Stormy Seas Ahead For American Moto TV?
by staff
Friday, October 12, 2012

Dorna has placed three MotoGP events in the United States in 2013, but there's a very real chance American fans might have a tough time seeing those races unless they're in the grandstands at Laguna Seca, Indianapolis and Austin.

American media outlets, including The Wall Street Journal, reported this week that FOX is considering a conversion of SPEED, its motorsports cable network in the United States, into an all-sports channel to challenge ESPN and NBC Sports Network. FOX recently renewed its broadcasting rights deal with Major League Baseball, which gives FOX the right to show games on its network channel and another nationally distributed FOX channel.

FX is a possibility, but unlikely. That's where the rumored all-sports channel enters the picture.

The timing of the possible transformation of SPEED is unclear. But it may be bad news for MotoGP and World Superbike fans.

SPEED has been the American TV home of both series. And while some motorsports is expected to be televised on a new Fox Sports channel, it's questionable whether either motorcycle series would survive the chop.

SPEED started in 1996 as Speedvision, which showed races from a variety of two- and four-wheeled series - many obscure - from across the planet. FOX bought majority ownership of the channel in 2001, the same year it began televised half of the NASCAR Sprint Cup season on its over-the-air network.

FOX then transformed SPEED into a vehicle for more NASCAR programming, including races and other ancillary programming. The old vibe of "all racing, all the time" ended as SPEED started televising NASCAR talk shows and automotive reality shows.

NASCAR programming remains the core of SPEED's lineup today. So shows featuring the roundy-round good old boys will survive on a new FOX all-sports channel. So probably will Formula One, which earns solid ratings and receives NASCAR-like production treatment from SPEED.

Motorcycle racing has been a core product for Speed for years but some insiders say that all forms of bike racing on Speed are on the potential chopping block if Speed becomes more mainstream. While MotoGP races only started to be televised live within the last two years, with a very short introduction show and no post-race interviews, World Superbike only started to be televised in true high-definition this season. Last Sunday, WSBK race two on Speed was clipped eight minutes from the end so as to show more of NASCAR's Talladega crash, outraging WSBK fans.

It's hard enough for American circuit promoters in MotoGP and World Superbike to get mainstream fans and media to notice Grand Prix and World Superbike racing. That task is going to be exponentially more difficult if the only way to see the races is by subscribing to a pay stream on a sanctioning body website or through illegal means like file-sharing.

And AMA road racing? This is the one of the few times that being owned by Daytona Motorsports Group and Jim France may actually be a source of strength for the series.

The rumors and conjecture seem to suggest that Speed will become a FOX-branded network and that NASCAR and other four wheeled series may stay with it on the re-branded network. Just what is the future of motorcycle racing on Speed or even being broadcast in the US? No one who knows seems to be talking.


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