FAQ: Fox Sports 1 and Speed in Canada

Fox Sports 1 is launching in the United States today, replacing Speed on the dial on most US cable and satellite providers. This has caused confusion among Canadians wondering if we will receive Fox Sports 1 instead of Speed as well. So, I’ve pulled together a list of questions people have asked me over the past few weeks into this post. I hope it clears everything up a bit. I have received official word from media relations at Fox Sports/Speed on this, so these are not just guesses. If you have any other questions, ask away in the comments and I’ll update this post to include them.

First here is a rundown of the official word I’ve heard from Fox Sports/Speed on the situation.

Canada, among other countries, will continue to get Speed after Fox Sports 1 launches in the United States. It will still be called Speed and carry the same live programming. This live programming will come from Fox Sports 1 in the States.

Oh, and please don’t ask a question without reading this first. Mostly everything should be covered.

Q: Will Fox Sports 1 be available in Canada?

A: No. Fox Sports 1 is not regulated for carriage in Canada, similar to other general interest sports channels such as ESPN and NBC Sports Network.

Q: Will Speed still be available in Canada?

A: Yes. Speed will continue relatively unchanged in Canada. In the US most of Speed’s live NASCAR, Moto GP, Rolex Sports Car Series, Whelen Modified Tour, V8 Supercars and Barrett-Jackson Auctions. This coverage will continue to air in Canada on Speed. NASCAR Race Hub, which continues on Fox Sports 1, will also continue to air on Speed (nightly at 6pm ET). As will NASCAR Raceday and Victory Lane. Some other studio programming including Wind Tunnel and Speed Center are no longer produced, so they won’t air on Speed.

Q: Why isn’t Fox Sports 1 available?

A: There are a few reasons. It isn’t licensed for Canadian carriage. Speed’s license specifically states that it is a motorsports channel. It cannot air other sports because then it would no longer be a niche channel and it would compete with TSN and Sportsnet. This goes against CRTC regulation which prohibit a US-owned specialty channel from directly competing with a Canadian-owned specialty channel.

Q: But when The Nashville Network re-branded as Spike it was still available?

This is a common question, and a good one. TNN completely changed its style of programming when it rebranded as Spike, and almost was removed from the CRTC’s list of approved channels because of this. The difference here is Fox Sports 1 is NOT a rebrand of Speed, but a completely new channel. Speed is shutting down, Fox Sports 1 is replacing it. Any American providers who want to carry Fox Sports 1 have to negotiate a new contract, even if they already have an existing contract for Speed. The same applies for Canada, where in order for Fox Sports 1 to be carried here, a Canadian provider would have to apply to the CRTC asking for it.

Q: I want to see Fox Sports 1 programming, why is the CRTC denying me this right?

Most of FS1’s programming is available in Canada. In fact more of FS1’s programming will be available in Canada than ESPN. All of the UEFA Champions League and UEFA Europa League matches will air on Sportsnet. Every UFC fight, as well as other UFC programs and The Ultimate Fighter will air on Sportsnet 360. As previously mentioned motorsports programming will still air on Speed. Some college football coverage (featuring Pac-12 and Big 12) will air on Sportsnet 360 and Sportsnet ONE.

Those are the generic commonly asked questions I’ve thrown together. Here are some specific ones from readers.

QSeems Rogers or Bell would be smart enough to include FS1 in some package, given the obvious demand?

No because it is not approved for carriage here. I’m not even sure the demand would be that great if fans realised that FS1 programming would mostly be blacked out due to Canadian broadcasters (usually Sportsnet) owning exclusive rights here (similar to Thursday Night Football on NFL Network or F1 on Speed). Except for Fox Sports Live (Jay & Dan’s new show), which there is demand for in Canada, FS1 isn’t providing a lot of programming that isn’t otherwise available in Canada.

Q: How much college football that would be on FS1 will end up on SN360?

I don’t have an exact answer on this yet, but Sportsnet will probably have a schedule available sometime in the next couple weeks, so check back then.

Q: When can I see Jay and Dan on Canadian TV again?

No Canadian network has released any plans to show Fox Sports Live (Jay and Dan’s new show). However, the pair have released a new (video) podcast that is available in Canada. You can watch it here. In the podcast Dan offered that he heard “it might happen”, referring to the new show airing here. However, a bunch of their clips will get uploaded to YouTube and FoxSportsLive.com.

Q: My cable/satellite on-screen guide says something different than you?

On-screen guides are done by a independent third party (neither Speed nor the cable companies). There are often mistakes, especially in a situation such as this.

