Wait, People Are Really This Mad About Fox Sports 1?
It’s now been two full weeks since Fox Sports 1 launched, replacing what was known as Speed Channel, seemingly the only major network dedicated to airing motorsports and general car-related programming.
This transition has been met with a lot of hate by former Speed Channel fans. Some have legitimate gripes and some just seem butthurt about the change in general. If you’ve been following me on Twitter, it’s pretty clear where I stand on the transition- I’m disappointed that I lost Speed Center, and right now I’m frustrated that a lot of NASCAR programming, specifically practice and Nationwide qualifying has been shoved to Fox Sports 2. But on the other hand, I’m not against Fox Sports 1 existing.
I think the main reason that I’m not one of the pitchfork-sporting protesters that basically wants Fox Sports 1’s corpse, is actually pretty simple: most of the programming that has been “lost” was programming that quite frankly I just didn’t give a damn about. The only show that was ended that I actually miss is Speed Center. I’ve said it before, but if I could trade Race Hub, NASCAR Race Day and NASCAR Victory Lane in to just get Speed Center back, I’d be pretty much perfectly happy with the Speed to Fox Sports 1 transition. I can’t stand Race Day, and Victory Lane is just awful to watch. The last time I attempted to watch Race Day for any length of time, I’m pretty sure it quickly devolved into my counting how many idiotic things they said… and the number was actually pretty damn high.
Race Hub isn’t in the same league of suckiness as the other two, but I don’t watch it with any regularity. Surprisingly, when I can find it I actually prefer NASCAR Now to Race Hub. So losing Race Hub- which is actually pretty likely if the ratings of it aren’t great- wouldn’t be a huge loss. It quickly devolved from a NASCAR news show to trying to be cutesy with these stories that quite frankly I didn’t give a shit about. Yeah, talking with team members and drivers is cool and all, but that wasn’t all that the show did in addition to discussing the news. Not to mention that they have Jimmy Spencer on it pretty frequently, who I’m pretty sure hasn’t said anything intelligent since he retired from racing. His “Crying Towel” segment is groan-worthy in how overdone it is, with him attacking drivers for things I’m pretty sure that he’s done plenty of times himself.
And then there was Wind Tunnel with Dave Despain, a show that in the last couple years seemed to fall off a cliff and never recovered. This show I actually tried to watch somewhat regularly, if only for special guests and Robin Miller’s comments. I once had the misfortune of meeting Mr. Despain and it really soured my opinion of him, because he came off as a complete jackass. After that experience, I significantly cut back on watching what used to be a don’t miss show for me.
But the NASCAR-themed programming was really only a small portion of Speed Channel’s schedule. They had such “amazing” “quality” programs as Pimp My Ride (which were edited to take out the “Thanks, MTV, for Pimping my Ride!” line at the end), Two Guys Garage, Car Crazy, and for some ungodly reason about 83 Monster Jam events in a week, with it airing damn near every weekday at 3pm. These shows just aren’t things that I give a damn about, so I don’t care that they are gone. In fact, it actually was a pretty frequent occurrence where I would see one of these “quality” car shows on Speed and just groan. Plus, whenever they needed filler during or after race coverage, be it a rain delay or a race that didn’t quite end when it was supposed to, it seemed like Speed reverted back to showing episodes of “The 10” and counted down some of the most idiotic “Top 10 Moments” in NASCAR history. I’m 95% sure that I saw every episode at least twice, and some of the episodes I could probably mouth along with the commentators.
But Speed Center won’t be all that I miss from the demise of Speed Channel. I admit, I’m a sucker for the NASCAR Biographies (one of the few NASCAR-produced items that I love), and if those aren’t aired on Fox Sports 1 I will probably be disappointed. I will also miss the specials that Speed would air. Off the top of my head, I don’t remember if those were NASCAR or Speed-produced, but the “Racer’s Life” series was really good, and I enjoyed it. My only complaint was that those poor “Racer’s Life” episodes got whored out pretty badly once they aired; I’m pretty sure I have seen the Richard Petty one a half dozen times.
Another reason why I’m really not all that sad about the Fox Sports 1 takeover of Speed is that the ratings are up pretty good since the network launch. Now, of course, a bit of that is easily attributed to FS1 simply being new and everyone wanting to see what is up with the brand new network. But Speed Channel only had 1 program earn over 350,000 viewers in its final days. Fox Sports 1 had over a half dozen of them in their first 36 hours. Even ratings for the two Truck races that have aired have been better than their 2012 counterparts.
