Tuesday, June 21, 2011
Future Of SPEED Again An Issue
There they were, David Hill from FOX/SPEED and Mike Helton from NASCAR. While they were together on Helton's ranch shooting skeet, Hill apparently floated the idea of moving some Sprint Cup Series races from broadcast TV to cable.
Monday, details of that conversation appeared in The Sports Business Journal. Click here for the link to read the story. Excerpts from that story appear below.
Fox has held informal discussions with NASCAR about a new TV rights agreement that would allow the network to put some of its Sprint Cup races on Speed.
David Hill, Fox Sports chairman, said Fox would like to see some of the 13 regular-season races it televises on Speed. A Fox source said the company could ask for as many as six races for the network.
Hill said that Fox always intended to carry Sprint Cup races on Speed, which Fox launched in 2002 after acquiring the channel, then named Speedvision, from Comcast and Cox.
The move would allow Speed to use live NASCAR broadcasts to increase the license fee that cable and satellite operators pay each month, which is currently around 30 cents, according to sources.
Hill stressed that the joint venture talks were casual. He said that he and NASCAR President Mike Helton discuss a variety of opportunities when they get together to shoot skeet at Helton’s ranch in the Southeast.
There are several interesting issues with this story. First, Helton has absolutely nothing to do with NASCAR TV. In fact, he runs an entirely different division of the sport. Secondly, since neither of the SBJ reporters were present for the skeet shooting outing, we can assume FOX delivered this content to them directly.
SPEED is a cable TV network that has a dual revenue stream. That means it sells ads but also gets a monthly fee for carriage from cable and satellite providers. Moving a series of Sprint Cup races to SPEED would then allow the company to charge providers, and ultimately consumers, more for the product.
Hill was replaced as the head of FOX Sports last year by Eric Shanks. The new challenge given to Hill was to take control of SPEED and increase the value of the network. Hill immediately put his old friend Patti Wheeler in charge of the day-to-day production and programming. Wheeler is still in the process of shaking things up.
Currently, SPEED is distributed in 78 million homes in the US. This number is far short of the 100 million ESPN used as a key reason to move NASCAR from ABC over to cable. As many of you know, SPEED-HD continues to roll-out nationwide. Any way you look at it, SPEED's total numbers are far short of enabling a move of top-line product from broadcast.
David Hill talks a lot. As an Aussie, he loves to play with the media and in this case seems to have done a very good job. He used The Sports Business Journal to deliver a well-crafted message that served his purpose. He kicked open the door to splitting the NASCAR on FOX package in two pieces between broadcast and cable.
Don't expect this issue to be on the table for years to come. The current NASCAR TV contract locks-in the parties until 2014. Rumors of NASCAR taking a partnership role in SPEED have never panned out. Don't forget, SPEED's move to Charlotte was to become "The NASCAR Network." Instead, it has never established an identity.
Finally, it certainly is interesting that this story just happens to come out one day after the second TNT Sprint Cup Series telecast. You have to wonder about the fan reaction had this "information" been available during the NASCAR on FOX portion of the season. Hill continues to be a master of the media.
We welcome your thoughts on this topic. To add your opinion, just click on the comments button below. Thank you for taking the time to stop by.