Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Gentlemen Start Your Computers!

Thursday starts three big days of testing at the newly repaved Daytona International Speedway. Friday at noon ET brings the first major press conference of the year as Mike Helton and Robin Pemberton offer a "competition update" on off-season changes.

This year, TV will take a backseat to Internet technology as SPEED offers fully-produced coverage of all three days and the press conference using online video streaming. Both and the Daytona speedway website will carry the coverage. That means anyone worldwide can simply click on and see NASCAR without restriction.

While prior programming committments by SPEED may have pushed this move, it's a tribute to that network for taking this step despite the lack of advertising revenue or profitability. New SPEED VP Patti Wheeler is starting off on the right foot with NASCAR fans.

It will be John Roberts and Jeff Hammond hosting the coverage from the TV studio located above Victory Lane. The trio of Steve Byrnes, Darrell Waltrip and Larry McReynolds will call the on-track activity. Krista Voda and Bob Dillner will be reporting from the garage area.

Here is the three day schedule:

Thursday, Jan. 20
9 a.m. - 12 p.m. (
1 p.m. - 5 p.m. (
5 p.m. - 7 p.m. (same-day delay) (SPEED TV)

Friday, Jan. 21
9 a.m. - 12 p.m. (
12 p.m. - Conclusion NASCAR news conference (
1 p.m. - 2 p.m. (SPEED TV)
2 p.m. - 5 p.m. (

Saturday, Jan. 22
9 a.m. - 12 p.m. (
1 p.m. - 2 p.m. – (SPEED TV)
2 p.m. - 5 p.m. – (

This project is actually very exciting from a new media perspective. There are no mandatory commercial breaks, sponsored segments or time constraints. This is wide-open online webcasting at the highest level. You bet that both the TV and NASCAR execs will be keeping an eye on this coverage and the reaction of the fans.

It has been five years since any significant movement has been made in streaming long-form program content from the tracks. Perhaps, some readers may remember the attempt at anchoring a post-race show from the Atlanta studios of Turner Broadcasting. Despite the best efforts of those involved, it was very clear that originating from the track was the only way to go.

Just as is up and running, SPEED also has an online web channel on the agenda for the future. With Turner holding all the online NASCAR rights to action at the racing weekends, this effort from Daytona may help all parties involved to reach some sort of compromise this season to enable more live online video content.

One final note on this topic is the ability of SPEED to interact during these three days directly with online viewers worldwide through Twitter, Facebook and website chat. Without the "TV wall" between the parties, the SPEED announcers should be able to speak with rather than at the viewers.

In one way, this project is a blank piece of paper that will be filled-in as the hours of testing and conversation go by. Roberts is great at directing traffic, while Byrnes, Waltrip, Dillner and Voda are all experienced social media veterans with active Twitter accounts.

It is not quite clear to me from the information released whether or not this coverage will be able to stream on smart phones, but many of us will certainly be trying it out. The shift of video coverage to handheld devices and laptops is a trend that is growing significantly. This is going to be a great first test of just how NASCAR and a willing TV partner can make it work. TDP will offer a live blog of the three days of testing coverage.

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