Tuesday, October 4, 2011

New Cable TV Network Looks Familiar

Some motorsports fans have fond memories of a TV network that was called SpeedVision. The original concept was to combine shows about cars, motorcycles, boats and airplanes into a 24-hour cable network.

The idea was to feature racing, but also to serve enthusiasts of those four disciplines. Program offerings ranged from the British Touring Car Series to old World War II airplane documentaries. It was an eclectic mix.

After a few short years, the network was bought by the FOX Cable Network group. The plan was to move to Charlotte, NC and become the NASCAR TV Network. Needless to say, for a variety of reasons, the second part of that equation never happened.

Instead, SPEED is now stuck in Charlotte living a bipolar life of NASCAR on the weekends and "lifestyle" programming on weeknights. It's a battle between the Camping World Truck Series and Dumbest Stuff on Wheels.

The original Executive Producer of SpeedVision was Bob Scanlon. He departed the network after it was sold to FOX. For the past several years he has been slowly working on something you may have stumbled across on your cable dial called Discovery HD Theater.

Clicking through the channels you may have seen the World Rally Championships, a series once carried by SPEED. There was also motorcycle racing like the Isle of Man TT and even live auto auctions. HD Theater was also an eclectic mix.

Since then Scanlon has worked with the Discovery executives to build a new full time cable network with a distinctive brand. The result is Velocity TV, which takes to the air on Tuesday. It's an interesting format that will no doubt continue to evolve.

"It is going to be a game changer," said David Zaslav, the CEO of Discovery Communications. "As the first network devoted to the upscale men's market, Velocity will be a hub for viewers within this key demographic as well as the wealth of advertisers that target them."

While it's clear that Zaslav has one eye on paying the bills, the actual programming on Velocity looks to appeal to a much broader audience. NFL Films just inked an exclusive deal for two new series that debut on the network Wednesday night. Just like NASCAR, the NFL has a strong female demographic.

Annie Duke brings her Epic Poker league to Velocity, promising a new approach to poker on TV. Velocity has Mecum Auto Auctions as its own version of SPEED's Barrett-Jackson. Familiar names like West Coast Customs and Overhaulin' are also on the menu.

In talking about the network, Scanlon seems to offer a wider perspective. "In the same way that a car once defined the person who drove it, Velocity will define the viewer who watches it," said Scanlon. "Whether you are a car aficionado or just someone who prefers fast-paced, high-stakes television, Velocity will become a must-have entertainment destination."

One other key element that Velocity has behind it is the power of the Discovery brand. This global media company is not shy in pursuing the content and personalities it wants for its portfolio of American television networks.

In our world here at TDP it's going to be very interesting to see if the struggling NASCAR Media Group, a company who recently dismissed it's own veteran Executive Producer, will be entering into a discussion with Velocity anytime soon. There is good reason to believe the phone might already be ringing.

The most recent news from SPEED was that a new slew of "lifestyle" programming had been ordered for 2012. Click here to read "No Greenlights for NASCAR" from September 29th. In addition to renewing Dumbest Stuff on Wheels, My Ride Rules and the amazingly awful Car Warriors, SPEED made public it's new weeknight line-up.

Featured will be Pumped, an "ambush-style quiz show" set at gas stations and hosted by a comedian. Whipped lets contestants drive on an "extreme" obstacle course and Hard Parts is about a South Bronx company's search for rare auto parts. NASCAR was never even mentioned.

One NASCAR Media Group show that might fit into the Velocity line-up is the current Inside NASCAR series airing on Showtime. Cut from the original hour to thirty minutes, it's clear that NASCAR and Showtime are at best a shotgun marriage driven by cash.

Moving this series to Velocity would put it in front of 40 million cable homes instead of the tiny slice of the Showtime audience that cares about sports. NASCAR would escape the stigma of the adult programming world and return to a broader network with a wider appeal.

Velocity has several former SPEED production executives in key roles, so there is little doubt that programs like Behind The Wheel and 7 Days might be on the agenda for the future. High-end glossy programming is what both the NASCAR Media Group and Velocity have in common.

