Retooled Speedvision Shifts Into Fast Lane With Amazon’s Freevee
By Jon Lafayette ( Broadcasting & Cable ) published 3/30/2023
Relaunched network adds distribution on 13th streaming platform
Speedvision, relaunched as a free ad-supported streaming television (FAST) channel last year, is now available on the Amazon Freevee platform in the U.S.
Since being revived, Speedvision has quickly gained distribution on 13 streaming platforms, Bob Scanlon, CEO of Speedvision, told Broadcasting + Cable.
Speedvision recently signed deals with Fubo and Allen Media Group's streaming platforms. It is also in talks with all of the other major distributors, Scanlon said.
The agreement with Amazon will also take Speedvision overseas to the U.K. Speedvision is also international with set makers LG and TCL.
“All the indicators are really positive,” he said. “We are over the moon with how well this is rolling out.”
One key to Speedvision’s fast start was a decision to acquire an initial 500 hours of programming, rather than the 100 to 150 hours some distributors are willing to launch a channel with, said Scanlon, part of the team that originally launched the original Speedvision cable network.
“Having done this three times, I know you can’t program with just 100 hours,” he said. With that much programming, viewer fatigue sets in with people seeing the same shows over and over, Scanlon said. The network currently has nearly 600 hours of content.
“We have maintained relationships with a lot of recognized, expert talent and endemic producers in the space who literally can flip a switch and get content produced and on the air,” Scanlon said.
Originals Hit the Streets
Speedvision will be launching its first originally commissioned series, Radford Reborn, on April 14. The five-part series shows Ant Anstead from the series Wheeler Dealers and Formula One driver Jenson Button as they acquire Radford, a U.K. custom coach building brand, and get hired by Lotus to build the last gas-powered Lotus supercar.
Also in the works for the fourth quarter is a show called Helping Hands Garage with an all-women cast of car experts who help the families of military members and first responders when their vehicles need repair.
The original Speedvision was launched as a cable channel in 1995. It was bought by Fox in 2001. Fox changed the name of the network to Speed Channel and then folded it in with other sports networks to create FS1.
Scanlon moved on to create another auto channel, Velocity, for Discovery. That channel has since become MotorTrend Network.
After leaving Discovery, Scanlon scooped up the rights to Speedvision, which Fox had failed to renew.
Scanlon said that starting a FAST now is similar to starting a cable network back in the day. “The philosophy is the same,” Scanlon said. “The critical steps are to find an underserved audience, create — or, in this case, resurrect — a strong, recognized brand that has a following and then coalesce content that is respectful to that audience and respects their passion.”
He adds that it helps if the channel is in a category that is advertising friendly.
“Automotive clearly is. The endemics are great,” said Scanlon, who said that Velocity grew from 17 million subscribers and less than $20 million in revenue to 72 million homes and revenue of $130 million — all from advertising.
In those days, cable networks had to work to get distribution from hundreds of cable networks. Now getting distribution from streaming platforms is similar.
Built to Move Fast
“We get comments from platforms that we’re talking to complimenting us for the speed with which we were able to stand this up,” he said. And in social media and on message boards, viewers of auto programming can be found longing for the original Speedvision.
Scanlon said he can’t disclose how many people watch Speedvision because its distribution deals prevent it from sharing viewership data publicly.
At this point, Speedvision generates most of its revenue through revenue-sharing deals with distributors who sell ad time on the channel. It also has some deals with inventory splits and has retained a company to sell whatever time distributors haven’t sold.
“We’re confident the money will come,“ he said. “If you watch on any of the platforms we’re on, you’ll see that most of the advertising inventory is filled. There aren’t many of those countdown clocks on Speedvision that say, ‘We’ll be back in two minutes.’ ”