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Velocity Likes the Smell of New Cars

Discovery cable network goes where the ratings (and guys) are

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Velocity is picking up speed.

Next week, it’ll be a year since guy-centric cable network Velocity rebranded from HD Theater with svp of Velocity Bob Scanlon at the helm (and if you need a gearhead TV exec, Scanlon, formerly of motorsports network Speed, is your guy), and its decision to serve affluent men is attracting sponsors as its programming slate grows.

“We’re going to produce more than 300 hours of new, original programming in 2013,” said Scanlon. One of the more promising projects in the pipeline is AMS Pictures’ Car Sharks, a new series á la Storage Wars in which prospective car dealers get one minute to look over a vehicle—no getting inside, no turning it on—before bidding begins. And there’s Fischer Productions’ Kings of Crash, which follows a pair of feudin’ families in Utah (seriously—one dude goes by “The Mormon Maniac”) who are bitter rivals in the local demolition derby.

If you’re seeing a theme here, it’s probably not (just) the gasoline fumes. Because car-themed programming drove HD Theater’s highest ratings, an auto-heavy slate was almost a given at Velocity. That said, parent Discovery Communications had flirted with turbocharging Velocity’s launch with a major sports franchise, making preliminary overtures into an NHL package last spring (but bowing out before making a formal offer).

The auto strategy continues to hum along, as Velocity has picked up 44 new advertisers, 23 of which are new to Discovery.

Several of the network’s newcomers are heavyweights—Kraft, Volkswagen, at least one major beverage company—but many are endemics. (Bosch Spark Plugs, Mothers Car Polish and others were drawn in by Velocity’s eagerness to try out integrations and custom spots.)

Some of the new advertisers are new to television altogether. “Bosch didn’t even have a commercial or buy national television at all,” said Velocity ad sales vp Daniel Hahn, who estimates that more than half of the net’s ad sales revenue comes from the auto aftermarket category.

Per Nielsen, Velocity averages 30,000 men 18-49 in prime time. With an overall reach of 42 million homes, the network has miles of distribution highway ahead of it.