SBD/July 26, 2013/Media

Some In TV Industry Worried About NASCAR Transition From ESPN To NBC; IndyCar Excited

The influx of money may signal to potential sponsors that NASCAR is on the rebound
NASCAR's new media-rights agreement, which will see NBC Sports Network air 13 Sprint Cup races annually while ESPN loses its broadcast rights, "wasn’t exactly met with universal praise in the television world," according to Bob Pockrass of SPORTING NEWS. Some people in the industry "immediately began comparing NASCAR to the NHL, which suffered after moving its TV deal from ESPN to NBC." ESPN is "still considered the mother ship of all sports networks," and some "believe that if you’re not on ESPN, you’re not a big-time sport." Pockrass: "Will NASCAR be treated with disdain on SportsCenter, only being mentioned around its biggest events or when controversies erupt?" The biggest loss for NASCAR could be when ESPN "doesn’t go live to the track after the season finale to interview the Sprint Cup champion." That is what ESPN "does best, being in the middle of the action and making big events seem even bigger." Neither Fox Sports 1 nor NBCSN is "as familiar to NASCAR fans as ESPN," and both nets have a "long way to go before they become as big a part of the sports landscape" as the Worldwide Leader. Pockrass also noted it "doesn’t appear that NASCAR will have as many races on network as it has had in the past, and that’s not a good thing" (SPORTINGNEWS.com, 7/24). SI.com's Lars Anderson wondered if this "influx of money" into NASCAR will signal to potential sponsors "that the sport is finally on the rebound." Anderson: "Surely, by making such a significant investment, NBC will aggressively promote NASCAR -- maybe even more than ESPN did -- which ultimately could be the biggest upside of the deal to NASCAR" (SI.com, 7/24).

SMILES DOWN GASOLINE ALLEY: In Indianapolis, Anthony Schoettle wrote there is "speculation among motorsports industry insiders that the new NBC-NASCAR deal could wreak havoc on the IndyCar Series schedule, but IndyCar officials weren’t letting that dampen their spirits Tuesday." The deal will "likely have two major, and relatively immediate, impacts" on IndyCar when it starts in '15. The inclusion of NASCAR races will "cause more cable networks to add the channel -- and add it to lower (less expensive) tiers." Also, NBC is "expected to promote its other motorsports properties -- including IndyCar races -- during NASCAR races." IndyCar VP/Marketing Kasey Coler: "Going back to the days of Versus, we could see this was a sports network with the resources and the vision to grow. This is a validation of that vision that was set out a few years ago" (IBJ.com, 7/24). NASCAR Chair & CEO Brian France said, "We would prefer to see a healthy IndyCar Series. I know we’ll help them significantly by moving to NBC and the NBC Sports Network. We’ll give a lot of visibility to that network and that in turn will be good for them" (INDIANAPOLIS STAR, 7/26).
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