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Women Are Getting Behind The Wheel of Motor Week

Published Dec 6th 2006, 8:02pm by Jody DeVere in Featured Articles

Driving_force On Mondays, television viewers can watch three beautiful sisters take to the drag strip in A&E's “Driving Force.”

On Tuesdays and Wednesdays, vehicles are revamped on The Living Channel's “Overhaulin”' and “Rides.” Thursdays bring MTV's “Pimp My Ride,” and weekends offer PBS' “MotorWeek,” Spike TV's “Muscle Cars” and A&E's “King of Cars.”

And for those who really can't get enough automotive programming, there's the 24-hour-a-day Speed cable channel.

Gearheads or not, Americans today are being offered an ever wider variety of shows about cars.

A few aim to educate and inform: There's comprehensive “how-to” advice on car restoration on “My Classic Car” (the Speed Channel) and serious test drives of new vehicles on “MotorWeek.”

Pimpmyride But many of the newer automotive shows, such as “Pimp My Ride,” seek, in entertaining fashion, to combine a love of cars with the latest television trends, including lifestyle and reality TV.

“Automotive and motorcycle television is a well-established genre” now, said Roger L. Werner Jr., an owner of WATV Productions, which creates vehicle-related programs, including “Truck Stop,” which aired on ESPN2 earlier this year. “It has a proven track record of generating ratings, sponsorship dollars and loyal fans.”

Werner was an executive at the ESPN sports cable network in 1980 when automotive programming was in short supply. He helped push for more — as well as for the 24-hour-a-day auto channel originally called SpeedVision.

“I think what I saw was simply a reflection of my own tastes and the recognition that there was very little on television anywhere to serve my appetite as a baby-boomer gearhead kid who grew up with cars and bikes, and was a hot rodder and an SCCA (Sports Car Club of America) racer and everything else,” he said.

“I thought, 'There are hundreds of thousands of guys like me. There has to be a big opportunity here to build a franchise.”'

Race forward to today.

SpeedVision, renamed Speed, is now owned by Fox.

“The industry kind of figured out that there was something big here about the time SpeedVision turned 5 years old,” said Werner, who co-owns WATV Productions in Los Angeles with partner Lenny Shabes.

John Davis, host of the 25-year-old magazine show “MotorWeek,” which airs on both PBS and the Speed Channel, said about a third of his audience “will watch anything about cars.”

“Another third is industry professionals, and the rest are people who are considering buying a new car,” Davis said.

He said 25 percent to 35 percent of “MotorWeek's” viewers are women — “unusually high for automotive television,” Davis said.

At MTV, “Pimp My Ride” is a half-hour in which cars are customized to fit their owners' lifestyles. A dilapidated sedan, for example, might be repainted and tricked out with a digital camera in the visor and a photo printer in the dashboard.

Driving_force_girls Meantime, in “Driving Force,” drag racing champion John Force mixes time on the racetrack and time with his family: three grown daughters and an estranged wife. In one episode, for instance, the daughters, formidable drivers themselves, prefer to spend time with their boyfriends rather than take a family vacation.

John Higgins, business editor for Broadcasting and Cable magazine, attributed the growth in automotive TV shows to economics. Many car shows are cheap to produce, he said. They “can be done for $100,000 to $150,000 per hour. By comparison, a broadcast network sitcom will cost $1.3 million per half hour.”

Nascar_3 To be sure, no automotive show, save for some big NASCAR races, has approached the kind of audience numbers that network TV hits garner. But, Higgins said, “just about any car show can find a small, core audience of enthusiasts.”

And viewers don't have to be gearheads.

“Even I Tivo “Pimp My Ride,' and I don't even have a driver's license,” he said. “New York is full of us.”

By For The Associated Press, Job

Published on 12/2/2006 in  Wheels » Wheels National

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