By Barry Janoff
July 23, 2013: Nascar is a hot property, but it was the burgeoning ratings of Sunday Night Football that helped seal a deal with NBC Sports.
The racing circuit Monday unveiled a ten-year with NBC Sports Group, a division of NBCUniversal, for exclusive rights beginning in 2015 to the last 20 races each season in the Nascar Sprint Cup Series and the final 19 races in the Nationwide Series.
The new alliance returns NBC Sports to the Nascar track while signaling an end to broadcast alliances with ESPN and Turner. Nascar will continue to air on Fox and may even increase the coverage with Fox Sports.
Financial terms of the NBC deal were not disclosed. Industry analysts said it would surpass the deal Nascar and Fox signed last year, an eight-year extension for $2.4 billion beginning in 2015, which covers the first half of Nascar's Sprint Cup Series.
Nascar said that the presence of major sports programming on NBC, led by the highly rated NFL Sunday Night Football, impacted the decision. NBC said that seven races would air on Sunday afternoons, with the others to air on the NBC Sports Network.
NBC will have the opportunity to unveil marketing for its Nascar package this February during its coverage of the 2014 Winter Olympics from Sochi.
“We’re going to have the opportunity as we get into the fall season and the Chase for the Nascar Sprint Cup to be on Sunday afternoons leading into NFL football, and that’s an exciting opportunity for us, given the obvious power of the NFL," Steve Herbst, vp-broadcasting and production for Nascar, said during a media conference call. "We still have a ways to go to figure out what races and when, but it will be select races that go into Sunday Night Football.’’
"NBC is known for being an exceptional partner and delivering outstanding production quality and presentation of live sports, as well as its broad portfolio of broadcast and digital properties, so we are thrilled with the commitment they have made to Nascar and its future," Brian France, Nascar chairman, said during the media conference call.
The NBC pact also includes broadcast rights to the Nascar Hall of Fame ceremony and other post-season ceremonies, as well as rights to specific Nascar events. These include the K&N Series, Whelen Modified Tour and Toyota-Mexico races.
In addition, NBC Sports gets "TV Everywhere" live-streaming rights for the Sprint Cup Series and Nationwide Series, Spanish-language broadcast rights on Telemundo and Mun2 for national series events and the Toyota-Mexico Series races, according to Nascar.
NBC had been a Nascar broadcast partner in the recent past. It broadcast the second half of the Sprint Cup and Nationwide seasons from 2001-2006 in conjunction with Turner Sports, season finales in 1999 and 2000 and the Daytona 500 in 2002, 2004 and 2006.
ESPN, which has been a Nascar broadcast partner since the early 1960s (via its ABC sibling) through 2002 and then again since 2007, would continue to air the final 17 Cup races this season (beginning Sunday with the Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis) and in 2014, in addition to the complete Nationwide Series schedule.
"ESPN has enjoyed a long and mutually beneficial relationship with Nascar," ESPN president John Skipper said in a statement. "We have tremendous respect for the France family, the drivers and all in the sport and wish them well. We will continue to serve Nascar fans through 'SportsCenter' and our other news platforms as we continue to enhance our industry-leading collection of quality assets."
"To be on Sunday afternoons leading into NFL [Sunday Night Football], and that’s an exciting opportunity for us, given the obvious power of the NFL."
Turner Sports has completed its Nascar schedule for 2013 and will still have the broadcast rights for six races in 2014. Turner has been a Nascar partner since 2001.
According to Herbst, “[NBC's] football package on Sunday night is the number one show on television, and along with the Kentucky Derby and the Triple Crown, of course the NHL and the Stanley Cup playoffs, the French Open, they are the home to championship programming and we’ll be promoted and marketed and shown alongside those top tier events is a great day for Nascar."
“Acquiring the rights and bringing Nascar back to NBC comes at an important point in time for NBC Sports Network, NBC, and all of our distributors and affiliates,” said Mark Lazurus, NBC Sports Group chairman. “We look forward to working with Brian and his management team, who have brought a renewed focus to Nascar's intersection of sports and technology.”