O Opinions & Commentary

Does the SPEED Channel have a future?

Speed tv

As of June 15th my cable television provider, Cogeco, pulled the plug on the SPEED Channel. Earlier this year, two of the other large Canadian television service providers (TSPs), Rogers and Bell, had also dropped SPEED.

I’m sure you know the history of this channel, how it was created to continue to supply motorsports content to Canada after SPEED into the U.S. was folded into FOX Sports 1 and FOX Sports 2. As general sports channels they were not allowed to broadcast via the Canadian cable and satellite TSPs, so this all automotive-themed channel was cobbled together to slide past the CRTC barrier on the grounds that it was merely a continuation of the old SPEED, which had been given an exemption previously.

And no doubt, you know that for a little over 10 percent of its broadcast hours it shows new original content, mostly live of motorsports programming that originates on the FOX Sports channels – with another 30 or so percent made up of repeats of that once original content and the rest endless repeats of old shows that were once shown on SPEED in years past.

I’m sure any racing fan appreciates being able to get the selection of original racing-related programming on SPEED while, at the same time, hating the rest of the oft-repeated content.

So when my television screen went black today and posted a crude-looking message inviting me to check out Cogeco’s message on their website I went there – only to get a lot of meaningless gobbledygook and double-talk. But then I was invited to call a number for more information.

I called. To my surprise a woman answered. After a bit of dancing around, she made an amazing statement, telling me that nobody was going to have SPEED much longer because this channel was being shut down completely – and that its original content was going to be picked up by the new TSN channels (TSN3, TSN4, TSN5) that are coming on line next month.

So it sounded like there has been a breakthrough and the problem would soon be solved.

Not so quick, I thought. I sent an email off to a couple of my sources in SPEED/FOX quoting the Cogeco lady and asking for their comment.

I never got a reply from them, but soon after, I got an email message from a FOX/SPEED official who I did not know asking me to call him.

I called and got an immediate answer. I must admit that the conversation got off to a bit of a bad start and was always a bit prickly. I’m sure I contributed to the argumentative tone as much as the other party.

Anyway, the gist of the conversation was that there was no truth to anything I had heard from the Cogeco lady. In fact, anyone in Canada who wants to get SPEED can still do by subscribing to Shaw’s cable or satellite service and that he expects their arrangement with Shaw to continue indefinitely. Problem solved. Indeed, by the end of our conversation he was assuring me that he was continuing to talk to TSPs like Rogers and Cogeco and that he was hopeful that, before long, he would be able to convince them to bring SPEED back on their channel line up as well. Perhaps these big corporate television services are subject to peer pressure!

As a simple race fan, all I want is to be able to see all the motorsports programming on my cable service without having to jump around from one provider to another as their contracts with SPEED end or resume. Naturally, he emphasized that he cannot predict the future when I asked him questions like: “How long will Shaw continue to carry SPEED?” And, “Would I have to sign a two-year contract to switch to Shaw?"

Today Shaw assures us that it intends to continue to carry SPEED. Not long ago, we got similar assurances from Bell only to find that things can change.

On another topic – how much we all hate the old rerun crap that takes up the majority of the air time on SPEED plus the endlessly repeated 10 or so promos that fill in ever commercial break in every show – he offered a suggestion. The executives at FOX need to hear this complaint directly from all of you, not just from me. If you find the FOX Sports’ “Contact us” page (http://msn.foxsports.com/feedback) you can send them any comments you might think would be appropriate and/or useful. Better than complaining to your wife or the dog...

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