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.


jamie said...

honestly, i feel we are simply being "waltripped". it is like fox is saying, "hey wait, im over here. Look at me. Please."

move to speed is no big deal, but if fox wanted 36 week attention, they should have bid to get the entire season.

Adam Wood said...

It seems to me that FOX would want to move Saturday night races to SPEED, especially once baseball season starts. FOX started Saturday Night Baseball and I don't know how good the ratings are, but what was originally advertised as a one-time thing has been happening fairly often since.

MRM4 said...

Myself, this doesn't bother me too much. The only way it would bother me is if a race on SPEED was rained out and ran on Monday. I'd have to DVR it and watch it after work. When the race is on Fox and rained out, they keep it on Fox and I can still listen (watch) it from work.

West Coast Diane said...

Only thing it means to me is potential to move Speed to a higher tier and charge me more. We are about at our limit for paying more for "TV" service. We watch very few of the "billions" of channels we get which are mostly garbage.

So many more ways to follow your interests these days than old fashioned "television". I don't even use a radio any more. Tune-In radio thru my iPhone. Listen to stations all over the country, not local since I don't like their advertisers!

Some day I hope there is an ala carte system so I can just pay for what I use. On demand for anything and everything.

Buschseries61 said...

David Hill just needs to go away.

NASCAR needs to be wise with the 2014 contract. The networks are not getting along and ratings have slid downhill since 2007. We've gone backwards from the 01-06 contract. Honestly, it's a nightmare.

The schedule should be divided between 2 networks that are willing to cooperate and feature the sport in a positive light.

Ziggy said...

Bottom line to this scenario:

We SPEED CHANNEL subscribers will pay more to watch a sport that is becoming less interesting, hence David Hill receives a larger bonus.

Count me as a non-subscriber when this (if ever) happens.

Roland said...

Nascar belongs on broadcast TV, especially early in the season coming off the Daytona 500 its important to keep that momentum. Dont agree with moving to Speed at all.

If Speed wants to become Nascar TV, then step up to the plate and do it. They've tried before, but they put the wrong people in the wrong places on the wrong shows.

AncientRacer said...

This would be a big deal to me. The only reason I have Speed is because Cox was a partner in starting it. The way Cox has been behaving lately, at least in my area, if the license fee went up big time Speed would evaporate or be placed on a tier I would not pay for just to get it.

And I cannot get satellite due to electroniic interference from the phone company. My house is in a microwave footprint. 30 yards either side of me, OK. Where I am, no dice.

My only recourse willl then be a Netflix type service, but though that type of delivery system is coming on pretty quickly it is not there yet.

Matthew said...

Here in Cleveland on Time Warner Cable, SPEED is on the digital tier moving there a few months ago, so now I can't even flip to them.

Anonymous said...

Let me echo what Buschseries61 wrote. This. Exactly. Only David Hill needs to take DW by the hand and walk off into the sunset never to be heard again.

AncientRacer said...

Rolling this around in my pea-brain a bit more, JG, your column brings me to a question.

Patti Wheeler has been at Speed for awhile now, and when she arrived I and many others applauded the move.

Has she produced or somehow given, either as a formal stand-alone or as part of some talks she may have given a strategic vision for Speed? What she would like it to become and what she wants to do to get it there?

She has been in place long enough now I would think that perhaps she may have, but I have not heard of anything.

Daly Planet Editor said...


TV is a series of multi-year contracts for both programming and production. It takes time to make big changes.

Patti has already made many, including getting RaceHub dialed-in and expanding SPEED Center into a general motorsports studio show.

I think Adam is not the right anchor for that show, but the best part is that SPEED is moving toward real racing and not more tow trucks or stuntin' motorcycles.

OSBORNK said...

Many cable providers have moved Speed from basic to premium tiers recently and I'm sure many more are considering it due to the cost. David Hill wants to put NASCAR races on Speed so he can increase the cost even more. That strategy to increase income could easily backfire. Speed will lose more basic customers than they will gain on higher tiers and that could decrease income. Most of the viewing public are not race fans and don't care if they have Speed or not. Most people will not upgrade their cable package just to get Speed.

Anonymous said...

I doubt this will fly. SPEED is a premium channel in many markets. Viewership and ratings will suffer.

GinaV24 said...

here we go again, Fox and Speed - and David Hill blowing smoke about whatever his running stream of conciousness comes up with.

I have speed with my regular cable programming but all of these moves are simply to get more $ from the consumer. Might be a bad time to do that considering that the NASCAR isn't as popular as it once was - even if the ratings according to the way Fox twists the numbers are up.

Anonymous said...

