10 Years of Speed: Speed Channel’s Road

May 1, 2006  •  Post A Comment

By Lee Alan Hill


On New Year’s Eve, host Bill Patrick introduces a new cable network called Speedvision to 3.2 million Cox Cablevision homes. The network is the creation of its first president, Roger Werner. Programming for the debut includes “Wild About Wheels,” “Planes of Fame,” “Classic Boat” and “The History of Trans-Am.”


Media One joins Cox Cablevision and The Times Mirror Co. as an investor in Speedvision.

Formula One racing comes to the network in a long-term deal. Indy Racing League qualifying in Phoenix is the network’s first live event.

The 24 Hours of LeMans is seen on Speedvision for the first time.

NASCAR comes to Speedvision for the first time with a simulcast of the Winston Select all-star race from Charlotte, N.C. The coverage includes qualifying for the event, and the network uses in-car cameras for the live race telecast.


In January, Speedvision televises the Barrett-Jackson Classic Car Auction for the first time. It will become one of the network’s programming staples.

New racing events on Speedvision include AMA motorcycle racing, Arenacross events, and ARCA stock car races.

The Grand Prix from Australia is the first Formula One event carried live on Speedvision.

“Beverly Hills 90210” actor Jason Priestley, who is a race car driver and enthusiast, hosts a special on safety on the track, “All the King’s Men.” (Several years later he will have a near-death accident while racing.)


Fox/Liberty becomes an investor in Speedvision with an option to buy out all partners in three years.

A May special, “Faces of Victory,” salutes the past winners and history of the Indianapolis 500.


Speedvision televises a special on the American Motorcycle Association’s 75th anniversary.

Speedvision.com launches as a partnership with Sporting News, offering exclusively racing content.

Veteran newsman Jim Hartz hosts a special saluting the 30th anniversary of the Apollo 11 lunar launch. Former astronaut Pete Conrad, who flew on Apollo 12, later appears in a Speedvision special on his own lunar mission.


Speedvision produces “The U.S. Grand Prix: A Heritage Reborn,” a one-hour special televised in anticipation of the return of F1 racing to the United States.

The channel reaches 30 million homes and turns a profit.

Speedvision covers the Los Angeles Auto Show.


Fox exercises its option to become the sole owner of Speedvision.

Jim Liberatore becomes president of the network.

In July, Fox management seals a programming pact with NASCAR that will put NASCAR events and ancillary programs on Fox-owned stations and on Speedvision through 2012.

A month after Fox completes its deal with NASCAR, NASCAR-related series are added to the Speedvision lineup, including “Totally NASCAR,” “NASCAR Tech” and “NASCAR Victory Lane.”

Speedvision begins its move from Stamford, Conn., to Charlotte to be closer to the NASCAR action.


The network relaunches Feb. 11 as Speed Channel. The relaunch is timed to coincide with coverage of the Daytona Speedweeks events.

The move to Charlotte is completed.

Nine million new subscribers are added, bringing the household figure to 50 million. Speed Channel’s relaunch also brings a 120 percent increase in viewership of the network.

The Web site is relaunched as SpeedTV.com, using Mindcomet software.

In October, coverage of the NASCAR Winston Cup Series Happy Hour earns a 1.02 rating, according to Nielsen Media Research, the first time Speed Channel has topped a 1.0 rating. The coverage is seen in 576,000 households.


Speed Channel reaches the 60 million households mark.

The NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series, formerly seen on ESPN and ESPN2, moves to Speed Channel.

Dave Despain hosts “Wind Tunnel,” a new series with commentary, interviews and viewer input on the world of auto racing.

A 53-foot traveling stage truck is fashioned for Speed Channel. It will be home to the series “Trackside” at all Nextel Cup events beginning in 2004.

“Autorotica” is unveiled as a block of Wednesday night programming that will feature footage of international racing and car show events.

QVC joins with Speed Channel to debut “For NASCAR Fans Only,” a two-hour program offering auto racing fans their favorite licensed products.


New series, including “Chop Cut Rebuild” and “Tuner Transformation,” join the Speed Channel lineup.

“Trackside” becomes a live-audience event.

“NBS 24/7,” a reality series centered around the NASCAR Busch series, debuts in February.

Speed Channel televises more than 70 hours of Daytona Speedweeks coverage, an increase of more than 800 percent from 2001.

Speed Channel, NASCAR and NASCAR.com create a “ride-along” Web site feature for 12 Craftsman Truck Series events.

Household delivery for the Craftsman Truck Series goes up 70 percent from 2003, delivering a 1.61 rating and 980,000 households. Peak coverage reaches as high as 1.5 million households.

Speed Channel adds two more hours of live coverage each race weekend under the “NASCAR Live” banner centering on the NASCAR Nextel Cup Series.

A basic cable study released by Beta Research ranks Speed Channel as one of the top midsize networks in program quality and customer satisfaction. Cable subscribers 18 to 49 and men rank the channel especially high.


Coverage of the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series reaches 1.3 million households and earns a Nielsen rating of 2.1, another record for the network.

New series include “Unique Whips,” “Texas Hardtails,” “Build or Bust” and “Pinks,” which proves to be one of the most popular shows ever on Speed Channel.

“NASCAR Nation,” which blends pop culture, entertainment and NASCAR, premieres.

Interactive TV becomes part of the Speed Channel brand with the coverage of the Barrett-Jackson Classic Car Auction. Nearly 70,000 online fantasy bids are cast.

Speed and NASCAR partner to offer “Speed NASCAR TV On Demand” via video-on-demand on Comcast, Time Warner Cable and regional operators.

Airborne Entertainment partners with the network to offer with Speed Channel-branded ringtones and wallpaper for mobile phones.

Hunter Nickell takes the reins of the network as executive VP and general manager.


Speed Channel changes its name to Speed.

Coverage of the Barrett-Jackson Auction reaches a record 33 hours.

“NASCAR RaceDay,” an all-media-access pre-race show, debuts. The series is televised from the site of each Nextel Cup Series race.

“7 Days,” a new weekly series, debuts as part of the Daytona Speedweeks coverage.

Speed reaches two milestones as it celebrates its 10th anniversary and its subscriber base tops 70 million households in North America (66 million in the United States and 5 million in Canada).