Sunday, January 6, 2013

Just What is the Speed Vision?

"But where will I get to run my mouth?"

There it was, buried in a story on ESPN.com about the "Catholic 7" basketball schools looking to sign a tv deal:

"Fox Sports 1 will replace the network's motorsports channel Speed, already in 81 million homes."

Yes, the rumors appear to be true (and all but confirmed)--Speed Channel (as we know it) will cease to exist by August of this year.  What will happen?  What does this mean for us?  Will Kenny Wallace have to apply for food stamps?  Well, here's a few important facts worth noting:

A Dale Jarrett image by mistake?  Oh well, its
not like Musgrave will push it out of the way
--A number of Speed's contracts with cable companies stipulate that it must remain "Motorsports-centric" in perpetuity, regardless of the network's name.  Similar clauses are why ABC Family still has "Family" in its name and still shows "The 700 Club"--because Pat Robertson put such clauses into his carriage agreements with The Family Channel.  Yes, believe it or not, Ted Musgrave factors into all of this.

--Fox (parent company of Speed) recently re-upped its broadcasting rights with Nascar through 2022, but now includes "digital rights", which means they can stream coverage online as they so choose.  It doesn't make much sense that Fox would pay big bucks for 1/3 of the Cup schedule and the entire Truck Series schedule, then basically give the sport the shaft.  Well, if they were NBC it would've made sense.

So what DOES the future hold?  Well, as I see it, there are a few likely scenarios:

1. "Fox Sports 1" retains most of its Nascar-related coverage (Truck races, All-Star race, Pre-and-Post race coverage, RaceHub, etc.), but jettisons most of its non-racing programming (BS reality shows, The Dennis Gage Mustache Hour, etc.).  The non-racing programming is replaced by whatever sports they can gain the rights to, while a SportsCenter knockoff takes up the rest of the schedule.  Personally, I see this as the most-likely scenario, though I *will* miss clicking over after a race and finding "Dumbest Stuff on Wheels" playing without Brent Sharman involved.

Feel the EX-TREEME
of different graphix!
2. "Fox Sports 1" retains Nascar races only.  The rest of the Nascar coverage (qualifying, practice, the upcoming Hall of Fame Biography on Chuck Bown, etc.) will migrate to Fuel TV, which is expected to morph into "Fox Sports 2".  Oddly enough, this will put Fox Sports on the same level as ESPN back in the late-90's, when it put its races on "The Mothership", and qualifying on "The Deuce".  Here's hoping that Fox Sports 2 has the presence of mind to use "EX-TREEME" graphics and spell drivers' names LiKe tHiS.  Of course, the worst part of this scenario is that plenty of people (myself included) don't get Fuel TV.  So instead of "I Want My MTV", I'll have to start a "Gimme Fuel, Gimme Channels, Gimme Nascar Trackside Panels--OOOH!" campaign.

3. Nascar is given the short-shrift by Fox, and constantly pre-empts Truck races and taped-delayed qualifying sessions with meaningless college games.  Sound familiar?  Well, it should, because its what ESPN did with the Truck Series after they lost the rights to everything else.  Thankfully, we don't have to worry about Marty Reid doing the announcing this time.

No matter which way this turns out, I just hope that all of us can have reasonable access to Nascar coverage in the future.  And by "Nascar coverage", I mean "Dealing with a repeat of a crappy reality series about Danica Patrick".