Tuesday, March 8, 2011

NASCAR TV Bill Of Rights (Repost)

After Phoenix and Las Vegas, this is a repost by request. Bristol, TN has the potential to be a huge TV weekend for the sport. Here are some fundamentals that we have formed as TV viewers. See if you agree and leave us a comment.

NASCAR is entering into the fifth season of Sprint Cup Series coverage provided by FOX, TNT and ESPN. Each of those three networks are different businesses not inclined to cooperate with each other. News Corp, Turner Broadcasting and Disney are three parent companies who bring very different approaches to NASCAR coverage.

The result has been that fans attempting to watch the entire ten months of Sprint Cup Series coverage have been forced to deal with three completely different styles of TV. From the good old boys of FOX to the tech-savvy TNT and the very formal ESPN, the top level of the sport is chopped into three very distinct pieces.

As we enter year five, here is a compilation of issues that readers have helped to define as basic concerns with the television coverage.

Active owners of Sprint Cup Series teams should not be on the air as network TV announcers. Despite the best intentions of those involved, the opinions expressed by those with a significant financial and professional commitment to the sport simply draw too much skepticism.

The pre-race show is to inform viewers of the ongoing stories involving the teams about to race. It is not for features designed to sell a product, promote a cause or advance a TV network's own agenda. "Face time" on national television should be for athletes, not announcers.

The driver starting on the pole of every Sprint Cup Series race should be interviewed during the pre-race show. This right comes with sitting on the pole and makes an impression on the national TV audience that this is an accomplishment for the driver, the team and the sponsor.

Speaking to a driver and/or crew chief via the team radio during the pace laps makes no sense. Asking the driver a random viewer question is ridiculous. Once again in 2010, this practice provided no new information, resulted in awkward moments and was openly despised by some drivers. The only thing worse is contacting a driver during the race to ask the same set of questions.

There is not one "new fan" watching the telecast. The entire NASCAR TV audience has a favorite driver and knows who is who. Showing a prerecorded "bumper" of a driver posing and grinning or trying to look tough or playing the drums while going to commercial under green flag racing is a travesty.

Updates on the basics of NASCAR car parts should be reserved for specialty TV shows. Inside the live telecast of a Sprint Cup Series race there is no need to review the basics of tires, fuel cells, shock absorbers or any other car part that will be used in every event.

The TV network's infield studios are useless once a Sprint Cup Series race begins unless it rains. Viewers have seen who is sitting where and what they are wearing during the pre-race. There is no new information to be shared by putting the same announcers on-camera once the race has started. This fact has been proven by all three networks since 2007.

A driver who starts a Sprint Cup Series race and suddenly pulls off the track and heads to the garage should be identified on TV immediately. It is not the role of the TV networks to edit "start and park" cars from the telecasts. The responsibility is to report what is happening to those who are watching on TV and are not at the track. Reality is not subjective.

No NASCAR TV network covering a live race should go to commercial under green flag racing in the first ten laps or the final ten laps of the event.

Any driver transported to the infield medical center should be interviewed. Each one has fans and it is not the role of the TV network to use popularity or points standings to determine whether an athlete is worthy of TV time.

The scoring ticker is on the screen to help with information, not to be the primary source of scoring information for TV viewers once the race is underway. A key role of the play-by-play announcer is to update positions on the racetrack. What TV seems to be unable to do, the NASCAR radio broadcasters do on a regular basis. The scoring ticker is not a crutch.

Prior to every restart in a Sprint Cup Series race TV viewers should be told what cars got a wave-around, who is the Lucky Dog and if there were any pit road penalties. Coming to the green flag, viewers should know at least the top ten cars (first five rows) and whether the leader chose the inside or outside.

Full field recaps within a race should be done through the complete field at regular intervals and not just include the top ten or twenty cars. Television often misses the real stories of the race by continually focusing on the front of the race and the current leaders. All the drivers on the track have fans.

After a multi-hour race, TV viewers deserve to see all the cars on the lead lap finish the race live. The race winner, pit crew and crew chief will have TV time in Victory Lane. Watching the rest of the lead lap cars racing to the finish is often much more exciting than seeing the winner cross the line.

The TV commercial mess can only be handled one of two ways. Either move to a side-by-side scenario with a video box of the live race on the screen or offer a RaceBuddy style online application. It has been proven for the last several years that fans are simply not going to watch a live event where one-third of the action is completely blocked by commercial content. Why force fans to record and fast-forward when live viewership is the focus of the entire TV effort?

Online information in some form must be provided by the on-air TV staff. Pit reporters updating their assigned teams, infield announcers interacting with fans or even a designated social media producer is needed to fill the demand for interactivity on Facebook, Twitter and the network's own website. This aspect of NASCAR is key to attracting and keeping younger fans.

Since the beginning of NASCAR television coverage, the fundamental idea has been for the TV production team to be the eyes and ears of the fans unable to go to the track. The focus is to capture what is actually happening and pass it along. The play-by-play announcer adds the drama, the analysts relate their own experiences and the pit reporters update the specifics. It all seems so simple.

We invite our readers to add any topic that we may have missed in recapping the issues that have been dogging the TV coverage of the Sprint Cup Series for the past several years. To add your opinion, just click on the comments button below. This is a family-friendly website, please keep that in mind when posting.

Update #1 from reader comments: Cameras show debris when any debris caution is thrown. Cameras do not zoom in on single cars under green flag.

Update #2 from reader comments: No bumper-cam during a pass for the lead or live incidents on track.

Thank you for stopping by The Daly Planet. All this week we will be updating the happenings of the Charlotte Media Tour as the teams and NASCAR preview the coming season.