Sunday, April 29, 2012

The Two Car Tango ESPN Style

Despite the predictions of more action on the track, the Nationwide Series race from the Richmond International Raceway was all about horsepower and handling. The field behaved and the antics we have seen at RIR races in the past never materialized.

Instead, the final laps became the pursuit of Kurt Busch, driving his brother Kyle's team entry, by Denny Hamlin. The final lap was great and the pair managed a side-by-side finish that featured a little rubbing but no wrecking. It was a super victory for the Busch brothers.

On this night, there were also other stories. Travis Pastrana joined the series after his most recent X-Games injury. Danica Patrick and Johanna Long both made the race. Steven Wallace returned to action after the closing of his father's racing operation. Dave Blaney's 18 year-old son Ryan was racing in a one-off effort. Update: The Blaney ride is actually a 6 race Nationwide Series deal with Tommy Baldwin Racing. Thanks to reader Melissa for the update.

Ultimately, Pastrana fell victim to a late pit road speeding penalty. Patrick never got the car's handling right and Long again had inferior equipment. Only Long cracked the top 20 when it was all said and done.

The story of the race turned out to be Blaney. He never put a wheel wrong all night and finished a strong 7th. Steven Wallace also kept his nose clean and scored a solid 11th place. Even Sam Hornish Jr. conquered his personal short track challenges and got a top 5 finish.

The ESPN coverage from the start consisted of tight-shots of small groups of cars, even on the restarts. Two or three cars on the TV screen were common as the race went along. Mixing those shots with in-car cams and low angles comprised the vast majority of the coverage.

Allen Bestwick worked hard to get the excitement going, but it was tough as the director continued to show two or three cars racing in very tight camera shots. There was rarely an aerial shot and except for the green flags on a restart there were no wide shots of the field or large groups of cars racing.

What ESPN did do was track their X-Games superstar Pastrana all night long. Just like the treatment Danica got last season in her appearances, Pastrana was featured instead of other drivers whose storied needed to be updated. Once again, the cult of celebrity was more appealing to ESPN than the NASCAR racing.

Once Hamlin caught up to Busch in the final lap, the cameras stayed with that battle until the two crossed the finish line. But then, a funny thing happened. Instead of staying on the start/finish line or moving back to catch the next lead lap cars the director chose to show Busch slowing down and then his pit crew celebrating. None of the other lead lap cars were shown racing to the line.

This race only featured a battle for the lead on the final two laps. It only featured two cars side by side for the final lap. This actually got the ESPN crew so excited that the entire rest of the field was never seen after the leaders finished.

My contention has long been that TV is at the track to show the viewers at home what the fans in the stands are watching. The best battles, the big wreck, the fastest speeds are all part of the NASCAR experience. This all comes back to a statement made many times over the past few seasons.

There was not one fan in the stands at Richmond who only watched the winners finish the race. As the rest of the field raced toward the finish, the attention of the fans went back to the cars at speed and the stories still unfolding. ESPN stepped in and made a decision for the fans watching at home that they would see something else.

There was some drama in Kyle Busch's team winning the race. He would be interviewed along with his driver in Victory Lane. But this was not the Indy500, the Daytona 500 or the Super Bowl. It was a Nationwide Series race in Richmond. Once Kurt won, the TV viewers deserved to see the other cars race to the finish line.

What is your opinion on this topic? To add your comment, just click on the comments button below. Thank you for taking the time to stop by The Daly Planet.

NASCAR TV Talk Heats Up

As the Sprint Cup Series heads toward the beautiful Richmond International Raceway, the talk about the TV coverage of the sport is heating up. Things got very interesting this week on Twitter.

It started innocently enough late Sunday night with these Darrell Waltrip posts:

"If you watched our telecast today I hope you enjoyed the coverage, thought we did a really good job of finding the action all over the track."

"The Digger shots were amazing, I bet he has a headache after today's race, this was another record setting day, fastest race at Kansas."

"Our entire team, director, producer, pit reporters, worked hard today to be sure we didn't leave anything on the table, emptied the bucket!"

After some fans and media members blasted the FOX coverage, Waltrip continued his Twitter posts on Monday:

"If someone says we covered the race yesterday like we do all the time, they didn't watch the race, from top to bottom we did it differently!"

"We focused on battles thru out the field all day until the end when Truex and Hamlin were battling for the win, pit reports were awesome."

Waltrip is certainly entitled to his opinion and has put in a decade of working on TV in the sport after his long Hall of Fame career as a driver.

Last March, after some TV stumbles early in the season, we offered a post that reviewed some of the fundamental issues fans have been discussing about the TV coverage for the past five years. This is a repost of (click here for the 2011 post with fan comments) a portion of the original column.

