TV Rear View Mirror: FOX

NASCAR and television were hot topics in 2009 with ratings falling for another season and fans voicing their concerns over the telecasts being brought into their homes.

FOX again began the season as part of the new network television partner line-up introduced a couple years earlier. Beginning with the Daytona 500, FOX carried NASCAR's top division through the Dover race that ended the month of May.

Mike Joy, Larry McReynolds and Darrell Waltrip anchored the telecasts in the booth while Steve Byrnes, Dr. Dick Berggren, Matt Yocum and Krista Voda handled reporting duties from pit road. Chris Myers and Jeff Hammond headed the pre-race show and updates from the network's signature "Hollywood Hotel."

But it wasn't the solid on-air talent that generated headlines during FOX's run, although McReynolds found himself in the middle of a controversy later in the season when he aimed some pointed comments at the state of the sport in a roundtable discussion with Jimmy Spencer and Kyle Petty.

Fans were upset at the incorporation of "Digger" into the FOX telecasts.

The animated character, who was introduced a few years earlier and evolved into a mainstay in each telecast complete with a cast of characters including family members and a girlfriend as part of an expanded "Digger & Friends" concept hatched by FOX headman David Hill, seemingly received more air time and mentions than Jimmie Johnson or Dale Earnhardt Jr.

A marketing and promotional campaign was also part of the 2009 Digger plan, which included the character's own souvenir trailer at each race on the schedule.

Although Hill proclaimed the plan a success, citing more than $1 million of Digger merchandise was sold in 2009, the network toned down the character's appearances as the season wore on.

Reports are a pre-race show extended animated segment, which was part of the 2009, schedule won't return for the new season.

The year concluded with an average rating of 5.1, down 11% compared to 2008's 5.7, and marking a new low in the nine-year history of NASCAR On FOX.

But despite that fall, FOX pointed out NASCAR ratings were still the dominant sport during the February-June time period.

The inclusion of more standardized starting times in 2010 is hoped to help ratings climb with most green flags slated for 1:15 p.m. (ET) starts in the coming year.

The look of FOX telecasts will be very similar to what the network has had on the air since becoming part of the NASCAR scene in 2001. All on-air talent is expected to be back and the folksy approach of Joy, McReynolds and Waltrip will again be the staple of NASCAR on FOX in 2010 as the network hopes to rebuild an audience that has unfortunately eroded away in the last several seasons.

Double file restarts will be part of the FOX portion of the schedule next season, something the network missed last year with the new policy not going into effect until later in the schedule. That should help generate better racing during FOX's portion of the campaign.

An earlier Daytona 500 start time and less Digger will hopefully kick things off on a solid note with fans in 2010.

Related Topics:

NASCAR Sprint Cup, 2009

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