Wednesday, July 16, 2008
The transformation of SPEED continues as the network rolls-out another high-profile TV series. Thursday night at 10PM ET will be the network premiere of Wrecked.
This follows the series Super Bikes, PINKS, Living the Low Life, Pass Time, PINKS All-Out, 101 Cars You Must Drive, Drag Race High and Supercars Exposed as the most recent additions to this type of non-racing TV programming.
This is the full page on the SPEEDtv.com website that hosts the information about the TV series and the background on the family-owned Chicago area towing business being profiled.
In the same vein as Deadliest Catch on Discovery and The First 48 on A&E, Wrecked is a reality series that explores the non-traditional employment role of a specific group.
As we detailed in this column, Wrecked follows the family workings of the O'Hare Towing Service. This is the official website that will help to orient viewers as to what services the company offers.
It has been several years now since SPEED abandoned the original network format of focusing on "real racing" and moved into what the network refers to as "automotive lifestyle" programs on weeknights.
That began a long list of programming failures as the network struggled to re-define itself between Monday and Thursday when there is no actual on-track action to cover. These included Texas Hardtails, I Wanna Date A Race Car Driver and Shooting Cars.
The multi-hour Monday presentation of NASCAR programming was also dismantled. That left This Week in NASCAR as the only racing-related show. The Tuesday night block of motorcycle content was completely cancelled and the Wednesday evening replay of the previous week's Sprint Cup race was moved to the afternoon. The change was complete.
Although never admitted publicly, the purchase of SpeedVision in 2002 by Rupert Murdoch and his Fox Cable Networks group was with the goal of changing the network into a full-time NASCAR channel. The name was changed to SPEED Channel and the network offices were dispatched to Charlotte, NC where they remain today.
In 2005, Jim Liberatore was dismissed as network president after he apparently objected to the increased amount of NASCAR programming that he was being forced to carry by his superiors. The network subsequently re-branded itself as SPEED and brought-in veteran TV executive Hunter Nickell to right the ship.
He inherited an interesting problem. NASCAR fans wanted more programming from the NASCAR Media Group like 7 Days and NASCAR Confidential. Non-NASCAR fans wanted WRC, Formula-1 and other racing series to take center-stage as they had done with SpeedVision.
Meanwhile, Nickell faced a wasteland of weeknights with declining viewership and a hodge-podge of programming. After throwing many programming concepts at the wall, SPEED finally found PINKS. This TV series made the cross-over from cult hit to mainstream success and has now provided the genesis of a new effort toward more lifestyle program series.
If Wrecked resonates with the fans, TV viewers will no doubt see SPEED continue to fill the weekdays with this type of programming. The shame for NASCAR fans in all of this is that somehow things have come full-circle in this TV equation.
While The NASCAR Media Group produces the weekend shows from the SPEED Stage and TWIN on Mondays, there is no longer any NASCAR in primetime on SPEED during the week. It seems ironic that the very network that moved to Charlotte to embrace NASCAR and is an official NASCAR TV partner will not invest the time and resources to develop one new original weekday program series for the fans.
The last time SPEED did this was for a show called Beyond The Wheel. It won several national Sports Emmy Awards and is still being produced today for another cable network. SPEED cancelled the series to focus the network's resources elsewhere.
SPEED has the perfect right to produce whatever TV programs increase the audience and grow the business. Unfortunately, other than one hour on Monday nights, the lack of weekday NASCAR programming has forced fans away from the network and directly over to ESPN2 and the Internet.
It seems a bit ironic that a TV network that moved to Charlotte and is surrounded by NASCAR shops, personalities and the many NASCAR support businesses has to travel to Chicago to find a new source of reality TV programming.
The premiere of Wrecked will not be reviewed on this NASCAR blog. If you want to comment on that program after it airs please follow this link to the SPEEDtv forum. If you would like to offer your opinion about the topics in this column, please feel free.
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