After all the changes that Waltrip mentioned, it should open an interesting discussion as to whether FOX has moved toward or away from some of these topics. Thanks to all the readers who helped to compose the original post.

This from March 8, 2011:

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.

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 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.

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.

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.

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 issues added by fans after the original post included showing debris for every caution flag, not using an in-car camera for a pass for the lead and having side-by-side TV commercial breaks.

This post was a composite of the coverage of all three TV networks involved in the Sprint Cup Series. As we have said many times since 2007, the NASCAR TV networks paid the money to show the races and have the total right to present them however they please.

What may be important to remember in this world of DVR's, online streaming and social media is that the NASCAR fan base now has an incredible amount of real time information available during a race. What TV chooses not to show or include in a telecast may be interpreted as incomplete coverage.

This discussion is as much about digital technology, the Internet and the changing expectations of the fan base as it is about announcers, camera angles and commercial breaks. Either way, it's a fascinating time to continue the discussion of how to get the TV viewers to return to the live telecasts.

We invite your comments on this topic. To add your opinion, just click on the comments button. Thanks for taking the time to stop by The Daly Planet.

Social Media Continues To Force Change

It certainly has been an interesting couple of years in the digital world as social media has gone from being called a fad to now dominating NASCAR's media coverage.

From Brad Kesewloski tweeting during the red flag at Daytona to Shane Wilson's wife Dana showing us the $100 bill stuck to Kevin Harvick's bumper, there is no doubt that instant communication via Twitter, Facebook and other up and coming social media applications is here to stay.

When we started this blog in 2007, there was little in the way of communication between the sport and the fans. Radio call-in shows served that purpose, but calls were screened in advance and the personalities in the sport who called-in seemed to always have a purpose related to a sponsor.

The true power of social media is that it gives any citizen with a cell phone, tablet or laptop the ability to make their voice heard on an equal level with anyone else. Suddenly, your Twitter question for Jimmie Johnson gets answered by him directly. Personalities in the sport offer information, online links and glimpses into their true personalities never seen before on TV or radio.

One new twist to this is that the NASCAR TV partners have now embraced social media. SPEED has the Social Garage and numerous Twitter and Facebook accounts. ESPN, TNT and FOX all run multiple Twitter and Facebook accounts related to each network's NASCAR activities.

In the past, we have worked very hard to update the program listings for the NASCAR TV partners on TDP with specific announcers, guests and interviews. Now that same information that was forwarded to us is available on Twitter, Facebook and the TV network's own website.

Since it does not make much sense any longer for us to just repeat the same content, we are making some changes to the TDP format and activity list. We will continue to have a full NASCAR TV listing on the front page, but without the specific information updated in the past. The networks want to handle that themselves, basically so you will follow their Twitter and Facebook accounts.

We will continue to host a live stream on Twitter during Sprint Cup Series races, but no longer for Nationwide or Truck Series races. The truck race from Kansas will be our last. SPEED and ESPN both host their own live chats and want fans to come to their own locations for social media interaction.

The Sprint Cup Series live stream on Twitter will continue to be focused on the TV presentation of the race and the programs airing before and after the event. The original purpose of this blog was to simply discuss the performance of the NASCAR TV partners during this eight-year multi-billion dollar TV contract.

There will be a post-race blog for every Sprint Cup Series race, as well as weekday news updates and columns. This blog also auto-opens on both Android and iPhones. Our twitter account is located at and sign-up for Twitter is free. Click here to view our Facebook page, which has recently been converted to the new Timeline format.

Thanks for listening to these updates, happy to have your feedback on these changes and the push toward social media by the NASCAR TV partners. Just click the comments button to add your opinion.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Sprint Cup Series From Richmond On FOX

It's a cold and rainy night in suburban Richmond, Virginia. The Richmond International Raceway has the jet dryers going and it looks good to get the race in tonight. Nothing official yet, but things look like they will be delayed a bit.

Chris Myers has Michael and Darrell Waltrip in the Hollywood Hotel. Mike Joy calls the race with Darrell Waltrip and Larry McReynolds. Matt Yocum, Steve Byrnes, Krista Voda and Dick Berggren are on pit road. Jeff Hammond is the roving reporter.

Richmond is fun to watch when TV viewers can see the field and the racing. Keep an eye on just how tight FOX decides to shoot the race and how much of a "zoom-in" factor we will see tonight. ESPN had a rough outing last night with "hyper-tight" shots and blown coverage at the finish.

We will be running the  #TDP1 live stream on Twitter beginning at 7PM ET. There will be a post up immediately after the race for your full-length comments. Thanks.

Friday, April 27, 2012

ESPN2 Returns In Richmond

Kevin Harvick is on the pole as the Nationwide Series hits the Richmond International Raceway track under the lights on ESPN2. Danica is getting upstaged by the new mullet king Travis Pastrana.

