The Frontstretch: Five Questions For 2011: #2, Does NASCAR TV Need To Be Fixed? by Frontstretch Staff -- Tuesday February 8, 2011

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Five Questions For 2011: #2, Does NASCAR TV Need To Be Fixed?

Frontstretch Staff · Tuesday February 8, 2011


New points. New pavement. New attitude. As NASCAR heads towards Daytona in 2011, all around the sport are focused on the positive, looking for the perfect season to recapture a nation and get what once seemed like limitless upward momentum jumpstarted again.

Can they do it? As Speedweeks dawn, both the Bud Shootout and 53rd Daytona 500 usher in a long list of questions along with them, the answers to which could define the sport for not just this year but the coming decade. That means it’s time to get the blood pumping and start that 2011 analysis, figuring out just exactly how the controversies, the Earnhardt drama, and the NASCAR tweaks both on and off the track will work out. This week, we’ll get you thinking each day on one of five big questions facing stock car racing in 2011; as we try and find the answers, ten staff members you know and love will come at you with our usual blend of facts, opinion, and most of all … a sense of humor. After all, we’ll all need to laugh if these predictions blow up in our face come November …

Today’s Season Preview Topic: There’s been increasing criticism in recent years over NASCAR’s TV broadcasts. What do you think is the biggest hurdle these broadcasts have been facing, and what network needs to revamp its coverage the most for 2011? How?

Phil Allaway, Senior Editor / Frontstretch NASCAR TV Critic: I’m probably the expert here because of my ranting over the past couple of seasons. In my opinion, there needs to be a back-to-basics movement. Show the fans the action on track, networks! I don’t care whether it’s for the lead, or for 36th. Gimme… and don’t give excessive coverage to certain drivers if they don’t warrant it (Examples: Danica Patrick, Jimmie Johnson, Denny Hamlin, etc.).

I can’t do anything about the commercials that the fans hate so much. “Side-by-Side” might help, but that just means that instead of 10 minutes of regular commercials per half-hour, you might get 22 minutes of Side-by-Side per half-hour to pay for the coverage since seemingly everyone is losing money on the TV deal. Since very few companies are willing to deal with Side-by-Side commercials for Sprint Cup races, and they’re not making enough money as it is, they need to sell more commercials. So, I think you’re going to see even more of the dang things this year than last, and there’s nothing we can do about it. Eventually, in my opinion they’re going to have to work out some kind of agreement, similar to soccer, where companies can pay to sponsor segments of the race or the networks can renegotiate the deal altogether.

Online media is a quagmire. TruckBuddy is in for the full Camping World Truck Series season for free. Sweetness. By comparison, Sprint Cup only has the six TNT races, while Nationwide has zippeditty-do-dah. FOX and ESPN despise Turner Sports, who own RaceBuddy (and basically, NASCAR’s Digital rights) so don’t expect much.

Note: For more on the television broadcasts, check out our related story that previews the 2011 lineup for all NASCAR-associated networks from Phil Allaway.

Toni Montgomery, Senior Editor: I think there are two problems. First, as has been the case for a long time, the broadcasts tend to focus on a few pet drivers or those running up front and everyone else may as well not even be there for all the attention they get. Yet those drivers have fans watching the races, too, and some of those drivers are very big names with fans that may be speaking with their remotes. Second, NASCAR is very determined that the fans WILL love the Chase and I often feel like they have enlisted the networks to push that agenda, emphasizing from a sickeningly early time “if the Chase started now” and “if the Chase ended now,” two of the most pointless things they could possibly bore viewers with. To solve that, first they need to make a better effort to cover ALL the drivers. Second, stop trying so hard to sell the Chase.

