Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Waiting For Godot - Updated

Update: Still waiting for info on new MLB and NASCAR TV contracts. No new update on the situation with SPEED or the future plans for FOX Sports 1. Lots of cards being played close to the chest right now. New column up Thursday night with more ongoing NASCAR media topics.

In the classic play "Waiting for Godot" the two main characters pass the time just waiting. They have no set schedule of when their mysterious friend will arrive. They do not know what he looks like, how he is dressed or what his agenda will be when he shows up. The entire play is about the torture of just plain waiting.

Sometime this week, the executives at FOX Sports are going to put pen to paper and sign a new multi-billion dollar TV deal with Major League Baseball. The new contract will begin with the 2014 season and will feature an expansion of games across the FOX TV properties. Once the ink is dry, the waiting begins.

One of the key elements of the new contract will be a slate of games on the cable TV network we now know as SPEED. In order to accommodate baseball and other types of sports, the network will be rebranded. The new name circulating in the media is the FOX Sports 1 cable network.

In terms of NASCAR content, SPEED is currently a two-headed monster. Shows like RaceHub, SpeedCenter and Wind Tunnel are produced directly by the network at its studios in north Charlotte, NC. The network also produces its own Camping World Truck Series races, the Daytona Twins and the All-Star race.

The other programming originating from the Sprint Cup Series tracks is produced for SPEED by NASCAR's in-house TV company. NASCAR Productions works from the Hall of Fame TV studios in downtown Charlotte. This group also produces official highlight packages that air in NASCAR-related shows on several networks. The key is that they control TV production at the tracks.

Once things with baseball are official and change is on the way, there will be lots of issues to ponder while we wait. FOX is also said to be on the verge of a new TV deal with NASCAR. The current contract expires after the 2014 season. It will be interesting to see just what remains of the existing NASCAR content now carried by SPEED.

FOX controls its cable networks from an base of operations in Los Angeles, CA. With Major League Baseball and other general sports programming set to air on FOX Sports 1, part of the waiting game will be to discuss what will become of the existing SPEED studios and staff back in North Carolina.

If production on studio-based NASCAR and general motorsports shows continues, it would make sense to keep the Charlotte facility. On the other hand, FOX may simply turn to NASCAR Productions to originate the NASCAR content remaining on the new network and shutter the existing SPEED studios.

SPEED currently also has digital offerings that focus on an extensive motorsports-themed website and a broadband video channel called SPEED2. With NASCAR exclusively in control of all the sport's digital offerings beginning in 2013, what would become of both the SPEED website and the broadband channel is a toss-up.

SPEED originally started in Stamford, CT as a network called SpeedVision. It then moved to Charlotte and took up residence sharing production facilities with a christian religious network for several years. Finally, after a long wait, the current digital studios were built on Charlotte's north side as a "lasting investment."

While a move to LA of staff members in programming and administrative departments would work, there is a large group of SPEED employees and freelancers who are tied to the Charlotte area through personal and professional connections. NASCAR is unique in having most of the TV and media personalities in the sport living in the same general area.

So, once the baseball deal is done the waiting game begins in earnest for many of the on-air personalities, producers and production staff at SPEED. The next shoe to drop should be the new NASCAR contract, which will hopefully make very clear just how much of the support programming that SPEED has aired for many years will remain.

There are may ways to approach waiting. Here is a quote from the play about that topic:

"Let us not waste our time in idle discourse. Let us do something, while we have the chance! It is not every day that we are needed. But at this place, at this moment of time, all mankind is us, whether we like it or not. Let us make the most of it, before it is too late!"

While this NASCAR season is winding down, 2013 may be a significant challenge for those involved with both SPEED and NASCAR. The worst part of waiting is not knowing anything about the situation about to unfold. That is precisely what many NASCAR TV veterans in Charlotte are dealing with right now.

We invite your thoughts on this topic. Comments may be moderated prior to posting.


Arian Gomez said...

Depressing, that's how I feel. I really wonder how long has this deal have been in the works with Speed being converted to Fox Sports 1. Again, why on Google Earth do the American Sports TV landscape need another all sports channel. How about something original like a Motorsports Channel that is fully committed in showing nothing but racing, and not crappy fake reality shows.

GinaV24 said...

Well from personal experience, I know that I don't like to wait and waiting in a situation like this one would be even more painful I would think.

I wish all of those folks at Speed who have done such a wonderful job with NASCAR all the best of luck and hope that they have a good outcome for their continued careers.