ESPN gets back in the mix with Marty Smith in the Infield Pit Studio for the pre-race show as Rusty Wallace has the weekend off. Smith has been great and his opinions and comments are exactly what this telecast has needed. Wallace has his son Steven running at RIR in a Roush-prepared car, so it should be interesting to keep an eye on how much air time Steven gets, despite his position on the track.

Allen Bestwick is going to be a welcome voice as he leads Dale Jarrett and Andy Petree through this telecast. This race has all kind of drivers in the field and the action may be much more intense than the Cup race. Remember, those drivers seem to be "points racing" this season in almost every event.

ESPN has struggled with production on short tracks and Richmond's action is intense. We will use this post for your TV comments on this telecast. Just click the comments button to add your opinion. Thanks!

Monday, April 23, 2012

Day Two: NASCAR On FOX From Kansas Speedway

The weather was the story in Kansas as cold temps and a green track from rain Saturday night made things pretty interesting. Teams were fooled on gas mileage and set-ups early on, while favorite son Clint Bowyer suffered engines woes and ultimately retired.

NASCAR on FOX began with a pre-race show that featured a focus on the promotion of the speedway, the sport and the series. It was a tough sell. The truck series race on Saturday showed fans exactly the issue facing the Sprint Cup Series today. Passing was going to be at a premium and "aero" was a word that was going to dominate.

Michael and Darrell Waltrip are exactly what FOX ordered. They invite controversy with their statements and together on the pre-race show are a walking conflict of interest. It gets TV viewers riled up and that is what the FOX executives enjoy doing.

The downside of all this pre-race gushing about the sport is that the kind of content presented by Jeff Hammond is missing. Darrell and Michael are from different eras, but both speak primarily from a driver's perspective. What has been lost is the crew chief perspective. Michael cannot provide this even when speaking as a current Sprint Cup Series owner.

Hammond once again tried to present a variety of interesting reports from different locations, but since there were few caution periods it was awkward at best. This new role has proven to be tough to integrate into a telecast. Surprisingly, Hammond is rarely seen in the garage following up after a key competitor has engines woes.

Mike Joy had an opportunity to flash the magic he used to show regularly on the older FOX telecasts. His calls of the restarts were stellar, but eventually the familiar routine of Waltrip dominating in the booth returned. TV commentary is now conversational instead of exciting, it's just the nature of the beast.

The pictures told the story. Tight shots were so frequent that when one aerial shot was used on a restart it was almost shocking. FOX has a style, they are going to stick with it and once again they did. Pit reporters were stellar, but again not used down the stretch. That is Waltrip time.

FOX continues to use the wideshot at the finish and ended the coverage with some of the lead lap cars finishing the race. There were no technical problems and once again the pictures and sound were solid. In many ways, this was just a repeat of a familiar formula that is being used for the TV coverage of this series.

We invite your comments on the NASCAR on FOX coverage of the Sprint Cup Series race from the Kansas Speedway. To add your opinion, just click on the comments button. Thank you again for stopping by.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Truck Series On SPEED From Kansas Speedway

Tim George Jr. is on the pole and the trucks are ready for an afternoon battle at the Kansas Speedway. The track surface is worn and will be repaved once the NASCAR teams depart on Sunday.

SPEED has the usual cast of characters ready for the race. 1:30PM ET for pre-race with race coverage starting 30 minutes later.

We are hosting a live Twitter stream using the #TDP1 hashtag starting at 1:15PM ET. This will be the final live stream for the trucks this season, although the Sprint Cup Series coverage will continue.

Thanks as always. Please feel free to leave a comment on the TV coverage here by clicking the comments button .

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

White House Visit Works Well For NASCAR

Tuesday was a big day as the entire 2011 Chase for the Championship field along with Sprint Cup Series champion Tony Stewart headed to the White House. As with the other championship sports teams from across the country, the NASCAR gang put on a good show during this meet and greet with President Obama.

After a tour of the White House, the Chase field assembled behind the President as he delivered prepared remarks. He joked that he was going to take some lessons in dealing with the media from Stewart. Obama acknowledged Jimmie Johnson's past championships and that Carl Edwards was a member of the President's Council on Physical Fitness.

He also spoke about NASCAR's efforts to support the military, including the annual visit to the Walter Reed Army Hospital in the DC area and the efforts to bring awareness to the Wounded Warrior Project.

The White House provided a live video stream that was very professionally done and showed the ceremony and then the President and Stewart chatting next to the #14 championship car. The drivers all looked great and many of them provided pictures and comments via social media. We thank NASCAR's David Higdon, Kurt Busch and Stewart-Haas Racing PR for the images.

