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June 21, 2013
Oh, the things I contemplte when I'm really bored...
As Speed (the channel formerly known as "The Speed Channel") is set to become Fox Sports 1 and lose some of its automotive programming, it leaves a big hole in the automotive television world yet to be completely filled by the upstart Velocity TV.
So what might make the ideal racing and automotive channel? Focus and separation. Focus on one subject and separate those that don't quite fit.
I think Speed, in its efforts to be all-encompassing, became the quintessential jack of all trades, master of none. In this day and age of multichannel networks (Food Network and Cooking Channel, History 1 and 2, Discovery and Military Channel) one channel just isn't enough to cover as huge a subject as the motor vehicle AND racing. Chances are the fans of NASCAR aren't sticking around for motocross and motocross fans aren't sticking around for Barrett-Jackson. Much the same way Star Trek fans weren't sticking around for Moesha afterward and UPN died a quick death.
The advantages of not just picking one subject and ignoring the rest are the abilities to cross-link programming. Discovery does this very well, with military-related episodes of other documentaries played or at least promoted on the Military Channel. A documentary series that covers different types of topics can have the reruns played on the appropriate subject channel.
Okay, so that's the groundwork. Specifics?
A general automotive channel. The flagship station, the foundation if the network. The mainstay program would be an hour-long industry newscast every weeknight, covering the basic automotive transportation industry, followed by an evening movie like The Fast & The Furious. Daytime programming would include review shows similar to Motorweek, and perhaps a humorous automotive show similar to Top Gear. The BBC and History are each broadcasting their own versions of the show, but perhaps (with a worldwide perspective for the network in mind) a deal could be reached to broadcast the Australian version of Top Gear in the US.
An automotive history channel. This would be wall-to-wall shows about old cars. Documentaries on the history of the industry, maybe some of the historical programming actually made years ago from the Prelinger Archives. Shows similar to Car Crazy, museum tours, coverage of the Palm Beach Concours d'Elegance, and more of that sort of programming.
An automotive repair channel. The now entertainment-based Food Network shifted a lot of the serious instructional cooking programming to the new Cooking Channel. This could feature serious how-to's, school instructional films, and mote fun repair programming like Stacy David's Gearz.
Racing. Oh, yeah, this is a fun channel. Anyone who's ever stayed up late at night on Twitter knows we live in a 24/7 world, and wouldn't it be nice to have the British Touring Car Championship, World Touring Car Championship, the "minor leagues" of Formula 1, DTM, World Rally Championship, and V8 Supercars Australia broadcast live as they happen? As NASCAR is big business for big network television, traditional "American" racing hours could be filled by not cutting off coverage of the NHRA (yes, Tina Stull's comments finally inspired me to write this out), drifting, Indy Lights as well as as much IndyCar coverage as can be had by a small network, perhaps including a pre-prerace show for IndyCars like Speed's RaceDay was for NASCAR. If Fox Sports 1 drops ARCA, pick it up and broadcast ALL the races, not just the companion events! The non-top-level events that can't be played live can fill the weekday hours alongside historical replays of old races, documentaries of racing, and commentary programming. Coverage would be previewed in a Friday night newscast (including major race weather forecasts) and summarized in a Sunday night newscast similar to what Speed does now (and is likely to be watered down in the future when other sports are squeezed into the channel). Off-season programming holes can be filled by old movies like Driven, Talladega Nights, and Greased Lightning.
Also, I would have a blatant copy of the Military Channel's "An Officer and a Movie" where Lou Diamond Phillips and a US military officer review a movie and the real-life events around it from the perspective of an actor and a military man during special segments aired at the end of commercial breaks. I would find an actor with a love of racing (Patrick Dempsey, preferably) to review old car movies alongside someone from the movie's particular form of racing. David Hobbs for Grand Prix, Darrell Waltrip for Days of Thunder, as examples.
Now, from experience I find that motorcycles are a world unto their own, and as such warrant their own channel. A condensed version of the other four, it would include a weekly newscast and a little bit of everything that the rest of the channels would normally broadcast but defer to the motorcycle channel as it's on two wheels: documentaries, late night racing coverage from around the world, repair shows, industry news, and event coverage that would showcase Sturgis the same way Discovery hypes it's Shark Week every year.
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