Roger Werner, Who Helped Rip-Off The Auto Channel to Start Speedvision, Is Back
Cox-sucker looks to cash in again on others' hard work
By Marc J. Rauch
Exec. Vice President/Co-Publisher
THE AUTO CHANNEL
Originally published November 2014 - republished today for fun
AUTO CENTRAL - November 5, 2014: In August 1994, after working for nearly a year with three of the top four American cable system operators (COX Cable, Comcast, and Continental cable systems) to launch THE AUTO CHANNEL television network, we received a letter from COX telling us that they were no longer interested in launching an automotive television network because they came to the conclusion that it wasn't a good idea. About six weeks later, COX issued a press release announcing that they were launching the Speedvision automotive television network.
Contained within the COX Speedvision press release was the announcement that Roger Werner - a bean counter who worked at ESPN - was heading up the new network. According to COX, the Speedvision concept was the brainchild of Werner. Within several weeks, COX announced that they were partnering with Comcast and Continental to launch Speedvision
In subsequent communication with The Auto Channel, COX claimed that it was Werner's superior concept that won them over, as compared to The Auto Channel's business plan, successful syndicated TV track record, program library, and industry relationships. The only problem with COX' claim was that Werner had no concept; he had no plan; he was hired to front the theft of intellectual property. The plan was to steal everything we created and shared with COX, Comcast and Continental. And they did.
They took our format, our programming, some of the relationships we had established with automotive print magazines, and some of our on-camera talent.
During the Federal litigation that commenced in 1996, shortly after Speedvision began broadcasting, we subpoenaed records from Roger Werner and the cable systems to produce all records and documents related to Werner's "original" concept; in other words, to prove that he was the originator of the concept that created Speedvision.
Werner, his associates, and the three cable systems were never able to produce any documentation that could prove that Werner was the creator. There was no formal business plan; there were no programming lists, there were no hand-written legal-size yellow pads with outlines; there weren't even any cocktail napkins with hastily scribbled notes. There was nothing to prove that the three cable systems were buying into anything that Werner originated, or that this automotive television network was the brain-child of Roger Werner.
Speedvision was a ripoff of The Auto Channel. Werner was often ballyhooed as the father of Speedvision, but he wasn't the father of Speedvision, I think the more accurate description is that he was the fraud of Speedvision. Eventually Werner was bought out of the deal and the cable systems sold Speedvision to FOX for a few hundred million dollars; subsequently the network name was shortened to Speed. We heard that Werner had become very rich (or became richer) for his performance. Last year FOX shuttered Speed in order to launch their new sports network. Industry comments for a few years were that Speedvision's programming costs had gotten out of hand, that their attempt to compete with "reality" themed programs was alienating the core audience and advertisers, that they had too many empty suits to keep fed, and that their NASCAR contracts were too expensive because the sport never lived up to its hype of becoming the next great national past-time.
Yesterday, on Tuesday night (Election Night), Werner issued a press release announcing that he was launching a new automotive television network to be called Torque TV. The press release states "...Torque TV is designed to reflect the original editorial intent that Werner had when he and his team built Speedvision..." and that it "...uses a similar programming menu as the original Speedvision."
In other words, Roger Werner is again relying on the work created by my business partner and I.
I think it's funny that even after having had some significant experience with running Speedvision for a few years, that the best that Werner can do is to again copy what we created. You'd think that he would say something like: "We've taken the best of what we learned from our Speedvision experience," rather than virtually admit that he knew nothing going in and learned nothing thereafter.
Whether Werner will have any success or not, I don't know. As compared to 20 years ago, when cable was still very much in it's infancy, there were no other automotive television outlets to be concerned with and there was no World Wide Web. Now there are a number of entities that have been in this space for many years; including The Auto Channel and what is the real surviving bastard-child of Speed, Discovery's Velocity. Hopefully Werner will come to experience the well-known joke that's told about motor sports...paraphrased for Werner, it's this: How do you make a small fortune in automotive television broadcasting, by starting with a large fortune.
It's been claimed (I think mostly by Werner) that Werner was responsible for ESPN's success and program development. If you'd like to see how unimportant he was to ESPN you can peruse "ESPN, the Uncensored History" by Michael Freeman, and "Sports Junkies Rejoice! - The Birth of ESPN" by Bill Rasmussen. The first book only contains three very brief mentions of Werner (with no credit for either programming or motor sports - Stephen Bornstein is identified as the "programming whiz"). The second book never mentions Roger Werner at all.
Fortunately for us, we've kept all of our records from how we created The Auto Channel in the 1980's and what we presented to the three cable systems in the early 1990's. If anyone would like to use the material for an expose' story or book we have a great suggested title: COX SUCKERS. And if Roger Werner's attorneys would like to see either our records or provide me with any of the business plan documents he failed to produce under subpoena, I'd love to read them.
Below is the original promo video we presented to Cox, Comcast and Continental cable systems:
EPILOGUE - Torque TV was effectively gone six months later when it was acquired and left to expire.