for taking the time to stop by TDP.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Changes In NASCAR Media Happening Today

We are just going to start a post where readers can offer the info they may have about the termination of veteran NASCAR reporters and journalists today in Charlotte.

Steve Waid, Mike Hembree and Jeff Gluck are among those losing their jobs today. Mike Mulhern suggests on his website that Scene Daily might be closing down permanently.

Here are the Twitter messages from those as it happened:

Steve Waid (4PM): Hate to go out, but I had a helluva run at 30 years. I'll be around.

Jeff Gluck (10AM): Unfortunately, NASCAR Scene and were hit by huge cutbacks today and I was one of them. Kind of stunned at the moment.

Update: SportSlant - I believe also Rea White, David Exum, Jared Turner, David Griffin, Ben White, Mark Sluder and Shea Alexander were terminated.

This move was unexpected, but we all know the current economic struggles in today's business environment. I will be adding news to this post as it comes in.

Please feel free to add your comments on this topic below by clicking on the comment section.

Internet Radio Creeps Up On NASCAR And Sirius

The recent TDP columns on the struggles of NASCAR fans to get Sirius Channel 128 online drew some great responses. Several emails were from new providers of NASCAR radio shows being transmitted via the Internet.

As you may remember, the issue revolved around the fact that serving the NASCAR fans who want to stream Sirius Channel 128 online still has not been addressed. Sirius already streams many channels online, but NASCAR content is prohibited under a contract that gives those rights to our friends at Turner Sports. has never offered any online radio shows during the weekdays and Turner has been focused on projects like RaceBuddy and Trackpass. What fans are asking is simply to be able to pay a small fee to listen to the Sirius NASCAR weekday shows on a computer or cell phone.

Since we have been met with a wall of silence on this issue, it might be time for another wake-up call. Internet radio is basically free. There are no expensive rights to buy and no special equipment to purchase. iRadio can be heard on desktops, laptops and cell phones with ease.

The failure of The NASCAR Media Group, Turner Interactive and Sirius to hammer out a deal on this issue is giving some folks a golden opportunity to step in and seize the day. Sirius might have the rights to the races, but they certainly do not have a corner on NASCAR content or interviews.

There are already several high-profile independent NASCAR-themed radio programs running on the Internet. Ultimately, it's just a matter of time until this content is gathered in one place and offered to fans in a more cohesive manner. With the current availability of many former NASCAR media members now working on a freelance basis, the talent pool for this type of venture is high.

The ultimate value of the Sirius NASCAR channel is the content, with the vast majority of it coming during the weekdays. The downfall is the distribution system which relies on satellite antenna access to function at all times. Many fans told us of sitting in their cars in the driveway listening to Sirius because the receiver came with the vehicle. If only they could get the same signal on their home computer.

People only fight over money if they have a reason to do so. Should NASCAR's Internet radio providers get organized, they may provide a real alternative to the Sirius 128 weekday line-up with many of the same guests, interviews and interactive fan conversations.

Time for some senior management types to review this issue before Daytona. By then, many of us may be listening to coverage provided by an entirely new set of NASCAR radio announcers. No monthly fee, no clumsy receiver and a world of new possibilities.

For your reference on this topic. Click the title to read the column:

Sirius finds a knight in shining armor. (February 22, 2009)

No Sirius NASCAR channel on iPhones. (June 23, 2009)

Time to get Sirius NASCAR content online. (August 3, 2009)

Off-season priority: Online streaming of Sirius NASCAR Channel 128. (December 14, 2009)

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, January 4, 2010

Big Week Coming Up For NASCAR Media (Updated 1PM)

It's just about time to begin the cycle again. Believe it or not, the first two TV series containing NASCAR content start again in just one week.

Next Sunday at 7PM, we welcome back The SPEED Report. Revamped by the network last year, TSR has turned itself into the premiere motorsports news series on television.

SPEED uses a small group of studio hosts who rotate through their assignments while also working on the network's live racing series. Bob Dillner has been the NASCAR field reporter with Ray Dunlap handling the Camping World Truck Series news.

Update 1PM: SPEED advises that Bob Varsha and Adam Alexander will co-host the Sunday show live.

