Sunday, December 18, 2011

Week In Review: Off-Season Changes

What an incredible week of NASCAR news involving the TV and media folks in the sport. Here is a rundown of what happened and links to the stories and topics we discussed here at TDP.

The NASCAR on FOX production team gathered on Monday and Tuesday for their annual meeting in the Charlotte, NC area. Chris Myers and Larry McReynolds both asked NASCAR fans on Twitter to offer suggestions they would then bring up at the meeting. Great use of social media.

This is the first season for Michael Waltrip on FOX. He will take the place of Jeff Hammond in the Hollywood Hotel. Hammond will become a "roving reporter." FOX executives paired the Waltrip brothers on several Camping World Truck Series races on SPEED and apparently liked the results.

Sports Business Journal just released the new "50 Most Influential" people in sports. NASCAR Chairman Brian France is at #17, up slightly from last year. No other motorsports executive is on the list.

NASCAR personalities are involved in bringing sprint cars to the annual Chili Bowl off-season race in Tulsa, OK. This indoor event runs over several days and features drivers from all over the globe running on a dirt track indoors. The only information currently available puts an edited version of the final on CBS January 28. Tried hard to get more information, no one from the Chili Bowl or Lucas Oil Productions responded.

Within a five day period, SPEED president Hunter Nickell and executive vice president Patti Wheeler both left the network. Click here for the full story. The FOX Sports news release about Nickell hinted he may take another position within the larger FOX Sports parent company. Wheeler had no press release and left suddenly after some executive changes on the West Coast affected her reporting structure.

This leaves SPEED without a company leader, although we hear an interim president will be announced next week. Wheeler ran both the programming and production departments at SPEED, so what will happen next with the network in terms of programming direction or key on-air personalities is unknown.

Wheeler is a NASCAR TV veteran, having run TNN Motorsports and her own TV production company for years. She aggressively built the RaceHub series and was in the middle of creating the SPEED Center show that updated all motorsports throughout the racing weekends. Her decision to depart will have a big effect on the network.

We documented the frustration with the lack of the SiriusXM NASCAR channel being available online. Click here to read about the continuing stand-off between Turner Sports and SiriusXM. NASCAR can't fix this one.

Finally, the off-season has meant a complete stoppage of all NASCAR news TV programming. While ESPN has always wrapped NASCAR Now on the night of the final race, SPEED was trying to grow the motorsports news franchise and has simply dropped the ball.

Ironically, much of the best off-season NASCAR news and analysis is coming from SPEED's own website, Facebook page and Twitter account. Somehow, the executives on the TV side have not gotten the message that SPEED had better get a studio show on the air quickly or risk damaging both the RaceHub and SPEED Center franchises when the new season starts.

There seems to be a great deal of frustration around right now when it comes to the NASCAR presence on SPEED's TV side. If the new senior management moves the network back into the "lifestyle programming" blocks seen a while back on weekdays, it would be a very serious set-back for SPEED's motorsports credibility.

We invite your comments on these subjects. To add your opinion, just click on the comments button below. Thank you for taking the time to stop by and visit the weekend edition of TDP.