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NBC Back With NASCAR Beginning In '15, While Six-Race Turner Package Still Open
Published July 23, 2013
INTERNAL DEBATE ABOUT LEAVING ESPN: Sources familiar with the organization said there was a debate about leaving ESPN. There was concern the move would hurt the sport's exposure to casual sports fans who watch "SportsCenter," "PTI" and other ESPN programs. But sources said NASCAR execs made the choice to go with NBC for several reasons beyond its willingness to outspend its competitors. NBC's broadcast plans are not known, but the network had been pitching NASCAR on returning the Sprint Cup series to broadcast TV and could air races on Sunday afternoons on NBC prior to its "Sunday Night Football" broadcast. It also offered a chance to cross-promote NASCAR with the Olympics. Lastly, the sport's leaders have a level of comfort with NBC Sports Group Chair Mark Lazarus, who previously worked with NASCAR when he was president at Turner Sports. Lazarus consulted NASCAR on its upcoming TV negotiations when he was at Atlanta-based CSE before he joined NBC. NBC was disappointed when it lost NASCAR to ESPN in '06.
NOT WILLING TO MEET NBC'S OFFER: ESPN and Turner both were interested in keeping the rights, but were not willing to pay as much as NBC was offering, sources said. Turner only had six races, which did not help increase cable license fees for TNT. ESPN has focused on more populist sports, like college football and basketball. Both networks suffered through ratings declines recently -- this year was Turner's lowest rated. They also complained that NASCAR, more than other sports, was hurt by the economy, making ad sales more of a challenge. Turner Broadcasting President of Sales, Distribution & Sports David Levy said, "Turner Sports is proud of the partnership we've built with NASCAR over the past 31 years and the role our company has played in helping to grow the sport. We think NASCAR is an attractive property, but we are disciplined in our approach to negotiating sports rights and could not come up with a business model that was financially prudent for our company."