This program shows the best of what SPEED can offer should the network desire to return to more coverage of motorsports news and less reality and lifestyle programming. TSR covers all types of racing in a classy hour.

Late last year, SPEED scrambled to add a new NASCAR news program to the line-up. It came on the week of the Hall of Fame selections, which was rather curious. Whether the network got a wake-up call from NASCAR or just finally came to its senses, the results have been positive. Monday, January 11th, Race Hub returns to SPEED.

This thirty-minute program originates from the SPEED studios located just down the road from many of the NASCAR shops and the Charlotte Motor Speedway. Drivers, owners and media members have been frequent guests since the show began. Still searching for a format, the program has already decided to be casual in both attire and presentation.

A host or co-host chats with studio guests, updates news and offers an interview done that day at a shop or NASCAR office. During the last two weeks of the season, SPEED found that having multiple drivers in the studio at the same time made for rather stimulating conversation. Hopefully, that memory has lingered.

The good news this season is that SPEED has responded to the upset West Coast fans and added a later re-air of each program. The Monday through Thursday episodes will now air at 7:30PM Eastern and then re-air at 8:30PM Pacific Time. Super move by the network and a big commitment of TV time to NASCAR content.

Also, fans of This Week in NASCAR should shortly find out if that show is returning to SPEED. In the middle of last year, panelist Michael Waltrip sent and then deleted a Tweet saying the show may be cancelled due to low ratings. Adding Jimmy Spencer to the program for The Chase did not help. Spencer was a flop and Greg Biffle has never become a viable panelist.

It's pretty plain that Waltrip and Chad Knaus were the two valuable properties in this series. Waltrip has been on the show for over a decade and Knaus is the current championship crew chief. Waltrip's personality and the knowledge of Knaus made a nice TV package.

The twist to all this is that The NASCAR Media Group that produces TWIN now has another project that sounds very similar. Inside NASCAR begins a 38 week run on the Showtime network in February.

That gets us to wondering if TWIN gets cancelled, will the entire gang move on over to Showtime? Although the thought of Waltrip unleashed on Showtime is interesting, the audience is small and the TV channel is subscription only.

Update 10AM ET: NASCAR Media Group announced that Inside NASCAR will be the first NASCAR TV series distributed on the Internet and cell phone. It may be weekend highlights on Wednesday, but this is a good start to get more NASCAR content online.

Ricky Craven confirmed on Sirius that he will be returning to ESPN2's NASCAR Now, which is great news. Craven has been a standout in the studio analyst role and his increased weekend presence would be a welcome addition.

Speaking of Sirius, the new weekday line-up of hosts and programs should be out soon. Lots of buzz around about changes as the dynamic of mixing MRN and Sirius folks continues to play out. Sirius still has the satellite radio coverage of all three of NASCAR's national touring series.

Meanwhile, ESPN has already announced the changes involving Marty Reid and Jerry Punch. Fox returns the entire NASCAR team for this season. TNT also returns everyone, but has yet to announce who will handle the play-by-play assignment this summer. That could be very interesting.

Stay with us this week as we will continue to post all the news and information as it comes out. Once again, we will have the multi-network NASCAR TV schedule on our mainpage with announcers, guests and features listed.

In the meantime, feel free to comment on any of the topics mentioned above. To add your opinion, just click on the comments button. This is a family-friendly website, please keep that in mind when posting. Some comments may be moderated prior to posting. Thanks for taking the time to stop by The Daly Planet.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

NASCAR's New TV Partner: Showtime

This weekend's topic is very interesting. The buzz has been building since it was announced several weeks ago that NASCAR will have a new national TV series on the air in 2010. Inside NASCAR will run for 38 weeks and feature highlights and analysis of every Sprint Cup Series race.

Click here for the story from Richard Sandomir of the New York Times about this new project.

Recently, the NASCAR Media Group (NMG) began the move into its new high-tech studios and offices located in downtown Charlotte, NC. This group is the official TV production arm of NASCAR and produces the weekly shows from the SPEED Stage and also Monday night's This Week in NASCAR series.

