Friday, January 20, 2012

The 6PM TV Traffic Jam

It's a topic that becomes relevant for NASCAR fans starting once again on Monday. As the 2012 racing season gets underway, host Steve Byrnes will crank up another year of RaceHub on SPEED. This series became the de facto daily NASCAR TV show in the middle of last season.

In order to make way for a new block of afternoon talk shows, ESPN2 moved the NASCAR Now program from 5PM to a much earlier afternoon timeslot. The 5 year-old series that had finally come into it's own never recovered. This season brings more of the same. It's 3PM ET again for NASCAR Now on ESPN2 when the series starts in February.

Byrnes and company put a one-hour show together Monday through Thursday all season long. Despite the carefully controlled agenda, RaceHub puts out a ton of quality news, interviews and features. It's an important show that keeps a weekday NASCAR presence on national TV.

On September 12 of last year SPEED changed the air time of RaceHub from 7 to 6PM ET. This move was made without explanation and by a senior management team no longer in place at the network. "Puzzling TV Changes At SPEED" was the TDP post that discussed some of the inherent problems in committing the series to this timeslot. Click on the title to read the original column.

In addition to going head-to-head with the traditional East Coast hour of local and national TV news, RaceHub faced another significant problem. Most NASCAR fans also are fans of other sports. Coming off a lead-in from the powerhouse Pardon The Interruption, 6PM on weekdays is the time for ESPN's franchise series SportsCenter.

ESPN puts a ton of resources into this show that primarily serves to preview the key sports match-ups of the day. In addition, any breaking sports news is also featured. Where sports fans are concerned, the 6PM SportsCenter is the king of the TV hill.

This month, VERSUS was rebranded as the NBC Sports Network. Part of a massive allocation of sports resources was the commitment by NBC to establish a daily sports news program. The new series, airing up against SportsCenter at 6PM, is called NBC SportsTalk.

Hosted by sports TV veteran Russ Thaler, SportsTalk is currently focused squarely on the stick-and-ball world long dominated by ESPN in terms of covering daily sports news. It's very clear that the new management at NBC is ready for a fight. Appearing on the show are a wide variety of personalities from different TV networks, websites and publications.

What NBC has cleverly done with SportsTalk is unite the sports media resources outside the ESPN bubble into a powerful mix of experts, analysts and commentators. What makes the series click are the diverse points of view freely presented.

As RaceHub enters the 6PM battle once again, it resembles SportsCenter in that the show line-up is comprised of FOX and SPEED personalities almost exclusively. There have been no independent journalists, traveling media members or NASCAR critics featured. Any difference of opinion comes from within the FOX/SPEED family of on-camera personalities.

RaceHub's strength is in it's geographic proximity to most of NASCAR's shops, vendors and suppliers. This allows for easy access to personalities across the NASCAR spectrum. The results have been simply tremendous in terms of additional exposure for drivers, teams and sponsors. Danica Patrick is the in-studio guest on Monday's show.

SPEED's programming schedules confirm RaceHub at 6PM ET through February. That is surprising given that SPEED's 7PM hour is filled will repeats of shows like Pass Time and Pumped!

Looking down the dial at SportsCenter and SportsTalk in the height of the NFL playoff season might suggest to SPEED that the original 7PM timeslot would make a lot more sense. Perhaps, even re-airing RaceHub again at 7PM would reap better benefits for the network than repeats of lifestyle shows.

The regular cast of characters returns with Byrnes. Danielle Trotta is the full time field reporter, Matt Clark is the pit crew coach and Jimmy Spencer is...well...Jimmy Spencer. The FOX and SPEED personalities on the show include Larry McReynolds, Jeff Hammond, Bob Dillner, Ray Dunlap and Randy Pemberton.

Before the season gets underway, perhaps you can share your perspective on this NASCAR TV series, the personalities involved and the impact it has on your viewing habits. Just click the comments button below to add your opinion. Thanks as always for taking the time to stop by.