In the last few weeks, one of the hot topics of conversation in the NASCAR community has been the television broadcast ratings. In the last 12 years, the viewership for the race at Sears Point International Raceway (Infineon; Sonoma) has fallen from 8.2 million in 2006 to 2.3 million this year. There is some argument that the last time Sears Point was on the broadcast television was in 2006, so cable may have helped fueled that decline. There are other reasons though. People have talked about that ad nauseam, and if you want to read about that, check other websites. People have great analysis.
The major issue with the broadcast is not something the general public will notice. It involves the location of the booth. The booth for the NASCAR Camping World Truck and Xfinity Series races has been on remote several times from Charlotte, North Carolina. This is instead of being on location at the race track. The pit reporters and camera crew are all live at the track, but the broadcast crew is not.
This is not a new thing. Formula 1 on SPEED did this regularly with many races across the world. Bob Varsha, David Hobbs and Steve Matchett would work remotely with the televisions of the race, calling the race accordingly. However, the level of action at a Formula 1 race makes for a better product from remote because you are not likely to miss much at the racetrack. The nature of the racing is fine, not to mention the cost of getting the entire crew to places like Brazil, Abu Dhabi and so on.
However, a NASCAR race is much different from a Formula 1 race. With rare exceptions, it is imperative that the broadcasters be at the race for the call. Cameras cannot focus on 100% of the track at once. For that to happen, you would need at least 10 cameras probably circling tracks. That gets prohibitively expensive and quick. Most NASCAR races are called from the booth at a racetrack. These booths 90% of the time shows the entire race track for them to use. They are guided by cameras and television screens in the booth, but again, the announcers have to be able to see the track to catch what the cameras might and direct properly.
It is not the first time the broadcasts have tried to cheapen out. Mid-Ohio and Road America last year both reeked of cheap. First at Road America, there was not a single in-car camera used for the race. It was a good race with a great finish, but there was no in-car camera for a driver’s perspective on the racing at Road America. That is a rather disservice to the fans who only see this track once a year and are not there in person.
Second, at Mid-Ohio, their cameras did not due some diligence in figuring out exactly how Matt Bell wrecked the Mario Gosselin-owned #90 car. There were no replays whatsoever, just speculation by Dave Burns and Dale Jarrett. We never got any explanation. It reeks of cheap. It was an insane wreck and no one ever found out why that happened. Look at this footage:
NASCAR on FOX does not seem to want to spend money to send Vince Welch, Adam Alexander, Phil Parsons and Michael Waltrip to the race track to call a race and it is really disingenuous. NASCAR is a product that needs more than just television cameras when someone is not at the race track. With the amounts of money being spent, there is fear that this could become a regular thing.