Friday, December 21, 2012

Season Greetings!

The NASCAR news gets nudged along even during the off-season. Jeff Gluck moves from SBNation to USA Today as a NASCAR reporter and joins Nate Ryan. Showtime confirms what we all knew, they will not be producing Inside NASCAR any longer.

After years of online chaos, NASCAR finally takes over the series website which will debut on January 1. Many familiar names have been hired by NASCAR to write and report. It should be fascinating to see how this change affects the flow of information and just what video offerings may be included.  

Rumors include the end of the Trackside series on SPEED which was drastically changed last season into an unwatchable mess. Shows like RaceDay, RaceHub and Victory Lane are set to return. Bob Varsha is stepping into the former Leigh Diffey role and handling sports cars on SPEED beginning with the Rolex 24 at Daytona. Diffey departed SPEED for NBCSN where he will handle Formula One and IndyCar telecasts.

There have been no announcements on the TNT and ESPN portions of the Sprint Cup Series TV package changing hands. Rumors include FOX wanting the six TNT races and NBC perhaps interested in the ESPN package. You may remember that ESPN also televises the entire Nationwide Series. The current TV deal expires after the 2014 season.

This is the traditional holiday break and any TV news should be announced after the new year. Thanks for patronizing this site since 2007. It's been an interesting experience. Have a happy and safe holiday season.

Monday, November 26, 2012

A Fish Out Of Water

56 year-old Canadian comedian and TV show host Howie Mandel will host the Sprint Cup Awards on Friday. Mandel will lead NASCAR through a completely scripted sequence of events that will once again play to an empty stage. The Sprint Cup Series banquets held in Las Vegas have been a bust.

The participants in the festivities will depart from the Concord and Charlotte, NC airports and fly the 1900 miles to Nevada. It would be much easier if they just drove downtown. Charlotte is home to the NASCAR Hall of Fame and is currently working very hard to revitalize itself. The NASCAR Plaza and the Charlotte Convention Center are two key pieces of that puzzle.

While a move away from New York City in 2009 was much needed, the Las Vegas destination has not offered the kind of high-profile post-season platform the sport has been seeking. This year, some of the other functions taking place in Las Vegas the same day as Friday's banquet include a national Chiropractors convention, a meeting of certified public accountants and ambulance company owners from across the country looking at new vehicles.

Click here for the website of the Charlotte Convention Center. Right on the front page it promotes the Convention Center as being adjacent to the NASCAR Hall of Fame. It seems ironic that this association is part of a pitch to attract business conventions to the area, but has so far failed to lure NASCAR's own end-of-season function to the facility.

Several cities were in the final competition for the NASCAR Hall of Fame. One key reason Charlotte was able to close the deal was the promise of a new forty thousand square foot addition to the existing convention center space. The new ballroom was built as a part of the Hall of Fame. The idea was to make the Hall a unique attraction for convention business from around the country.

The Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority (CRVA) is struggling to effectively use the Convention Center facilities. The Charlotte Observer recently offered the fact that the Convention Center is used only 35 percent of the available time as opposed to 57 percent for other facilities the same size.

Click here for a map of the downtown Charlotte convention facilities that include the Hall of Fame. The idea is to make the entire complex available to larger scale conventions who have flexible facility needs. That would seem to fit the very definition of NASCAR's post-season requirements.

In addition to the actual Sprint Cup Series banquet, the current post-season function is spread over several days and contains several different events. Some of these wind-up being lost in the shuffle. One untapped resource is the National Motorsports Press Association Myers Brothers Award Luncheon. This informal funtion offers candid and sometimes emotional comments from a wide variety of NASCAR personalities.

There has also been a "Victory Lap" that has morphed from a parade of showcars into a burn-out contest and celebrity ride-a-long for NASCAR journalists. The subsequent informal question and answer session called "NASCAR After The Lap" has become a fan sensation and one of the few times drivers can offer candid comments in an informal setting.

While several of these activities are designed for NASCAR fans, Las Vegas is not. The Charlotte area already offers racing shops and a bevy of NASCAR-related attractions. There is little doubt it the banquet came to town additional fan-friendly events would spring up around the area.

Click here for an Observer story documenting the fact that the Charlotte City Council is debating offering a subsidy to attract a key convention to the city. It's a statement on just how tough it is to get that type of business to come to a market and location like Charlotte. Just what does that say about NASCAR?

The time is right to make a switch and bring NASCAR's post-season activity back to the very city that put its faith in a Hall of Fame for the sport. The move would be good for Charlotte, for NASCAR and for the fan base. Bring the banquet to Charlotte.

We invite your opinion on this topic. Comments may be moderated prior to posting.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Hope everyone has an enjoyable and safe holiday weekend. Happy Thanksgiving.  

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Boom Goes The Dynamite - Updated Sunday 11/18

Update 11/18: During the final episode, it was announced that the NASCAR Performance on SPEED would not return for 2013. This show has been a hallmark for the sport and the network for years. The column below was first published when FOX signed the new Major League Baseball deal that confirmed changes would be coming for SPEED.

"Boom Goes The Dynamite" is one of the most popular viral sports videos of all time. Former Ball State University student Brian Collins will live on forever in the YouTube world. The clip shows the total meltdown of a TV sports broadcast, but Collins puts the video over the top with his now infamous line toward the end.

What this video shows is a situation where things are just going so wrong it's painful to watch. On Tuesday afternoon the FOX Media Group officially signed a TV deal with Major League Baseball. Just like that, the SPEED network's fate was sealed. It will cease to exist and become the FOX Sports 1 cable network in 2013.

Boom goes the dynamite.

Here is an excerpt from Joe Flint's outstanding "Company Town" column from the Los Angeles Times:

The new contracts take effect at the start of the 2014 season and run through 2021. FOX's rights fees will go from a per-season average of about $257 million to $495 million. The deal also clears the way for FOX to use baseball for a new national sports cable channel it is planning to launch in the summer of 2013. 

FOX also received broad rights to baseball highlights that could be used for a sports news program similar to ESPN's "SportsCenter." While FOX has declined to comment on its planned channel, people familiar with the matter said the company will convert its niche sports channel called SPEED into a broad-based sports network.

Besides baseball, Fox will also put NASCAR racing, college football, soccer and Ultimate Fighting on its cable channel. The working name for the channel is Fox Sports 1.

Well, there you have it. The baseball game of the week slated for the FOX Sports 1 network is going to be on Saturdays, either at 4 or 7PM Eastern Time. As Flint's column mentioned, FOX will also use the new network for college football on Saturdays as well.

While those sports put FOX out of the mix for a future bid on the Nationwide Series, it does keep hope alive that the Camping World Trucks may survive the cut. The trucks have given SPEED it's only major NASCAR series carried by the network from start to finish for many years.

These tentative plans also seem to suggest an end to the type of all-inclusive TV coverage from the Sprint Cup Series tracks of Saturday activities seen on SPEED in the past. A FOX Sports 1 commitment to both Major League Baseball and college football would add Saturday telecasts throughout most of the NASCAR season.

It's unclear why a mediocre sport like baseball would draw this kind of national TV interest. Like hockey, baseball has traditionally been a regional TV sport up until the playoffs. There are an endless array of MLB games already available on regional sports networks, home satellite and online services. It's a bit of a head-scratcher.

Our primary concern is the confirmation that SPEED will be ending. Flint was the first to offer a timeline for the transition in mentioning next summer. Since it would be impossible to begin 2013 NASCAR coverage in February and then end it in late April for baseball, we can perhaps speculate that this may be the final season for some familiar NASCAR programming and some familiar NASCAR faces on SPEED.

Change in sports television is almost always awkward. There is also little doubt more significant changes in NASCAR's future TV plans are on the way. The tough part is, despite all its faults, SPEED has done the heavy-lifting for NASCAR's TV needs for a very long time.

It still seems strange to believe it all may be over when the current NASCAR racing season ends. But as young Mr. Collins would say: "Boom goes the dynamite!"

We invite your opinion on this topic. Comments may be moderated prior to posting.

Click here for a story on what happened to Collins on this fateful night, where he is now and his level of media involvement.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

And On The Fourth Day He Tweeted

There he was, assuming the position that many of us know so well. That is Dale Earnhardt Jr. and he is on Twitter using his sponsor's account to interact with fans. Earnhardt used the National Guard account and the #DaleTakeOver hashtag to spend an hour Wednesday spontaneously answering questions from all kinds of fans.

