SBJ/Aug. 5-11, 2013/Media

Two channels will carry Speed name

Speed is sticking around after all.

Fox Sports plans to keep two versions of Speed up and running after Aug. 17, when the channel officially is rebranded to Fox Sports 1.

One version has been described as “Speed Classic,” which will be made available to U.S. distributors that do not sign carriage deals for Fox Sports 1. Just two weeks before FS1’s launch, three of the country’s four biggest distributors still have not worked out a deal for the new channel.

Another version of Speed is the international version that’s currently available to about 7 million homes in Canada, the Caribbean and Puerto Rico. That will continue to operate under the Speed banner.

Fox Sports declined to comment for this story on the programming for either channel. But sources said the two channels, both still to be called Speed, will have different programming lineups.

Fox Sports has little incentive to put quality programming on the U.S. channel, since it will be provided to distributors that have passed on Fox Sports 1. The U.S. channel would not carry any live programming, according to sources briefed on Fox’s plans. Rather, its lineup would be filled with old races and re-runs.

By contract, Fox would need to provide a motorsports channel to these distributors, at least until their contracts end.

Big distributors like DirecTV, Dish Network and Time Warner Cable have not signed on to carry the channel. Those three distributors represent more than 46 million subscribers and present a potential hurdle for Fox Sports 1’s stated plan to have 90 million subscribers at launch. The largest U.S. distributor, Comcast, has agreed to carry the channel at launch.

Much of the negotiations come down to price. Distributors pay about 23 cents per subscriber per month for Speed, according to SNL Kagan. Sources say Fox Sports is asking 80 cents for FS1 at the start, with annual increases that would push the fee to about $1.50 over the life of a multiyear deal.

The international version of Speed will feature higher-quality programming than its U.S. counterpart. It will remain a 24-hour motorsports channel, complete with live races and news programming. The international channel is expected to use Fox Sports 1’s productions of live races from NASCAR and other motorsports series.

Sources say the channel will keep the Speed brand and will not add non-motorsports programming, like Fox Sports 1 is doing.

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