The next tv deal setup should mirror the 01-06 deal in terms of who shows what exception being the 500 always on fox since the 2nd network gets the championship.......fox/speed then whoever espn/abc or nbc/ vs........giving turner 6 mid season races was just dumb

KY1WING said...

Interesting way to grow a sport, sorry entertainment, by offering your product to significantly fewer viewers at an increased cost.

Using that model, NASCAR should go straight to PPV and watch their product explode!

Mike in Pittsburgh said...

So they want to put the races on a cable channel with less potential viewers? So since the cost per spot will be going down I can only assume that they will just add more commercial minutes per broadcast. Sounds like this is exactly what we all wanted.

Anonymous said...

I wouldn't be opposed to moving races to SPEED as long as it is available in more homes first. Im orignally from New York State where SPEED is only available on Digital Cable or Satelite. I was shocked to come through other states and realize SPEED is on basic cable. Once SPEED is added to basic cable in more places I think its a good idea to move the races over!

I think a secong thing that needs to be done is move races to SPEED once FOX gains more races. They said SPEED Wants 6 races which only leaves 7 races on broadcast TV of FOX.

In a prefect world the next TV contract will consist of FOX/SPEED for the first half of the season and NBC/VERSUS/TNT for the second half.

If FOX wants to move faces to cable again why did they stop broadcasting on FX in the first place?

Anonymous said...

Speedvision was ruined when FOX bought it in 2001. They had many many great shows that got the ax.

This latest move proves that NASCAR is losing/lost it's base and is trying desperately to regain them.

Heck, Michigan Speedway is removing seats for Pete's sake !

Maybe all of this contraction will bring NASCAR back to the tracks like N. Wilkesboro--one of the best races of the season was at that track.

Anonymous said...

Phil Collins would like to add.. I don't care anymore.. No wonder the Hot Girl never gets a date anymore because, everyone is trying to figure what they are going to do before she even says yes to the date in 2014.. P&G has a 4.6billion dollar budget but cannot spend anything in NASCAR anymore, there is some serious posturing going on right now. NASCAR is loading up on TV and marketing folks live never before and TV folks are leaking stories like this. Wow you think the NFL Lockout is a mess just wait till NASCAR, Turner and all the TV networks start posturing like this leak. It was a plant plain and simple. Folks like JD says this going to get interesting the leak of this story was a plant, they are testing the waters NASCAR is still huge to the players involved and if you think about it NASCAR more and more is holding the cards. The Yankees and Red Sox play every weekend in NASCAR.. MLB, Golf, Tennis, Indy Car are starting to realize that..

KoHoSo said...

Of the many things already written about this, the following from Mike Mulhern caught my eye.

And sources close to the situation say that Fox has become somewhat disenchanted with NASCAR and might not be all that interested in renewing.

If true, why? Is it, as Mulhern also stated, the loss of that precious 18-35 male demographic? Does NASCAR no longer fit in with the "cool" and "edgy" Fox TV image? Are affiliates complaining due to race overruns that take away from their local commercial time? Is it coming to the point where, in too many markets, local programming (even if syndicated) would pull in a better rating than a NASCAR race?

This really puzzles me. Yes, NASCAR has been struggling but not that bad. Unless this is some sort of power play for Fox to force higher rates paid from cable and satellite companies and to get Speed onto lower tiers of programming such as Disney has done with the various ESPN channels, I just don't see the logic in putting races on a cable network that can only be seen in 78 million homes.

Maybe I can be convinced otherwise but, right now, I think that, if this is legit and NASCAR allows it to happen if other alternatives are available, it will be the stupidest thing they have ever done.

Daly Planet Editor said...

Let's say you add six Sprint Cup Series races to SPEED in 2015.

You can then raise the monthly rate that cable companies pay to carry SPEED by maybe 15 cents per household per month.

Safe to say SPEED will be in around 90 million homes by then. You do the math.

Anonymous said...

anon 10:41--yup! When I was still in Cali, some friends of mine in the Bay Area had the same cable company as I did in Sacramento. For them to get SPEED (this was back in 2K1 era) they had to upgrade to Digital & have one of the higher tier sports packages. I had SPEED on basic AND Digital. I don't have a TV right now but when I did here in TX it was the same thing SPEED on both basic & Digital.

Anonymous said...

Gotta love mulhern.......hes pulling that outta thin air not even a hint of real source.......what has become clear since 2001 is that nascar went bigger than ever due to network tv coverage only to return to its pre 2001 tv ratings level.....whos to blame for that?? Ask a 100 fans and youll get a 100 diff answers.......the competiton on the track has never been better but the sport is in a downturn that cant seem to shake......im however an oppurtunist!!! Darlington, the 600 in the infield, camping at daytona for the july races, and camping at atlanta for labor day weekend all this yr!!! Thank you for lowering prices to make this happen

Bobby said...