An Update on the Fate of Speed in Canada

As I originally reported Sunday, on August 17 when Fox Sports 1 launches in America, Speed will continue to broadcast in Canada. However, advance listings now show that Speed will broadcast motorsports programming from Fox Sports 1 and Fox Sports 2 in Canada, instead of the endless repeats that will air on a watered-down version of the channel for American providers who haven’t signed on to carry Fox Sports 1 yet. Usually the CRTC doesn’t allow American-owned services to broadcast a specific channel for Canadians; however, it seems that’s what Speed will do beginning on August 17.

Speed Canada’s updated advance listings for the launch weekend of Fox Sports 1 include these live broadcasts. US broadcaster is in brackets.

Saturday 8/17
8:00am – NASCAR Live: Michigan (FS1)
8:30am – Sprint Cup Practice: Michigan (FS1)
9:30am – Truck Series Qualifying: Michigan (FS1)
11:00am – Sprint Cup Practice: Michigan (FS1)
12:00pm – Truck Series Setup: Michigan (FS1)
12:30pm – Truck Series Racing: Michigan (FS1)
3:00pm – Continental Tire Series: Road America – debut (FS2)
5:00pm – Motorcycle Racing: Miller Motorsports Park (FS2)
9:00pm – MotoGP Qualifying: Indianapolis (presumably FS2)

Sunday 8/18
10:00am – NASCAR Raceday: Michigan (FS1)
11:00am – Moto3 Racing: Indianapolis (FS1)
12:00pm – Moto2 Racing: Indianapolis (FS1)
1:30pm – MotoGP Trackside: Indianapolis (FS1)
2:00pm – MotoGP Racing: Indianapolis (FS1)
7:00pm – NASCAR Victory Lane: Michigan (FS1)

Speed Canada will also air Fox Sports 1’s daily NASCAR show Race Hub weeknights at 6pm ET.

What is most interesting is some Fox Sports 2 (which is replacing Fuel TV on August 17) programming, including some things that aired on Fuel TV in the past, such as Lucas Oil Motocross, will now air on Speed.

So, that’s the latest. Better news than I had to report earlier in the week. I’ve reached out to Fox Sports for more information, and if I get any I’ll post another update. For now, here is where all of FS1’s live programming on August 17 will air in Canada.

8:00am – NASCAR Live: Michigan (Speed)
8:30am – Sprint Cup Practice: Michigan (Speed)
9:30am – Truck Series Qualifying: Michigan (Speed)
11:00am – Sprint Cup Practice: Michigan (Speed)
12:00pm – Truck Series Setup: Michigan (Speed)
12:30pm – Truck Series Racing: Michigan (Speed)
5:00pm – UFC Fight Night Prelims (SN360)
8:00pm – UFC Fight Night: Shogun v. Sonnen (SN360)

What Speed Becomes in Canada on August 17th

Edit as of 8/7: It seems the news isn’t so dire for Canadian motorsport fans. The advanced listings that were available at the time of this post are now updated and it seems Speed will continue to broadcast motorsport programming from Fox Sports 1 in Canada. Fox Sports 1 will not be available in Canada. See here for more information.

It’s the news Canadian sports fans have waited for since Fox Sports 1 was officially unveiled in the winter; however, it isn’t the news any were hoping for. Even auto racing fans who held out faint hope for continued coverage of NASCAR practice, Moto GP, V8 Supercars and other forms of auto racing won’t like what will become of Speed in Canada on August 17th, when Fox Sports 1 launches in America. The last program that Speed will show is an encore of NASCAR qualifying from Michigan from 4-6am ET. Then Canadians will get endless repeats of mostly non-racing or automobile shows. All day. Every day. August 17th features Pass Time, Pumped, Wrecked, Hard Parts, Unique Whips and an encore of the Barrett-Jackson Auction from January. Sunday features many of the same shows with RU Faster Than a Redneck, Drag Race High, Pinks and Unique Whips joining the schedule.

The impact of this on Canadian sports broadcasting is actually quite striking and far-reaching. Immediately it means NASCAR fans will not see Sprint Cup Saturday practice or the Truck Series race at Michigan on August 17. Nor will they see signature Speed programs NASCAR Raceday or NASCAR Victory Lane on August 18. Both of those are are moving to Fox Sports 1. The Moto GP race at Indianapolis, another Speed staple, will also not air in Canada.

Something else that is interesting is how Fox Sports 1 is replacing Speed in the United States. Notice I said replacing. This is not a straightforward re-brand. Speed will go off the air, Fox Sports 1 will replace it.  Fox is negotiating new contracts with American providers for Fox Sports 1, hoping for higher subscriber fees than they could collect for a niche channel like Speed. So the channel that is approved for Canada is effectively shutting down in the States, while a new channel (which is not approved for Canada) is launching. So, Fox would have to apply to the CRTC for approval of Fox Sports 1, which certainly wouldn’t be granted considering it will compete with the TSN and Sportsnet networks. Remember how confused and mad Canadians were when WTBS became Peachtree TV in October 2007?  While this is a different situation it will likely lead to the same result.

