By: Jon Lafayette( Broadcasting & Cable ) published about 13 hours ago
Original article: https://www.nexttv.com/news/year-old-speedvision-revs-up-distribution-with-sling-tv-deal-before-planning-to-raise
Network plans shift to direct ad sales
In its first lap around the industry, year-old Speedvision has managed to fill up its tank with high-octane streaming platform distribution deals.
Those deals are on top of Amazon Prime Video, Amazon Freevee, Fubo, PLuex, Local Now, Sports.tv, theGrio, LG Channels, TCL, Redbox, Vidaa and Xumo Play, the joint venture of Charter Communications and Comcast.
Speedvision is adding distribution overseas as well, with a deal that puts it on Samsung Smart TV’s in the European Union. It was already up and running on Amazon in the U.K.
“To be honest, it has happened and it has become successful much more quickly and much bigger than we expected,” Bob Scanlon, president and CEO of Speedvision, told Broadcasting+Cable. “The auto-passionate audience has really embraced this brand.”
Michael Senzon, president of digital for Local Now owner Allen Media Group, said: “Local Now has created one of the most robust channel offerings to meet users in their passion areas. Speedvision is an excellent example of this, as they have a passionate and engaged fan base. Viewer engagement has been a huge plus for Speedvision on Local Now and we are excited to continue our partnership with Speedvision to bring our loyal viewers free premium automotive content.“
Scanlon, who drives a street-legal Shelby Mustang CT350R, is auto-passionate himself and familiar with the ups and downs of launching a car channel.
He was part of the team that launched the original Speedvision as a cable network in 1995. Speedvision was sold to Fox, renamed Speed Channel and eventually folded into FS1. He also started up Velocity, now known as MotorTrend Channel, for Discovery.
Relaunching Speedvision as a free ad-supported streaming channel put Scanlon in a new lane.
“This whole FAST business is new and emerging,“ he said. “It’s something like the Wild West, but for us it was the perfect match with the recognized brand we’ve got, an existing affinity audience and we are incredibly ad-friendly.”
Scanlon relaunched Speedvision backed by an investor group that included people who are familiar with the auto world, including Wayne Carini, Mark Worman and the wrestler Bill Goldberg. Goldberg is building a garage for his cars that will include a studio where he will produce programming for Speedvision.
“We spend the money like our own, because it is our own,” Scanlon said.
Scanlon expects to raise more funds for the network in 2024.
“Our goal is we’ve got a couple more boxes to tick on distribution. At that point, we’ll probably go out for an A-round,” he said.
“We’re being approached now, as you can appreciate, by some companies and individuals that appear to have some strategic value to us,” Scanlon said. “We’re just holding them off. We want to get this distribution matrix completely finished, which makes us an even more attractive target.”
Speedvision is also looking for other forms of distribution, including over-the-air. It’s having talks with station groups and might also be open to programming blocks on established linear channels, Scanlon said.
Scanlon said he couldn’t share the numbers he gets from distributors about how many people are watching Speedvision.
One data point he could divulge was that viewers were tuning in for an average of almost 50 minutes per visit. That sizable length of tune-in is appealing to sponsors.
“Advertisers are going to want to fully jump into this thing as soon as we have a little more distribution,” said Joe Abruzzese, the former president of ad sales at CBS and Discovery who is working with Speedvision and Scanlon, his colleague when Scanlon was building Velocity for Discovery.
“We haven’t even started with integrating products into the shows yet,” Abruzzese said.
At this point, most of the advertising on Speedvision is being sold programmatically by distributors. Some of the inventory left unsold by distributors is being sold for Speedvision by 47 Samurai.
But Scanlon said that there are provisions in some of Speedvision’s distribution agreements that allow it to claw back inventory that the network can sell.
“Eventually this is going to morph into a direct sales platform, as opposed to programming,“ Scanlon said. “It has to. We’re leaving so much money on the table when this category is so rife with advertisers who want to put product into shows.”
Automakers have commercials on the network, but they buy programmatically, with dealers making regional buys, Scanlon said.
“They’re allocating significant budgets to this new world of digital,” he said. “The programmatic sales model lets them drill down to your household to find out what you drive and who’s got an older car and might be in the market for a new one.”
Speedvision has made some sponsorship deals, including on with McKee’s 37 (formerly Auto Geek). It also had discussions with the Big Green Egg Barbecue Co. about a tailgating promotion. “We are so good at delivering upscale men,” Scanlon said.
Scanlon said that while some FAST channels run the same programs for days and weeks at a time, Speedvision is being programmed more like a traditional cable network, with a mix of content designed to bring viewers back to the channel.
The network currently features titles including Graveyard Carz Classics, AmeriCarna, Caffeine and Octane, Radford Reborn, Stacey David’s Gearz, Zero to Sixty and Two Guys Garage, fronted by a roster of well-known talent and experts.
“We’ve got garage shows; we’ve got historical shows,“ he said. “We’re in the lifestyle pace quite and bit and we’ve got documentaries. We’re going to start to pursue some auction content in 2024.”