The following is a debate between Jeff Gluck, SB Nation's Motorsports Editor, and Jordan Bianchi, an SB Nation contributor.
Gluck: The Sports Business Journal reported more details Wednesday about FOX's potential plan to turn SPEED into an all-sports network and shift motorsports content to Fuel TV. Think it's time for NASCAR to start its own network?
Bianchi: While the idea is not profound nor is it even new, yes, I think it is absolutely the right time for NASCAR to start its own network. In fact, this is something NASCAR should have done years ago.
Gluck: I have to disagree with you. It seems really hard for fans to get access to some of these sports channels, and I'm sure a NASCAR Network wouldn't be a high priority for cable providers. I still don't even have the NFL Network because my cable company won't add it as an option. Don't you think it would be hard for fans to see whatever content the NASCAR Network offers?
Bianchi: No question, the biggest hurdle to ensuring this proposed network gets off the ground is striking a deal with the cable and satellite companies. While the NFL Network has struggled to gain traction and still isn't available in many markets, the better model for NASCAR to follow is the one put forth by the Big 10 Network.
When the Big 10 Conference set out to start its own channel, the conference struck an arrangement with FOX, giving the broadcasting giant a 51 percent stake in the fledgling channel. FOX then used its clout to help broker deals with more than 300 cable providers throughout the country. As such, the Big 10 Network is now available in more than 80 million homes –not mention fans can watch games online. I see no reason why NASCAR can't use its already existent relationship with FOX to make a similar deal happen with the cable and satellite companies.
Gluck: The thing is, you're going to have to put some Sprint Cup Series races on the NASCAR Network in order for people to really take action. I'd rather see NASCAR partner with SPEED somehow – if it was a possibility – than go it alone and risk having fans left out in the cold for a couple years. You don't want to be in a situation where you make your product harder for people to find. Only the NFL can do that and get away with it.
Anyway, what's your prediction for what ultimately happens?
Bianchi: If NASCAR didn't put the wheels in motion for a new network during the height of its popularity, I can't imagine them doing so now – even though they should.
As for what happens with SPEED, I think it's all but a foregone conclusion FOX will eventfully flip SPEED into an all-sports network and turn Fuel (Is that how you spell it? Because to be honest I had no idea the channel even existed) into a 24-hour motorsports channel. It would basically be SPEED 2.0 with far less reach and viewership.
What I'm most curious about it is if the above does happen, what becomes of Sprint Cup qualifying, Truck Series races and other auxiliary programming? Do these events continue to air on the new FOX Sports Network? I doubt it, as I imagine the powers that be want to showcase more stick-and-ball sports.
Gluck: I agree that FOX is going to flip SPEED, because typically with these type of reports, it's a "Where there's smoke, there's fire" situation.
If that's the case, I think NASCAR will view it as an opportunity to start its own channel. It already has the space and facilities in the new office building next to the Hall of Fame. So if SPEED goes away, a NASCAR Network seems likely.
As I said before, I just don't think it's a great option for those people who are really passionate about the sport.
Bianchi: Fans are going to be left scrambling if they want the same coverage they've been receiving. In the end, NASCAR fans lose out.