It was a nice photo op and NASCAR did a good job to get all the competitors in the same place for this moment. Happy to have your opinions on this White House visit.

White House Visit: Updated

Updated: We are being informed by the White House that the live streaming will begin at 4:50PM ET today. Thanks to them for taking the time to update us.

Tuesday is the annual visit of the NASCAR Chase drivers to the White House. NASCAR chairman Brian France and president Mike Helton will also be attending as will other personalities in the sport.

Last year, five Chase drivers turned down the invitation pointing to scheduling issues. This move blossomed into a political football that turned a simple promotional opportunity for the sport into partisan politics. The national media headlines were not about who was there, but instead who was not and why.

This year all hands are on deck as the entire cast of Chase drivers lead by Tony Stewart will assemble for some casual conversation, a photo opportunity and some words from the President that he will most certainly not have written himself. It''s just another day at the White House, regardless of who is sitting in the Oval Office.

Several years ago, ESPN's NASCAR Now originated from the White House lawn as Nicole Briscoe and Brad Daugherty sat down live with President Obama. The trio talked about why a healthy NASCAR is good for the economy. It made a statement that the President took the time for the interview.

NASCAR and ESPN both got good mileage out of having the President on TV and since that time he has kept his relationship with the network going strong. Rarely has the NCAA basketball tournament had a more celebrated bracket than the one unveiled by the President live on ESPN. While his wife has attended a NASCAR race, the President has yet to make the trip.

This year things are a little different. There is no live TV from the lawn. The White House visit is not even mentioned on the weekly ESPN Motorsports update. Shannon Spake will host NASCAR Now at 3PM from the network's Connecticut studios.

Race Hub on SPEED is now on the air Monday through Thursday. The White House visit is not listed on the rundown of features or news reports for the 6PM show. There is no other NASCAR TV that day.

A check of the website late Monday night reveals no story promoting the White House visit. There is also nothing listed on the SiriusXM NASCAR website about coverage.

It seems ironic that in a sport that relies heavily on the electronic media for promotion, the only live coverage will be streaming of the event on the White House website. Instead of NASCAR's TV, radio or digital media partners it will be the federal government  offering live coverage to any fan with a laptop or smart phone.

Click here for the live streaming link. The coverage should start shortly after 4PM ET.

We welcome your comments on this topic. To add your opinion, just click on the comments button below. Thank you for taking the time to stop by The Daly Planet.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Trucks Return To The Rock On SPEED

Andy Hillenburg pulled it off when most said he was just plain crazy. He bought the unused Rockingham Motor Speedway and single-handedly revived it with some very strategic business moves.

He positioned the track as a testing facility, used it for some regional racing series and all the while quietly restored it to the level of safety required by today's NASCAR. His wish for a national series race has now come true. As Hillenburg entered the driver's meeting today, he got a standing ovation.

SPEED will televise the Camping World Truck Series race beginning with the pre-race show at 12:30PM. Rick Allen, Phil Parsons and Michael Waltrip will be joined by Hermie Sadler and Ray Dunlap on the race telecast.

We will have a live Twitter stream starting at 12:15PM ET. You can join use by typing the #TDP1 hashtag into the search box. My account is located at if you would like to view who I follow to build your own timeline. Hope to see you there today.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Post-Race: NASCAR On FOX From Texas Motor Speedway

The NASCAR on FOX gang stopped at the Texas Motor Speedway on Saturday night for a windy race on the fast track. It was a weird night as teams had to deal with a howling wind that was constant from start to  finish.

Chris Myers was back with Darrell and Michael Waltrip. Martin Truex Jr. started from the pole in an MWR entry. Darrell was focused on talking about personalities of the drivers in the pre-race show. It was dominated by on-camera conversation between the Waltrip brothers.

Race coverage was affected by the wind in terms of the camera positions shaking and the effects on the tight shots called by the director were horrible early in the telecast. The director chose once again to slowly get tighter and tighter as the race progressed. This is the mode of production for FOX and they are proud of it.

Long green flag runs and no RaceBuddy online application made the commercial placement tough because fans only had the PRN radio broadcast to keep them informed during the 3 minute breaks in the action. FOX again used recorded "bumpers" to break under green of drivers making funny faces and acting cool leading into commercial.

Pit reporters provided solid information, but the energy in the booth was just not there. Joy's race call was nonexistent and Waltrip dominated McReynolds. It's been a long time, but I still miss FOX turning Joy loose to just call the race and direct traffic. Joy made a lot of classic NASCAR TV earlier in his career.

Give a lot of credit to the technical staff for keeping pictures and sound humming without an issue during the telecast in very difficult conditions. It was very clear the camera operators were just getting pounded by the wind. That was the story of the race.

