ESPN May Leave Some Nationwide Series Rights On Table When NASCAR Talks Begin
Television rights to the Nationwide Series "could be in play this summer when NASCAR opens its negotiations with ESPN," according to sources cited by Mickle & Ourand of SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL. ESPN has had "internal conversations about bidding only on the Nationwide races that overlap with its Sprint Cup schedule instead of the entire season." The reason has "more to do with production expenses than ratings points." The net airs Sprint Cup races from August to November, and ESPN is "able to use the same production crew, production trucks and other resources to cover both Nationwide Series races and Sprint Cup races on the same weekend." It is "much costlier for ESPN to produce the Nationwide Series’ first 16 races during the first half of the NASCAR season." ESPN has had Nationwide Series rights since '07. A move by ESPN to "bid only on the second half of the Nationwide Series would allow NASCAR to experiment with new ways of selling its secondary series and offer it great flexibility." NASCAR could "split the Nationwide package between its Sprint Cup rights holders," and that would "allow Fox to buy the first half of the season and ESPN, or another broadcaster, to take the second half." Fox has "expressed interest in obtaining the rights to the first part of the Nationwide Series but has not had any formal talks with the sanctioning body" (SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL, 4/29 issue).