Speed Swipes NASCAR Trucks

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Motor-sports network Speed Channel has scored a coup by acquiring the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing's Craftsman Truck Series from ESPN.

Speed will provide additional coverage for the series, including shoulder programming through its NASCAR TV block. The Fox Cable Networks Group-owned service will build in pre- and post-race shows for each live event, as well as three primetime repeats of each telecast, according to NASCAR vice president of programming Paul Brooks.

The network will also produce a one-hour highlight show each week. The truck circuit has 22 races this year, a total that could be expanded going forward.

The deal — terms of which were not disclosed — provides Speed Channel with quality programming that will aid in its overall distribution-growth strategy, said general manager Jim Liberatore.

"The NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series on Speed Channel, as an integral part of NASCAR TV, will continue to solidify Speed as one of the NASCAR destinations for race fans across the country," he said.

The deal effectively removes all live NASCAR programming from ESPN, after years of coverage. The network had one year remaining with the package, but decided to sell those rights to Speed, which offers far more NASCAR-related programming.

The truck series averaged around a 0.6 rating, according to ESPN executives.

"This was a mutual decision between NASCAR and ESPN," ESPN director of programming acquisitions Burke Magnus said. "We wanted to give the truck series an opportunity to grow in a platform that will promote it effectively. It was a decision that was not easy, but made sense."

Despite losing 33 million subscribers by moving from ESPN's universe to Speed Channel's base of 52 million subscribers, Brooks said the deal would actually benefit the truck series through greater promotion and exposure on a channel dedicated to the sport.

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