This is how reporter Aaron Burns described the experience in the Mooresville, NC News:

Earnhardt has a Twitter account but he’s never used it, preferring to stick to Facebook despite fans’ repeated requests for him to join the Twitterverse. He’s one of only two Sprint Cup Series drivers – Carl Edwards is the other – to not tweet regularly.

Among other items, Earnhardt suggested his fans listen to “I’m on Fire” by Town Mountain. He also said his favorite television mini-series is Lonesome Dove and his favorite sandwich is a turkey burger. He didn’t commit to trying Twitter on a full-time basis, but said he enjoyed the experience.

“This is an awesome way to connect with my fans,” Earnhardt said. “(I) appreciate the involvement.”

Once again, it seems that Earnhardt and the entire PR and Marketing arms of both Hendrick Motorsports and JR Motorsports missed the point. It's not about Junior.

"NASCAR Needs Junior On Twitter" was a TDP column from July. Click the title to read the full content. Here is an excerpt:

There is little doubt that if and when the official Earnhardt Twitter account becomes active it will quickly top one million followers. The marketing power for Hendrick, JR Motorsports and NASCAR in general would be tremendous. In a time when sponsors are looking for exposure and the sport is looking for a spokesman, cranking Earnhardt's Twitter account up would make a lot of sense.

It took a little encouragement for some personalities to join Twitter. Perhaps, this might be the encouragement for Earnhardt. Simply by asking folks like Mark Martin, Darrell Waltrip or Kevin Harvick about their experiences Earnhardt would find out just how much a simple app on a cell phone can accomplish.

If there was ever a time for the most popular driver to get in the social media mix, it is now. Perhaps with a little encouragement, Earnhardt can sign-on and discover what many of his celebrity friends, teammates and fellow drivers already know. Twitter is the ultimate way to say thank you to the fans.

It seems ironic that with only days left in the season fans get to interact with Earnhardt on Twitter at 3PM Eastern Time on a Wednesday. As a Twitter search of the @NationalGuard account will prove, even in this limited amount of time conversations were had and questions answered that generated interest and helped to open the door to this elusive personality.

Twitter has proven to be an effective tool for high-profile personalities from NBA star LeBron James to tennis star Rafael Nadal. Earnhardt actively using Twitter would enable that content to be posted on websites that integrate NASCAR tweets through software called widgets.

In other words, websites around the world would be adding Earnhardt's Twitter content to the existing list of drivers from the sport who are already featured. In much the same way that Twitter allows hundred of NASCAR personalities, facilities and media organizations to interact with NASCAR fans the sport would now be able to feature its most popular personality.

James reaches 6.49 million users each time he tweets. Nadal sends each message to 3.35 million fans around the world. It certainly would be interesting to see if an active Earnhardt Twitter account would wind-up having more users than the upcoming Homestead Sprint Cup Series finale has TV viewers.

Anyway you slice it, 2013 is the year of NASCAR taking control of its own digital efforts. It certainly would be nice if the most popular driver played a key role.

We welcome your opinion on this topic. Comments may be moderated prior to posting.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Familiar Topic: A Sport Or A Show?

A common theme of the fan comments on the Chase for the Championship has been the caution flags displayed by NASCAR without an accident, rain or fluid on the track. Once again this season the debris caution is on the minds of the fans.

Since 2007 and the start of this blog, it has been a topic visited several times. The issue always comes back to one burning question. Is NASCAR ultimately a true sport or just a show for the fans and TV viewers? There are strong supporters on both sides of the topic.

The Chicagoland race was a rough one for me. Debris cautions that were never paid off by the TV team in terms of showing the offending item were just tough to take. One one side, NASCAR is clearly handcuffed this season in terms of the lack of racing action on many tracks.

Click here to read a TDP post from 2010 where multi-car Sprint Cup Series team owner Michael Waltrip talks about an idea he has for closing up the racing action on the tracks. His comments came after a late caution flag for debris in a race at MIS.

Here is an excerpt:

"I am a huge fan of a late caution. In basketball they just call it what it is. A TV time out. In football its the break in change of possessions. In baseball its either a walk to the mound or the end of an inning. Its sports. NASCAR needs to have those too."

"The last caution today was well thought out by NASCAR. Everyone had pitted and no one was adversely effected by the caution. The 100,000 plus fans that drove to MIS to be entertained I'm sure appreciated the late race reset."

"Crews had to make the right calls on pit road and drivers had to get up on the wheel to close the deal. What's wrong with that? Thank you for buying a ticket and gas and a hotel and etc.."

Waltrip's comments drive home the point that the racing dynamic is very different than most sports because of the inability to stop the action. Sports like tennis and baseball contain natural breaks in the action, while NFL football is built around a made-for-TV commercial format disguised as four quarters of action.

SB Nation NASCAR reporter Jeff Gluck addressed the issue in May and featured comments from NASCAR VP of Competition Robin Pemberton. He was responding to a controversy after a late race questionable caution thrown at Richmond that basically cost Tony Stewart a win.

Click here for the full SB Nation story. Here is an excerpt:

"Sometimes, some people are a little more needy than others and they want to see that for whatever reason," Pemberton told reporters attending a function at Charlotte Motor Speedway. "And whatever their thought process and beliefs with the governing body (are), they think they need proof.

"Sometimes you see (the debris) and sometimes you don't, and that's based on TV coverage, basically."

But Pemberton said he doesn't mind TV not showing the reason for debris caution because, "I don't have an issue with (the reason for the caution)."

He also said NASCAR does not keep the debris as evidence of why it called the caution.

"We don't inventory it, we don't tag it and put it a library anywhere or anything," he said. "It's just trash."

Ultimately, the man pictured above is responsible for the officiating in the sport. The calls of his staff shape the event when a caution is waved and fans start searching for the reason why.

Click here for a good read from Jeff Owens at The Sporting News on this topic. Here is an excerpt:

The problem is that it’s not fair to the competition on the track—namely the leader—and it looks bad, damaging the sport’s credibility. Throwing a phantom caution is like an umpire suddenly shrinking the strike zone to make a baseball game move along faster, or football referees ignoring pass interference to create more offense and make the game more exciting.

Manipulating the competition to produce a better show is crossing the line between sports and theatrics, making games a bit too much like professional wrestling (for which, ironically, Stewart once got into trouble for comparing NASCAR to).

But NASCAR can’t get itself into a position where its credibility is constantly questioned because of an overabundance of debris cautions. What it must figure out is why there has been a decline in close racing, leading to fewer natural cautions and taking away from the excitement of close competition. If it can solve that dilemma, there won’t be a need for questionable caution flags.

As the Sprint Cup Series heads to Phoenix, this issue will once again be in the spotlight. Stewart's issue at Richmond where a late caution was thrown seemingly to bunch the field up for the finish proved that it's not only the 1.5 mile tracks where this happens.

The sport is looking for some drama, more storylines and better competition this weekend. It should be interesting to see if the selective use of the caution flag becomes a tool to accomplish this goal.

We welcome your opinion on this topic. Comments may be moderated prior to posting.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

The Spin Room

Update: The election is over, but the comments are still coming on NASCAR's new approach to controlling the content that is released in the media. Certainly been that way this week.

Originally published 11/5: It's that time of year. After a lot of money and a lot of talk, the race for President is about to be decided. Along the way, most Americans have been exposed to a whole lot of what the media calls "spin."

It is vitally important in today's political world to have a strong contingent of dedicated marketing professionals who only speak to designated points. What they address has been decided in advance and rarely reflects reality. That does not seem to be a problem.

The spin in the media at first is entertaining. It's fun to watch marketing types use catch phrases and talking points to try and influence opinion. Then, the backlash begins. Citizens without an agenda and with their own independent thoughts begin to bristle at being told what to think.

Now, with the Presidential election looming, a key issue is just how much damage the effort at spinning the truth has caused both candidates. Ultimately, each individual has their own perception of what reality is and a set of reasons for their own political views.

This year, we NASCAR fans have seen a shift to the same style of marketing from the sanctioning body. Instead of offering a realistic view of what is actually happening, the message being sent through a wide variety of media outlets is shaped and arranged in advance.

A key piece of this philosophy is to brand anyone who dares move off-message. Buzzwords like hater, complainer and the ultimate scarlet letter of being called anti-NASCAR are quickly thrown at anyone who steps out of line. From on-air personalities to amateur bloggers, anyone with media access is now under scrutiny.