It's exciting to have a new TV player in the game. Once January rolls around, the VERSUS network will be changing into the NBC Sports Network and also announcing a new programming line-up. That brings both Discovery and NBC actively into the sports programming business on a full time basis in support of 24-hour cable channels.

Velocity has a Facebook page with lots of video previews, many of which are also available on YouTube by searching for "Discovery Velocity" as a user account.

We will keep you updated on the happenings of these two new networks as they apply to NASCAR. In the meantime, we welcome your comments on this topic. To add your opinion, just click on the comments button below.


RPM said...

I miss SpeedVision. You could always find some kind of race or a legit motorsports program. Let's hope Velocity heads in that direction. I've been looking forward to this since it was first announced.

I know you and I don't see eye to eye on Inside NASCAR, but I like the uncensored audio and comments. It's refreshing and often hilarious (thank you Busch Brothers meltdowns)to hear unedited scanner conversations. Moving to Velocity would bring all that to a screeching halt and kill the one unique thing I.N. has going for it.

I am looking forward seeing to more diverse racing when Velocity finally gets around to it. From a quick check of the program guide it looks like Mecum auctions and Discovery Channel reruns are the bulk of the programming this week. But there is some Off road and air racing thrown in there. I have my fingers crossed for the future. It took a few weeks for the Discovery Wings/Military Channel conversion to work it's self out when they changed a few years ago.

GinaV24 said...

Sounds like a good lineup right now. I loved watching the rally cars and have missed them. It sounds like they are targeting the male demographic but girls like to go fast, too!

Anyway, I'll sure give it a try (assuming it will be on FIOS) since the garbage offered on Speed, other than RaceHub, the truck racing and Speed Report don't interest me at all.

I don't care about Inside Nascar at all. I certainly won't pay extra cash to listen to Mikey, I get enough of him on the channels I already pay for.

w17scott said...

Mr Editor -
Ah, World Rally Championship ...what fond memories of interesting and entertaining shows on Speedvision ...look forward to checking it out both of the new sports venues ...sadly, SPEED, like parent FOX has lost sight of viewer, choosing instead to pander to personal interests of it's own executives ...they both miss the mark by a wider margin each year

Anonymous said...

Must not be in the 40 million viewers suggested - I have basic cable, my plan does not provide Versus, let alone this, and two awful Nascar broadcasts in concert with a solid truck BC is about all I can handle.

No particular plan to go spend even more cash I don't have so I can watch similarly pointless reality-tv programs.

Books appeal to me far more than what has been listed.

Anonymous said...

car warriors was awesome. my only gripe was that the judges had clearly watched the build tapes before they saw the cars in person.

Daly Planet Editor said...

Anon 11:19AM,

HD Theater is in 40 million homes. Digital cable is required for HD viewing.

Anon 11:25AM,

Car Warriors ended in controversy and ultimately it embarrassed the network. Aside from the poor attempts at acting, it was clear you were correct that things were planned in advance.

The threats of fighting and violence made the last couple of episodes very ugly.


Anonymous said...

It sounds good if your cable company carries it..living here in the boonies I am thankful I have the Speed channel. It will be years before I ever get glimpse of the new channel.They just took 2 channels I like away..

Anonymous said...

I remember Speed Vision/Speed Channel well in the late 1990's. I really enjoyed the APBA Boat Racing. This was no frills sports coverage, and you know what? It was refreshing. None of the announcer BS and media glitz, just raw racing. Just the opposite of the totally over the top crap we have to contend with today.

Anonymous said...

I already pay way to much for cable and i do not get Speed. I am on the verge of cutting out cable completely.I do not see this "new" channel being offered by Verizon as part of the standard package.

Anonymous said...

Some of us miss the Speedvision because it did have a variety of motorsports disciplines on it. When it appeared to be going to "all Nascar, all the time" was bad enough, but the lifestyle programing finished it.
It will be interesting to see if Scanlon will recreate what he had,if so it will be interesting. However it sounds like the same things that ruined Speed are already in play.

