Discovery Inc. On Black Friday (Nov. 23) rebranded its seven-year automotive-themed network Velocity as MotorTrend Network, trading on the leading information-based automotive media brand’s 70-year history. Building on a 2017 joint venture between Discovery and MotorTrend owner The Enthusiast Network, the new MotorTrend Network will continue to focus on delivering automotive content to enthusiasts and viewers — including such Velocity staple shows as Bitchin’ Rides and Barrett-Jackson Live — not only through the linear channel but also over-the-top with MotorTrend’s $4.99 per month subscription video-on-demand service. MotorTrend Network president Bob Scanlon spoke with senior content producer, programming R. Thomas Umstead about the rebrand and plans to play in the OTT space. An edited version of the interview follows.
MCN: What is the strategy behind Velocity’s rebranding to the MotorTrend Network?
Bob Scanlon: A year ago, we actually signed an agreement to do a joint venture in which Discovery contributed the linear network Velocity and the investment group that owned The Enthusiast Network committed its properties. So the JV ended up as what is now the MotorTrend Group. The decision was made along the way to leverage the awareness of the MotorTrend brand and to flip the Velocity brand … The other piece of it that was that in addition to the 70-year history of MotorTrend, this group had already started a a fledgling direct-to-consumer play through the MotorTrend app. They had already moved into some video production and video content play in the digital space, so they had a toe in the water. That was attractive to Discovery corporately as a way to diversify to get into the direct-to-consumer business.
MCN: How will you convey the message of the rebrand on air?
BS: What the marketing department has come up with at Velocity is a campaign that’s called the Legacy campaign, where all of Velocity’s well-known talent are on camera individually talking about the impact that either MotorTrend or Hot Rod magazine or Automobile had on them over the course of their lives. The implied message is that we’re still here: All of these shows and talent that the Velocity audience has been so loyal to and come love [are] staying, but it’s just a new name and a new brand.
MCN: Prior to the rebrand, how would you have defined the Velocity brand and its ratings performance?
BS: The performance is what we’re most proud of. The quarter that we’re in will be the 25th consecutive quarter since we launched where we’ve shown ratings and delivery growth on Velocity. In this industry right now, that kind of growth is unheard of. It was that performance that convinced the senior executives at Discovery to say that this is a category that could really work going direct-to-consumer because they are so passionate.
MCN: You mentioned MotorTrend’s direct-to-consumer app. How many subscribers does it currently have, and how will Velocity content be integrated into the OTT service?
BS: The MotorTrend app is currently just north of 200,000 paying subscribers and it costs $4.99 a month. On the programming side, some of it is original programming that the MotorTrend group has developed. Going in, they had a couple of shows, including one called Road Kill that started on YouTube before migrating behind the paywall. The play for us now strategically is that all of the series on linear will premiere on the app … so you get the opportunity to see it first and see it without commercials on the app and then, a couple of weeks later, it will show up on linear. We’re also leveraging the linear talent from Velocity to do more short-form, digital-only pieces that are more insightful and specialized to show a different side of the personalities. We’re trying to make stuff that only appears on digital, which we hope will be provide more of an incentive for people to actually subscribe.