By Natalie Finn
When you talk with Speed Executive VP and General Manager Hunter Nickell about his network’s racing and automotive lifestyle coverage, the words “cool,” “fun” and “a blast” get used a lot. You might also catch a “smoking” and a “fired up” in there.
It sounds as if he’s enjoying his work, which involves overseeing business and programming operations for the network, including emerging high-definition, video-on-demand and mobile platforms.
Since joining Speed last July after 12 years as general manager of Fox Sports Net South, he has overseen a revamp of the network’s nonevent programming and the channel has garnered two Sports Emmy nominations.
“The team at Speed they have now under Hunter’s leadership is a terrific team,” said Dick Glover, VP of broadcasting and new media for NASCAR.
Chris Long, VP of studio production, who also came over to Speed from Fox at about the same time as Mr. Nickell, credits him for being open-minded and willing to take calculated risks.
“He gives me an enormous amount of room to be as creative as I can, which has been unbelievable,” Mr. Long said. “It’s only a year I’ve been there, but we’ve made huge strides in the ratings and huge differences in the look of the network.”
Mr. Nickell knows what it takes to put together a winning team and plan a strategy that produces results. He has been fine-tuning his approach to leadership since his days as captain of his college ice hockey team at Denison University in Granville, Ohio, while earning a degree in mass communications. After college he taught English and coached hockey and lacrosse in Maine and Connecticut for five years before beginning his career in cable administration.
Mr. Nickell is also not afraid to make changes, and he knows that even the best products need tweaking sometimes.
“My goal is to find the coolest NASCAR programming we can create, and we’ll keep taking risks and trying things,” he said. “You can tell we like talking about this stuff.”