Jeff Meyer, Senior Writer: Ever heard of the KISS principle? Keep It Simple, Stupid! Get rid of all the pre-race crap. Get rid of all the talk, talk, talk about things that no one gives a crap about. Other sports don’t sit there and explain game after game what a “first down” is, or what traveling is, or what “icing” is just on the off chance that someone “new” may be watching. Fans are watching to see racing. If someone new is paying attention, more than likely they are watching it with an already established fan and can ask them for explanations. The problem with NASCAR and NASCAR-related broadcasts is simply overkill. There are shows ad nauseum about the sport to the point that it is like another fake “reality” show. No one network is to blame here; trust me, they ALL are guilty! So FOX, TNT, SPEED, ESPN … quit focusing on making it a “show” and simply air the “game!” You got to have the fans “wanting more” to get them to tune in or attend a race. Treat the races for what they are; a bonified sport. Instead, as it stands now NASCAR is being perceived, especially by the casual ADD fan, as nothing more respectable than “professional wrestling.”

Mike Neff, Senior Writer: The only modification to the race broadcasts I’d like to see is increasing the coverage of the entire field instead of focusing on the leaders and a handful of other drivers. The race involves 43 teams that are all working equally hard to try and compete on a weekly basis and they all deserve some air time during the broadcasts. I’d also like to see the pre-race shows cut down to 10-15 minutes from their current form. Honestly, there is no need to have hour long pre-race shows; all three networks need to look at this issue of oversaturation as it’s hurting the sport.

Garrett Horton, Frontstretch Contributor: Most complaints seem to be directed towards the announcing and amount of commercials. With the exception of Kyle Petty, Rusty Wallace, and the Hollywood Hotel, I think each broadcast team is pretty solid. Even Andy Petree has improved lately. The commercials are a necessary evil, but if they could do the Side-by-Side coverage like IndyCar does, it would lower some of the complaints. Unfortunately, this idea has already been floated before, and the advertisers weren’t happy with the split screen.

It also wouldn’t hurt if ESPN stopped talking about points as they run every lap…

Jay Pennell, Senior Editor: A lot has certainly been said about the television coverage over the past few seasons, but to me I feel the networks have to put a concerted effort to improving their coverage in 2011. Judging by the criticism coming from many fans, it seems the networks – especially ESPN – need to move away from the scripted conversations amongst the talking heads in the booth. Watching older races from the early 1990s, it was clear the broadcasters were calling the race, analyzing the action on the track and not talking about an agenda the producers wanted to push. Commercials are a necessary evil when it comes to television productions, but I would also like to see NASCAR work more closely with their sponsors and television networks to develop a split-screen system used in open-wheel coverage.

Kyle Petty involved in a NASCAR broadcast for all 36 races? That’s the one racing accomplishment his father, the King, never fully achieved.

Vito Pugliese, Senior Writer: TV or not to TV… that is the question. Peruse many a racing blog or forum, and you will see comments such as, “I put it on mute and listen to it on MRN,” or “God, I wish D.W. would shut up…” And, while I have no beef with the Boogity, something does need to be done to help spice up the broadcasts. First of all, there should be a Cairo-type riot outside of the Hollywood Hotel, demanding an overthrow of FOX silly montages of drivers hamming it up in boxing rings or dressed like cowboys. A half-hour walk through the garage and pits is more than enough, Mr. David Hill, before the National Anthem and flyover. While FOX’s camera work and coverage is solid, enduring the arduous pre-race propaganda is akin to the interrogation scene from Taken. NASCAR Networks, also please take note of TNT – get some new blood in the booth occasionally, or make Kyle Petty an integral part of every broadcast. ESPN needs to get Allen Bestwick back in the booth, but it appears that will likely never happen… because Marty Reid apparently is the John Madden of motorsports. (No offense, Marty.)

S.D. Grady, Senior Editor: For me, the TV broadcasts for Sprint Cup races have become too polished. Or too familiar. I really like the TNT Summer races; they’re great enthusiasm without too much perfection. ESPN is in second place. FOX… besides shooting any rodents, they need to hold back on the hokey sounds they encourage from their booth personalities. Passion for your sport is one thing – making an effort to sound stupid is another. I love hearing the southern drawl, and I know these guys are it, but when they make up words to be funny, I just want to shut it all off. The radio networks have it down! MRN and PRN are excellent.

