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NBC will pay $4.4B over 10 years for rights to ESPN's entire NASCAR Sprint Cup package, plus half of Turner's six races, according to sources familiar with the deal. That represents a significant media rights increase for NASCAR over the more than $2.28B paid by ESPN and Turner combined for the same number of Sprint Cup and Nationwide races in their current eight-year agreements. This comes after NASCAR received a more than 30% increase in its earlier deal with Fox that covers the first half of its season. While NBC and NASCAR would not confirm financial terms, they did discuss other details of their new deal, which will see races return to NBC in '15. Terms have NBC picking up the rights to the final 20 races of the Sprint Cup season, which encompasses all of ESPN's package and half of Turner's six-race package. Seven of those races will be carried on NBC, while 13 will be available on NBC Sports Network. NBC also picks up rights to the last 19 Nationwide Series events -- four of which will be on NBC and 15 on NBCSN. Turner's other three Sprint Cup races, as well as 14 Nationwide Series races that belonged to ESPN, still are available. Fox Sports is viewed as the most likely suitor for these races. Sources said that the increase is significantly less by percentage than the renewals networks paid for the NFL and MLB recently. Last year, ESPN, Fox and Turner agreed to an increase that doubled the average annual payout for their MLB packages. And the NFL saw average annual increases in the 50-65% range in '11. Terms also give NBC rights to NASCAR practice and qualifying sessions, the K&N Series, Whelen Modified Tour, Toyota (Mexico) Series, HOF induction ceremony and season-ending banquets. As part of the deal, NBC also picks up Spanish-language, VOD and TV Everywhere rights.
BACK WITH THE PEACOCK: NASCAR Chair Brian France said, “Obviously (it's) a very exciting and huge day for the sport of NASCAR and industry of NASCAR. ... The future for us with all the assets of NBC, Universal and Comcast made a very compelling point to us that we’re better together going forward with their family of networks and assets. Not to mention we’ve had a long standing (relationship) with (NBC Sports Group Chair) Mark Lazarus. We outlined a terrific agreement.” Lazarus said, “We are thrilled to be back. When NBC was involved in NASCAR from 2001-2006, it was a very good experience for NBC. ... The quality of content this deal provides is really a game changer for us.” The move to NBC ends a relationship with ESPN that started in ‘81. ESPN President John Skipper in a statement said, “ESPN has enjoyed a long and mutually beneficial relationship with NASCAR. 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." The deal also ends NASCAR's 29-year relationship with Turner Sports.
AT THE TABLE DURING TALKS: NBC’s negotiations were led by Lazarus. NASCAR was led by France and VP/Broadcasting & Production Steve Herbst. Sports Media Advisors, a media consultancy headed by former IMG and NHL exec Doug Perlman, and law firm Proskaur, consulted NASCAR with NASCAR.
After NASCAR announced it will leave ESPN for a new 10-year deal with NBC Sports Group, USA TODAY's Nate Ryan writes under the header, "Bolting ESPN Risky Business," and wonders if coverage of the sport will "vanish from the 24-hour sports network." Ryan: "That's what happened the last time ESPN was excluded from a Sprint Cup broadcast contract," as NASCAR "endured a mostly contentious relationship with ESPN" from '01-06. However, NASCAR officials insist the move to NBC "won't mean a resumption of a frosty relationship." NASCAR Chair Brian France said, "They have different thinking about how they want to cover sports." Ryan writes NASCAR "effectively is betting ESPN's clout will wane as NBC's grows through an aggressive strategy of acquiring sports properties to fill content on its fledgling sports network." It still is "tempting to view the NBC marriage as a short-term cash grab to deliver a much-needed jolt to teams and tracks still scrambling for money amid lagging sponsorship and attendance" (USA TODAY, 7/24). In N.Y., Richard Sandomir notes France is "not worried that ESPN would significantly reduce coverage" of the series. France: "The reality is that they have to cover the big events that people watch every weekend." Meanwhile, NBC Sports Group Chair Mark Lazarus said the deal is "a bet on growth." Lazarus: "This is a bet that there is more audience out there." Sandomir cites a source as saying that NBC "is paying" $420-450M a year during the 10-year deal (N.Y. TIMES, 7/24).
