Back in the day, I turned on the brand-new cable box on top of the big-screen TV and discovered TNN and ESPN. I studied all week long, but looked forward to Sunday afternoons when stock cars battled around the storied ovals such as North Wilkesboro and Rockingham. Coverage didn’t include much pre-race, kind of a perfunctory walk down pit road, the invocation, anthem and then, “Start Your Engines!”
I always hungered for more, as the Boston media then – and to a point, now – didn’t consider NASCAR worthy of their sports pages.
Over the years, ESPN expanded their programming. TNT joined the fracas. Websites like Jayski popped up. My weekend racing fix became accessible 24/7 and life was good, I thought. And then came SPEED.
I will admit when SPEED joined my auto racing lineup, I ate up all the commentary shows, Friday night trackside coverage and the exploration of all things related to auto sports. This was great! But, did I need it?
I ask this question as a philosophical exploration in the face of being threatened with possibly losing SPEED on my DirecTV programming. While the dispute has been settled I spent considerable time in the past weeks deciding whether to believe media mogul News Corp. that they were being reasonable in asking for a large fee increase for FOX specialty channels from DirecTV, or believe the satellite television provider when they declared that they were being strong armed into an unfair agreement.
Ultimately to me, it mattered very little. Corporate greed will do what it always does, pass the increased costs along to the consumer, all the while they threatened to cut regional sports channels, Fuel, SPEED, NatGeo and a selection of other channels out of existing packages. It was a real possibility that Channel 607 would no longer have existed for me and other faithful SPEED channel viewers. What kind of impact would that have done to my viewing habits, a fan who spends far more time focused on this sport than is really healthy?
I would have missed my trucks. Thoroughly and truly. The Camping World Truck Series still embodies the rough-and-tumble image that stock car racing grew from. The broadcasts are top notch, permitting the booth to add more than a little of their own personality and reactions to the competition.
But as much as I love to listen to cars take qualifying – their engines filling my living room with a familiar hum and rumble – I admit to tuning out on the commentary provided during what must be over 20 hours of NASCAR coverage each week. You can only chew over storylines a few times before it becomes repetitious.
Add to that the ability to stream radio broadcasts, enjoy Race Buddy and spend as much time as I want staying current through the multitude of podcasts on the web, I begin to wonder if we really have surpassed saturation point for our sport on the television. I have options and have driven past requiring any single outlet to keep me up to date.
For years we’ve heard rumblings of Cup races turning into pay-per-view events, with each new season the major networks telling the viewing poor not to worry, it’s not happening yet. But I did wonder if yanking SPEED wouldn’t have presented an interesting way to see if the market exists for such a high-ticket programming option?
And what about the other sports that were being included in this high stakes game of corporate chess? Not only was SPEED channel being threatened, but also FOX’s popular soccer channel – another sport with a large and vocal following. Would we have been offered a NASCAR package for an additional $10 per month? Or perhaps something so sneaky as the Camping World programming for an annual fee?
After much consideration of the situation, I decided it wouldn’t be so terribly important for me to pay to see Ray Dunlap and Larry Mac for more hours than I have available in a given week. Lining the pockets of one billion-dollar enterprise so they can pay another so I can be mesmerized by cars going in circles just takes all the fun out my Saturday afternoons. I wouldn’t do it! And I even doubt I would miss it.
Mine is just one small opinion in the sea of the viewing NASCAR public. I’m sure there are others out there who would bemoan the loss of SPEED.
However, life is short and there’re over 100 channels for me to pick from. NASCAR certainly figures large in those selections, but there’s many a time when I check SPEED and decide there still isn’t anything on. News Corp. has started to lose their bargaining power in this billion-dollar discussion.
FOX might think they have a monopoly on my NASCAR addiction, but they don’t. Those that sit in steel and glass conference rooms negotiating billion-dollar agreements really should keep that in mind when they decide to fight over how much more they want to wring out of the American public. There will come a day when we just won’t pay anymore, and I’m thinking that day isn’t too far in the future.
About the author
The Frontstretch Staff is made up of a group of talented men and women spread out all over the United States and Canada. Residing in 15 states throughout the country, plus Ontario, and widely ranging in age, the staff showcases a wide variety of diverse opinions that will keep you coming back for more week in and week out.
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