The character of the race as defined by the TV coverage was of long green flag runs and drivers struggling with car control. There was no attempt to show cars racing anywhere on the track, but the telecast observed and focused on single cars as they raced and talked about that team. Replays of key passes were common.

In the end, there was no drama and the race ended with a thud. Waltrip was once again talking in the closing laps constantly instead of letting Joy call the race. The lead lap cars were shown crossing the finish line and it was over.

Fans were very vocal about the coverage and this post is your opportunity to speak about the NASCAR on FOX telecast from start to finish. We ask that you refrain from profanity, hateful speech or political references in order for your opinion to be posted. Thank you for stopping by The Daly Planet.

Sprint CUP Series From Texas On FOX

Martin Truex Jr. will lead the field as the Sprint Cup Series drivers tackle the Texas Motor Speedway under the lights on FOX. The story of the race is the Texas wind and perhaps the weather down the stretch.

The Nationwide Series race featured few accidents, lots of single car racing and TV coverage that focused on two or three cars at a time. Expect FOX to follow the same pattern of "hyper-tight" coverage that neglects the big picture and instead focuses on the drivers that the network chooses to feature.

We are on Twitter with the NASCAR TV live stream starting at 7PM ET. The TDP account is and you can type #TDP1 into the search box to see our live stream.

Thanks as always for participating, we will have a post here immediately after the race for your TV comments on the coverage. Hope to see you on Twitter!

Friday, April 13, 2012

Nationwide Series From Texas On ESPN2

Paul Menard will lead them off tonight for the Nationwide Series race from the Texas Motor Speedway. The telecast starts at 8PM on ESPN2 with NASCAR Countdown. Marty Smith will appear on the pre-show as Rusty Wallace has the weekend off.

Join us on Twitter for our live stream of comments. We have teams, NASCAR officials and many personalities in the sport on Twitter right now and you can interact with them directly. My account is located at and sign-up is easy and free.

Twitter takes only a couple of minutes to understand and use. You can type #TDP1 into the search box to see our live stream tonight. Please feel free to ask me for any help you might need. Hope to see you there.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

NASCAR Hall Of Fame And The Media

We have been talking for the last two days about the NASCAR Hall of Fame and how to jump-start interest in getting fans to visit. One topic that repeatedly arose was whether or not members of the media should ultimately be included.

The names of Darrell Waltrip, Rusty Wallace and the late Benny Parsons did not make the nomination list for their contributions to TV. All three had careers in the sport long before making the transition to working as television analysts. Working in the NASCAR media is not currently a criteria for nomination.

The topic today are those media personalities who contributed to the sport but never drove a car, owned a team or turned a wrench. While there are several outstanding personalities who come to mind, the example for me is the man pictured above on the left, Ken Squier.

A Vermont native, Squier helped to establish MRN, the Motor Racing Network, to get the radio coverage of NASCAR syndicated across the country. He motivated CBS to show the Daytona 500 from start to finish, something unheard of in those days. Needless to say, one snowstorm and one fight later the rest is history. He coined the term "The Great American Race" for that event and after starting the World Sports Enterprises (WSE) TV production company, remained deeply entrenched in the television development of NASCAR for decades.

It was said that Squier could make a wheelbarrow race sound exciting. On the air, Squier worked to drive excitement in the sport by focusing on the speed, the danger and the personalities of the drivers. For many of us, Squier's voice was the TV voice of NASCAR as we grew up. His life has been racing.

We would like to get your opinion on whether or not key media personalities from TV, radio and journalism should be included in the Hall of Fame selection process in some way. Names like Barney Hall, Chris Economaki and Dr. Jerry Punch come to mind. Would it make sense to ultimately honor these personalities in some way? Should a media section be added outside of the current selection process?

We invite your opinion on this topic. To add your comment, just click on the comment button below. Thank you for taking the time to stop by The Daly Planet.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Day Two: Hall of Fame Nominations Deserve TV Special

This Wednesday there will be a historic moment in the sport. The names of the 25 nominees for the 2013 class of the NASCAR Hall of Fame will be announced.

It is not a secret that the Hall of Fame has struggled with identity and attendance issues since it opened in Charlotte, NC. No amount of old cars, historic clothing and video clips has been able to spark a buzz among the fans. On my last visit to tour the Hall the mood could be best described as glum.

The actual live announcement of the new Hall of Fame nominees will be done on the one-hour Race Hub show at 6PM on SPEED. Also on that very same program reporter Wendy Venturini will preview the truck race at Rockingham, analyst Matt Clark will interview MWR Competition Director Scott Miller and there will be a special feature on the old North Wilkesboro Speedway.

The Hall of Fame nominations are a moment in time. They are part of a NASCAR branding effort that is critical to connecting younger fans to the history of the sport. While SPEED has been a loyal NASCAR TV partner, the network has its own agenda and ownership.

