SPEED TV GOES KAPUT, BUT COULD THIS BE GOOD NEWS FOR MOTORSPORTS

July 31, 2013
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The Fox Sports 1 channel launches on August 17 and with it comes an end to the Speed Channel (and Fuel TV, but given its viewership who would even notice). Speed was considered to be a successful cable channel, but it will be cast aside in favor of Fox’s all-sports 24/7 network ? called Fox Sports 1 (FS1). On August 17th, Fox Sports 1 will try to become the “new” ESPN. And they will be judged by whether they are as good as, better than or worse than ESPN. They don’t want to chase the small markets that Speed TV and Fuel TV tried to milk.

As Speed and Fuel die, Fox Sports 1, ESPN and NBC Sports Network (NBCSN) will now duel for dominance ?dominance that currently rest with ESPN.

Although losing Speed and Fuel may seem like a bad thing for motocross ? it could be a good thing. As of now, motocross has had to buy TV time to be on the air. We are no better than a Ginzu knife commercial. But, when one window closes, another opens. As the three major sports channels start competing head-to-head, content becomes king and, as of the moment, the NBC Sports Network has been more than happy to pick up the slack to become the new racing network of choice. NBC Sports Network already has rights to the IndyCar series (Although not the Indy 500) and Formula 1 (after it had been on Speed for 17 years). Showing live events is important to sports networks because sports fans don’t DVR as much as other TV viewers?they don’t want to learn the results by accident, so they watch it live.

And recently NBC won back NASCAR rights (for the final 20 races of the season including the all-important 10 race playoff). Significantly, 13 of the NASCAR Cup races will air on NBC Sports Network and it will immediately become the highest rated live sports on the network outside the Olympics and Stanley Cup Finals. In addition, after running exclusively on ESPN the past few years, NBCSN will air 15 Nationwide series races. NBC Sports is the first network to hold all three racing properties – IndyCar, F1, and NASCAR at the same time.

As far as motorsports go after losing NASCAR, ESPN will only have the NHRA. Fox will only have the first half of the NASCAR season.

This means, that if handled right, motocross might not have to pay in the future. Or at the very least become a more attractive package. Why? Because there are a lot of hours to fill in a day and niche marketing might be the road to success for a wannabe channel. If a channel can’t get Major League Baseball, the National Football League or the NBA, it might flourish by seeking out more passionate followings ? hardcore fans, like motorcycle racing fans, could enhance a network. As a long-term strategy, NBC Sports Network could easily become “the motorsports network.” Either way, motocross could be a linchpin in securing live rights to a viable sport that would expand their package.

On the other hand, ESPN and Fox may want to fight back against losing F1, NASCAR, Tour de France and IndyCars…and start going after niche sports themselves.

This is a business. TV networks sell commercials, but they also sell TV time to anyone willing to pay the freight. Currently, our sport pays?but that could come to an end if channels try to secure more viewers in a tough market. As for the consumer, he pays also, according to the Sports Business Journal, Fox is asking for 80 cents and eventually $1.50 per subscriber per month for a channel that only cost cable companies 23 cents when it was Speed.

Who knows what NBC will ask for the former Versus channel now that it has added NASCAR, Formula 1, IndyCars, Tour de France, NHL and the Olympics.

The drama of the non-drama TV channels starts on August 17.

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