, sometimes still referred to as the Speed Channel
, is a cable
and satellite television channel
broadcast to various parts of North America
, but primarily the United States
. The channel, based in Charlotte, NC
, is primarily devoted to coverage of various forms of auto racing.
Programming includes live Formula One racing, NASCAR-related shows, how-to programming, auto-related movies such as The Fast and the Furious, auto shows, less-popular racing series, a weekly news show, call-in shows, and reality shows. Bobsledding, luge, and skeleton events are shown during the winter months. Speed is also the exclusive United States broadcaster of the 24 Hours of Daytona, the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the Petit Le Mans, the NASCAR Sprint Cup All-Star Race and the Gatorade Duels at Daytona.
The channel which eventually became Speed Channel was launched on New Year's Day 1996
, by Roger L. Werner Jr.
, E. Roger Williams, Nickolas Rhodes and Robert Scanlon under the name Speedvision. Ownership included Cox Communications
, Continental Cable and AT&T
. Under their management, Speedvision became the fastest growing cable network of all time while delivering the highest male viewing audience per household of any cable or broadcast network in existence.
In the summer of 2001, Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation purchased one-third of Speedvision. In August 2001, they negotiated to acquire the stakes owned by Cox and Comcast, thus giving them majority ownership. Fox leveraged the network as a negotiating tool for NASCAR television rights which were split with NBC. The plan was to morph the channel into a 24-hour NASCAR network. This plan was ultimately shelved in the fall due to Fox management's unwillingness to place NASCAR races on the channel.
On February 11, 2002 at 7:59 p.m. ET, Speedvision relaunched as Speed Channel. The first program of the new format was a special launch show and 2002 NASCAR preview focusing on Speedweeks 2002. News Corp.'s Fox had a year-old relationship as a NASCAR broadcaster, many NASCAR shows began airing on Speed Channel, a move that was unpopular with some of the network's viewers. However, with the increased NASCAR programming, viewership is at all-time highs, with the channel being added to many regular cable lineups.
In its nearly four-year existence under its new name, Speed has made an effort to show more live races. In 2001, 2002, and 2006, Speed broadcasted select Champ Car
races. In October 2002, Speed bought out the remaining year of ESPN
's three-year contract for the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series
, and in February 2003, began showing live exclusive coverage of the series. The network's coverage of the truck series' Florida Dodge Dealers 250
for February 18, 2005 scored a Nielsen rating of 2.1, the highest-rated program in the network's history. Another Speed staple is WindTunnel with Dave Despain
, a live call-in show that has been on the network since February 2003.
Since its inception in 1996, there has been a racing series which was created by Werner, Williams and Scanlon, named after the network-the SPEED World Challenge, formerly named, not surprisingly, the Speedvision World Challenge. Speed also runs a very short segment during its commercial breaks, titled, "My First Car", in which celebrities like Ron Howard, Pierce Brosnan, and George Lucas (who has a great love for Fiat) and Speed Channel viewers talk about the first set of wheels they ever drove.
Speed made news with the 2005 firing of network president Jim Liberatore, who had been with the network since FOX bought it in 2001 when it was still Speedvision, reportedly because Liberatore had wanted to reduce the number of NASCAR-related shows on the network, and the network brass wanted more NASCAR-related programming. Liberatore is now attempting to start a new network called The Racing Network, which will be closer to the original Speedvision. In 2002, Speedvision had collaborated with Disney, causing the channel to resemble the Disney Channel in some ways, making the channel targeted for younger viewers in the pre-teen and teenage. This angered some network viewers, who feared that Speed was close to becoming an all-NASCAR channel. However, NASCAR programming continues to draw viewers to the network. Some Speed viewers have suggested a second channel for non-NASCAR programming, just like ESPN has with ESPN2.
Speed is primarily a satellite and digital cable network, although many areas in the U.S. do have the network in their basic cable packages. It is also available in Canada and in Brazil. Racing coverage, particularly that of Formula One, is sometimes subject to blackout outside the U.S. In the spring of 2006, Speed launched Speed Mobile, where fans can download ringtones
made by Speed to their cell phones.
In late 2005, Speed Channel re-branded themselves as SPEED, canceling some TV shows including NASCAR Nation
. Sometime in 2007, the change became official, as the word "channel" was dropped from its logo.
On February 8
, Speed launched a high definition
simulcast and DirecTV
was one of the first to carry this new channel. Recently, Comcast
has added the channel in Chicago and few of its markets.
Latin American service
Speed's Latin American channel has live coverage of NASCAR Sprint Cup
, NASCAR Nationwide Series
, Rolex Sports Car Series
, American Le Mans Series
and A1 Grand Prix
. Also shows delayed coverage of NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series
, World Series by Renault
and NASCAR Mexico
. Other programming includes highlights shows of Australia's V8 Supercars
, Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters
, British F3
, FIA GT
, AMA Supercross
and Argentine TC 2000
and Turismo Carretera
, and regular programs such as Grand Prix On Track
, Grand Prix Story
, Unique Whips
, Tuner Mania
and Monster Jam
- During WindTunnel with Dave Despain one time, Despain railed on the increased amount of NASCAR coverage the channel has, disappointed that the channel had gone away from its roots.
- Speed has also been criticized for narrowing its offering of professional motorsports, in particular after it quit coverage of WRC, due to its current NASCAR contract.
List of Speed Channel programs
Racing series Speed Channel broadcasts
Specials broadcast by Speed
Speed on-air personalities
Former on-air personalities