Summer Dreyer, Frontstretch Contributor: The biggest complaint I see as far as the TV broadcasts is the number of commercials. All three networks have dealt with criticism from fans over the amount of advertising in the race broadcasts, but right now it seems to be just a sign of the times. One option I really hope they consider exploring is Side-by-Side commercials. It seems to work very well in the IndyCar broadcasts, and while I understand the networks can’t ask for the same amount of money for Side-by-Side commercials, I can’t imagine it wouldn’t be more of a long-term gain.

Tony Lumbis, Marketing Manager: First, I think what they should not have done is move the start times back during football season. I’m not a TV expert, but if someone wasn’t going to choose a race over the NFL at the start of both events, why would they do so when they are already deeply involved in the second quarter of their football game?

The things that they should do (or continue to do) in 2011 is reduce the amount of commercials and focus more on the racing. Also, I’m still not sure why NASCAR can’t get sponsors to agree to a Side-by-Side format like IndyCar does.

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Tuesday on the Frontstretch:
Consistently Changing the Rules: An Obsession NASCAR Needs to Stop
5 Points to Ponder: Gordon Regroups, Two’s Trouble for Penske, Red Bull, And Nationwide’s Winless Champ?
Eleven NASCAR Wishes For 2011
Talking NASCAR TV: 2011 Preview Of What You’ll See

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Today on the Frontstretch:
Championship Caliber? What Does That Even Mean?
Mirror Driving: Winning Vs. Points, Needing a Boost, and The Lady’s Last Dance?
Nuts for Nationwide: The Curious Case of Elliott Sadler
Happiness Is…Arrogance, Less, Next, and the Outdoors
Frontstretch Foto Funnies: It’s Not Gonna Fit…


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02/08/2011 06:39 AM

With the networks focusing all their attention on ‘the chase’ and the drivers they have picked as noteworthy, they are shooting themselves in the foot. Again. They are making 2/3 of the season irrelevant. They need to drop the script and just cover the action on the track. The racing on track last year may have been the best in years…bit I can’t prove it. The races I watched spent most of their time following only 10 or 12 drivers per race, usually running all by themselves, or giving an ‘in car camera’ shot of a pass, thus losing all perspective. If I can’t follow the ebb and flow of the race from the front of the field to the back, I have a hard time staying interested. What the fans see is totally controlled by the networks, and it obviously isn’t working. Forget the ridiculous chase until the second Richmond race. Cover all the teams on the track. Maybe part of the reason they are having so much trouble finding sponsors is that they know they aren’t likely to get any TV time unless they sponsor one of the favored drivers. TV has a huge responsibility to keep fans engaged and interested. It seems they are failing to do so. They think a 2 PM start time is going to woo football fans away? whose bright idea was that?

Sherri T
02/08/2011 08:54 AM

I agree with Jeff Meyer & S.D. Grady. Cover the racing (more than one or two cars on screen please) and quit with the scripted stuff. Watching racing without commentary is not dead air, it’s just good racing. And shut up about the Chase – no reasonable fan likes it, so the less we hear about it, the better!

02/08/2011 09:52 AM

We love to listen to the races on the radio. The best part is that we can take it with us wherever we go without being stuck inside with a television screen. We can have folks over and barbeque, we can listen in the car, we can take the radio to the park and exercise ourselves and the dogs. My mental image of the race based on what the radio crew is describing is MUCH better than anything the networks can show me. Turn that television off and join me outside with your radio. You won’t believe how much different the experience can be. And don’t worry, you can always see the highlights online or on a sports channel. You’re not missing a thing!

02/08/2011 09:52 AM

My only wish for Fox is to get rid of that stupid “Lets go Racin Boys” song. I hope to see a total overhaul of ESPN’s coverage.

02/08/2011 11:49 AM

I really don’t mind the commls. However, I do mind the timing of them. They seem to go to comml just as someone is taking the lead or about to crash. All the TV partners are guilty of this.

Why can’t they break away from the commls if something good is happening on the track?

02/08/2011 12:19 PM

The abundance of TV commercials being what it is, we need to consider dividing the race into 100 mile segments. Like quarters in football.

