SPEED to Air AMA Road Races Same Day

Henny Ray Abrams | May 31, 2009

SPEED will revert back to same day coverage of the AMA Pro Road Race series after the “experiment” with appointment viewing failed, but the support of the motorcycling world is imperative to keep road racing on television.”It’s a big commitment,” SPEED senior vice president of production and network operations Rick Miner said, adding that it will nearly double the cost to the network. “Hunter Nickell, who’s the president of the network, and I and our programming and scheduling and research guys sat down and had a discussion, and this is independent of any sales input or anything else, because clearly, again, in this economic situation, there’s not a sales upside to this. It’s pure and simple a survival of AMA Pro Road Racing on television in the United States. This is something that it’s critical that the fans support when we make this move. Because if they don’t, and we don’t see a vast turnaround in the economy very quickly, it’s problematic. I can’t say where we’d be next year.”The first same day telecast will be the seventh round of the championship, in support of the Red Bull U.S. Grand Prix at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. SPEED will air both the American Superbike and Daytona SportBike races in a two-hour program at midnight, Sunday, July 5.Most of the other races will follow a standard format, with Saturday’s races on Saturday night and Sunday’s races on Sunday night. The exception is Mid-Ohio, where Saturday’s races will air on Sunday morning with Sunday’s races at midnight.The decision to go back to same day coverage was driven by ratings, Miner said.”It was perfectly clear that our experiment with appointment viewing, which was clearly motivated by a need to try and cut costs in this economy, didn’t work,” he said. “Racing fans, motorcycle fans made it really clear, in no uncertain terms that they were not happy with it. And we need to do, as a network and as the home of motorsports in the United States, we need to respond to our fans to the extent we can and make it work. It was that simple.”Miner didn’t have the exact figures at hand, but said that after a bump at Daytona, where it “started extremely well,” ratings declined “in direct proportion to the length of the delay, which is understandable. And that’s what motivated it, clearly.”The discussion began in earnest about 2 ½ weeks ago, he said, though they’d been noticing the ratings slide for some time. “The first AMA Pro Prime Time show, even the first delays did well. But then the bottom fell out of it, if you will,” he said.Now it’s up to the fans to vote with their remotes.”As I said, I’m hoping the viewers support this,” Miner said. “The fans need to come out. We are rapidly approaching a date where we need to make that decision” on 2010. “We’re not there yet, but we’re definitely discussing it now.”And I’m certainly hoping that the manufacturers participation and the relationship with DMG are improving and the economy seems to be heading in the right direction. Far be it from me to make that prediction. If Alan Greenspan couldn’t get it right, I’m certainly not going to get it right. I’m just hoping that they come to terms with it earlier in the process. I think the delay in everybody getting their act together last year was problematic for all of us.”

Henny Ray Abrams | Contributing Editor

Abrams is the longest-serving contributor at Cycle News. Over the course of his 35-some years of writing and shooting photos, he’s covered events from MotoGP to the Motocross World Championship - and everything in between.