NEED FOR SPEED: The AP's Jenna Fryer noted the deal makes NBC Sports Group the "premier motorsports network with NASCAR, Formula One and IndyCar among its properties" (AP, 7/23). In Charlotte, Jim Utter wrote, "Everything old is new again when it comes to NASCAR's national TV deal." When the '15 season begins, NASCAR's national TV deal will "look much like its first in 2001 with Fox and NBC splitting the season" (THATSRACIN.com, 7/23). In Jacksonville, Don Coble noted NBC "apparently accelerated its intention to move into NASCAR a year ago when it lured Dan Steir away from ESPN." Steir was "in charge of ESPN’s college broadcasting" and is now Senior VP/Production and Senior Coordinating Producer for NBC Sports and NBCSN (JACKSONVILLE.com, 7/23).
WHAT'S NEXT TO SELL? There are still three Sprint Cup races to be sold and NASCAR VP/Broadcasting & Production Steve Herbst believes those "will move quickly." Lazarus said that NBC purchased "everything made available to the network, which means the three events not currently held by Fox were not offered." The AP's Fryer noted the rights to the first half of the Nationwide Series schedule "have not been publicly announced," but France "let slip in a Tuesday conference call with reporters that there will be Nationwide races on Fox Sports 1." He said, ''We will have both Cup and Nationwide on FOX Sports 1 at some level" (AP, 7/23).
FROM THE TRACK PERSPECTIVE: ISC Vice Chair & CEO Lesa France Kennedy said she was "very happy with the outcome" of the TV deal. She added, "We are turning focus right back to what we need to do with the race tracks, further investing in our sport and facilities. To me, it gives us more confidence with us moving forward with some of the plans we have to increase our guest amenities and other aspects for our fans" (Daytona Beach NEWS-JOURNAL, 7/24).
PATIENCE IS A VIRTUE: In Indianapolis, Curt Cavin wrote IndyCar would "be wise to let this television shakeup play out." One of "two things will happen: IndyCar will either get shuffled out of the NBC Sports Network’s NASCAR-heavy rotation or its ratings will get a boost because of the network’s strengthened brand identity." The latter "seems more likely." IndyCar might "feel the urge to get out of NASCAR’s way and move back to ESPN, but it should proceed cautiously with that line of thinking." NASCAR might have "just handed IndyCar a television game-changer" (INDYSTAR.com, 7/23). Hulman & Co. CEO Mark Miles said of the new deal's effect on IndyCar, "There’s movement, there’s demand, and we need to let it sift out. But it’s likely, in one form or another, to be an opportunity for us. We’ll just have to see what form that takes." Miles: "This is all positive stuff. It’s more interest in motor sports” (INDYSTAR.com, 7/24).
The Tigers hold a 3.5-game lead in the AL Central and, as a result, have provided a "financial windfall" for FS Detroit, according to Bill Shea of CRAIN'S DETROIT BUSINESS. FS Detroit Senior VP& GM Greg Hammaren said that the RSN "expects to set its own record for its Tigers and overall revenue this year." He added that the net's revenue is "pacing at least 10 percent ahead" of the '12 season. Hammaren: "We are pacing extremely well against our budgeted numbers for baseball. It's fair to say we will finish ahead of budget for the full Tigers season. How far above budget is a little difficult to predict, and it will depend on if there is a close pennant race the last six weeks of the season." Data from SNL Kagan showed that the RSN is "expected to see operating revenue rise" to $154M in '13 from $136M in '12 and $119M in '11 (CRAINSDETROIT.com, 7/21). In Detroit, Tony Paul reports the Tigers "once again boast the top local ratings" in MLB at the halfway point of the season. The Tigers are averaging a 9.16 local rating in the Detroit market, "which puts them nearly on pace to match or surpass their record numbers from 2012, when they reeled in a 9.21," which was up 41% from '11. The previous best was a 7.54 rating in '07. Local numbers before the All-Star break included the Tigers being "No. 1 in prime time 12 weeks out of 15." They also beat five of the seven NBA Finals games on ABC and beat four of the six Stanley Cup Final games on NBC and NBC Sports Network. Additionally, the Tigers "went head-to-head several times against the Red Wings and won, including during the hockey postseason" (DETROIT NEWS, 7/24).
