‘US F1’ Did Speed No Favors

3/11/2010 7:31 AM Eastern

Speed Channel was so excited about the
prospect of a U.S.-based team in the glamorous but international
sport of Formula One racing that it televised
a live press conference in Charlotte, N.C., when the team
officially announced its plans in February 2009. (Th e
Wire was on the scene.)

That good feeling ended last week when the US F1 team
officially disbanded. Formula One racing is expensive, and
the team had trouble raising enough cash. Efforts to partner
with other new teams fell through, the founders said.

The project also cost Speed its longtime pit reporter,
Peter Windsor, who left the broadcast team to focus
on his work as a principal at US F1. Speed replaced him
with Will Buxton, editor of GPWeek magazine, who joins
mainstays Bob Varsha, David Hobbs and Steve Matchett
when Speed’s coverage of the circuit resumes with the
season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix on March 14 at 7:30
a.m. ET.

Formula One is not a big ratings draw for Speed: The
Fox-owned network averaged a 0.23 rating (167,000
households) for last year’s races. Speed airs them live,
which means some start in the wee hours of the morning.
Viewing peaked in 2002 with an average 0.53 rating
(271,000 homes), spokesman Erik Arneson told Th e Wire.
NASCAR-related programming and truck races, by contrast,
can bring in a 1.0 rating on Speed. Losing the US F1
team won’t help matters.

Still, Speed is happy to stay in the Formula One game,
Arneson said. “We secured some Internet rights for the
first time ever this year (for practice, qualifying and racing)
and we are adding an F1 Fantasy game on SpeedTV.
com,” he said. Famed driver Michael Schumacher is returning
to Formula One, Arneson noted, and if he is competitive,
that could draw fans to the telecasts. (This item was corrected on March 25.)

When TiVo’s Tom Rogers Met 30 Rock’s Kenneth
TiVo’s shindig at 30 Rockefeller Plaza last week to introduce the sleek “Neutron” set-tops designed
for HD displays (as foretold in last week’s Wire) brought CEO Tom Rogers — one-time
president of NBC Cable — to his old stomping grounds.

The event, in the building’s Weather Room at the “Top of the Rock,” also featured Jack Mc-
Brayer, the actor who plays daft-but-lovable NBC page Kenneth on the network’s 30 Rock.

In character, McBrayer, clutching a mess of set-top boxes, remotes and cables, “interrupted”
Rogers in mid-spiel to complain about how hard setting up all this stuff is. Rogers,
playing the straight man, explained that all Kenneth needed to get TV, movies, Web and
music content was the new TiVo Premiere box.

Would that include the YouTube clip of “me and Dame Judy Dench from spring break
2000?” McBrayer queried. Uhh… right, Rogers said.

2000?” McBrayer queried. Uhh… right, Rogers said.
Rogers also fl ashed the image of a Multichannel News issue from the 1990s on the screen
— featuring a smiling Tom Rogers — and advised McBrayer: “Maybe if you work hard
enough, you’ll get on the cover of Multichannel News.”

Or at least a mention in The Wire.