The view from my couch

TNT Coverage of the Pennsylvania 500

by Cheryl Lauer
July 27, 2003

The actual content of the broadcast from Pocono today was excellent. Unfortunately, much of the hard work done by the TNT broadcast team will be overlooked or quickly forgotten. What most viewers will remember was the outrageous number of commercials during this broadcast. NBC/TNT needs to be very careful as many fans are already choosing to ignore the superb work being done by the production crew and the on-air talent and are only remembering the number of commercials during their broadcasts.

Again this week, Allen Bestwick, Wally Dallenbach, and Benny Parsons in the the booth did an excellent job of following the action on the track.. The pit reporters, Bill Weber, Matt Yocum, Dave Burns and Marty Snider provided another incredible week of keeping viewers informed about pit stops, tire and fuel strategies, and other occurrences in the pits. There were three Through the Field segments during this race, with the booth keeping us informed on what was happening with the leaders during this time as well. There were no pointers and the graphic for each driver was confined to the bottom corner of the screen. The only time we saw floating car numbers was three times when cars had problems or were involved in wrecks. Allen did a credible job of keeping the viewers informed of what was happening with drivers falling out of the race because of mechanical problems or accidents. The only thing I remember him being late in telling us was when John Andretti spent a long time on pit road to "get repairs." It would have been nice to know when he went in and for what kind of repairs.

Around 2:00 though, the commercial breaks went out of control. The producer also insisted on using those silly highlight montages as seques to three of the breaks this week. Wasn't enough racing time wasted on commercials? Did we still have to waste time on "artsy" things as well? Also, there were two distracting and silly on-screen promotions which totally detracted from green flag racing. One with a breaking glass noise and baseball flying onto the screen and another with cheerleaders doing cartwheels across the track. I believe that the production team does not come up with this stuff and that they probably try to minimize it as much as possible. It would just be nice if the folks selling the advertising time could try to restrain themselves just a little bit, so that we could actually follow the race. During the hour between 2:00 and 3:00, I lost count of commercials at 12. I was so disgusted during the remainder of the race, that I didn't even bother to try and count them. Not only do these constant interruptions disrupt the continuity of the race, but they are an insult to the viewers.

Allen promised at 20 laps to go that "this would be the last commercial break during green flag racing." Well, surprise, surprise, we had a caution not too longer afterward and there were more commercials. What really bothered me was a really poor decision by the producer when they came back from one break and told us Casey Mears had wrecked. The producer chose to show pit stops and have the booth and pit reporters speculate about fuel mileage instead of giving us a replay of the accident. Never did we see what happened to Mears' car. This was really frustrating as he had severe damage and I'd like to know how he got it. Ah, yes, the producer threw the tailend of the wreck into another montage which was shown as TNT went off the air for the day. Again, I understand that the producer is under a great deal of pressure to balance trying to show a race and fit in such a ridiculous amount of commercials every week. And yes, the fans would like to see the end of the race commercial-free, but why on earth did we get 10-15 minutes of post-race interviews commercial-free? Personally, I know I'd rather have had more commercials during the post race interviews than during the racing action earlier in the day. And I think most fans feel the same way.

Again, I can't stress enough that NBC/TNT are doing their broadcast team a great injustice by selling so many commercials. I understand that they paid a lot of money for the rights to broadcast NASCAR races, but do they have to make it all up in one race? It sure appeared that way today. If they can't afford to show us racing without all of these commercials, why did they bother to bid on the broadcast rights in the first place? Also, a lot of fans are already complaining that NBC/TNT have more commercials than Fox. I don't really believe this to be true, but for some reason the NBC/TNT team seem to shove them down the viewers throats so much, it's starting to appear that way.

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