Daly Planet Editor said...

Velocity is a digital cable network. You should be able to tell today if you have the digital package that includes this channel.

It replaces Discovery HD Theater on the dial. There is a long history of Discovery working to make it's channels available on the standard cable TV packages.


Tim Woskobojnik said...

Speaking about straying from the vision: What in the world happened to Trackside? With Steve Burns, it was an interesting, insightful kickoff for the weekends race. Nothing against Kyle, Krista, Rutledge, and the new girl personally; it has turned into pablum. It has wandered before, but always came back, but now it is a hopeless collection of non-racing baby food. NASCAR Race Hub, has improved, again featuring Steve Burns. Even NASCAR Now is better than Trackside. "My Opinion"

Daly Planet Editor said...


This is not a post about that program. "Trackside" has been an experiment this season by SPEED to see if they can find a new combination of personalities that click.

The old show ended when Steve Byrnes went into the studio full time for "Race Hub." SPEED tried a variety of hosts and the show never worked.

Currently, Rutledge Wood and Kyle Petty have an online question and interview show called "30 Minutes You Will Never Get Back" on NASCAR.com.

It is pretty clear that SPEED is trying to get that informality and humor to translate to TV. Unfortunately, most of the drivers are so used to the standard sponsor-driver polite media questions that the program continues to be rather dry.

My feeling is that if SPEED cannot find a combination that works we will not see "Trackside" in 2012.

Marianela Pereyra is from LA and a push to get some ethnic diversity on the show. Petty and Wood are a veteran TV team and Jeff Hammond is the remaining original member.

This is a great example of how an established TV series can be affected by one person leaving the program. Byrnes was the heart and soul of that series and his value is now clear for all to see.

Once SPEED decides what to do about the show, we will report that news and review how it got to that point.

Thanks for your comment,


KoHoSo said...

It looks like I will be one of the few Planeteers that will have access to this channel. Based solely upon what I saw on their YouTube page, I don't know if I'm really going to go out of my way to watch what looks to me to be lots of "lifestyle programming" for those in a high tax bracket.

Still, it's a new effort and I will certainly put it in my Sports favorite channels list to give it a fair chance beyond any racing that might be shown. However, having observed how almost every channel I have ever loved has ended up wandering off-topic (no music on MTV, barely any history on History Channel, etc.), my hopes are not high.

Daly Planet Editor said...

Trust me, you will want to know where it is on your dial pretty soon.

iworkhere said...

A little off subject but still on all the lastest changes.
So why did Hammond get demoted to the pits?
He never would have left the HH on his on decision.
Did he have a "Weber" moment with someone?
Or is it because Hill is not calling the shots now and Fox is trying to improve the broadcast?

Daly Planet Editor said...

Code of silence on that topic.

Hammond says he is fine and wanted to get out of the HH and do some reporting.

Two schools of thought on the Waltrips.

1 - DW is 64 and getting set to retire. This is a transition to getting MW in the groove and ultimately passing the baton to him as the face of NASCAR on FOX.

2 - Sagging ratings mean something had to change. Larry Mac is solid, Mike Joy is the man so it came down to Hammond.

Going to be interesting to see how it works out on the air. Fans already screaming about a multi-car Sprint Cup Series team owner in the TV booth for that same series.

Anonymous said...

I don't think I had the old channel, so I probably don't have the new one. Designed to appeal to men making six figures--I am neither, lol. If they had quality racing programming I might tune in, but the idea of it is just so sexist to start with. I'm female so I must want to watch OWN (ick) or the Animal Planet? Really? I don't even know the numbers on the dial for those, but I can tell you where all the sports channels are.

diane said...

I have HD Theatre. I pay extra for it because I want to watch Rally and Isle of Mann. I miss a lot about Speedvision. That's were I got to like V8 Supercars and Rally.

The poker and car auction shows don't interest me but racing does.

Anonymous said...