The downside is that NMG has no direct network connection. While the TV networks covering the racing might have to rent equipment and crews from NMG, they bring in their own producers, directors and announcers to cover the events. NMG is there to record footage for NASCAR history, but does not get to produce it as it happens.

A key goal of NMG is to try and develop new and original long-form programming to support NASCAR and also make some money. Why not? Other professional sports like the NFL, PGA Tour, and Major League Baseball have similar organizations.

Over the years, SPEED has been the major player where NMG programs have been concerned. Then, a change of direction left NASCAR out in the cold during the weekdays while SPEED headed for what it called "lifestyle" programming. Unfortunately, during that time NMG was unable to find a new TV dance partner.

Despite the deep racing connections with TNT, there are no NASCAR TV series on any of the Turner networks. Meanwhile, ESPN is struggling with two main cable channels that are already overloaded with existing programming. No help there. Other than SPEED, the only other Fox cable channel is FX, which moved away from sports programming years ago.

This puts NMG in a tough spot. Trying to sell NASCAR TV programs to networks that don't carry the actual races has proven to be a tall task. Even with the wide variety of cable networks interested in sports, the choices are limited. This situation has apparently resulted in one of NMG's most interesting decisions.

Showtime is a premium cable TV network known for adult-themed programming. Series titles like Californication, Dexter, The Tudors and The Secret Diary of a Call Girl are well known to channel viewers. The network even has a program called Live Nudity that features burlesque acts and audience participation. Click here to review the network's official website.

Into this well-defined entertainment channel strolls NASCAR, lured by two simple facts. One, Showtime is currently airing Inside the NFL that was revived after being cancelled by HBO. Two, Showtime has the money to pay for series production. NMG can point to the fact that the channel already has existing sports programming and that this is a money-maker for the company.

Unfortunately, that leaves out some key points that have fueled the ongoing discussion. We have already established that Showtime has a substantial amount of adult programming. We also established that Showtime has a very limited interest in sports TV programs of any kind. Click here for the Showtime Sports website.

NASCAR is a sport that prides itself on image. Sponsors, drivers and owners live in a squeaky clean world. Christian values are openly discussed and there is an invocation before each race. Families are featured on the telecasts as wives and children stand with the drivers before the event. NASCAR's idea of "the show" is very different from Showtime's version.

NMG also indicated that existing TV network announcers will be the hosts and analysts for this series. It should be very interesting to see who steps up to that challenge from the ranks of TNT, Fox, SPEED and ESPN. Again, perception is the issue where NASCAR TV is concerned.

Showtime is small. Only 13 million homes in the US, compared to over 80 million for networks like ESPN2, SpikeTV and SPEED. With perhaps only a small percentage of the adults who subscribe to Showtime interested in sports, that may make the actual audience for this series less than desirable. Showtime viewers may have other priorities.

So, here we go. NASCAR is in a multi-year deal with a subscription cable channel for a full-scale racing highlights and analysis series. Top announcers will be featured with the show produced right in the new NASCAR headquarters in Charlotte.

Will you subscribe to Showtime to see this program? Do you feel this move best serves the fan base? Other shows have highlights. Does this Wednesday show have any real meaning? Does the adult programming on Showtime affect your decision to subscribe?

We would appreciate your feedback on this topic. To add your comment, just click on the comments button below. Check back as our discussion will last through Monday morning on this topic. This is a family-friendly website, please keep that in mind when posting. Thanks for taking the time to stop by TDP.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Fox vs. Time Warner Cable Dispute Spills Onto SPEED

Update: The Fox vs. Time Warner Cable dispute is scheduled to end at 6PM on Jan 1st. Without a resolution, several Fox owned networks will be pulled from 15 million US homes. The networks include SPEED, FX, FSN regional sports networks and the retransmission of local Fox TV stations by the cable provider. We will add updated comments to this story post.

As the sport gets ready for the 2010 season, SPEED is set to bring back two popular TV series containing lots of NASCAR content. Unfortunately, there is a brand new bump in the road that may prove to be a big problem.

The SPEED Report is scheduled to return on Sunday, January 10th at 7PM ET. The network revamped this show in 2009 and turned it into the best motorsports hour on TV. Rotating hosts include Krista Voda, Bob Varsha and Ralph Sheheen among others. Bob Dillner is the show's NASCAR field reporter.