It is important to note that the only Canadians losing out are those who want to watch programming which has previously exclusively aired on Speed in Canada, such as the programs previously mentioned; or Fox’s new studio show, such as the new Fox Sports Live featuring former SportsCentre anchors Jay Onrait and Dan O’Toole. Canadians looking for most of Fox Sport 1’s other programming will find it on Canadian channels Sportsnet and TSN. The first UFC on Fox Sports 1 card on August 17th will air on Sportsnet 360, as will other UFC programming and The Ultimate Fighter. In fact Sportsnet owns rights to most of Fox Sports 1’s programming including UEFA soccer, college football and basketball from the Big 12 and Pac-12. Sportsnet will also have rights to the MLB games that Fox Sports 1 begins showing in 2014. And the 7 Sprint Cup races Fox Sports 1 has from 2015 will surely land on Canadian TV as well, just as every Sprint Cup race does now.

However, it does seem that Speed will (somehow) continue to broadcast new Barrett-Jackson Auctions live in Canada. Here is a quote from the press release announcing the auctions will continue to air on the Fox family of networks after the launch of Fox Sports 1.

For Canadian viewers, the SPEED brand will remain, and the new FOX Sports coverage of Barrett-Jackson will be broadcast on the network as usual. The transition of another FOX network, FUEL TV, to FOX Sports 2 will also happen in August and will play a role in future Barrett-Jackson programs.

ESPN FC... ESPN is launching a new daily soccer show on August 12. It will air weekdays at 5:30pm ET on TSN2 in Canada. Considering ESPN doesn’t air the Premiership or Champions League, and is losing FIFA rights after next year, I give them credit for finally launching a daily soccer show. And in the evening to show fresh Champions League and other weekday highlights. Dan Thomas and Max Bretos will share the hosting duties. The list of analysts (of which there are 23) includes familiar names Craig Burley (who is moving to the US to become the primary analyst for the show), Ian Darke, Steve McManaman, Derek Rae, Stewart Robson, Sid Lowe, Gabriele Marcotti, Raphael Honigstein, and others.

Onrait and O’Toole A Good Hire for Fox

Onrait and O'Toole with the Prime Minister at last November's Grey Cup (credit: PMO/Jason Ransom)

Onrait and O’Toole with the Prime Minister at last November’s Grey Cup (credit: PMO/Jason Ransom)

Fox aims to do the unthinkable when it launches Fox Sports 1 this August, overtake ESPN as the most watched sports channel in America. And it certainly has a chance. At launch it has MLB (beginning in 2014), NASCAR (including Sprint Cup races in 2015), college football and hoops, just like ESPN. Fox Sports also has UEFA Champions League and FIFA tournaments beginning in 2015. All Fox is missing out on are the big events (minus the World Cup) that ESPN and Turner’s TNT have. ESPN has the BCS, Turner has March Madness. ESPN has weekday coverage of three of golf’s majors, TNT has the other. ESPN also has all four tennis Grand Slams.

Due to the long-term nature of broadcast contracts, there isn’t a lot more Fox can do to compete with ESPN. They can compete with ESPN’s highlight programs though. Late Friday news came that the faces of TSN’s SportsCentre, Jay Onrait and Dan O’Toole, were leaving TSN for new jobs in Los Angeles along with “Producer Tim”. It was quickly confirmed, as I initially speculated, that these jobs were at Fox for the new nightly news show “Fox Sports Live”, which will air weeknights from from 11pm until 2am Eastern. The new program will compete directly with ESPN’s SportsCenter, something that sports channels in the US are usually reluctant to do.

While SportsCenter is incredibly popular, it does have its faults. There is certainly a base in American looking for something new and refreshing. Fox is known for going against the establishment and trying new things, and gimmicks, in sports broadcasting. Some, like the FoxBox, have stuck. Others, like the glowing puck, not so much. Onrait and O’Toole certainly fit the Fox ideal of different, and yes, at times gimmicky. Not that it usually detracts from their broadcasts. After Keith Olbermann and Dan Patrick, who also called their SportsCenter “The Big Show”, ESPN would never go for a duo potentially bigger than the network like Onrait and O’Toole.

