On August 17, Speed Channel will be no more, and Fox Sports 1 will become NASCAR's new home on cable.
The move was announced back in January, but the reality is finally sinking in for fans, who have taken their feelings to Twitter:
Gonna miss the @SPEED Channel. Always kept me entertained. Hopefully we have one last amazing race weekend with them!— Stephen Harrell (@mandudebro420) August 11, 2013
Some have been more blunt in their criticism:
You suck, leave Speed Channel alone!! #FOXSports1— Ed Wnek (@edwnek) August 11, 2013
Though losing Speed will undoubtedly hurt fans of Australian V8 Supercars and the World Touring Car Championship, the new network is a boon for NASCAR. Fox Sports 1 is making NASCAR a priority, increasing its coverage of Sprint Cup, the Nationwide Series and the Camping World Truck Series while featuring NASCAR heavily in its promotion of the new network.
Speed Channel may be gone, but NASCAR is gaining a stronger partner, one that will help grow the sport's fan base in the coming years.
Increased NASCAR Coverage
While many Speed mainstays like Monster Jam, MotoGP and AMA Supercross are left in limbo by the changeover, NASCAR will actually see increased coverage on the network. Fox has already announced that seven Sprint Cup races will move to the network in 2014, along with 14 Nationwide Series events and the entire Camping World Truck Series.
Previously the network announced that popular shows like NASCAR RaceDay, NASCAR Victory Lane and NASCAR Race Hub will all remain on the FS1 schedule. NASCAR qualifying and practice will remain on the network as well.
And because Fox is so heavily invested in NASCAR, the sport will likely be a major part of Fox Sports 1's highlight and discussion shows.
Beyond a handful of SportsCenter segments, NASCAR rarely receives coverage on ESPN's daily programming. NASCAR Now bounced around on ESPN2's schedule before losing its daily time slot. With the exception of an occasional driver interview, the sport is virtually ignored on popular programs like Pardon the Interruption, Around the Horn and First Take.
ESPN may have owned the rights to the Nationwide Series and the Chase for the Sprint Cup, but the network never really needed NASCAR to be successful. Fox Sports 1 needs NASCAR as much as NASCAR needs Fox Sports 1.
There's no denying that NASCAR was Speed Channel's bread and butter, but the network struggled to gain viewers beyond its Sprint Cup coverage.
Speed's broadcast of the Mudsummer Classic at Eldora drew a 1.2 rating and 1.4 million viewers, making it the 10th-most watched Camping World Truck Series race the network has ever aired, according to USA Today's Nate Ryan.
It was a great number for the series and the network, but it's an average number for the UFC, which debuts on Fox Sports 1 next Saturday following the Truck Series race from Michigan. The UFC has televised eight live events on the FX cable network, averaging 1.3 million per event, including 1.9 million for an event in January, according to MMA Weekly.
The network will also be showing college football games from the Pac-12, Big 12 and Conference USA, college basketball games from four conferences and UEFA Champions League soccer. And original programming like Fox Football Daily, Fox Soccer Daily and a new talk show starring Regis Philbin is sure to garner higher daily ratings than Speed ever got from Two Guys Garage or Truck U.
NASCAR is going to reap the benefits of the new programming. Speed constantly used NASCAR to promote its newest shows. Hard Parts: South Bronx and RU Faster than a Redneck were two of the many shows heavily promoted during race weekend broadcasts. But none of Speed's original programming performed well enough to give NASCAR a boost in return.
With an increased variety of sports, Fox Sports 1 will have greater opportunity for cross-promotion. NASCAR will still be a major portion of FS1's programming, but it will no longer have to carry the network. Instead, NASCAR can benefit from in-game advertising and commercials during major sporting events and daily shows.
A prominent place on a major network and increased cross-promotion with other sports will help NASCAR gain new fans and return it to its former popularity.
The creation of Fox Sports 1 is the best thing that could happen for the sport.