With SI's Peter King launching his new website, The MMQB, "there are obviously going to be Grantland comparisons," and if it "can get anywhere close to that site’s standard ... then sports fans should rejoice," according to Raju Mudhar of the TORONTO STAR. While Grantland "deftly covers both sports and pop culture," King's site "will be more strictly football focused." Many King fans "don’t like it when he strays from football, although the counter argument is that the personal stuff he’s written, the travel notes, the beer and coffee nerdery, were among the things that actually helped build his brand." King said, "I am still going to write about what pisses me off on the road ... I will probably have three or four sentences in an 8,000 word column on some beer I had that week that I thought was good." Mudhar wrote what will be "interesting is whether this is going to be the new order of things, and whether other sites will follow by putting their marquee presences out front in such a big manner." Grantland's Bill Simmons and King are two writers who had "almost outgrown their respective entities." Mudhar: "The question it makes me wonder about is if someone in Canada could do the same kind of thing based around hockey." Of the "big personalities, there doesn’t seem an exact right fit, at least for this type of specialized website imprint." The CBC's Don Cherry and Ron MacLean "definitely have the visibility, but don’t write." TSN’s Bob McKenzie "definitely has the Twitter audience, and while he did start as a writer, he is now clearly TV first." Sportsnet's Bob McCown "has the radio locked down, but from what I’ve read in Sportsnet magazine, I don’t really need to read more" (TORONTO STAR, 7/23).
INSIDE SCOOP: King appeared on ESPN Radio's "Mike & Mike" yesterday and said one of the first things posted on The MMQB was Cowboys coach Jason Garrett's full 35-minute pre-training camp speech. King said, "I wanted to kick it off with something that people have never seen before and I wanted to take people inside the inner sanctum of a team. We did that. Those the kinds of things we're going to try to do most of all" ("Mike & Mike," ESPN Radio, 7/23).
RULER OF YOUR DOMAIN: USA TODAY's Chris Strauss notes the URL MMQB.com, which "focuses on 'The Business of the Contract Furnishing Industry,'" on Monday featured a screen grab from King's site "with 'Really dude?' written over it." MMQB.com Editor Michael Wolf wrote in an e-mail regarding The MMQB, "Through a third party they wanted to pay $1,500 for the domain name about two months ago. I countered at $1 million. That was it" (USA TODAY, 7/23).
NFL.com has created a new feature for its fantasy football offerings called "Fantasy Genius," a collaborative fan community to share fantasy information. Located at NFL.com/Genius and based in part on concepts of crowdsourcing and online messageboards, the destination allows fans to ask fantasy questions, get their teams rated, and offer advice to other players. Users answering questions will be rated on the quality and reliability of their advice. "We pump out a lot of fantasy content, but we felt there was something still missing with providing a one-to-one user connection," said NFL.com Dir of Fantasy Cory Mummery. The league is seeking to attach a presenting sponsor to "Fantasy Genius." The destination will be applicable to fantasy players regardless where they play, but predictably will contain extensive promotion for and integration into NFL.com's own offerings.
Former Astros play-by-play announcer Milo Hamilton yesterday said that he is "undergoing chemotherapy for treatment of the chronic form of leukemia from which he has suffered since 1974 and that he has called the final major league game of his 63-year career in radio." In Houston, David Barron reported Hamilton, 85, "had hoped to make a road trip with the Astros this year to Detroit to call a game at the 60th ballpark in which he has worked Major League Baseball games since 1953" (CHRON.com, 7/23).
