Speed Channel Revs Up Its New Programming Slate

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Speed Channel is putting its programming pedal to the metal, with original series and new episodes of existing shows. The new programs also bring a celebrity element to the network’s traditional fare for auto enthusiasts.

“In commissioning these series, we are bringing successful elements of the network’s past together with bright new concepts for its future and combining them into a brand new present,” said Speed vice president of programming Robert Ecker.

Payback will feature car-loving celebrities thanking individuals who have played a meaningful role in their lives by giving them a custom automobile. The show will be “a little more appealing to the emotional side of the car culture,” according to Ecker.

He said Payback would be “more upbeat, feel-good” than some of the network’s edgier shows. It is expected to debut in early July.

The new show Jet Set will put The Tonight Show host Jay Leno in the driver’s seat. The series follows the car-collector as he sets out to build and test a jet-powered car using advanced technology, alternative fuels and his team at Big Dog Garage. The series is likely to debut in early 2007.

Both Payback and Jet Set are being produced by Bud Brutsman, who created TLC’s Overhaulin’ and Rides series.

“Bud’s success producing compelling shows in the automotive genre is well-known and the quality of his work speaks for itself,” said Ecker.

Another original series in the pipeline is Shooting Cars, which will follow a Brooklyn, N.Y.-based company that supplies vehicles to the entertainment industry — from how they get the vehicles to how they prep them for use. Ecker described the show as “a new wrinkle on behind-the-scenes [programs].”

In addition to its series debuts, the network is planning 13 new summer episodes of its successful PINKS series for the show’s third season. The reality show pits contestants against each other in a 1950s-style drag race, with the loser having to hand over the title to his vehicle.

Also on tap are 12 more episodes of American Muscle Car, one of the network’s longest-running franchises. Six of the episodes, documenting the history and complete restoration of the last authenticated Corvette Stingray produced by Chevrolet, will debut in the fall as a special titled The Last Stingray.

Speed was one of the biggest primetime gainers in first-quarter 2006 ratings from Nielsen Media Research, gaining 33% to a 0.4 — the network’s best quarterly ratings.