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 siriusxm.com 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.