Wednesday, June 30, 2010

"Inside NASCAR" Faces New Challenges

There are lots of things happening in NASCAR TV where studio shows are concerned. SPEED has just expanded Race Hub to an hour in length four nights a week. ESPN2 has a one hour NASCAR Now Sunday night review show that returns in July. That puts five hours of NASCAR Now on the air each week.

The Showtime gang producing Inside NASCAR has their own unique challenge. By the time Wednesday night rolls around, over eight hours of TV programming focused on reviewing the previous racing weekend has already aired on other networks.

This leaves an interesting set of TV circumstances. First, the race highlights have already been seen. Second, the relevant topics have been discussed. Finally, the NASCAR personalities involved have already been interviewed.

In responding to this situation, Showtime turned to social media. Inside NASCAR's Facebook page has over 115 thousand fans. The show's Twitter account carries a running stream of comments and pictures as the show is being put together leading up to the Wednesday taping.

NASCAR Now and Race Hub are still struggling to figure out social media and fan interaction. Neither show has more than 2200 Facebook fans. Tweets are random and rarely interactive.

Wednesday, Inside NASCAR is going to welcome Jimmie Johnson as the featured guest. Johnson will be answering fan questions solicited through social media by the producers on Monday and Tuesday. What a nice and simple way to get fans together with top drivers and personalities.

Kyle Petty will be the second guest. Petty is promoting TNT's 3D venture this weekend. Showtime has no obligation at all to promote another network, but this series has been very consistent in selecting guests and topics that focused on the sport in general.

Chris Myers hosts Inside NASCAR and luckily he left his Hollywood Hotel act back in California. When he is working in Charlotte, Myers is the kind of focused TV interviewer that fans know from shows on ESPN and the Tennis Channel.

Brad Daugherty, Michael Waltrip and Randy Pemberton have turned out to be an interesting mix of personalities as they make up the show's expert panel. While each of them is packing some NASCAR baggage, that does not seem to be an issue for Showtime.

This show is appealing visually, unlike the very formal NASCAR Now and the sometimes rather scattered Race Hub. Veteran director Mike Wells is consulting on this series and his impact has been felt. Wells was ESPN's original NASCAR race director and now handles the TNT races in the current TV package.

As with most television series, there is always a frustration or two. Showtime has no plans to offer the series a la carte to non-Showtime subscribers. As we documented in earlier columns the Showtime universe is small, much of the content is adult and subscription costs vary widely depending on the cable or satellite distributor.

After all that has been asked of Johnson over the last few days, it should be interesting so see what different issues the Showtime team will cover and what questions were submitted by the fans.

The original airing of this program is 10PM ET each Wednesday, but viewers should check the local listings as the shows repeat several times. Happy to have your comments on this program. 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.