NASCAR is actually constructing a "Fan and Media Engagement Center" in the Hall of Fame building that will continually scan the digital media world and work to influence conversations not in line with the talking points of the sanctioning body. Click here for the TDP post on that topic from July.

Anyone who doubts this can reflect on the published goals of NASCAR's Integrated Marketing Communications group. "The IMC will provide overall thought leadership in the communications space," said the sanctioning body's news release. Well, there is just one little problem.

In today's social media world NASCAR fans are free to voice their own views with the same level of exposure as media members, Sprint Cup Series drivers and even NASCAR executives. Platforms like Twitter and Facebook don't care who you are, they just post the content delivered by the user.

All of this has led to a very interesting dynamic that came to a head this Sunday during the race in Texas. The pre-race chatting on Twitter and Facebook quickly moved from cheering to downright surly once the race began. Following the postings to the #NASCAR hashtag on Twitter and the comments on NASCAR's Facebook page became an exercise in watching pent-up frustration boil over.

Some of the targets were familiar ones. Mysterious caution flags for debris where none was shown on TV. The dominance of Jimmie Johnson in a sport where cars are supposedly equal. The lack of passing when the cars were racing at speed. The frequency of TV commercials shown under green flag conditions and, of course, NASCAR's Chase playoff format.

What is perhaps important to keep in mind is that this is the time of the NASCAR season when the focus should be on the racing. Sunday, it was once again a race that looked a lot like practice. Single cars were spaced out and once in a great while, carefully passing each other. Pit stops and two-tire calls made for the only storylines until late in the event.

The problem is that none of this makes a dent in the marketing spin. What will be sent along through channels is the final lap mini-drama of two drivers actually racing. In a nutshell, that type of basic racing action is what NASCAR fans want to see throughout the race. It is what NASCAR and the tracks promote as being at the heart of the sport. This season, nothing could be further from the truth.

This week pay attention to what you hear on NASCAR's SiriusXM radio channel. Keep an eye on what topics are raised on SPEED's daily Race Hub show. Check Jayski's media links page and scan the headlines for the reality of what you saw on Sunday. It should be an interesting exercise.

Tackling issues head-on and getting public feedback was once said to be a priority. The NASCAR Fan Council was going to change the sport and opinions from the fan base were going to be the primary influence. It seems ironic that efforts this season are to control the message, spin the reality and slap a happy face on what so far is a sport desperately in need of fundamental change.

We welcome your opinion on this topic. Comments may be moderate prior to posting.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Numbers Tell The Tale

ESPN updated the weekend ratings from the Sprint Cup Series race at Martinsville. Here is the info:

ESPN’s live telecast of the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway on Sunday, Oct. 28, earned a 2.8 household coverage rating (2.4 U.S. rating), averaging 3,617,199 viewers, according to the Nielsen Company. Last year’s telecast earned a 3.6 household coverage rating, while the rating was the same as the 2010 race telecast. (via pressdog).

That puts the final TV rating down some 22% from the previous year.

Click here to view the Jayski TV ratings page for the entire 2012 Sprint Cup Series.

Texas is up next for ESPN. As we discussed here in several past columns, the Chase has handcuffed the TV coverage into a single storyline and the NASCAR fans and sports TV viewers are not buying it.

Talking about this topic does not make us bad NASCAR fans or enemies of the sport. As Mike Helton said in his Sunday interview on SPEED's Wind Tunnel, things tend to go in cycles with motorports and NASCAR is working on various changes to help the current negative cycle end.

This big dip in the TV ratings, despite the fact Dale Earnhardt Jr. raced and the small track made for good TV pictures, should certainly be a wake-up call. It's time to talk about making things better in terms of the final product delivered to TV viewers.

ESPN still has 11 on-air voices trying for air time in an event with no time-outs. Even with Tim Brewer and his Tech Garage parked, ESPN's attempts to integrate all these personalities on a short-track telecast was rough. Add-in the sponsored elements and in-program promo's and the result is short segment of coverage leading again to a commercial of at least two minutes in length.

Click here for a link to our friend Cheryl and her website. It shows ESPN ran 31 of the 56 minutes of total commercials in the full-screen format. On this size track and with the Chase playoff in progress, there is little doubt that all commercial breaks during green flag racing need to be shown in the side-by-side format that is called ESPN Nonstop.

NASCAR will never defeat the NFL for total viewers because of the home team factor and the vast difference in the TV dynamics of the two sports. What perhaps could be done is to bring NASCAR into the current sports TV viewing culture by making substantive changes in the presentation of the Chase races on TV.

After the numbers for Martinsville, it certainly makes some sense to look at a wide variety of items to stem this tide of lost viewers. We welcome your opinion on this topic. Comments may be moderated prior to posting. Thanks for stopping by The Daly Planet.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

NASCAR In The Red Zone

The Chase for the Championship was the response of NASCAR to the competition on Sunday afternoons with the National Football League. At the time, the focus was on trying to draw attention away from the regional NFL games with a national playoff format.

The picture above is from the NFL's response to local TV stations locking viewers into two pre-selected games in their market. The NFL Red Zone is offered on both satellite and cable TV for a small monthly fee. It runs on football Sundays throughout the early and late afternoon games.

Simply put, the folks at the Red Zone watch all the games in all the markets and swing the coverage to every key moment of every single game. At first glance it's a bit overwhelming, but then reality hits. The NFL has the ultimate remote control and you are watching them use it.

When two moments are unfolding, they simply use two video boxes. When there is a need for more, as with the picture above, they simply add another. Basically, the picture-in-picture function is controlled for the viewer. During the entire time a Sunday afternoon Sprint Cup Series Chase race is running, the Red Zone is working to keep NFL fans entertained by providing out-of-market game content.

Meanwhile, NASCAR is offering a single TV telecast with some isolated cameras and in-car feeds available online. The single channel produced for viewers is interrupted by commercials roughly one-third of the entire program time while the event is in progress. By simply paying a small fee for service, the NFL solved that problem. The Red Zone has no commercial interruptions.

In a recent TDP post titled "The Art of the Spectacle," the comparison was made between the era of the non-Chase format and today's made-for-TV NASCAR playoff. When the Chase was created, it mirrored some other pro sports like PGA Golf that also tried to create an internal playoff structure in response to the NFL season.

A short time ago, NASCAR reached a new TV deal with FOX Sports. By negotiating inside an exclusive "window" of time available only to existing TV partners, both NASCAR and FOX got what they wanted. FOX landed 13 Sprint Cup Series races filling a time in the network schedule without other pro sports. NASCAR set a solid financial foundation for the future of the tracks and the sanctioning body.

What is left dangling in the wind is the Chase. ESPN has decided not to negotiate inside the exclusive period and instead wait until 2013. That network televises the final 17 Sprint Cup Series races, including the entire Chase. The current TV contract ends after the 2014 season.

With the FOX deal now in hand, it might be a very good time to address the reality of the Chase. A time period now exists where NASCAR could again ponder the season points and championship structure. Just like when the original changes happened, the entire idea would be to better serve the sport and the fans.

In today's fickle and high-tech world, there are few TV viewers who are willing to devote over three hours to a single event. Even the regional NFL games reflect the network's awareness of this with the heavy amount of cut-ins for highlights of other games. The effort to keep the attention of the sports TV viewer has never been greater.

During the Chase races, despite the reality of a full field of cars running at speed, the perception on TV is that only twelve cars really matter. It isn't a failure on the part of the TV network showing the race, it is a function of the made-for-TV format originally created to battle pro football.

Just as the NFL has innovated with the Red Zone channel to serve viewers, NASCAR needs to innovate with the part of the Sprint Cup Series season that competes with football. Perhaps the place to start is to return the individual racing weekends to prominence. Allow the races to become the star and the season points to be allocated in whatever fashion after the Victory Lane and pit road interviews.

This puts the promotion, the hype and the rivalries back in the spotlight without the horse collar of the Chase choking-off the tension and stories built up during the season with an arbitrary cut-off for contention. It lets the simmering pot of the NASCAR year continue to heat up as all the drivers now have a chance to be a star after September.

It also dismantles the star system within the multi-car teams as the best resources and manpower can now remain intact instead of being pointed toward the Chase contender or contenders within the company. The emphasis on making all the teams relevant also returns the ability of the media corps to feature them all once again.

