Velocity, the upscale malefocused network from Discovery Communications, is planning more than 400 hours of original programming in 2013-14, a 30% increase over last season, highlighted by a car culture series with racing stars Jeff Gordon and Ray Evernham to premiere next January.
At its New York upfront event on April 4, Velocity will announce the new series Americarna hosted by Evernham, Gordon’s NASCAR crew chief-turned-team owner, in which he travels the country finding vintage cars. Those scenes will be paired with historical footage and interviews detailing stories of auto history that impacted American culture.
Episodes will explore subjects such as the dirt road races of 1930s North Carolina bootleggers (the genesis of modern NASCAR racing) and the drag strips of Southern California in the 1950s. Friends including Gordon will appear to add historical perspective or drive the restored cars. The series premieres Jan. 28 at 10:30 p.m., following a new season of Chasing Classic Cars.
Classic Cars is one of nine returning series on Velocity’s slate. The others are Fifth Gear, Overhaulin’ and Motorweek, which return in October along with Chasing Classic Cars; January’s Wheeler Dealers; Kings of Crash and What’s In the Barn? (March 2014); Fantomworks (May 2014) and Dallas Car Sharks (June 2014).
While returning series form the basis of the network’s next season, Velocity execs are working on developing companion shows to help grow the schedule. “What we’re trying to do is take the formulas that work in those 10 series and then either take a character or take the story line editorial and branch it off and try to create a new following series that could hold that night and time slot,” says Bob Scanlon, senior VP, Velocity.
The new and returning series will be supplemented with more than 200 live hours of programming, with new editions of Mecum Auto Auctions each quarter. Mecum hosts live events in Chicago Oct. 25-26; in Anaheim, Calif., Nov. 21-23; and in Kansas City Dec. 5-7. In 2014, Mecum travels to Kissimmee, Fla.; Houston; Kansas City; Indianapolis; Monterey, Calif.; and Dallas.
The 10 Mecum events are up from eight last year, with more days planned for each city as well. Live programming has been a ratings driver and helped make the first quarter Velocity’s best-rated quarter ever. “It really does well,” Scanlon says. “It’s one of those things—pardon the pun— like watching a car wreck. People turn it on and they can’t stop watching because there’s always one more car coming.”
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