WHAT CAN BROWN DO FOR YOU: THE BIG LEAD's Jason McIntyre reported former ESPN college football sideline reporter Jenn Brown "has signed a deal with the NFL Network" and will begin her new gig tomorrow hosting "Total Access." Brown, who left ESPN in March, will take over hosting "Total Access" for Amber Theoharis, who is on maternity leave. Brown said that she "will likely host the show through the preseason, and then she'll be in the rotation with Theoharis and others during the season" (THEBIGLEAD.com, 7/23).
SILVER RUSH: In DC, Ezra Klein wrote newly hired ESPN analyst Nate Silver's "reputation as a math wizard often obscures his innovations as a journalist," but it is the "latter that makes him such a valuable hire for ESPN and ABC News." Lots of people "can run the numbers," but Silver can "use those numbers to tell readers an engaging, fast-paced and constantly changing story about subjects they care about." Klein: "That’s a rare talent" (WASHINGTONPOST.com, 7/23).
BELTWAY BATTLE: In DC, Dan Steinberg reports former NFLer Chris Cooley will "replace industry veteran Andy Pollin" on ESPN Radio 980 DC's afternoon drive program. The new show will be called "The Drive, with Cooley and Czabe," will debut on Aug. 1 and "continue to run from 4-7 on weekdays." Pollin "has co-hosted 'The Sports Reporters' with Steve Czaban for 13 years, making it one of the longest running local sports radio programs." He remains with ESPN Radio 980 parent company Red Zebra Broadcasting "for now while mulling his options." Cooley in his new gig will "go head-to-head with former teammate LaVar Arrington," who co-hosts DC-based WNEW-FM's "LaVar & Dukes" afternoon drive show (WASHINGTONPOST.com, 7/23).
PEACHY KEEN: In Atlanta, Ken Sugiura cites a source as saying that WXIA-NBC sports anchor Randy Waters, Georgia Southern Univ. play-by-play announcer Chris Blair and Butler Univ. play-by-play man Brandon Gaudin are "among the final candidates" to replace former Georgia Tech play-by-play announcer Wes Durham, who recently left for a position with FS South (AJC.com, 7/22)....In Atlanta, Rodney Ho reported Larry Smith, who spent three years as a host at Turner Sports, is "taking over the newly created CBS Atlanta sports director job" (ACCESSATLANTA.com, 7/18).
CABLEFAX DAILY reports the U.S. Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit has "given Comcast 15 days to respond to Tennis Channel's petition for rehearing en banc" regarding the May ruling that Comcast had not discriminated against the channel. Tennis Channel earlier this month "filed for rehearing after the 3-judge panel found Comcast didn't discriminate against Tennis on the basis of affiliation." The May ruling "threw out the FCC's 1st decision finding that an operator violated program carriage rules" (CABLEFAX DAILY, 7/24).
EN ESPAÑOL POR FAVOR: The Seahawks yesterday announced that they have "launched a Hispanic Radio Network" that will broadcast all of the team's games in Spanish on ESPN Deportes' local radio affiliates for the '13 season. The broadcast will include a two-hour pregame and one-hour postgame show, and feature the team of Alex Rivera and Raul Sandoval (SEATTLETIMES.com, 7/23).
MONDAY NIGHT BOXING: ESPN.com's Dan Rafael reported Fox Sports 1 will air Golden Boy Promotions' "Golden Boy Live!" cards "every other week on Monday nights for 24 shows in the first year of the deal." Golden Boy Promotions Managing Partner Bernard Hopkins "unveiled the inaugural card, which will take place Aug. 19" and feature middleweight Daniel Jacobs. Hopkins said, "Boxing on Monday nights is something fans will be watching. What a great way to start the week by watching Monday night boxing" (ESPN.com, 7/23).
BULL MARKET: PBR will broadcast an upcoming Touring Pro Division (TPD) event worldwide via PPV live streaming. PBR and Epicentre.tv have partnered to air the Big Sky PBR TPD event taking place in Big Sky, Mont., from July 31-Aug 1 at 9:00pm ET. The stream will cost $9.99 per night or $14.99 for the two-day package (PBR).