It only takes a moment to remember that the original Race Hub TV concept suddenly popped-up out of the blue as SPEED was maneuvering to become the official TV outlet for all Hall of Fame activities. For many years, SPEED had rejected completely the idea of presenting any NASCAR programming on Monday through Thursday.

Adjacent to the Hall of Fame are the TV production facilities of the NASCAR Media Group (NMG). As you may remember, Showtime recently shut down the Inside NASCAR program produced in the NMG studios with vague promises of returning for The Chase. SPEED moved the NASCAR Performance TV series out of the Hall of Fame and into the network's own studios.

Without any other original programming to produce, there have been plenty of NMG folks sitting on their hands recently. It seems strange that with the combination of the Hall of Fame, a TV production facility and tons of historic footage there was no one who perhaps considered a TV special built around the Hall of Fame nominations.

Wednesday night after Race Hub is over at 7PM, SPEED has one hour of Pass Time and another of Dumbest Stuff on Wheels. Both represent the type of shows that make up weekday primetime programming on the network.

If NMG had produced a three minute video feature on each nominee, that would have resulted in 75 original minutes of NASCAR programming being available. Add in the Hall of Fame as the location and a NASCAR veteran like Mike Joy as host and perhaps the result could have been a mid-week primetime live TV special on SPEED that fans could watch and record. Two hours would have been a nice length.

Assisting the Hall of Fame with growth and direction begins with supporting that facility through original content spread over television, radio and online platforms. The Hall of Fame website mentions nothing about the Wednesday nominations. The NASCAR website does not point fans to Race Hub or preview the announcements.

A clear part of a live primetime TV special would have been social media. NASCAR fans could have been actively engaged while the special was in progress. The pairing of NASCAR and Twitter has been nothing short of sensational. The NASCAR fan base is vocal, informed and familiar with the latest technology.

It might have been interesting to see drivers, NASCAR personalities and fans offer comments when nominees were announced. Names like Rick Hendrick, Benny Parsons, Buck Baker and others are certain to elicit instant opinions. Both NASCAR and SPEED have been pushing the social media agenda this season and it's sad to see an opportunity like this go by the wayside.

Make no mistake, Race Hub has matured into a solid TV series offering a large amount of content each week. But the topic on the table is how best to use the combination of SPEED, the NASCAR Media Group and the actual Hall of Fame to expand the brand, celebrate the moment and get the message out to the fan base.

Perhaps in the future these moments will be part of a coordinated effort by NASCAR to utilize all the resources, technology and manpower available to put the sport back on the map in terms of national media presence and prestige.

We welcome your comments on this topic. To add your opinion, just click on the comments button below. Thank you for taking the time to stop by The Daly Planet.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Can NASCAR Learn From The Masters?

Social media was dominated on Sunday by the saga of the final round of The Masters golf tournament. The stories of the day had been set-up during the three previous rounds of play and ultimately came down to a putt to win on extra holes under darkening skies.

While the story of Bubba Watson's win is a good one, there was another story being discussed on Twitter, Facebook and websites. CBS Sports was again presenting the tournament in a fashion that is rarely seen in today's sports television environment. Across the board, it was a hit.

It's been a rough go this season for the TV surrounding the Sprint Cup Series. Despite a popular champion, an Earnhardt in contention and the spectacle of high speed racing in High Definition there seems to be something missing.

Let's take a look at what CBS Sports did with The Masters and see if NASCAR TV can benefit from some of the fundamentals the network used to cover the tournament.

CBS treated TV viewers as intelligent adults. On-air conversation from analysts, reporters and hosts was informative and focused. The commentary served as a backdrop to the action, allowing the athletes to take center stage.

It was assumed that those watching knew the rules of the game. There was no pandering with explanations of the basics of golf. Any explanation of the rules came in reference to a specific incident that was clearly shown to the viewers.

During the live telecast, it was clear that the analysts had put time and effort into gathering facts about the conditions and specifics of the course that day. As the athletes moved through the holes, the comments from the analysts were specifically directed to the current issues being confronted.

Rarely did the announcers use their own specific experiences to reference the live competition in progress. Instead, issues confronted by the athletes were put in a broader frame of reference. Announcers spoke about general topics like emotion, the mechanics of a golf swing or the specifics of that part of the course.

Pictures selected to present to the TV audience kept a larger frame of reference. Images of play on the holes began with a wide perspective of the challenge ahead and moved tighter as each athlete continued through the field of play. It was easy for viewers to know who was where simply through the images shown on TV.

Tight shots were purposeful and used to drive home a dramatic moment without the loss of meaningful live content. Zooming to a tight shot clearly was meant to indicate to the viewer that something important was happening at that moment. The mix of subsequent replays allowed viewers to then see the larger perspective, including the emotions of the athletes.

