TNT to Drive NASCAR Digitally

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Turner Sports New Media will continue to steer NASCAR’s digital course for at least a couple more years.

The company, by exercising an option, will continue to operate NASCAR.com (www.nascar.com) through 2008 and plans to add a broadband channel in further support of the motor-sports circuit, said Turner Sports president David Levy.

TNT also has obtained new-media distribution opportunities for the programmer, which will distribute race-telecast highlights across parent Time Warner Inc.’s family of properties.

OPTION FOR MORE

Levy said Turner also holds another option to extend the digital relationship with NASCAR through 2012.

“This is a great opportunity to provide even more information and knowledge to NASCAR fans,” he said.

The site will become home to more clips and other video components when NASCAR.com begins to showcase new elements in 2007.

In return for operating NASCAR.com, Turner Sports New Media will continue to sell advertising time on the site.

Turner — which dropped the flag on its 23rd year of NASCAR coverage with Busch and Nextel Cup Series races from Chicago on July 8 and 9, respectively — also plans a broadband channel that will reside on NASCAR.com next year.

“What’s been available so far has been behind-the-wall content,” Levy said. “What we want to do is bring users in front of the wall and give them an opportunity to get a lot more value, with additional footage, commentary and chances to interact with the NASCAR community.”

Turner, Fox, Speed Channel, ABC and ESPN signed eight-year deals with NASCAR last December, totaling some $4.5 billion, that begin with the 2007 season.

As one of NASCAR’s TV partners, Turner also will hold the right to simulcast its races on its own broadband outlet.

Levy has not made a call yet about whether Turner will simulcast race streams on broadband next year. “Like everything else at Turner, we’ll make a decision based upon what’s best for audience, distributors and advertisers,” he said.

NASCAR.com would also be home to presentations from any of the circuit’s TV partners.

TNT’s agreement — to pay NASCAR $80 million to $85 million annually through 2014 — gives it six consecutive Nextel Cup races, beginning in June and highlighted by the marquee July 4 primetime race from Daytona.

MIDSUMMER DRAW

“We were looking for some continuity with our package and to include some marquee races like we have with the events in Daytona, Pocono and California. We’ll be able to do some big numbers in mid-summer,” he said, noting TNT’s package does not bump helmets against the National Football League season.

This season, TNT will air eight Nextel Cup races and 14 from the Busch series, wrapping up a joint venture partnership with NBC that takes NASCAR fans and viewers through the second half of the season, when the circuits’ champions are crowned.

When re-entering the NFL market, NBC elected to put the brakes on its NASCAR commitment.

Last season, TNT sped to a 4.8 household rating average for seven Nextel Cup races, up 10% from a 4.4 average for eight races in 2004, according to Nielsen Media Research data.

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