Deals Rev Up NASCAR’s Rights Purse


NASCAR is on victory lane after completing new eight-year deals with Fox/Speed Channel, Turner Network Television and ESPN/ABC Sports that rev up its annual TV rights fees by 40% over the current deal.

The agreements, worth a collective $4.5 billion, set the track for the stock-car racing circuit’s top-level Nextel Cup, its Busch Series and the Craftsman Truck Series from 2007 through 2014.

That compares with the $2.4 billion its current carriers are paying under the six-year pact expiring after next season.

According to network officials familiar with the deal, ESPN/ABC will allocate $270 million annually, with TNT earmarking between $80 million to $85 million. The combined Fox/Speed payout is in the $210 million range.

As part of the new lineup, Fox will air the first 13 races of each season and has parked exclusive rights to the sport’s centerpiece, the Daytona 500, which it had been alternately covering with NBC under the current contract. FX, which had been airing 18 Nextel and Busch Series events, is out of the mix. Speed gains the Nextel Cup Series All-Star Challenge and the Gatorade Duels that precede Daytona. Speed also retains the rights to the Craftsman Truck circuit, save for a pair of events that will run on Fox.

TNT, whose current partner, NBC, pulled out of the NASCAR negotiations in October, citing financial losses on the current pact, will air six consecutive Nextel races, after Fox’s run.

ESPN/ABC Sports has reentered the NASCAR rights race in a big way, securing the final 17 Nextel races, with the 10 making up the season-ending Chase for the Nextel Cup, all airing on the broadcaster. Moreover, ESPN2 is going to become the principal home to the second level Busch’s Series 35 races, which ABC/ESPN sports boss George Bodenheimer said on a conference call announcing the new pacts would become that network’s highest-rated series.

Turner Sports president David Levy is happy that NASCAR remains on TNT’s track. “We were looking for continuity and concurrency with the new deal,” he said.

“We got those things and marquee races, too,” he said, pointing to the retention of its highest-rated Dover, Del., race and the cable debut of the Pepsi 400, which airs in primetime on Fourth of July weekend.

At Speed, general manager Hunter Nickell is “fired up. This deal ensures that week in, week out, from the start of the season in January through its conclusion in November, we’re on the track and off the track with NASCAR.”