Viewers did not get the sense that play was interrupted for commercials, even though that was the case for all commercials presented during play. There was a format in place that allowed for a story to be told in full and then a commercial was inserted before additional action was shown.

The announcers were focused on describing the action and then analyzing what happened. They suggested possible scenarios, watched the athletes play and then explained to viewers what had happened. There was a pattern that made the telecast comfortable to watch.

Regardless of experience level, championship history or nationality all competitors were treated equally. A good performance from a non-championship contender was celebrated equally as those playing for the win.

The agenda of the network was to feature athletes as the show, not promote the announcers as individual personalities. The on-air personalities instead gained credibility through providing effective and accurate commentary on the live action.

At no time were the announcers placed on-camera simply for the purpose of getting TV time. It was clear from the initial set-up at the beginning of the telecast where the on-air personalities were located. The challenge for the announcing team was to remain relevant with commentary alone.

After play concluded, the athletes were asked to provide their own opinions about key moments of their round. The reporters did not reference themselves, second guess decisions made by athletes or suggest reasons events occurred. It was simply up to the athlete to provide a first-person perspective on what viewers had seen earlier during play.

Finally, the winner was treated with respect and allowed to offer comments about topics important to him. The host knew what topics made sense to bring up and avoided those that did not. In the end, viewers were able to get a unique sense of perspective from the winning athlete's point of view.

CBS ultimately acted as a support staff for the athletes and event. Being consistent with graphics, pictures and commentary throughout the day resulted in the feeling that those producing the telecast were just as interested as the viewers in the outcome.

That connection between production team and viewer may be the best lesson of all. By simply letting the athletes perform under pressure, documenting their efforts and working hard to keep viewers informed the CBS team used a simple equation with big success.

Can NASCAR learn from The Masters? The Sprint Cup Series season resumes this weekend at the Texas Motor Speedway and runs for 14 straight weekends before taking a break. With the CBS production fresh in our minds, it should be interesting to see how fans react this weekend when the green flag drops.

We invite your comments on this topic. To add your opinion, just click on the comments button below. Thank you for taking the time to stop by The Daly Planet.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Post-Race TV Comments: FOX In Martinsville

Martinsville is always a tough track to cover on TV, but without a RaceBuddy online app and without side by side commercials it's almost impossible these days.

No need to put words in your mouth. If you would like to offer a comment on the TV coverage, happy to have it here.

"Trackside" Now A Runaway Train

For years now SPEED has tried to offer a program on Friday nights after the action at the track was done. Eventually, it became the Trackside show hosted by Steve Byrnes.

As those who watch Race Hub already know, Byrnes works on the air with a simple philosophy. He includes, rather than excludes, the various personalities in the sport. Byrnes had two guests on every Trackside show while simultaneously controlling his panel of Darrell Waltrip, Jeff Hammond and Larry McReynolds. No easy task.

The result was a program that was interesting to watch. It had information for hardcore fans, but also often put the two guests in an informal light and let them discuss topics not normally heard in the standard NASCAR TV interviews. Byrnes worked hard to keep things informal and fun.

The downside was that six talking heads on the SPEED Stage was a lot for TV. Add in the Friday night fans at the track and sometimes it was just not the best mix. The bottom line, however, was that SPEED was using personalities at the track who were up to date on the happenings of the day. NASCAR fans got interviews and information.

Once Byrnes made the transition into the studio to host Race Hub, the network began a major overhaul of the entire Trackside concept. Though still using the same name and being shown in the same timeslot, the entire program is different.

The picure above is from last week's show. Trevor Bayne and Jeff Hammond got "TP'ed" by host Krista Voda and reporter Marianela Pereyra. There is now a lot of that on Trackside. Apparently, the network is trying to go after the younger fans with these forced hijinks. Whether it is Clint Bowyer in a dance-off or the on-air cast playing Pictionary, the real question is what's the point of all this?

SPEED's PR guru Erik Arneson offered recently on Twitter that Trackside ratings are up over 20% and up almost 70% with Males 18-49. The network is heavily promoting the team of Voda, Pereyra, Rutledge Wood and Kyle Petty as the "new look" Trackside.

Pereyra admitted in an interview this week that she had never been to any kind of racetrack before her Trackside reporter job came along last year. Voda is a tremendously talented TV veteran who has been working inside and outside of the studio for years in motorsports. That makes for an interesting on-air combination.

Wood began as the DJ at the SPEED Stage in a job listing he found on Craigslist in 2005. Now in his early 30's, Wood partners with 51 year-old Petty to form the new "expert panel" on Trackside. Wood admitted in a published interview that he also had never been interested in NASCAR until his job with SPEED.