Finally, the fans of the drivers and teams outside of the Chase are formally handed an invitation by NASCAR to depart until next February and watch the NFL for the final ten weeks of the season. TV will not and seemingly cannot find a way to update, report or feature non-Chasers even when in contention for a race win. With 12 cars in and 30 cars out, the Chase math is not hard to follow.

2013 offers NASCAR a unique window to do some research and development. It's essentially the beginning of a two-season lame duck period of the existing TV contract. With the FOX deal now done, NASCAR knows the remaining sports TV players will come calling when the time is right. The financial risk is long gone.

What's the harm in taking the temperature of the teams, networks and fans where the Chase is concerned and making some changes? This window of opportunity will not come again and certainly ESPN would like to see higher ratings in the two remaining seasons for the final ten races. An experiment that works would yield significant benefits for everyone concerned.

One thing is for sure, the NFL will be working hard again next season to sharpen its technology and delivery of live content to fans. Maybe NASCAR can seize this opportunity to use the strength of its drivers, tracks and rivalries to bring back those fans who walked away despite the best intentions of the Chase.

We invite your opinion on this topic. Comments may be moderated prior to posting.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

NASCAR Out Of "The Job" (Updated)

Updated Saturday 10/20: As with so many reality shows, there is a big difference between what is planned and what come to fruition. NASCAR has informed us they have decided not to participate in The Job reality series this season. No reason given, but it is a done deal.

It's that time of year and a new slew of "scripted reality" TV shows are cranking up once again to entertain America. This time it's not Undercover Boss but a new series in which NASCAR is participating. It is time to find out who gets The Job.

Here is the scoop from CBS:

The series, produced by Emmy Award winners Michael Davies (“Who Wants to be a Millionaire”) and Mark Burnett (“Survivor,” “The Voice”), gives candidates selected from around the country a chance to win dynamic positions with potential for enormous growth at some of America’s most iconic companies.

Guided by Emmy Award nominee Lisa Ling (“The View”), the country’s best and brightest compete in a compelling and challenging competition for a dream job at their dream company in industries such as fashion, game design, sports, travel and entertainment.

The Job has a Twitter account, a Facebook page and an opportunity to once again expose NASCAR on TV in primetime. These scripted reality shows are called that because they "set-up" situations and many times use scripted elements to create tension. Nothing is spontaneous. Most importantly, these types of shows create cheap programming for the producers. No union fees with this group.

Here is how entertainment reporter Joe Adalian from described the show:

The idea behind the show: Five qualified folks, chosen from an applicant pool of thousands, compete for a chance to win a gig at a well-known company. Each week will feature a different batch of contestants and, we assume, a new company (shades of Undercover Boss, sans the undercover part).

Casting calls have already taken place in both Los Angeles and New York. It has yet to be revealed what the five candidates will have to do to get The Job, but these shows almost universally have the same result. A "personality" who desires an opportunity for a bigger stage and a media presence wins and then fades quickly when facing the reality of the actual job.

The irony is there are lots of folks working hard in the social media and marketing field right now who would legitimately benefit from the opportunity to work in a professional atmosphere. Click here for the TDP post from July titled "When Media and Marketing Collide."

The winner of this reality show will be working for NASCAR in Charlotte. Here are some of the details on where, what and why from a NASCAR media release:

“The Fan and Media Engagement Center will leverage industry-leading technology in order to better engage with the massive community that is the NASCAR fan base,” said Steve Phelps, NASCAR senior vice president and chief marketing officer. “This is a clear example of our commitment to using cutting-edge technology to better inform our sport. Ultimately, this tool will help our industry connect with media and fans more effectively and efficiently.”

Measurement also will be a key function of the Fan and Media Engagement Center. Those capabilities will expand across qualitative and quantitative measurements and include tonality, volume, proximity and other coverage attributes in regular reports the FMEC will generate.

The center will be staffed and managed by the NASCAR Integrated Marketing Communications team. Located on the same floor as in offices at NASCAR Plaza in Charlotte, N.C., the FMEC is slated for testing in October, with a full rollout expected by the start of the 2013 NASCAR season. The center will be housed in a 500-square-foot, glass-enclosed area, outfitted with state-of-the-art touch screens, television monitors and multiple seated viewing areas and work stations.

So, keep your eyes peeled for a new show this winter that will probably have a lot of NASCAR hype surrounding it. Now you know exactly what it is, where it came from and what it is about.

We invite your opinion on this topic. Comments may be moderate prior to posting.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Oh No Daddy! (Updated Friday 10/19)

2nd Update Friday 10/19: ESPN's Women's themed website has lept to Danica's defense with an article from motorsports veteran Brant James. Click here to read about Go Daddy saying just how much they value the Danica "brand."

Update: This Daly Planet column was first published back in June. Click here for a current story in USA Today reinforcing the fact that Patrick has not been seen in new Go Daddy ads since the company switched advertising agencies. Patrick is ready to drive full-time in the Sprint Cup Series next season. There are also some great reader comments from the time of the original posting. Feel free to add your opinion.

The images are burned into the minds of motorsports fans nationwide. Danica Patrick and her GoDaddy girlfriends pushing sexual innuendo across the TV screen. Danica and the stripping cop, Danica taking a shower and Danica joking about keeping her "beaver" safe are just a few of the tasteless offerings.

The engineer of the economic train that ultimately brought Patrick to NASCAR is Bob Parsons, the man pictured above. The founder of GoDaddy might be the ultimate creep to many, but like most self-made billionaires he sees himself as above it all. It's just a game to him driven by sales.

Last summer Parsons finally cashed out of GoDaddy in a deal that saw a group of private equity firms pay a total of $2.5 billion for the company. Parsons stepped aside from running the day-to-day operations and Warren Adelman became the company's new chief executive. Parsons remained connected to the new group and is being called executive chairman.

Little changed immediately, but Adelman has been dropping hints that the company is planning to go in a different direction. Not in terms of changing it's basic service of registering Internet domain names, but in presenting the overall image of the company to the public. Now, that change has begun.

Tuesday the New York Times confirmed that GoDaddy has hired a prestigious advertising agency called Deutsch New York to reshape the company's image. The rebranding will begin immediately with the first new TV commercials airing later this summer in sporting events including the Summer Olympics.

Click here to read the full story from New York Times media reporter Stuart Elliott.

The chief executive at Deutsch New York is quoted as saying GoDaddy did a "terrific job generating awareness." That same chief executive, who will now be in charge of the Internet company's new TV commercials, also called the older ads disruptive.

The chief executive of Deutsch New York, called one of the most powerful people in TV advertising, is a woman named Valerie DiFebo.

Elliott asked her to comment on the current GoDaddy ad campaign:

"As a woman, is it my favorite work?” she asked rhetorically, then replied, “No.”

On the topic of the future of the GoDaddy Girls:

They "will still have a role, but more in balance with what the brand has to offer," said DiFebo.

On the theme of the new ads for the company:

"The ads will tell more of a story about GoDaddy’s technology rather than entice consumers with appeals like 'To see more skin, click here,'" she added.

While Patrick and her management team have worked to broaden her commercial appeal, GoDaddy is the foundation that funded her current Nationwide Series ride and was said to be poised to continue that funding for a full time Sprint Cup Series team.

The immediate effect of this change in GoDaddy's philosophy and advertising is that Patrick's presence on TV will be reduced dramatically in just the next few weeks as the company shifts to the new commercials and image campaign. So no more body painting, dangling bikini's or veiled threats of nudity during NASCAR races.

The sport has seen a wide variety of sponsors come and go. The big question on the table is just how long Patrick's current GoDaddy contract is at this point and whether the rumored shift to the Sprint Cup Series next season is still in the works.

It won't make much sense for GoDaddy to play in NASCAR if the driver is not actively part of the company's rebranded ad campaign. This story has a lot more to be revealed over the next few weeks. Ironically, those words sound familiar.

We invite your opinion on this topic. Comments may be moderated prior to posting.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

The Anatomy Of A Deal

It's going to be quite a while before that smile leaves the face of NASCAR Chairman Brian France. Amid a rapidly changing sports TV market desperate for product, France struck the motherload.

