NASCAR should start 24/7 network to fill void created by Fox Sports 1

Kevin Liles-US PRESSWIRE

With Speed being transformed into Fox Sports 1, the time has come for NASCAR to start its own cable channel.

Major League Baseball has one, as does the NFL, NBA and NHL.

But what they have and NASCAR does not, is their own cable channels dedicated to airing programming focused solely on their respective sports.

Heck, even golf and tennis have gotten into the television game.

The time has come for NASCAR to do the same.

With the official news Tuesday that Fox will flip Speed into Fox Sports 1 this August and no longer exclusively cover motorsports, a vast amount of NASCAR content will soon be condensed or displaced altogether.

While Fox Sports 1 will continue to feature the Sprint Cup Series -- including shifting some network races to its redesigned national sports network, as well as carrying all Speedweeks events leading up to the Daytona 500 and continuing to air shows like RaceDay, Victory Lane and RaceHub -- there will be a noticeable decrease in its NASCAR coverage.

It's inevitable.

This may not happen in the short-term, as contracts are already in place with various sanctioning bodies and because Fox is going to need auxiliary programming -- particularly of the live variety. However, in the long-term there is reason to doubt the viability of NASCAR on Fox Sports 1.

During Tuesday's rollout, Fox executives were adamant in their desire to add live coverage of stick-and-ball sports to their lineup all in an effort to broaden its viewership base.

Meaning, no longer will the channel formerly known as Speed act as the de facto NASCAR channel as it has done since 2002.

Whether it is one year from now, or two or five, let there be no doubt that a void will be created. Fans accustomed to turning to Speed to get caught up on all the NASCAR news and happenings will likely over time be left out in the cold.

And lest we forget about all the live racing events of the lesser series that Speed covered.

Goodbye Truck Series Qualifying. Say adios to the final round of Nationwide Series practice.

All of which is why NASCAR needs to follow in the footsteps of the four major sports and start its own channel devoted to covering all things NASCAR 24/7.

Obviously, there are numerous hurdles to overcome.

First and foremost among them is the one of distribution, a problem that has befuddled the NFL since launching the NFL Network in 2003. It took until last September for the NFL to finally reach a deal with the country's No. 2 cable operator, Time Warner, to carry the NFL Network.

It goes without saying, but for the NASCAR Network to be successful from a financial sense, fans need to have access to the programming.

On this front, NASCAR has options.

The best bet is to follow the path of the Big Ten Conference and how it went about creating the Big Ten Network.

Early on the Big Ten reached a deal with Comcast, the nation's No. 1 cable provider, so that the channel would be included on the basic tier package, instantly making the Big Ten Network available in more than 20 million homes throughout country.

With the television contract to broadcast the summer and fall slate of NASCAR races coming up for bid, and with NBC reportedly interested in reacquiring the rights, this might open the door to negotiate a favorable deal with Comcast, the parent company of NBC.

Another tactic the Big Ten utilized was striking a deal with Fox, which gave the network a 51-percent stake in the company. From there, Fox used its clout to broker deals with various cable companies, further assuring increased distribution.

From there it's making sure your product is readily available online and then cultivating programming that would make the NASCAR Network a destination channel for diehard fans and causal viewers alike.

Everything from classic races to original programming, to live race coverage of Grand-Am, ARCA or one of its many regional touring series, there are myriad options for NASCAR to consider.

Perhaps a Mystery Science Theatre 3000-style show where a couple of drivers sit down in front of a cheesy movie and crack wise? Or more in-depth documentaries similar to the one NASCAR co-produced with ESPN about the life of Tim Richmond?

However, let's save the programming brainstorm session for later. Before anything happens there first needs to be a channel, and right now, it's just an idea. But an idea that needs to become a reality.

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