All of this makes for a very interesting situation. On one hand, we hear from hardcore fans who tune into SPEED after work on a Friday expecting information and updates from that day's NASCAR activity. Instead, awkward silliness ensues.

Meanwhile, SPEED remains firm in twisting and turning this show every which way to try and make it more hip, young and fun. Unfortunately, there are no twenty-somethings among the cast and racetracks after the engines stop tend to offer fun only in the infield.

Since Byrnes and company departed there have been lots of hosts, lots of different sets and lots of different show formats but one constant remains. Trackside is just as much in transition this season as it was last year. How long SPEED will keep chasing this demographic with dance-offs, Pictionary and toilet paper remains to be seen.

This is an opportunity to voice your views about the "new look" Trackside and your opinion on this type of programming on SPEED supposedly aimed at younger fans.

Keep your opinions respectful and language polite in order for your comments to remain posted. This should be a timely topic as Trackside from Auto Club Speedway airs Friday night on SPEED with Jimmie Johnson as the featured guest.

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

Another NASCAR Online Hurdle Falls

In the midst of Wednesday's breaking NFL news about Tebow, Manning and suspensions there was one little sports news item that you may have missed.

After years of haggling over contracts, payments and Internet rights another key hurdle in NASCAR's digital transition has fallen. The SiriusXM NASCAR channel will now be streamed online for all types of computers and smart phones. In our little world, this story is huge.

It's been six long years of hitting NASCAR, Turner Sports and the SiriusXM gang over the head with a big stick. Turner Sports owned the rights and wanted to get paid. SiriusXM had little cash on-hand but yearned for a larger audience. NASCAR just shrugged and pointed to the contracts. It was a classic media stand-off.

It was January of this year when things began to change. "NASCAR Regains Digital Rights" was a TDP column that documented the radical move by NASCAR of finally stepping-in and buying Turner Sports out of the old digital rights contract.

The ramifications of this move continued Wednesday with the announcement that NASCAR's SiriusXM channel was expanding availability through online streaming.

Here are some excerpts from the announcement:

Sirius XM Radio and NASCAR announced today an agreement to simulcast the programming on the SiriusXM NASCAR Radio channel in its entirety – which includes live broadcasts of every national series race, plus daily NASCAR talk – online for SiriusXM subscribers nationwide.

Starting with this weekend’s races in Fontana, CA (March 24-25), subscribers who have SiriusXM Internet Radio access can listen to live broadcasts of every NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, NASCAR Nationwide Series and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race on the SiriusXM NASCAR radio channel through their computers at and through the SiriusXM Internet Radio App for smartphone and wireless devices.

The channel’s daily talk programming will begin simulcasting online on Thursday, March 22. Throughout the season, NASCAR fans get a daily lineup of call-in talk shows that feature up-to-the-moment news, expert analysis and interviews with the biggest names in the sport.

“Extending our broadcasting agreement with SiriusXM was a big off season move for the sport,” said Brian France, Chairman and CEO of NASCAR. “A dedicated NASCAR channel is important for our teams, tracks, drivers and sponsors and is crucial for fan engagement and audience growth. Being able to simulcast SiriusXM NASCAR Radio online to subscribers nationwide will allow us additional opportunities to take our product to new fans in new places.”

“SiriusXM NASCAR Radio has become a part of many NASCAR fans’ daily lives and with so many fans now connecting to their sport through handheld devices, we want to give them an easy way to access the sport they love online and in mobile settings,” said Scott Greenstein, SiriusXM’s President and Chief Content Officer. “NASCAR is an excellent partner and its programming continues to be a key element in the SiriusXM lineup. We’re very pleased to now deliver to our subscribers live coverage of every race broadcast, plus our unparalleled daily talk and analysis, through their computers and mobile devices in addition to their satellite radios.”

Are there still some issues to overcome and some bugs to work out? Of course there are. Purchasing SiriusXM just for NASCAR is not possible, it's a package deal. Ultimately, it is now up to SiriusXM and the NASCAR program producers to get new fans to migrate to the service with quality content. A free trial period would be a nice touch as a start.

In the past several weeks, we have seen both the Motor Racing Network (MRN) and the Performance Racing Network (PRN) expand online to offer streaming from both their respective websites and through a variety of easily available radio apps. Suddenly, races and featured weekly programs were not just limited to the radio.

The new announcement of SiriusXM's NASCAR channel now joining that group with online access is a final step in having all the "radio" coverage of the sport available to fans through a variety of devices, including smart phones.

Before we turn our attention again to the online video and television topics, it's just nice to be able to take a moment and enjoy the fact that finally the sport seems to be moving in the right direction where digital technology is concerned.

We welcome your comments on this topic. To add your opinion, just click on the comments button below. Thank you for taking the time to stop by The Daly Planet.