Here is the full announcement with all the available details provided by both NASCAR and FOX about the new multi-year agreement between the two parties. Read it carefully, as this agreement not only covers the future of the Sprint and Camping World Truck Series, it also previews the changes coming as SPEED TV becomes the FOX Sports 1 cable sports network.

With two full seasons left on their current television contract, NASCAR and FOX Sports Media Group (FSMG) announced today (Monday) an extensive new eight-year, multiplatform media rights agreement that ensures FSMG’s broadcast of NASCAR racing through 2022.

Under terms of the new agreement, FSMG also significantly increases its digital rights to include “TV Everywhere” live race streaming of its portion of the season for the first time ever beginning in 2013.

“NASCAR has been in very good hands and has enjoyed tremendous success the last 12 years in large part because of our fantastic partnership with FOX and FOX Sports Media Group,” said NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France. “We are thrilled to be able to extend our relationship in such a significant way for our track partners, race teams, and most importantly, our millions of loyal and passionate fans. This extension with FOX Sports Media Group helps position the sport for future growth as NASCAR continues to be an anchor with one of the world’s largest and most influential media companies.”

As part of the new agreement, which takes effect in 2015, FSMG retains the television rights to 13 consecutive NASCAR Sprint Cup Series points races beginning each year with the prestigious Daytona 500. In addition, FSMG retains the rights to the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race, the Daytona Shootout, the Duel at Daytona, the entire NASCAR Camping World Truck Series season and practice and qualifying for both the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series and the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series races that FSMG broadcasts.

“We’re extremely happy to have worked closely with Brian and his team at NASCAR over the last few months to expand and extend our relationship for what is without question the most popular motorsport in the country,” said FSMG Co-Presidents and CEOs Eric Shanks and Randy Freer. “NASCAR has been a staple at FOX for more than a decade and we consider it one of the signature sports we cover. With our commitment renewed, we look forward to presenting NASCAR thoroughly, professionally and creatively for many years to come.”

On the digital front, FSMG gains “TV Everywhere” rights starting next season to live stream all FSMG races, along with pre- and post-race coverage, race highlights and in-progress race highlights to events it televises. This portion of the deal was made possible by NASCAR’s reacquisition of operational, business and editorial control of its digital platform, a move that takes effect on Jan. 1, 2013.

“NASCAR fans’ demand and desire for NASCAR content stretches across all platforms and distribution channels,” France said. “As we’ve done with this FSMG extension, we will continue to take the appropriate measures to ensure our fans have access to the sport wherever they are and through all available devices. NASCAR is one of the most accessible sports in the world and this new deal builds upon that in a very significant way.”

FSMG’s new and expanded television and digital media rights agreement with NASCAR includes, but is not limited to:

- An eight-year term from 2015 to 2022. The current FSMG/NASCAR rights agreement began in 2006 and runs through 2014

- Thirteen (13) consecutive points races beginning with the Daytona 500 on FOX

- The Daytona Shootout; Duel at Daytona; NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race; and Daytona 500 Qualifying

- Full NASCAR Camping World Truck Series season

- Right to televise all practice and qualifying sessions for FSMG races

- Ability to re-telecast races on a FOX network and via video-on-demand (VOD) for 24 hours

- Right to ancillary programming including, but not limited to, a nightly NASCAR news and information show as well as weekend at-track shows

- Right to NASCAR branded pre- and post-race shows

- Extensive digital rights beginning in 2013, including:

- TV Everywhere – live digital distribution of all races FSMG has rights to broadcast

- Pre- and post-race coverage

- Race highlights

- In-progress race highlights

- Replays of FOX-televised races

For this agreement, FOX will pay $300 million annually for eight years. That would be a total of $2.4 billion. This is an increase of 33% over the existing contract, but there are some items to note.

While FOX describes the fact that it can offer streaming of races for digital devices in the new agreement, media reporter Joe Flint of the LA Times notes that NASCAR fans will have to be a subscriber of a pay-TV provider to access that content. There is little doubt that provider will be the new FOX Sports 1 network.

As regular readers of this blog know, there is no love lost at the moment between NASCAR and Turner Sports. A nasty fight over digital issues saw NASCAR wind-up spending tens of millions of dollars to buy back its own online rights. NASCAR likes to cash checks, not write them.

The new FOX agreement paves the way for FOX to possibly buy the rights to the races currently in the TNT package and present that "summer six pack" on FOX Sports 1. Remember, those races are already being seen on a cable TV network. In theory, it would just be a channel change for fans. In reality, NASCAR would love it.

Finally, the clear language in the agreement surrounding practice and qualifying sessions speaks to those races being televised by FOX. As we mentioned in past weeks, TNT has never carried those sessions and ESPN has been hit and miss at best for that network's races.

It would be improbable to believe that FOX would want a branded network like FOX Sports 1 to carry the practice and qualifying sessions for races on TNT and ESPN. Under the SPEED banner, it made sense as the network was dedicated to motorsports in theory. That is about to change.

Finally, what becomes of shows like RaceDay and Victory Lane? In the New World Order, RaceDay would spend two hours promoting a race airing on TNT or ESPN once the FOX portion of the season is done. Tough to believe FOX Sports 1 would actively promote a Sprint Cup Series race running against NFL football on the FOX Broadcast Network.

It's going to be interesting to watch all this shake out, but one thing is clear. FOX has moved into the national cable sports business in a big way and used NASCAR to bring a large body of content to it's new network.

Despite it's ongoing issues, NASCAR struck paydirt with FOX. ESPN and TNT chose to pass on these early negotiations and will not make their intentions known until several months into the 2013 season.

We welcome your opinion on this topic. Comments may be moderated prior to posting.

Friday, October 12, 2012

NASCAR Classic: Field Of Streams

The murky world of online video streaming has been something that NASCAR had avoided. From the start of the existing NASCAR TV contract in 2007, online streaming of actual races was simply not allowed. NASCAR went for the money and sold all the digital rights to the sport, including the ability to stream content online, to Turner Sports.

Over the past several seasons some limited video offerings like RaceBuddy crept into the picture but actual races were never shown, only isolated cameras. ESPN offers the WatchESPN app, but all that does is allow existing ESPN subscribers access to the network's various feeds online.

Now things are about to change. The new guard at NASCAR bought back the digital rights this January, several years before the existing contract was about to end with Turner. While NASCAR may have been several million dollars lighter in the wallet, the move was long overdue. NASCAR will launch a new official website and an entirely new digital strategy in 2013.

A key part of this rollout will be complete NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races streamed online. But how these races will be made available is the issue. Click here for a recent USA Today article where new FOX Sports Media Group executive Eric Shanks says that FOX will begin streaming its Sprint Cup Series races next season.

While ESPN and TNT are cable networks to which viewers must pay and subscribe, FOX is an FCC regulated over-the-air broadcast network that operates with local stations nationwide distributing its content. The issue has long been that live streaming of races, even if controlled by zip code only to the US, would not be able to carry the same commercial inventory sold for TV.

Former FOX Sports chief David Hill said the local TV stations would revolt if the NASCAR product they carried was also available online. He also said it would ruin the ability of FOX to make back the money it paid to get NASCAR through national TV ad sales.

Having the new management group at FOX confirm streaming for 2013 in whatever form is one of the most significant improvements in terms of digital technology the sport has ever seen. Finally, the Daytona 500 on your iPad or android phone. After all these years of digital disaster, the sport is waking up.

If Shanks is kicking the door open, it is going to be up to NASCAR to decide if another audience is going to be served. There are folks who would pay a small fee to view a Sprint Cup Series race online from start to finish without commercials. NASCAR currently provides such a feed for TV viewers outside of the US called the world feed.

Since US commercials cannot be shown in other countries for obvious reasons, there has been a world feed for several years originating for Cup races. The idea would be to package the commercial-free races either as an entire season or a la carte for digital users to access. It would be no different from the current Trackpass and Raceview packages now offered by NASCAR, but this time it would be actual race video.

What this does is open the door to a new group of fans who want to interact with more than just a three hour live TV telecast where perhaps a bored announcer reads some fan tweets on the air. The younger set wants all the digital technology bundled, a social media-friendly platform available and the live video with no commercials.

As the off-season begins, details of what NASCAR will offer next season in terms of online video will certainly emerge. Hopefully, there will be a full slate of offerings outside of the content controlled by and limited to the existing TV partner websites and apps. It will be important to get as much news and "support programming" online as well. Imagine the Friday activity from the tracks streamed for free to build interest for the weekend races.