Have 10 to 15 laps of caution, run all of the commercials.

Brian France DID want to make his sport look like stick & ball, so he’s happy. I’m happy because the race is overwhelmingly decided on the track instead of the pits. As it should be. The draw of the sport is racing, why bother watching 400 miles of cars going in circles if the result is determined by a stuck lug nut? I know pit stops are a strategic facet of the sport but they have too become too prominent.

Brian France Sucks
02/08/2011 03:02 PM

Limit the pre-race to no more than 20 minutes, including national anthem, etc… Expand the post-race to 15-20 minutes unless time is limited.

Get rid of stupid cartoon gimmicks and the contrived skits. Jeff Hammond, DW, and Larry Mac are not funny.

As soon as Fox’s contract expires, negotiate with someone else. Fox’s “coverage” is pathetic, as is their on-air talent’s pandering to NASCAR and certain drivers.

If a caution comes out for debris, show the debris.

Cover at least the Top 20. A lot of good racing happens from 10-20.

02/08/2011 03:20 PM

Jeff, you’ve gotten it wrong. It’s not the ADD crowd that compares NA$CAR to “professional wrestling,” it’s us long-term die-hard fans that have watched our beloved sport slip into a horrifying parody of itself that make the WWE look respectable by comparison. We have voted with our remotes, and/or decided that we have better things to do during the weekend.

Vito, Alan Bestwick? Really? Really, truly? Alan is one of the worst offenders of creating drama and pushing the scripted network storyline available. The only way to make sure that you get more corporate NA$CAR out of the booth would be to pair Alan with brian france.

02/08/2011 04:26 PM

If the Nascar really wants to see how to cover a race on TV then they should go no further then Speed TV’s coverage of Formula 1. David Hobbs, Steve Matchett, and Bob Varsha are heads and shoulders the best team on Tv covering motorsports. You have to remeber that Formula 1 often has little passing and it’s critical that the broadcasters do a good job keeping the audience entertained. Their pit walks prior and during the race are short and sweet and the combination of their knowledge and wit are worth watching even if you don’t like Formula 1. I love Nascar, but their coverage is horrible compared to the Speed’s boys. They are so good I could just listen to the race and enjoy it.

The Mad Man
02/08/2011 05:27 PM

Jacob’s right to a certain point. NA$CAR is in the same category as the WWE based on what NA$CAR’s VP for Racing Operations stated in a court document that NA$CAR was sports entertainment, which means it is just like the WWE only on wheels and at 180-200 mph. It’s not just the ADD and ADHD crowd that’s noticing it either. It’s both new and old fans who are noticing it. And Jacob is right in that fans are voting with their remotes. They’re also voting with their wallets.

Jeff Meyer FS staff
02/08/2011 06:14 PM

Just to clarify…I didn’t mean to imply that just the ADD crowd has lost respect for nascar. Long time readers know, I declared myself a casual fan long ago! If Im not at a race, I rarely watch any more than the first few laps and the last 50. If anything interesting happens in between, well, there is always the dvr or youtube!!!

Bad Wolf
02/09/2011 06:11 PM

It’s all about product placement, and nothing shown on a Fox broadcast has not been examined to maximize the product placement value.

The in car shot for 2 laps showing no action? Product placement to get the sponsor logo on the screen.

The “Tech Garage” explaining loose and tight; Just a chance to get a paid sponsor to pony up the bucks.

The shots of the backmarker riding around in 25th place; A ploy to get the paid sponsor some screen time.

The list is endless, but it is the reason for the poor “Product” on the tv each week. Fox paid too much for the rights at the hight of the Nascar boom, and must squeeze out as much money as they can on each broadcast to the detriment of the fans.

Ice Blue
02/12/2011 03:38 PM

Well, I know no one, especially Fux, is listening but my bitch is with split screens.
I don’t own a 51” plasma TV for some dumb-ass director to convert it into the equivalent of a 15” TV and a 20” TV with the rest of the screen just artistic rubbish.
Stop that, you morons.

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