Entering its first full year is NASCAR Race Hub. This Monday through Thursday program was added by SPEED late in the season and airs at 7:30PM ET. Once again, SPEED rotated its own NASCAR personalities through the host position and used network analysts to provide an in-studio perspective on racing issues. The new season is scheduled to debut on Monday, January 11th.

The bump in the road mentioned earlier is set to affect SPEED on January 1st. Click here for the latest on the Time Warner Cable vs. Fox feud from Variety. At a time when many elements in television from advertising to technology are shifting rapidly, this standoff over revenue is going to have no winners.

Fox wants more money from Time Warner Cable without providing any additional services or content. The Fox position is that the current product is undervalued. Time Warner positions itself as middlemen and says any increase in payments would just be passed along to the cable subscribers. Meanwhile, TWC remains a very profitable venture.

It's easy to understand the Fox position. It is an advertiser-supported broadcast TV network. The main revenue stream comes from ads sold in shows the network produces. Meanwhile, cable TV networks like ESPN get to sell the same TV ads and also enjoy a hefty payment directly to them from companies like Time Warner Cable. The dual revenue stream of cable TV networks has not gone unnoticed.

Caught in the lurch will be Fox-owned SPEED if all the Fox Networks go dark on Time Warner Cable systems on January 1st. Time Warner serves about 15 million subscribers in over ten major markets nationwide. A shutdown would be rough for lots of viewers, but SPEED is gearing up for a major increase in NASCAR programming for the new year.

Both Fox and TWC have not put their best foot forward in the public eye. Websites, Twitter messages and email are key weapons in this corporate PR spin game. Graphics crawled on the TWC systems scare viewers by saying Fox is demanding a 300% increase in fees that will make consumer costs rise.

Meanwhile, Fox is using local TV newscasts, sports programs and its cable news network to present its own scare campaign. However, telling fans that free over-the-air telecasts on Fox like college football and the Daytona 500 will go dark is nothing short of hilarious. Perhaps, Home Depot may choose to stock up on HD home antennas. Ultimately, it's called free TV for a reason.

Cooler heads may prevail over the next week, but there is a very real possibility that January may be rough for sports fans on the Fox family of broadcast and cable networks. TDP will continue to update this post and provide another column later this week as the deadline approaches.

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. Comments may be moderated before being posted. Thanks for stopping by.

Happy New Year NASCAR Fans!

What an amazing third season of covering the NASCAR TV and media scene. The fan support was overwhelming, especially after a rough start to the season behind the scenes. I would like to personally thank those who took the time to contact me and encourage me to keep this blog alive for another year.

Before we begin to look ahead, we have to take a moment to look back. At the height of the racing season, TDP logged over 400 thousand pageviews a month. There is absolutely no doubt that NASCAR fans are just as passionate about how the sport is covered as they are about the racing.

Once again, NASCAR was one of the most fascinating sports in the world when it came to TV. The three networks on the Sprint Cup side had their ups and downs, with changes coming both during and after the season.

The Nationwide Series finally found an on-air leader and finished the TV year on a high note with some great racing. The Camping World trucks defied the odds and the dedication of a single TV team resulted in another memorable season of coverage.

Along the way, fans also saw some live Whelen Modified racing, a charity event and several live ARCA races featuring some of NASCAR's future stars. The All-Star race, extended coverage from Daytona and the first Hall of Fame selection program also made 2009 memorable.

While one NASCAR TV partner delivered consistent news all season long, another stepped in late in the game to deepen the coverage available for 2010. A visit to the White House, controlled substance issues and high profile crew chief changes were at the forefront of the solid coverage.

The list of weekend NASCAR programming seemed to get longer and longer, especially during the pre-race shows for big events. Some shows struggled while other stood out for solid live reporting and the developing presence of NASCAR's next TV stars.

This year, perhaps more than any in recent memory, served as a reminder that change is good and necessary for the health of any professional sport. Between the many positive changes made by NASCAR and the key changes made by several of the TV partners, there is an optimistic feeling in the air for 2010.

I hope everyone has a fun and safe New Year, thanks again for stopping by. Let's see what 2010 will bring.