It probably should have happened years ago, but give NASCAR credit for taking control and working to get the digital side of the business organized. This story will continue to unfold over the next three months leading up to Daytona.

We welcome your opinion on this topic. Comments may be moderated prior to posting.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

NASCAR TV: The Cart Before The Horse

The word is on the street that FOX Sports is back in the driver's seat with NASCAR. The Sports Business Journal suggests that FOX is about to announce a new TV contract with the sanctioning body. The current agreement expires at the end of 2014.

It's pretty easy to understand why FOX wants to get this deal done. The company is about to kill the cable network we now know as SPEED. FOX uses words like "rebranding" to explain this change, but the bottom line is that the only TV network originally dedicated to motorsports has failed.

Once NASCAR allows FOX to sign on the dotted line for Sprint Cup Series races, SPEED will become the FOX Sports 1 cable network and carry sports of all types. The implied promise by FOX to NASCAR is that there will still be NASCAR programming on the new network. Unfortunately, history tells a different tale.

The very reason SPEED moved from Stamford, CT to Charlotte, NC years ago was to become the official NASCAR cable TV network. Prior to that transition, SpeedVision carried a variety of programming related to cars, boats, planes and motorcycles.  The new company buying the network made no bones about the fact their agenda was NASCAR. That company was FOX.

FOX was so committed to NASCAR that it became a partner in the official TV production arm of the sport, then called NASCAR Images. It was all going to be so perfect. FOX would continue to carry live Sprint Cup Series races, be a partner with NASCAR in TV production and open a 24 hour cable TV network to show those programs.

Well, a funny thing happened on the way to NASCAR nirvana. Things quickly fell apart. FOX and NASCAR quietly parted company in the ownership of NASCAR Images. SPEED's management parade then saw an eroding of the commitment to motorsports and the rise of reality/lifestyle programming.

Ultimately, SPEED became a two-headed monster that made no sense. Motorsports on Friday through Sunday and some of the worst reality and lifestyle programming ever produced for American television on Monday through Thursday. All the while, the SPEED management never saw the big picture.

Now, it's NASCAR's turn to either remember the past or get burned by it. Once FOX has a signed deal for the Sprint Cup Series events, there is absolutely no incentive for the company to make NASCAR programming a priority for the new FOX Sports 1 network. As veteran fans know, this type of support or shoulder programming is vital to the sport.

From January through November, SPEED is the official TV network of NASCAR. Even without a Sprint Cup Series points race or any Nationwide Series events, SPEED is NASCAR's most important TV partner. Whether it is practice, qualifying or pre and post-race programming no network comes close to SPEED.

The network has single-handedly kept the Camping World Truck Series alive with sparkling old school coverage aimed directly at the TV viewer. Free from agendas and full of characters, SPEED makes the rag-tag series come to life with hardcore coverage of just plain racing.

The new agenda of FOX Sports is to use the millions of homes already subscribed to SPEED as a platform to chase the ESPN franchise and revenue stream by developing the FOX Sports 1 network. Broadening the agenda of the new network by adding mainstream sports like Major League Baseball, college football and news will deeply affect motorsports in general.

In the current TV deal, NASCAR went for the dollars and the results were not good. The sanctioning body was forced to buy back it's own digital (online) rights from TV partner Turner. ESPN has buried the Nationwide Series every year once college football begins and the network's Chase coverage has been panned.

FOX comes in with a splash at Daytona, makes a lot of noise about itself and then goes away. The only broadcast TV network left in the entire TV contract, this season FOX featured the Waltrip brothers and their self-promoting agendas. It's not hard to imagine that Darrell and Michael may be in the TV booth together in the new deal.

A NASCAR on FOX announcer hinted months ago on Twitter that FOX may be expanding the amount of Sprint Cup Series races the network covers in the new contract. It is no secret that there is no love lost between NASCAR and TNT after years of digital tension between the two companies that ultimately cost NASCAR tens of millions of dollars. Those 6 TNT races may be on the negotiating table.

The bottom line is that making a new deal for Sprint Cup Series races on FOX without locking in a full season of support programming on FOX Sports 1 would be a huge mistake. You can't sell the bacon without the sizzle and losing the practice, qualifying and news programs that now air on SPEED would be a disaster.

Many TDP columns were written asking SPEED to expand NASCAR programming to weeknights. The answer was no. The concept of a weekday morning NASCAR news and interview show, perhaps in cooperation with MRN/Sirius radio, was panned. The idea of a nightly NASCAR news show was openly mocked for years. Now, these issues have come full circle.

FOX is simply a company chasing higher profit margins through the conversion of an existing specialized cable TV network to a  general sports network. The company is not partners with NASCAR. FOX wants Sprint Cup Series races for its broadcast network until other sports can fill Sunday afternoons.

When the news of this new FOX deal with NASCAR emerges, keep an eye on what else is included other than the races. That should be a clear-cut sign of just how well NASCAR negotiated and also what real agenda of FOX emerges after the money changes hands.

We invite your opinion on this topic. Comments may be moderated prior to posting.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

The Road Not Taken (Updated)

We all have different paths in life. Often our direction is driven by opportunity and the desire for change. Sometimes change is thrust upon us and we simply must respond. The final sentence of the classic Robert Frost poem from 1915 says it very well. Confronted by two paths, choosing the right one can make all the difference.

In this column we are going to touch on several subjects. The passing of Chris Economaki will be first. The Dean of Motorsports loved ESPN when the network got cranked up in the early 1980's. Economaki got the idea, the technology and made the most of his opportunities with the cable network. He gladly took the road less traveled and loved every minute of it.

In the early 1980's my late friend Adrian Karsten and I were at the ESPN Christmas party held at the Aqua Turf Club in Southington, CT. ESPN was an oddity, an all-sports cable network and the party attracted a incredible mix of personalities. One man came to our table and loudly asked to "borrow" our unused bottle of red wine. It was Economaki.

When asked why he was in a small Connecticut town in the dead of winter he gave his typical reply. "I never miss a good party," he said. To have someone of that stature in both the TV and motorsports worlds at the Christmas party of a start-up cable TV network was powerful.

Needless to say, he eventually wound-up holding court for those of us involved with motorsports at the network. As you may expect, many stick-and-ball types had absolutely no idea who he was but they could not stay away from his charismatic personality. The memory of that night and his wonderful stories is what comes up first for me when Economaki is the subject.

The sadness of the Economaki passing comes amid changes that will affect what has been done here at TDP over the past several seasons. Rather than have a long discussion, let's just say that my desire to watch live Sprint Cup Series races has faded for a variety of reasons. This weekend's race will move to the DVR and be reviewed at a later date. This switch also ends the pre and post-race TV show viewing.

We had been developing the #TDP1 hashtag for weekend Sprint Cup Series races, but that Twitter activity is going to end. Twitter has been an interesting experiment and one that has provided a lot of good NASCAR information. These days, it has skewed into a breeding ground for marketing and special interest content.

This blog is not ending, just taking on a new format. TDP will continue with columns on weekdays. The topics will range beyond NASCAR and include the digital issues confronting motorsports, the future of networks like SPEED and what the motorsports TV landscape will look like in 2013. The media-related changes now in progress are major and happening at lightning speed.

I appreciate your patience during this transition and hope you will continue to read TDP in its new form. Thanks for all the support on race weekends, but life goes on and change is something we all deal with on a regular basis. The new week will start with a wrap-up of the Sprint Cup Series telecast on Sunday night. Hope to see you then. Have a great weekend.

Update: There was nothing to discuss after viewing the Dover Sprint Cup Series race on the DVR. New columns on media topics will appear this week. If you would like to leave a Dover TV coverage comment, please do it on this post. Thank you.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Waiting For Godot - Updated

Update: Still waiting for info on new MLB and NASCAR TV contracts. No new update on the situation with SPEED or the future plans for FOX Sports 1. Lots of cards being played close to the chest right now. New column up Thursday night with more ongoing NASCAR media topics.

In the classic play "Waiting for Godot" the two main characters pass the time just waiting. They have no set schedule of when their mysterious friend will arrive. They do not know what he looks like, how he is dressed or what his agenda will be when he shows up. The entire play is about the torture of just plain waiting.

Sometime this week, the executives at FOX Sports are going to put pen to paper and sign a new multi-billion dollar TV deal with Major League Baseball. The new contract will begin with the 2014 season and will feature an expansion of games across the FOX TV properties. Once the ink is dry, the waiting begins.

