Tuesday, January 18, 2011

TV's New Kid On The Block

The changes continue at SPEED with the network under new management and the push to refocus on racing picking up steam. It's hard to describe the frustration of the past several years as SPEED drifted away from real racing and into reality-style shows. The network called it "lifestyle programming."

SPEED viewers have watched men in Chicago tow trucks, seen Vida Guerra live the SoCal low life, enjoyed fake drag racing with Rich Christensen and even watched amateur talent contests in primetime. Who can forget the bagpiper in the cowboy hat who played "Low Rider?"

Over the past five seasons, we have concentrated on writing about the NASCAR TV slice of the pie. This column will talk about a bit more. There is only one weekly hour on SPEED that covers general motorsports. That show is The SPEED Report (TSR) and it is about to change drastically.

Co-anchored by two of SPEED's stable of in-house announcers, TSR has been hidden in the 7PM Sunday timeslot. This meant no updates on non-NASCAR news on Saturdays and only one shot at information and highlights on Sunday. 7PM Eastern is 4PM Pacific and that was sometimes rough for those dedicated West Coast fans of drag racing and supercross.

The bottom line is that SPEED has needed an expanded studio presence on racing weekends for many years now and that is finally about to happen. On February 13 at 7PM ET, SPEED Center will debut and the multi-year run of TSR will be over.

With NASCAR Live as an established presence on the stock car side, it makes perfect sense to utilize the SPEED studios as a hub for other motorsports news, highlights and information. In the same way that other networks insert studio updates, SPEED can finally begin to awaken from its long slumber and become the network of record where motorsports is concerned.

The idea is that SPEED Center will be a flexible presence on Saturdays and Sundays, providing scheduled updates but also passing along breaking news, providing highlights of other motorsports and keeping viewers up to date on the stories formerly provided online on the SPEED.com website.

There will still be a full one-hour wrap-up show on Sunday nights, but getting the network to move in this direction is fantastic. SPEED provides coverage of everything from sports cars to motorcycles and Formula One. Establishing a SPEED Center franchise will finally bring the network the ability to interact with all kinds of motorsports fans and keep them informed.

There will be more details coming over the next couple of weeks, including pictures of the new set and potential new faces in the line-up. The bottom line is that SPEED will be providing a consistent studio presence for every racing weekend in 2011. That is a wonderful step in the right direction.

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