Speed Revs Up Originals

Speed Channel is gearing up for its most aggressive year to date, in terms of original lifestyle programming.

The network, set to drop the flag on Speed HD with more than 100 hours of NASCAR coverage from the Daytona Speedweeks in February, will complement those enhanced signal efforts by unveiling five new lifestyle shows that month. During the same span, a revamped SpeedTV.com will go live.

The planned premieres of Livin' the Low Life, Drag Race High, SuperCars Exposed, Pinks All Outtakes and Pass Time, all in the 720p high-definition format, follow the success Speed has enjoyed with other original fare.

“Over the past 24 months, we've continued to build our base of originals to support our NASCAR and other competition programming,” Speed president Hunter Nickell said. “Lifestyle shows like Pinks and Pinks: All Out and SuperBikes! have brought younger viewers to Speed. In 2008, we're going to be more ambitious than ever with originals.”

Drag Race High and Pass Time both emerged from Speed's Sunday-night programming incubator block, dubbed “Launch Hour.”

Drag Race High pits technical-education classes from rival Tennessee high schools, each of which is given $10,000 to purchase a car and turn into a full-out racer. Speed ordered six 30-minute installments.

Meanwhile, Speed, part of the Fox Cable Networks crew, enters the game-show genre with Pass Time. Aided by host Brett “The Big Schwag” Wagner, contestants attempt to guess how fast 10 cars will run the quarter mile, winning cash along the way.

“Who would have thought Speed would air a game show?” said Nickell. “It tested well during a Launch Hour experiment and we'll see how it plays out. Fans always like to guess how fast cars are going.”

Although it has not finalized plans, Speed is considering stripping the show Monday through Thursdays at 7:30 p.m. and 11 p.m.

Calling SuperCars Exposed an extension, Nickell said Speed hopes to drag on the success of SuperBikes!, which will drive for a third season. The newcomer, from the producers of its progenitor, will give viewers a look at the men and women who build their own street vehicles and center their lives on these hyper-performance automobiles.

Hosted by model Vida Guerra, Livin' the Low Life examines the low-rider scene and culture that dates to barrios in East Los Angeles and El Paso, Texas, of the late 1930s, when Mexican-Americans began dropping Chevys to street-scraping levels.

Elsewhere, the “Castrol Engine Block,” Speed's weekend morning lineup of automotive how-to and lifestyle fare, will be tuned up with Gearz and the return of Hot Rod TV.

Additionally, Speed has new seasons of Pinks (season five), Pinks All Out (two) and American Thunder (13) under its hood.

Under development for spring release: 101 Cars You Must Drive. At press time, Speed continued to negotiate with Adam Carolla (Comedy Central's The Man Show) about hosting duties.