While many networks have accelerated onto the high-definition track in recent weeks, Speed Channel plans to enter the race next February during its coverage from Daytona Speedway.
Speed HD plans to come out of the gate with more than 100 hours of NASCAR coverage from the Daytona Speedweeks, which begin next year on Feb. 7 and lead up to the 50th anniversary of the Daytona 500 on Feb. 17.
The initial HD programming will include Duel Days, the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series, and NASCAR RaceDay, part of the outpouring of programming the network will deliver from the famed Florida race track, said Speed senior vice president of production and network operation Rick Miner.
In addition to its season-long, at-track coverage of NASCAR, with programs including NASCAR RaceDay, Trackside, NASCAR Victory Lane and Go or Go Home, Speed wants to bring other racing series and special events to viewers in HD in 2008.
Miner said Speed has already been revving up for HD. “All of the Nextel Cup races are shot in HD by Fox, TNT and ESPN/ABC Sports, as are the qualifiers and practice runs that we cover,” said Miner. “We had to take those feeds and downconvert them [to the standard-definition format] because we didn’t have a distribution outlet for them.”
Speed is also commissioning its original programming in the 16:9 HD picture aspect ratio. Miner believes the HD version of the network will impress.
“There is no sport that’s more technological than motor sports. The action, the colors … are really going to pop,” he said. “The more horizontal look, like with hockey or soccer, really works well for auto racing. You can get a much better feel, for instance, of how a passing sequence begins.”
Mike Biard, senior vice president of affiliate sales and marketing for Fox Cable Networks, agreed. “Sports really pops in HD, but there is only a short list of national networks in HD,” he said. “We’ve had discussions with our affiliates and they believe Speed HD can help be an HD-driver.”
He hopes the new service offering will also result in an upgrade for the standard-format service.
“For Speed, it’s not about a lack of carriage,” he said, noting that the channel is distributed by all major distributors. “The issue is the level of carriage. Speed is on [various] digital packages and we’d like to see it get more expanded basic. By offering Speed HD, we hope to close that gap a bit.”