One of the key elements of the new contract will be a slate of games on the cable TV network we now know as SPEED. In order to accommodate baseball and other types of sports, the network will be rebranded. The new name circulating in the media is the FOX Sports 1 cable network.

In terms of NASCAR content, SPEED is currently a two-headed monster. Shows like RaceHub, SpeedCenter and Wind Tunnel are produced directly by the network at its studios in north Charlotte, NC. The network also produces its own Camping World Truck Series races, the Daytona Twins and the All-Star race.

The other programming originating from the Sprint Cup Series tracks is produced for SPEED by NASCAR's in-house TV company. NASCAR Productions works from the Hall of Fame TV studios in downtown Charlotte. This group also produces official highlight packages that air in NASCAR-related shows on several networks. The key is that they control TV production at the tracks.

Once things with baseball are official and change is on the way, there will be lots of issues to ponder while we wait. FOX is also said to be on the verge of a new TV deal with NASCAR. The current contract expires after the 2014 season. It will be interesting to see just what remains of the existing NASCAR content now carried by SPEED.

FOX controls its cable networks from an base of operations in Los Angeles, CA. With Major League Baseball and other general sports programming set to air on FOX Sports 1, part of the waiting game will be to discuss what will become of the existing SPEED studios and staff back in North Carolina.

If production on studio-based NASCAR and general motorsports shows continues, it would make sense to keep the Charlotte facility. On the other hand, FOX may simply turn to NASCAR Productions to originate the NASCAR content remaining on the new network and shutter the existing SPEED studios.

SPEED currently also has digital offerings that focus on an extensive motorsports-themed website and a broadband video channel called SPEED2. With NASCAR exclusively in control of all the sport's digital offerings beginning in 2013, what would become of both the SPEED website and the broadband channel is a toss-up.

SPEED originally started in Stamford, CT as a network called SpeedVision. It then moved to Charlotte and took up residence sharing production facilities with a christian religious network for several years. Finally, after a long wait, the current digital studios were built on Charlotte's north side as a "lasting investment."

While a move to LA of staff members in programming and administrative departments would work, there is a large group of SPEED employees and freelancers who are tied to the Charlotte area through personal and professional connections. NASCAR is unique in having most of the TV and media personalities in the sport living in the same general area.

So, once the baseball deal is done the waiting game begins in earnest for many of the on-air personalities, producers and production staff at SPEED. The next shoe to drop should be the new NASCAR contract, which will hopefully make very clear just how much of the support programming that SPEED has aired for many years will remain.

There are may ways to approach waiting. Here is a quote from the play about that topic:

"Let us not waste our time in idle discourse. Let us do something, while we have the chance! It is not every day that we are needed. But at this place, at this moment of time, all mankind is us, whether we like it or not. Let us make the most of it, before it is too late!"

While this NASCAR season is winding down, 2013 may be a significant challenge for those involved with both SPEED and NASCAR. The worst part of waiting is not knowing anything about the situation about to unfold. That is precisely what many NASCAR TV veterans in Charlotte are dealing with right now.

We invite your thoughts on this topic. Comments may be moderated prior to posting.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Race Wrap: Sprint Cup Series From New Hampshire On ESPN

The Sprint Cup Series event in New Hampshire featured great weather and a good crowd in the stands. What it did not feature was racing.

Nicole Briscoe led Rusty Wallace, Brad Daugherty and Ray Evernham through a one-hour pre-race show. Wallace made some very interesting comments on various topics that were clearly greeted with mixed reactions by the other members of the panel. It made for an interesting show.

NASCAR moved the race start back by an hour to avoid the NFL early game starting at the same time. In the pre-race show, it seemed ironic that an edited feature focused on Dale Earnhardt Jr. and his enjoyment of NFL fantasy football. The extensive piece certainly highlighted the positive aspects of the NFL.

Allen Bestwick led Dale Jarrett and Andy Petree into the live race telecast from the TV booth. Bestwick once again worked from start to finish and made sure as much information as possible was passed along. Unfortunately, this flat track has traditionally not allowed for much passing and that was the case once again.

Jarrett and Petree were happy to offer comments, analysis and opinion but often there was a single-file parade. It did not help that one car dominated the vast majority of the event. The good news is that the pictures were pretty and the audio was outstanding. It was a day made for TV.

The bad news is that several cautions for debris came out and ESPN totally avoided showing the offending piece of trash or car part on the air. A late caution that bunched up the field was really a tough sell. Even Bestwick just avoided the topic. Just taking five seconds to show the safety truck picking up debris would send a message to TV viewers that things were being done for the right reasons.

In the end, the run to the flag was uneventful. Like many track position races, this one ended with a thud. The Chase teams dominated and the storylines continued to be about the championship run.

We welcome your opinion on the TV coverage of the Sprint Cup Series race from the New Hampshire Motor Speedway. Comments may be moderated prior to posting. Thanks for stopping by.

Last Call For The 2012 Chase

Like most fans, I watch NASCAR races on TV. The Daly Planet blog is a project started back in 2007 to document how the races were presented by the new NASCAR TV partners. Back then there were new faces in new places and a lot of enthusiasm about the eight-year multi-billion dollar TV contract.

Now, six years later the very topic of NASCAR TV raises deep feelings and brings sharp comments. With the advent of social media many fans have strong opinions on everything from the TV production style to the amount of commercials in the races. Once again this season ESPN finds itself battling NFL football as it tries to make sense of NASCAR's playoff format.

The fundamental truth that has been a motto since this blog began was that TV was at the races to show viewers what the fans in the grandstands were watching. It's a simple concept. The idea is that the priorities of the TV producer, director and announcers were to "extend" the fan experience to those watching on TV.

After Chicagoland's lack of excitement, this week's race in New Hampshire is probably going to determine for some folks whether they watch the rest of the Chase live or switch to NFL football and record the racing. That is a valid question given the state of affairs in the sport right now. I find myself in that mix.

As we have said many times, ESPN paid the money and can present the Chase races as they see fit. That simply does not guarantee that fans will watch. The ultra-focus on the Chase to the point of ignoring the race is overwhelming. Every driver has fans. Those fans deserve to be informed regularly about their driver in a three hour telecast.

New Hampshire Motor Speedway is a flat track that in the past has seen little passing. Racing for position has come on restarts and pit road strategy and pit stops may well tell the tale. Contrast that with the local NFL hometeam playing a three hour game that stops for TV commercials, offers focused coverage of the on-field action and has the potential to generate excitement on every play.

The ESPN presentation of the Sprint Cup Series offers two cars on-camera at a time. Restarts are shown from in-car cameras and tight shots of the leader. Replays have been used for years to catch fans up on the actual racing and the incidents during the event. Rarely are stories like a fast car coming back through the field or a top driver struggling mid-pack reported.

All that was originally asked of TV when it was incorporated into NASCAR racing was that it bring the experience of being at the race to the viewer. ESPN has clearly shown that the network alone will decide what is important on the track, what information should be passed along and what topics should be mentioned.

Loudon is a litmus test for me. Even with the right announcers in place and all the top TV equipment at the ready, the ESPN producer and director have been reluctant to just show the best racing on the track and let the Chase settle itself after the race. The radio coverage does that. The fans in the stands do that.

If ESPN once again stumbles through a telecast dominated by the Chase storyline and meaningless tight shots of pairs of cars, it's over for me this season. The DVR is a great invention and that is where the remainder of the Sprint Cup Series races will go. I just can't watch a race without "watching" the racing.

It should be interesting to see how ESPN decides to produce this coverage. Ratings are lower in the NFL season and something needs to happen to make fans watch NASCAR this Sunday. Choosing pictures that reflect the best racing action instead of a continual focus on the Chase drivers would seem to be a viable solution.

Join us on Twitter using the #TDP1 hashtag as we live tweet the TV coverage of the race starting at 1PM ET. There is a ton of useful racing information on Twitter, including lots of team-specific content that never makes the race telecast. We will also take your race comments here and there will be a new post up when the telecast signs-off for your opinions.

Thanks as always for taking the time to stop by The Daly Planet.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Race Wrap: Sprint Cup Series On ESPN From Chicagoland Speedway

It is that time of the year. Chris Madigan from Sprint sent along this picture of the Sprint Cup sitting on pit road at Chicagoland Speedway prior to race one. Then, the actual race began.