Last year The Wall Street Journal wrote an article on Onrait and O’Toole asking “Why Can’t We Have Canada’s SportsCentre?”. Now you do, America. And before anyone asks, no I do not know if Fox Sports 1 will be available in Canada.

theScore to Rogers… Last Tuesday the CRTC finalized the sale of theScore Television Network to Rogers. Sportsnet immediately took control of it, although it will go by theScore until a rebrand on Canada Day. Live @ theScore and the Footy Show both ended Monday, without so much as a goodbye. You can read Kristian Jack and James Sharman’s final thoughts on the Footy Show here. A new “Hockey Central Xtra” replaced Live @, airing from 5-6pm Eastern on weeknights with a mix of theScore and Sportsnet on-air talent. Tim and Sid returned to theScore with a simulcast of their Fan 590 radio show on Wednesday. In other immediate changes Monday Night Raw is now live and theScore will have 8 Toronto FC matches this season.

Rogers valued the transaction at $172 million, while Rogers will contribute $17.1 million to a tangible-benefits package for amateur sports in Canada. The CRTC did deny Rogers’ idea of using the tangible benefits package to create a Canadian version of the X Games. The CRTC’s main problem is that in the broadcasting community, Rogers would exclusively benefit from the “Sportsnet Winter Games”. I agree. What’s the point in a required investment to improve amateur sports and broadcasting in Canada if the company paying is the lone company to benefit? As a result, Rogers must submit an alternative plan by the end of the month.

What interests me are the interventions put forward by other media companies. Eastlink asked the CRTC to reclassify theScore as a “mainstream sports service”, similar to TSN, TSN2 or Sportsnet ONE. The CRTC opened up this sector to Canadian competition a few years ago. Previously TSN had protection. theScore enjoys similar protection as a sports news service. Unless Eastlink plans on launching a sports news channel, which seems unlikely, I find this is an odd intervention. Bell’s intervention was also interesting. Bell wanted the new license to include a condition to prevent theScore from tape-delaying programming by 15 minutes to get around live-programming rules imposed on it. theScore has previously done this with Serie A soccer and WWE.

I expect theScore will continue to air mostly basketball, soccer, WWE and college/university/amateur sports. The channel has found a niche with these sports, and I think for the most part Rogers will continue this. Rogers has already bought rights to FIBA basketball tournaments for theScore. Sportsnet has rights to CIS football and basketball games that air on Fox and Fox Sports 1 in the US. The CIS Hockey Championship would also make sense for theScore. There’s also always more room for UEFA Champions League group stage matches. WWE will continue to anchor theScore’s line-up on Monday and Friday. Regardless of whether it’s a sport, it is theScore’s highest-rated program. It consistently competes with Monday Night Football for the best cable ratings on Mondays in the fall. Limitations on the amount of live sports broadcasts will limit how many live games can air on theScore.

One thing I think Sportsnet really needs to capitalize on is the Footy Show’s popularity, even if it is gone. James Sharman, Kristian Jack, Brendan Dunlop, John Molinaro, and Thomas Dobby are all working for the same company again. The best time period for the podcast is when they were on it, in my opinion. Either a podcast or radio show would be great.

Late Starts… Anyone reading this live in St. Louis, Chicago or Minnesota? I hate the idea of 8:30pm local starts in the playoffs just for TV. The NBA does it regularly, but the NHL only started this year. I think one reason for this, aside from pleasing CBC and NBC, is to test the waters for next season when the divisional playoff format begins. One or two series in next year’s first round will feature two Central Time teams. That will create headaches for the NHL with three-quarters of all playoff games in the Eastern or Central time zones. Moving to an NBA-style schedule is one way to fix it. In other news, puckdrop of game 5 of the Kings-Blues series will be at 9pm Eastern, which means CBC will have to miss the first period since it conflicts with the Leafs-Bruins game. No word if cable/satellite providers will make this game available on an alternate channel yet.

Dowbiggin GoneToronto Sports Media is reporting that the Globe & Mail will not re-new Bruce Dowbiggin’s contract. I have heard the same thing. While Bruce could, at times, write a good piece on sports media, I thought his columns took a sharp dive when he began writing mostly about hockey and sports in general. Since Dowbiggin does love to include Tweets in his columns, here’s one to prove my point:

Now before I get into a rant defending Gryba (not on the hit, but in general), I just want to say he had a +28 rating in the minors this year. He was -3 logging 20 minutes a game for the Senators during the regular season. He blocked more than a shot a game, good enough for tenth among rookies. As this Ottawa Citizen article points out, you can’t judge Gryba (or many other defensemen) by their offensive output. Seems obvious, but isn’t to everyone I guess.

The Globe will have other writers write about sports media when needed. Media columnist Steve Ladurantaye already writes about sports media from time to time, while soccer columnist John Doyle has written about Fox Soccer Report and (the lack of) beIN Sport in Canada. While it is sad to see the last regular sports media in a mainstream paper, it wasn’t the same since Bill Houston retired and the Star axed Chris Zelkovich’s column anyway.