The Fox affiliates will likely be screaming if that happened. I don't see this happening as ABC affiliates screamed loudly, and some conglomerates own both Fox and ABC affiliates, and the ABC affiliates are telling Fox affiliates to not let this happen since their revenue dropped.

Since NASCAR's 13 in a row on network television is a cash cow for these stations, I can't see this happening, especially if the NFL Lockout eats at revenue for these affiliates in markets with the best games. Some markets where they are relegated to the worst games need the NASCAR revenue since the NFL games they received this past season were the worst games.

Anonymous said...

NASCAR is all about the $.

We miss a large % of the races as its on ESPN 2 , or TNT ( not available here ) , speed was moved to the VIP package on our CABLE , not paying nearly 75% more to get 21 xtra channels when SPEED would be the only 1 watched.

MortongroveDon said...

Speedvision was once a good channel,carrying a variety of shows, not just auto. In the last few years it has turned into a fairly unwatchable mess. Drag racing shows, car rebuild shows, endless replays of auctions. Live racing seemed to take a backseat to it all.
On the plus side, its F-1 coverage is some of the best on Us television, and the CWTS usually outshines the productions of the other top tier series from other networks.
I personally dont need 3 hours of coverage before a race, most of the fluff and stuff comes off as overly fawning stuff. Yes there is some criticism but fans in the know can read thru most of it.
Fox taking over this channel started it's downfall. I believe Fox wants to be a bigger played in College sports on the network. It sees Nascar as a attraction that appears to be on the downside, and wants to hedge its bets and make money off of the NCAA and BCS, which, maybe to the dismay of those in Charlotte and daytona Beach, seem to have a product that people cant get enough of.

dawg said...

Bottom line, regardless if watch NASCAR or not. Your TV bill is going up if this deal flies. Ditto for the Olympics.

Anonymous said...

Time Warner is already begging us to pay more for something called "Speed 2" that apparently has live races on it.
I'm at my ceiling with my cable bill right now.

MRM4 said...

If I'm NASCAR, I tell David Hill if he wants some races on SPEED, he needs to take half the season instead of bailing out in early June.

By the time the TV contracts are up, the new NBC/Comcast/Versus channel will have a new direction, a new name, and will be in more households. They will become a major player. Fox and Hill may not get to call the shots to NASCAR like they think they will.

Marty said...

I'm curious as to why don't put some NASCAR back on FX. When NASCAR first moved to Fox, FX aired many races, especially from the then Busch series. Then Fox decided to move sports off of FX, so NASCAR programming was jettisoned. Now, the powers that be have decided to put sports back on FX starting with college football and soccer.

Wouldn't it make some sense to move it back to FX since NASCAR was already there and has more distribution than Speed? I understand much of this would be to grow Speed and Speed is a racing network but I wouldn't mind seeing some things moved to FX again. Fox bosses want to add sports on FX to better compete with TNT and NASCAR sounds like a good place to start.

The reality is that cable brings in more profit than broadcast tv even with less viewers. The migration to cable will continue, because of the financial gains from it. It's all about the money.

Andy K. Wells said...

I hope this does not happen. On Dish, Speed is not in the two lowest packages. I have Americas Top 100 (might be different name now) and I can't afford to upgrade. Bad move if they do it.

Adam Wood said...

Also, at least in Iowa, when football games moved to the Big Ten Network and the NFL Network, that was a disaster for fan relations because Mediacom has a monopoly on cable here. The Big 10 Network only made it to the top digital sports package at about $120/month and the NFL Network remains to this day uncarried because they can't come to an agreement.

I foresee a similar problem happening all across the nation with NASCAR if this happens.

If SPEED wants more races, give it the last 15 Nationwide races. We all know ESPN shouldn't have those races.

Anonymous said...

Since Fox took over Speed, it has become little but the Nascar Infomercial Channel. I would prefer a channel much more like Speedvision, it was showing a more balanced view of world wide racing. I didn't even mind watching the REAL truck races from Europe showing power units from 18 wheelers or even the occasional swamp buggy race from god knows where.

Anonymous said...

