Words, photo and opinion by Michael Chandler
We live in an age where every form of motorsports is available on your TV. And to be honest, it’s great having it as easily accessible as it is. HOWEVER, I am going to take a minute to air one large complaint that I have:
The TV broadcasts that we have for the IMSA WeatherTech series are just awful, and Fox Sports is a terrible TV home for the series. Allow me to explain why these things are so awful.
ISSUE THE FIRST!: The Announcers
Yes, I know what they’re doing is difficult: you’re trying to relate what’s going on in a very fast paced sport to people who might not be that fast paced in their ability to process information. You have to know who is in which car, where everyone is on the track, and what’s going on in the different classes. All difficult, but there’s one thing that they don’t do: look for action outside of the lead group or really focus on teams that aren’t big names. If there’s an amazing battle for 5th, you probably won’t see it. And if you’re not Porsche or Corvette, we’re not gonna know you’re there. It’s incredibly frustrating, especially if the leaders are well clear of any competition. I would much rather see that 5th place battle between some teams and drivers I’m not intimately familiar with.
ISSUE THE SECOND!: The Pit Lane reporters
They’re not as useless as the sideline reporters in a basketball or football game (sideline reporters are utterly useless), they can tell us what happens to a car when it goes behind the wall or what driver is hopping in during a driver change. They provide some valuable information you wouldn’t get from the announcers in the booth, but the TV crew seems to love trying race for the bottom against the sideline reporters. They repeatedly ask crew chiefs vague, soft questions; or talk to some corporate fellow in a polo who has no idea what the hell is going on in the race, series, or world in general. I don’t care what the VP of North American SUV Operations has to say about the “venue”, tell me if the Action Express Corvette DP came in and got a set of scrub tires! Give me information damnit! If I wanted useless nonsense, I’d fire up one of the 24 hour “news” networks and tune in for some “news”.
ISSUE THE THIRD!: The streaming
As I’m pounding out this semi-though out rant, I’m listening to the Radio Le Mans call of the Monterrey GP, specifically the Prototype and GTLM race. I tried to stream the race via the IMSA website, and I was greeted with a screen that said I needed to watch the race on Fox Sports 1, or Fox Sports Go. I was trying to avoid the FS1 catastrophe, so I went to FSGo. And it’s the TV broadcast I’m trying to avoid, complete with commercial breaks. All I want to to is listen the the Radio Le Mans crew call the race, give me information and insight I don’t have, and watch these amazing machines whip around Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. I don’t want commercials for La Quinta Inn or the Chevrolet Malibu, I want my racing! I broke down. I fired up the Fox Sports stream, muted it, turned on Radio Le Mans, and made a horrifying discovery: the visuals were MINUTES behind the audio. MINUTES. There are 120 of those in today’s race! How? How is this happening???
ISSUE THE FOURTH!: The TV home
When SPEED became Fox Sports, people rejoiced. It looked like all the racing we were able to find on our cable boxes wasn’t going anywhere. Then they announced that there was going to be a Fox Sports 2, and then stuff got shoved onto that. Stuff like the PC/GTD Monterrey GP race, big chunks of the 12 and 24 hour races, and some races all together. This wouldn’t be a problem if FS2 was a channel that existed in people’s cable packages, or IMSA wasn’t so insistent on not streaming something on their site that’s being broadcast on this shadow TV network.
And let’s talk about how the IMSA stuff gets shown on TV via tape delay, and that taped race often starts late because of UFC post fight coverage, or FA Cup soccer, or some other niche sport. I’m fine with both the UFC and European soccer, but when I end up waiting fifteen minutes for my race to start so three talking heads in an empty arena can talk about a fight that ended quite a while ago, I get a bit peeved.
WHAT’S THE SOLUTION?
ABC, NBC, Fox proper and ESPN all have their hands in either Indy, F1, or NASCAR; but, they all split time with those series. CBS has Pirelli World Challenge, but they pop that onto CBS Sports Network, which is in the outer realm of your cable lineup. But while it’s way the hell down the channel listings, it has some great racing on it: V8 Super Cars, Blancpain Sprint Series, Stadium Super Trucks. It’s almost ready-made for the WeatherTech series. If CBS could/wanted to get their hands on the rights, they could elevate this series to the level it should be.
Unfortunately, that probably isn’t going to happen. IMSA’s co-founder is Bill France Sr., who founded the redneck rodeo we know as NASCAR. They’re headquartered at the same place. If you’ve noticed, there’s a lot of NASCAR races on Fox. Same with all of the WeatherTech races. The powers that are would rather negotiate with a long time partner, than try to start a new relationship.
Michael, you simpleton! In July NASCAR jumps to the NBC networks! Oh, I know. Again, long time partners. NBC airs the NASCAR Mexican series on their Spanish language properties, and has been for a few years now. Why bring a third party in, especially one that you don’t have a relationship with at the moment?
So, we’re stuck with this. Thankfully the audio you can stream on the IMSA site is done by the Radio Le Mans crew, so that’s a bright spot in this sea of floating turds. And Fox Sports 1 is available on 4 out of the 7 Comcast packages, half of the Dish packages, and 5 of the 6 DirecTV packages, so there’s that too. Hopefully this gets better, and they stop shoving stuff to FS2 or just allow people to stream the races with the audio they want.
The next WeatherTech Series race is the Chevrolet Sports Car Classic from the Raceway at Belle Isle Park June 3&4. Qualifying will be on the IMSA site starting on the 3rd at 5:05PM Eastern, and the race itself is going to be aired on Fox Sports 1 on the 4th at 12:30PM Eastern. That’s 3:05PM Mountain for qualifying, and 10:30AM for the race.
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