O Opinions & Commentary

Rogers Cable to drop SPEED Channel at the end of February


While I was on a relaxing cruise in the Caribbean sun last week I started receiving urgent emails telling me some alarming news. Roger Cable is planning to drop the SPEED Channel from their lineup as of the end of the February.

In a way, I’m not surprised. Since the last NASCAR Spring Cup race – at Homestead last November – there has been almost no new content on this channel. Yes they did show races from four 2013 road-racing series from Europe and a few other dribbles of new content, but for the main it was an endless rerun of old stock which had been seen on SPEED before, most of it had been repeated countless times already. And, to make things worse, they ran a limited set of promotional commercials over and over and over. Anyone who tried to watch any of the actual program content must have been, like me, driven mad by the bombardment of these annoying spots.

Hence, I expect that, if Rogers were to look at the viewership of SPEED during the period from the start of December to now, they must have found it to be near ZERO. Wouldn’t you start wondering why you were paying SPEED good money to include a channel in your lineup that drew no audience?

Of course, we all know that SPEED is a 10-month channel and come mid-February, it’s going to come back to life with its allocation of new racing programming.

I do know that SPEED will be carrying pretty much the same package of race programming as last year. I expect that any racing content on either FOX Sports 1 or 2 in the US will be made available on SPEED in Canada. This will include all the live NASCAR programming we are used to: all the Camping World truck races, most of the practice and qualifying sessions for all three NASCAR touring series (Sprint Cup, Nationwide and Trucks). In addition look for all the TUDOR SportsCar Championship races here as well as the undercard Continental series. If you don’t see these FOX Sports 1 or 2 broadcasts here on SPEED, you aren’t going to see them on any other channel available anywhere in Canada.

Yes, FOX Sports killed Dave Despain’s Sunday evening show and the excellent SPEED Center news roundup. But NASCAR Race Hub, the RaceDay Sprint Cup race preview and NASCAR Victory Lane will continue. I know that for years now the lines of TV listings devoted to SPEED programming in the Canadian version of my Race Fan TV Listings exceeded everything else put together. I fully expect that will continue to be the case.

In addition, I have reason to believe that the people putting together the SPEED programming may find some other racing programming that is not part of the FOX Sports package but will be used to pad out the SPEED content here. Fingers crossed.

I note that Rogers, in their Q & A explanation, say, “If the channel provider will come to an agreement that allows us to offer the channel to a more specialized audience at a reasonable rate, we’d be happy to make it available.”

In other words, this threat to drop SPEED is a negotiating stance in an attempt to prod FOX Sports into lowering the rate they charge Rogers for this channel. However given that they are negotiating, if Rogers were to decide that this channel was valued by a significant number of its subscribers, they might decide to keep this channel in their line up anyway.

So... if you are a Rogers Cable subscriber and you want to continue to get SPEED, make sure Rogers knows this. Remind them that you have alternatives – Bell and Shaw satellite services and, I assume, Bell Fibe in many cases – and at competitive rates.

If you subscribe to another television service provider (TSP) which carries SPEED, it might be a good idea to contact your TSP and make them aware that you value SPEED and that you trust that they will continue to include this channel in their lineup.

It’s up to you, the number of people who value SPEED is small compared to the total number of subscribers to any Canadian TSP. If you don’t make waves, don’t be surprised if Rogers' decision to drop SPEED becomes an industry-wide decision. How hard is it to make a telephone call or send an email to your TSP telling them that you value SPEED?

This does raise another thought. There is no legitimate way that a Canadian resident can receive the US cable programming directly. A few years ago, many Canadian race fans found a way to receive the satellite signals from the US-based DirecTV (or DISH). Anti-pirating measures pretty much killed that but there are still ways to get around the prohibition. If I had DirecTV, I could get all those American channels such as NBC Sports Network, CBS Sports network, FOX Sports 1 & 2, ESPN, and the new MAV TV. And then I would be able to see all the race programs that US residents can get. Wouldn’t that be great!

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