SBJ/March 12 - 18, 2007/This Weeks News

Higher Hot Pass spending pays off in subscriber rise

DirecTV’s financial commitment to its NASCAR Hot Pass interactive programming is adding up to about $1 million per race and includes a payout of $85,000 per race to each of the broadcasters.

That means ESPN receives $1.445 million for its 17 races, Fox gets $1.105 million for 13 races and Turner gets $510,000 for six races, according to multiple network sources.

DirecTV’s spending is up substantially from the $200,000 that In Demand, a consortium of MSOs, spent per race last year on its NASCAR-In-Car, which included a similar payout to NASCAR broadcasters. Broadcasters demand payment for the right to use their feeds, as well as to share some of the resources and production costs at each race.

So far, DirecTV’s added investment is resulting in more subscribers for the service, which features five full channels dedicated to five drivers for every NASCAR Nextel Cup race.

Last year, In Demand had about 30,000 customers; this year, DirecTV has signed up nearly 100,000 subscribers through NASCAR’s first two races. A full-season subscription costs $99 this year, the same price In Demand charged last year. DirecTV also offers a pay-per-week option at $29.99.

“This is a much better product,” said Eric Shanks, the satellite operator’s executive vice president of entertainment. Shanks refused to comment on specific costs associated with Hot Pass.

The bulk of DirecTV’s costs are going into production. DirecTV dedicates six cameras per channel and has 75 people at the track every week. In Demand had 15 people handling its production.

Starting with the Food City 500 in Bristol, Tenn., on March 25, DirecTV will pick four of the drivers to which it will dedicate a channel, and fans will vote online for the fifth.

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