Nicole Briscoe and her pre-race crew focused totally on the Chase. Rusty Wallace, Brad Daugherty and Ray Evernham were locked into discussing the topics planned in advance and it made for a less than interesting discussion. Many race fans had already watched one hour of NASCAR Now on ESPN2 and then two hours of NASCAR RaceDay on SPEED. Those shows also focused on the Chase.

Allen Bestwick continues to be an expert at directing traffic and his comments in reference to the race are always accurate. He seems to be handcuffed in terms of looking back in the field, recognizing that is where cars are racing for position and then getting ESPN's producer to go there with the cameras. Once again, the plodding and hyper-tight coverage of this series on TV continued.

Andy Petree and Dale Jarrett did not have much to work with other than some pitstops, part failures and restarts. The racing, as expected, was limited. Bestwick worked hard to pump the drama of the final pitstops but even that did not pan out in the end.

As we offered in an earlier column, the problem for TV is how to cover this playoff within a live race. In the end, once again, the teams not in the Chase were cheated out of TV coverage unless they were leading the race. As we have said for the last six seasons, all drivers and teams have fans. TV is there to serve them.

What are your comments on the coverage after this first race of the Chase? Thanks for taking the time to stop by.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

NASCAR Chase Day

It's time once again for big Brad and the NASCAR on ESPN gang to jump into the deep end of the pool and try to figure out how to show a playoff inside a live race. This will be the sixth season of ESPN trying to choose between chasing and racing.

There will be three hours of pre-race show before ESPN gets on-air from Chicagoland Speedway. NASCAR Now will be at 8AM over on ESPN2 and SPEED will have two hours of RaceDay starting at 11AM ET. There is little doubt what the focus of those two programs will be.

Nicole Briscoe will have Daugherty, Rusty Wallace and Ray Evernham along for the ride. The picture above is the Infield Pit Studio from Evernham's perspective via Twitter. This crew will have a tough time fitting in once the pre-race show is over. There have been few caution periods at this track for the Sprint Cup Series and the green flag pitstops are crucial. Expect to see Nicole and company during the race recapping the event as the network returns from commercial breaks.

Speaking of commercials, all ten Chase races will be utilizing the ESPN NonStop split-screen for breaks during the final half of each race. It's better than nothing, but certainly ESPN expanding this concept should they decide to stay in the sport after the current contract expires would make a lot of sense.

Allen Bestwick has been solid for the network, calling the action and putting things in perspective. Dale Jarrett and Andy Petree have been effective, with Petree taking the lead in offering opinion and Jarrett sticking to analysis of events inside the race. Jarrett has never really taken full advantage of his on-air position. These three begin the Chase in the TV booth.

Jamie Little is back from maternity leave and she will be joined on pit road by Dr. Jerry Punch, Vince Welch and Dave Burns. Things tend to get a little testy once the Chase is underway, so it should be interesting to see just how these drivers relate to the ESPN reporters in general. The past several years are filled with rather memorable moments between those two parties.

ESPN has a production formula that is totally different from SPEED when that network covers the truck series. A race with SPEED has wide angle shots, plenty of moving back into the field for racing action and an on-air conversation that evolves with the race. ESPN shows two cars at a time, recaps only when planned well in advance and tries continually to keep referencing the pre-race show topics.

Things get even tougher when a non-Chaser is leading the race. TV has to decide how to keep viewers up on the race without losing perspective on the Chase. The results over the past several seasons have been mixed. The suggestion of just showing the race and then letting the points fall where they may when it is over has been roundly rejected.

ESPN is infamous for trying to keep graphics on the screen that continually update the Chase cars as if they are alone on the track. The "points as they run" graphic has become a media joke since no points are awarded until the race concludes. It's just stats without meaning until the race is run.

With Bestwick now firmly in place, it should be interesting to watch his agenda of calling the race clash with the ESPN production agenda of following the Chase. Bestwick often tries to steer the coverage to a certain group of cars, but with little success. He is torn between watching the race out the window and continually referencing the Chase on his ESPN TV monitor.

Tim Brewer, Draft Tracker and the other assorted bells and whistles ESPN has tried over the years have not been missed. The hope is that finally an internal TV production agreement has been reached for the ESPN crew to cover all the teams racing and not exclude those not in the Chase. In these times of sponsor problems, low TV ratings and a grumbling fan base it just might be a good idea to try a little something new.

We will be hosting a live stream of TV and media comments on Twitter using the #TDP1 hashtag. Please join us. Comments can be left here during the race and there will be a "Race Wrap" post up once ESPN signs-off on Sunday. Thanks as always for stopping by.

Friday, September 14, 2012

NASCAR Marketing Mayhem

You may remember Dale Earnhardt Jr. and his girlfriend from their appearance at last season's Sprint Cup Series banquet. There they are via our friends at Getty Images.

On Wednesday, Sirius Speedway's Dave Moody used his blog and radio program to make fans aware of a National Enquirer story that Junior was supposedly put on the spot to get married in the off-season or instantly become a single man. A short time later, Sirius NASCAR morning host Pete Pistone posted at that Junior denied "the report" and was concentrating on the Chase.

All of this nonsense came as part of a total NASCAR marketing effort involving everything from Denny Hamlin talking about wild Lake Norman NASCAR parties on the Dan Patrick show to a Google search for "Jeff Gordon's moustache" returning 219 active news stories on that crucial topic.

The Chase drivers scattered across the country in the annual effort to try and divert some attention from the National Football League. As you may remember, the Chase was created by NASCAR Chairman Brian France as a playoff system to try and create more interest in NASCAR during the NFL season.

Earnhardt's appearance at ESPN this week allowed him to appear on various TV shows, only one of which was devoted to NASCAR. That program aired once at 3:30PM Eastern Time. It spoke volumes that Earnhardt's best appearance of the day was on a very popular show dedicated to the NFL. It was about the Redskins and RG3, not Hendrick and Chevrolets, during Junior's time at "the mothership."

The NASCAR marketing types called this week's media blitz "The Chase Across America." It certainly was an interesting exercise. Perhaps some of you who saw the various drivers featured on local news stations across the country could relate how they were featured and in what activities they participated.

This season NASCAR has totally shifted to a marketing-driven agenda and made great efforts to control any and all news about the sport. That may be one of the reasons for the heightened tensions between some of the Sprint Cup Series drivers and the media. Jeff Burton was recently outspoken on SPEED's "Race Hub" show about the media not helping the sport and only focusing on negative issues.

This pro-NASCAR theme is prevalent on many TV shows, including the ones seen on SPEED and produced by NASCAR Productions from the tracks. In the new world order, NASCAR's marketing arm directly controls more and more media content about the sport. As Burton mentioned, the traditional media is said to be the enemy. This allows objective reporting and informed opinion to be called-out as the reason for problems with the sport itself.

In the system currently being used called "Integrated Marketing Communications," the centerpiece is the elimination of traditional media (reporters) and the installation of a delivery system that allows NASCAR itself to control the media content about the sport. There is simply nothing made available for reporters to cover that is not coordinated well in advance.

Many of you have asked about the lack of rumors and gossip on the Jayski site, about the endless repetition of themes by reporters from different media companies and even the fact that the post-race press conferences have become the topic of much more media coverage. It's all about control and this season NASCAR has exerted it in virtually every area of the media coverage of the sport.

The flipside of all this control is that NASCAR fans are outspoken, independent and don't particularly like being told what to think, say or do. It's one thing to stand in line for an autograph, but it's quite another to hear endless happy talk about the sport coming through very clearly from various radio and TV outlets.

In a media environment where NASCAR is facing-off with pro football, the idea that controlling the message instead of just letting things happen and then be reported is a tough sell. In this Chase interviews are arranged, talking points are provided and the entire atmosphere smacks of a public relations festival.

The TV promo's and ticket ads may continue to show wrecks and promote tough men behind the wheel, but the reality is that this Chase is a fully-controlled marketing-driven exercise where the drivers do what they are told and the media is just along for the ride.

Jeff Gordon's moustache may not be what veteran reporters want to write about, but when the choice that day is facial hair or nothing the result is exactly what Integrated Marketing Communications was supposed to accomplish. As Janet Jackson once said, it's all about control and NASCAR has plenty of it.

We invite your opinion on this topic. Comments may be moderated prior to posting.