Buschseries61 said...

"Let us do something, while we have the chance!"

With merry-go-round races headlining the chase so far, SPEED will have to get pretty creative to find something to do and talk about.

Maybe they can count the shaven hairs from Jeff Gordon's former mustache or call in Katie Couric to investigate holding the integrity of twitter promises.

Anonymous said...

I look at it this way: If Speed goes the way of the dodo, that will leave room for something like Speedvision to possibly take it's place.

Speed channel has been horrible for about 4 or 5 years now. They even destroyed Wind Tunnel. I mean, how do you even do that? lol

Andrew Maness said...

From a NASCAR perspective (not to be confused with motorsports in general), losing SPEED would not be a big deal. We have less coverage on there now compared to espn2 a decade-and-a-half ago. We can do better - and that's the proof.

SPEED's absolutely worthless - even on the weekends. I watch the CTS and that's about it for that channel.

The series needs a change and SPEED should not be a part of it.

In other news, I've gone two weeks without watching the Cup Series. Not as difficult as I thought initially. Unless BZF puts an ax to the Chase, I don't care to watch much in 2013, either.

NASCAR has de-emphasized the actual racing and individual events in favor of an increased focus on points. It's disgusting. We can talk about points during the week - not while there's action on the track, though.

I encourage all of you to watch some pre-Chase NASCAR races. Notice how the points are barely mentioned during the telecast - usually only at the beginning and end. Instead, the telecast tries to find the best battles on the track and watches them unfold. IndyCar did a decent job of that at Fontana this year, too.

MRM4 said...

Aside from butchering Wind Tunnel this year, another telling sign that SPEED will soon go away is Mike Joy and Darrell Waltrip are no longer going back to Australia to cover the Bathhurst 1000. I suspect the folks at SPEED already know what's coming and when.

Colorado said...

It's hard to fathom that in all of this Twitterverse, and 21st Century technology, that the main character in this play, one Brian France has been silent. Of course he's busy trying to muzzle his ex-wife in court so the world doesn't find out about his coke habit, and alcoholism. But at least, he can come out and give his "state of the sport" address as far as tv partners are concerned.If I were Byrnes, DW, Matt Clark, et al, I would want to know something NOW. They maybe do, but can't say yet.JD, is the time frame this week for this answer to the future of NASCAR programming?

Bobby said...

I think what happened with Bathurst may have been Seven being unhappy with how (gasp!) the Aussie race fans preferred Joy and Waltrip over Matt White (Seven's evening newsman) and Neil Crompton. If you've heard the way the final laps you could detect that easily -- too many booths refuse to watch the race from their window and spotters. Also Seven is not being HD for the race this year (remember Speed forced the hand on going HD; this is a contract year for V8), also F1 and its anger that the Great Race forced the Fuji Television Grand Prix to air late. (This year's Great Race conflicts again with the Fuji Television Grand Prix.)

We've seen this before when MTV Networks took over CBS Cable just before CBS and TNN were expected to seal the NASCAR deal and the NASCAR, NHRA, and other motorsport on weekends channel became an MTV operated adult men-oriented TV channel we know as Spike.

The other issue is Fox Soccer Plus isn't the channel that it was as Al-Jazeera has created a sports channel (BeIn) that is taking away many leagues FSP had; FSP could be branded Fox International.

V8, F1, and NASCAR could be looking at BeIn if we don't watch out.

Watching the WTCC coverage a few weeks ago the one-man booth was interviewed, and he shades his window, relying 100% on the monitor for the entire race coverage! Now at most circuits, the only thing the broadcaster sees is the pit straight. At Sonoma, the booth is on top of the start-finish line and he can see more of the track.

Anonymous said...

I think you covered everything and then some.

Anonymous said...

With the TV race of all major networks to have a full time sports channels, JD, do you see a transition where all sports will eventually move from the broadcast networks and be fully on cable only networks due to the high rights fees, and the need for a dual income stream to pay the fees?

There is only so many sports that can be shown, that will drawn any type of audience. Look at College Football and Basketball. Outside of the BB tournament, or major bowl games the TV ratings are a few million people, but overall, not that large. What I predict is these niche sports channels will end up being like NBCSports is - barely watch outside of sporting events. ESPN with all of their clout, will lock up as many of the marquee sports and events, and leave the scraps for the others.

