Friday, January 1, 2010

Fox vs. Time Warner Cable Dispute Spills Onto SPEED

Update: The Fox vs. Time Warner Cable dispute is scheduled to end at 6PM on Jan 1st. Without a resolution, several Fox owned networks will be pulled from 15 million US homes. The networks include SPEED, FX, FSN regional sports networks and the retransmission of local Fox TV stations by the cable provider. We will add updated comments to this story post.

As the sport gets ready for the 2010 season, SPEED is set to bring back two popular TV series containing lots of NASCAR content. Unfortunately, there is a brand new bump in the road that may prove to be a big problem.

The SPEED Report is scheduled to return on Sunday, January 10th at 7PM ET. The network revamped this show in 2009 and turned it into the best motorsports hour on TV. Rotating hosts include Krista Voda, Bob Varsha and Ralph Sheheen among others. Bob Dillner is the show's NASCAR field reporter.

Entering its first full year is NASCAR Race Hub. This Monday through Thursday program was added by SPEED late in the season and airs at 7:30PM ET. Once again, SPEED rotated its own NASCAR personalities through the host position and used network analysts to provide an in-studio perspective on racing issues. The new season is scheduled to debut on Monday, January 11th.

The bump in the road mentioned earlier is set to affect SPEED on January 1st. Click here for the latest on the Time Warner Cable vs. Fox feud from Variety. At a time when many elements in television from advertising to technology are shifting rapidly, this standoff over revenue is going to have no winners.

Fox wants more money from Time Warner Cable without providing any additional services or content. The Fox position is that the current product is undervalued. Time Warner positions itself as middlemen and says any increase in payments would just be passed along to the cable subscribers. Meanwhile, TWC remains a very profitable venture.

It's easy to understand the Fox position. It is an advertiser-supported broadcast TV network. The main revenue stream comes from ads sold in shows the network produces. Meanwhile, cable TV networks like ESPN get to sell the same TV ads and also enjoy a hefty payment directly to them from companies like Time Warner Cable. The dual revenue stream of cable TV networks has not gone unnoticed.

Caught in the lurch will be Fox-owned SPEED if all the Fox Networks go dark on Time Warner Cable systems on January 1st. Time Warner serves about 15 million subscribers in over ten major markets nationwide. A shutdown would be rough for lots of viewers, but SPEED is gearing up for a major increase in NASCAR programming for the new year.

Both Fox and TWC have not put their best foot forward in the public eye. Websites, Twitter messages and email are key weapons in this corporate PR spin game. Graphics crawled on the TWC systems scare viewers by saying Fox is demanding a 300% increase in fees that will make consumer costs rise.

Meanwhile, Fox is using local TV newscasts, sports programs and its cable news network to present its own scare campaign. However, telling fans that free over-the-air telecasts on Fox like college football and the Daytona 500 will go dark is nothing short of hilarious. Perhaps, Home Depot may choose to stock up on HD home antennas. Ultimately, it's called free TV for a reason.

Cooler heads may prevail over the next week, but there is a very real possibility that January may be rough for sports fans on the Fox family of broadcast and cable networks. TDP will continue to update this post and provide another column later this week as the deadline approaches.

We welcome your comments on this topic. To add your opinion, just click on the comments button below. This is a family-friendly website, please keep that in mind when posting. Comments may be moderated before being posted. Thanks for stopping by.

Happy New Year NASCAR Fans!

What an amazing third season of covering the NASCAR TV and media scene. The fan support was overwhelming, especially after a rough start to the season behind the scenes. I would like to personally thank those who took the time to contact me and encourage me to keep this blog alive for another year.

Before we begin to look ahead, we have to take a moment to look back. At the height of the racing season, TDP logged over 400 thousand pageviews a month. There is absolutely no doubt that NASCAR fans are just as passionate about how the sport is covered as they are about the racing.

Once again, NASCAR was one of the most fascinating sports in the world when it came to TV. The three networks on the Sprint Cup side had their ups and downs, with changes coming both during and after the season.

The Nationwide Series finally found an on-air leader and finished the TV year on a high note with some great racing. The Camping World trucks defied the odds and the dedication of a single TV team resulted in another memorable season of coverage.

Along the way, fans also saw some live Whelen Modified racing, a charity event and several live ARCA races featuring some of NASCAR's future stars. The All-Star race, extended coverage from Daytona and the first Hall of Fame selection program also made 2009 memorable.

While one NASCAR TV partner delivered consistent news all season long, another stepped in late in the game to deepen the coverage available for 2010. A visit to the White House, controlled substance issues and high profile crew chief changes were at the forefront of the solid coverage.

The list of weekend NASCAR programming seemed to get longer and longer, especially during the pre-race shows for big events. Some shows struggled while other stood out for solid live reporting and the developing presence of NASCAR's next TV stars.

This year, perhaps more than any in recent memory, served as a reminder that change is good and necessary for the health of any professional sport. Between the many positive changes made by NASCAR and the key changes made by several of the TV partners, there is an optimistic feeling in the air for 2010.

I hope everyone has a fun and safe New Year, thanks again for stopping by. Let's see what 2010 will bring.