In the TV business, what matters is ratings. Not only total viewership, but in the age 18-49 demographic. Speed never really had spectacular ratings, even for NASCAR programming. After all, as I posted in my “Thoughts About Eldora” post after that race, even with a Truck race getting superb ratings, it still was abysmal in the overall ratings picture of cable TV. Ratings on Fox Sports 1 have consistently been higher than what Speed Channel was getting. And in fact, some of the ratings on Fox Sports 1 have already outdone the already-established NBC Sports Network, which I honestly never heard about with regards to Speed (granted, I’m sure no one was making that comparison, either).
Now, all of this aside, don’t assume that I am 100% happy with the Fox Sports 1 transition and that I’m going to watch every minute of the channel that I can. I’m not. I have tried over the last couple weeks to give some Fox Sports 1 shows a chance whenever I watched them. I’ve been actually pretty amazed at just how bad what I’ve seen is. I gave Crowd Goes Wild with Regis Philbin a chance the other day, and after about 25 minutes I kept the TV on the show just to see how bad the train wreck I was watching would get. About 2/3 of the way through the show it finally clicked that a lot of their statements were the hosts trying to be funny, which I have to say they should stop doing because they were doing a worse job at it than I do. Then to make things worse, one of the hosts had some little segment where she did a “College Football National Signing Day” routine where she picked the hat of the team she was going to start rooting for. I get that she is from the UK so she probably didn’t have any US allegiances, but really? You don’t just all of a sudden go “yeah, I’m a fan of this team!”
But easily my biggest gripe with the Fox Sports 1 transition is that the Fox Sports GO App was delayed. As someone whose apartment does not have the option for Fox Sports 2, any time racing-related programming is shown there, I will be left out of getting to enjoy it, and I was hopeful that the GO app would at least let me utilize my parents’ cable TV subscription (since they get both Fox Sports 1 and Fox Sports 2) to watch what I didn’t have an option of watching on TV. Unfortunately, without the GO app, that hasn’t happened, so I’m very frustrated with things with Fox Sports 1.
I readily admit that I am sad that Speed Center is no longer around. That as easily my favorite non-racing programming that Speed Channel showed. But to be practically up in arms about the loss of a TV channel that showed mostly god awful programming that I can’t believe was ever produced in the first place? I don’t get it. Yes, it sucks the big one that there is no longer a racing-themed channel on TV. But with Fox keeping all of its major racing programming, including NASCAR, Grand-Am/United SportsCar Racing, ARCA, and the like, I don’t get why race fans are this pissed off.
What gets me is that there are so many people that are complaining as if they watched Speed Channel 24/7. As I have said a number of times, if you don’t like the programming that Fox Sports 1 offers, do this amazing thing and don’t watch it. If the channel’s highest-rated programming is its race coverage, they’ll be more likely to actually care about having pissed off a tiny subset of its old viewers and maybe they will expand their racing coverage. Just don’t expect it, because I’d hazard a guess that NASCAR Race Hub’s ratings aren’t all that great, especially compared to similar stick-and-ball programming on the channel.
I get the decision by Fox Sports to launch a competitor to ESPN. ESPN gets over $5 on average a month from cable companies per subscriber. Over the 90 million or so homes that the channel is in, that amounts to around $450 million a month, simply in subscriber fees from telecom companies that pay to have the right to air the channel! Speed Channel used to get about a quarter per subscriber a month and was in 90 million homes. Fox Sports’ TV contracts called for a gradual plan for TV companies to pay over $1 per subscriber within the next couple of years; that would easily mean that the channel was raking in $100 million or more per month from subscribers (not including advertising).
The money there is really just too good to pass up for Fox. Not to mention, the programming on Speed was so bad that I really never watched anything that wasn’t their racing programming anyway. If you’re that butthurt over losing 8-year-old episodes of Pimp My Ride or episodes of Two Guys Garage or My Classic Car, good for you for standing up for what you want. However, if you cared that much, maybe you should have been watching those shows in the first place so that there wasn’t as good of a reason to get rid of them.
But ultimately, and I cannot stress this enough, if you don’t like the programming on Fox Sports 1, simply do not watch it. It’s not that hard of a concept to comprehend. Just like I didn’t watch the crappy programming on Speed, I don’t watch the crappy programming on Fox Sports 1. If I can do it, so can you!