Is Velocity going to bring back "The Lost Drive-In"?

Roland said...

I wont be watching, not by choice.

It shows up on my Dish Network guide, but its highlighted in red which means its not part of my package. Which is surprising because I have one of those "everything under the sun" packages. I get RFD TV, HD Net, Al Gore Channel, and the uber exciting BYU TV, but no HD Theater/Velocity.

I have seen the channel before when I visit friends down in the eastern part of the great state of NC. Its pretty cool. Definitely a high end man channel, not SpikeTV. Spike is now showing the King of Queens which sucks all the testosterone out of that channel.

Hopefully one day that red background will disappear and it will be made available, but Im not going to hold my breath. Just now got MLB Network on Dish, which comes in real handy now that the season is over (for my team anyway). Till that day comes guess Ill watch what I normally watch on weeknights, reruns of The Office, Seinfeld, and the Big Bang Theory. If it sounds lame it is.

Daly Planet Editor said...

My sneaky suspicion is that we are going to see lots of former shows and show concepts that we saw on SpeedVision slowly creep their way into the line-up.

Going to be fun to watch for sure.

ChrisK said...

I already have a Velocity channel on my cable. It has shows like "Chasing Classic Cars" and "What's My Car Worth?" is this another Velocity?

ChrisK said...

Okay, there's a logo on the corner of the screen saying "HD Theater becomes Velocity" with a countdown timer.

Tom in Bristol said...

Velocity will be/is channel 281 on DirecTV.

Don said...

I'm on basic, so the TV execs don't care about me anyway, but This new channel doesn't sound appealing.

"High-end glossy programming" means a lot of aspirational shows with little technical detail. I want more racing, more types of racing. There are a million poker programs on TV and more than enough NFL programming.

Where are all of the films of older races? NASCAR, LeMans, SCCA, DTM, whatever. Reality shows can be good, when you don't pump them up with artificial drama and absurd premises. Instead of high-dollar auctions and shows about guys searching for rare parts, give me a couple of guys trying to restore their own car and searching for parts themselves.

Daly Planet Editor said...

Thanks, Tom.

Jimm57 said...

I was already watching HD Theater, and now its Velocity! We have it on my Time Warner Cable. Will be looking forward to the new programming, but sure would love to see the WWII aircraft shows too!

Anonymous said...

I also get it as part of my Time Warner package. I'll have to check it out.

Anonymous said...

One NASCAR Media Group show that might fit into the Velocity line-up is the current Inside NASCAR series airing on Showtime. Cut from the original hour to thirty minutes, it's clear that NASCAR and Showtime are at best a shotgun marriage driven by cash.

Is Inside NASCAR the off-shoot to Inside(Winston) Nextel Cup which was the brain-child of the same Bob Scanlon? Please bring the show back Mr. Scanlon..(and it would be nice to see Harry produce it again too)

Dmo said...

Right now on Velocity, a bunch of west coast, hipster punks with more money than brains are destroying a primo '58 'vette to make it look "more modern". Oh, the humanity...

Bill said...

You don't like Car Warriors? Naw...Really?

You said the show ended in controversy--do you mean last season ended in controversy? With the lawsuit that was eventually settled out of court?
So they're still on for another season?

I have nothing at all against the folks who participated on the show, but the trailers were so bad, and were shown on SPEED so much, that I had no desire whatsoever to watch the show.

So, HD Theatre is now Velocity. I love watching Wayne Carini of Chasing Classic Cars get burned every time he takes a car to auction!

Some of HD Theatre was good, but some was real bad, and Overhaulin' is one of the worst car reality shows ever. Nothing against Chip Foose or his builders, but the two morons who hosted the show, as well as the idiotic premise of stealing someone's old junker and Foosofying it, while expecting us to think that Mr. Host and Hostess are credible practical jokers? I don't think so.

Please bring back American Hot Rod! I'm sure they can find an adequate replacement for dear old Boyd!

TerryG said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Daly Planet Editor said...

Anon 9:48PM: It certainly was.