NASCAR has a chance here to do something that SPEED could have become....The NASCAR network, positioned and marketed just like the NFL network. Farm out the Cup series to the broadcast networks, but keep the Trucks , NNS, East Series, Modifieds weekend practice and qualifying for support programming. The chance is there.

Aaron in WI

Wiresculptress said...

Perhaps Jeff Gluck has hit the nail on the head in his column yesterday:

"There's no question simply watching the TV broadcast is enough for most fans anymore, because you can't get a full sense of the race from TV. You need other technology to make sure nothing slips through the cracks."

There's a reason for the terrible camera work. We all get accustomed to using RaceBuddy and all the other things to follow the racing, then, once they've worked most of the bugs out, they will start charging for all these nifty apps.

E-Ticket said...

JD Does Velocity fill any void after Speed goes away?

Anonymous said...

Maybe this decision came down a while back,and could be the reason
Ms.Wheeler is no longer with SPEED.

Bobby said...

Interesting in Australia V8 Supercars, the Qantas Grand Prix (F1), footy, cricket, tennis, golf, and top Rugby League games are not allowed to be shifted to cable, and must stay on broadcast networks. An anti-siphoning law passed by the country prohibits such practice.

In the United States, the FCC had an anti-siphoning law, but when HBO sued the FCC to block the anti-siphoning regulation, they won in courts. In recent years, with no anti-siphoning regulation between sports federations, the FCC, and the networks, pay television is the trend, and pay-per-view is next. All of college football's big games have shifted, and more moves are coming. Boxing is paying the price for the shift to PPV, and you wonder which sports will be next to pay the price for moving to pay-television exclusively.

E-Ticket said...

If you don't think this is going to happen watch some college or NFL Football this weekend, SPEED broadcasters showing up on broadcasts pretty regularly.. Krista Voda just tweeted she will be at Redskins@Bucs on Sunday for FOX... #simplemath

Anonymous said...

Bobby mentioned siphoning.

I won't follow this sport or any other on any tier (Comcast) that costs me more money than what I'm paying now.

I think companies can move whatever they want and charge whatever they want. They bought it, I didn't. I have the right to vote with my dollars. My dollars say no.

Boxing used to be huge years ago. Their greed for the almighty buck has made them a non-entity. So far MMA has been pretty smart about PPV. You give people enough on regular cable and hope they PPV the main event.

Howard Stern went to satellite. He got the cash, but who cares about Stern anymore. He's got to be a judge on a network show to get to people to remember who he is.

Go ahead Nascar, I dare you to make a Nascar channel. I'm sure the sponsors will be clambering to be on cars.

RPM said...

They are running an awful lot of promos for the new "SPEED 2 Online Only Network". FOX Sports 1, SPEED 2... see a pattern forming here?

Colorado said...

God Bless Chris Economaki. JD, perhaps an article on this true professional?

Buschseries61 said...

Hope you have the time for a Chris Economaki tribute this weekend.

Anonymous said...

God, I'm tired of being the sand in the proverbial bearings...but JD called this one...however indirectly.

Wait and see - Speedvision died, and so shall Speed go quietly into the night.

I feel for the announcers - I dunno what the heck they'll do after this. Retire, more than likely. Write bad commentaries for worse websites at spot pricing.

No Speed, and no ESPN backing - motorsports as a whole is going to...well...just die off.

Want you to do something, JD - I want you, and your readers, to go watch a movie.

It's called "Idiocracy" - and I'd love to see a contrast between that and what's going on now.

I'm as passionate as you...but I'm really thinking hard about just walking away.

I really wish the pretty girl never got me into this. I care too much.

James said...

RIP Chris Economaki, you will always be the gold standard of racing broadcasters. Thank you for teaching me about ALL forms of racing, and ALL the personalities that collectively make racing a family. The seat at the head of the table, will remain empty.

Anonymous said...

NASCAR programming will likely mesh with baseball at least for 2014 on Fox Sports 1 - BUT baseball games are likely to be telecast on Saturdays AND NASCAR will be pushed to number two in priority on FS1 so will qualifying and/or practices be moved to another network, in-line maybe, tape delayed, or just not shown.

Perhaps NASCAR will change qualifying to Fridays and final practice to Sat mornings -

Other than that there should be little or no interruption in 2014 and it may all change in 2015 anyway. Keep hearing trucks to CBS Sports Net. NBC Sports Net may pick up something so not to worry - too much - yet.