Charlotte-based Speed channel rides off toward the sunset in August after a decade here as the nations foremost motorsports network.
Its owner, Fox Networks, announced this week that the channel which reaches nearly 90 million households by satellite and cable, putting it in the big leagues of specialty networks will be rebranded on Aug. 17 as Fox Sports 1, a broad sports network that will pick up some of Speeds motorsports programming.
Fox is interested in challenging ESPN and its stable of networks (including ESPNU, which is based in Ballantyne). Since the beginning of television, sports have been a popular source of programming, but is in greatest demand now.
Sports programming tends to be watched in real time, which means people dont save it on the DVR. For advertisers, that means people actually watch the commercials rather than zoom through them.
CBS and NBC have launched sports cable channels. ESPN is ABCs main sports franchise, as both companies are owned by the deep-pockets at Disney.
Fox has NASCAR contracts running into 2022, which means Speeds sleek, high-definition TV headquarters at Harris Boulevard and I-85 should remain active, even with Fox Sports 1 originating from New York City. While the emphasis on motorsports will shrink as the new network adds boxing, collegiate football and basketball and Major League Baseball, Charlotte should remain the hub for NASCAR production and possibly other work spinning off the main channel.
Some of the 125 full-time jobs at Speed will change, others will probably move and a few will be lost to redundancies. But for now, no large layoffs are expected.
Shows like the popular Barrett-Jackson car auctions will continue on Fox Sports 1, but other Speed shows such as reality series Car Warriors and Hard Parts: South Bronx are likely to disappear.
Bishop Cheen, a Charlotte-based media analyst, says Fox has been aggressively bidding on sports programming for years and doesnt mind making big-money deals to get its way. If youre going to build it, youre going to pay it, he says.
Payoffs can be big as well. ESPN gets more than $5 per customer whether they watch sports or not from cable and satellite providers. Speed channel was commanding about 25 cents per customer, a figure that may climb four-fold once Fox Sports 1 is in a position to negotiate new distribution contracts.
Among the personalities coming to Fox Sports 1 are Regis Philbin, who will host a weekday panel show, Rush Hour, originating from New York, Terry Bradshaw, Howie Long, Jay Glazer, Gus Johnson, Erin Andrews and Mike Pereira in Fox Football Daily, and boxer Mike Tyson in a series in production called Being Mike Tyson.
Karen Adams, general manager of the Fox affiliate in Greensboro-High Point, will take over when the Fox network group takes control of Charlottes WJZY (Channel 46) and WMYT (Channel 55) in June. Fox is buying the two stations from Raleigh-based Capitol Broadcasting in an $18 million transaction announced in January. Adams was an executive at the Greensboro station, WGHP (Channel 8), when it was owned by Fox from 1996 to 2008. Adams, 58, started at WGHP in 1976 on the production floor as a camera operator and worked up into other positions including program director, anchor and producer on the stations morning show.
A new gig for sportscaster Chuck Howard: He is working to market Robby Gordons start-up Stadium Super Truck Series, an NBC Sports project with off-road pickup trucks running in 12 NFL stadiums beginning April 6. Byron Pitts, who is leaving CBS 60 Minutes for CNN, will be keynote speaker Saturday for the National Association of Black Journalists regional conference at Johnson C. Smith University. WBTV (Channel 3) reporter Dedrick Russell is program chair.
NASCARs Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kasey Kahne and Tony Stewart will be voicing their characters roles on The Cleveland Show, 7:30 p.m. March 17 on Fox. Preachers Daughters, debuting 10 p.m. Tuesday on Lifetime, will feature Kolby Koloff, 16, of Kannapolis and her preaching parents, father Nikita (a former pro wrestler turned evangelist) and mother Victoria, who hosts a religious radio show.
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