On Speed I watch AMA and the truck races, plus Despain on Wind Tunnel and the Hub occasionally. If there is a special on, I will also watch those sometimes.
After the fiasco NBC screwed up with the Pledge of Allegiance by editing out part of it, I will not watch NBC again. The kids did such a great job on the pledge only to have NBC cut part of it out.
I have never had to deal with cable and have had satellite since the old c span started as I live in the country. Dish is expensive and every year I wonder how much longer I can keep that.
With the current state of Nascar, I no longer plan my time around watching so I dvr a lot. Sometimes I watch but most of the time I wind up deleting the recordings without watching them.


James said...

If SPEED thinks that I will pay more to listen to ol'DW and his parrot they are crazy, HoF or not!

If NASCAR thinks I will spend more to watch their spec cars (race), I think not!

IF ESPN thinks it can keep my interest by showing Softball games instead of NASCAR NOW, it ain't happening!

Will the last person out please shut off the lights?

Fed UP said...

If they go to speed, they go. I WILL not purchase another higher tier to just watch ONE show. Such a shame that our elected officials have failed once again to give consumers an ala carte plan.

saltsburgtrojanfan said...

What difference does it make.

The networks have their money and do not care one iota about the loyal NASCAR viewers, avid or casual.

Their agenda is different from our own ageda.

They choose drama over racing.

NASCAR is just not what it used to be.

Anonymous said...

JD-I apologize for going off topic, but I didn't know where else to turn. Nascar Now and Especially Race Hub infuriated me last night. On the JGR oil pan issue, Larry Mac started out by stating that he didn't talk to the Management or Engine Builders at JGR. He went on to state that he spent a half hour with Pemberton and Darby in the Nascar trailer Saturday looking at and discussing the oil pans. The Nascar talking heads and journalists(?) constantly give these half-azzed reports(?) of Nascar issues. They never bother to climb the pit box,pick up the phone or confront both parties with intelligent, probing questions. Case in point. After Junior unloaded on Mark Martin after the MIS race, did anyone walk over to Mark and get his perspective? So Larry Mac gives his report with half the story. Suddenly, it appears that the pans weren't "heavy" but were "flat" on the bottom which rested on the engine crossmember perhaps giving a slight aero advantage. Again, the pans weren't illegal. There are thousands of High School journalism clubs that would put these "analysts" to shame that are on TV, are writers following Nascar or are the leaders of blogs. It's just insulting. Thanks folks for listening. These people are useless!

Daly Planet Editor said...

Anon 6:55PM,

It's a mess. First of all, weight-shifting has gone on in NASCAR forever. At most, JGR would get thirty pounds moved.

The parts themselves were perfect, other than the material used to make them. It's a NASCAR classic!

Larry McReynolds has also been a mess since his outspoken interview with hamptonroads.com reporter Dustin Long several years ago.

He got called into the NASCAR offices and has not been the same since. Now, he is a shadow of the person he used to be.

While he still has all the same crew chief smarts, he has bought into the incredible sales job by NASCAR that speaking honestly about issues in the sport affects it negatively.

Bill France Jr. loved a good debate and enjoyed sparring with the media on a regular basis. This New World Order is a marketing-driven agenda and those guys on SPEED are great examples of how it can affect an on-air personality.

My push for RaceHub is to have a weekly journalist session and talk about topics in the sport. Instead, we get SPEED/FOX employees or current NASCAR drivers offering analysis.

The result is a lot of happy talk where there should be serious conversation. Although Larry Mac is solid on TNT and RaceHub for analysis of strategy, he continues to be deeply affected when it comes to speaking-out on key issues.


Anonymous said...

Go with all the Nationwide Races on Speed - ESPN doesn't do them justice.

GinaV24 said...

JD, that was a great explanation of what happened to Larry Mac. I used to respect his opinions, but since he got his hand slapped and lost his guts, I can't pay attention to anything he says any more.

It's a shame that Bill France Jr didn't impart some of his personality to his son.

Like David Hill, Brian France lives in a world of his own reality and unfortunately, it has had a great negative impact on the sport that I have followed for so long.

Anonymous said...

Thanks JD, for the response and your insights.

Anonymous said...

You NAILED this one. Great job of reporting

Hill's M.O. is always to manipulate reporters, and SBJ fell for this trick, hook line and sinker.

What's at the heart of this is two-fold.

First, the Hill 'superego' will not stand for Eric Shanks and Fox Sports (at the broadcast network) to outshine himself. So, Hill sets out to steal one of the crown jewel sports from Shanks' portfolio.

Second, Hill has to be crazed at the idea that Versus will be the competitor to ESPN and not a cable net that's under Hill/Fox. So he'll make noise and dust and have tantrums, some of which will be played out in the media.

He's the penultimate "Monday morning quarterback", a self centered bully who cares not an iota about anyone but Hill.