SBD/January 18, 2012/Media

Starting His Engine: NASCAR's Brian France Speaks About The Sport's TV Ratings

France said NASCAR is pushing hard with ESPN to have a more integrated approach
NASCAR Chair & CEO Brian France in a recent interview with BROADCASTING & CABLE’s Ben Grossman spoke about “what the sport needs to do better to get its ratings back into Victory Lane.” The following is an excerpt from the Q&A:

Q: What did TV partners tell you they want to see you do differently?
France: They were pretty satisfied with the presentation of the events. Fox has always wanted to not have an open weekend after the third or fourth weekend, they were pretty critical about that, and we eliminated that. (With) the schedule, there is always input on start times. We moved them around a bit last year and we will do it again this year. But it's not just about what they want from us. We are pretty aggressive about what they need to do for NASCAR. It's a two-way street.

Q: So what do you want from them?
France: We are always the sport that is under-covered given the ratings and size of the events. In particular, ESPN. They just have so many platforms. So we are pushing real hard with them to have a more integrated approach. We have hired people to service them better, so we can help them accomplish that. They have the most assets to be deployed; it doesn't mean everyone else doesn't have some big ones and good ones. We are going to work to make them a better partner.

Q: Your TV deals are up in 2014, but when do negotiating windows open with your current partners?
France: Not for a little while, but we are having conversations, because a lot of our partners have been clear they would prefer to renew. All things being equal, our first hope is that the incumbents do renew.

Q: Will ratings continue to climb overall this season?
France: I don't know what all is going to happen in match-ups, and we will have the Olympics which will have some negative effect on us. If we can make that up in other places, sure. There is an enormous thing on this -- do you get the right match-ups. All that stuff really matters, that's the last 10-15%.

Q: What do you as a sport need to get better at?
France: A lot of things. Social and digital media is a great opportunity for everybody, but even more so for us because we are under-covered (BROADCASTING & CABLE, 1/16 issue).
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