ESPN, Turner Sports In Talks With NASCAR About Early Exit From TV Deal
ESPN and Turner Sports are "talking with NASCAR about getting out of their broadcast rights agreement a year early, a move that could allow Fox Sports and NBC Sports Group to become the sport’s broadcasters next year," according to Mickle & Ourand of SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL. Sources said that it is "unlikely that the four TV companies will be able to reach a deal." For "at least the past decade, no rights holder has exited a major media agreement with a property early." Sources said that NASCAR execs are "open to the switch." However, any deal "faces significant hurdles." Sources said that it "would have to be a complete switch, not a partial one." ESPN and Turner Sports are "willing to sell their rights back to NASCAR for some sort of compensation." Fox Sports and NBC Sports Group are "willing to buy the rights from NASCAR, but they feel they should be compensated for letting ESPN and Turner Sports out of their deals early." By unloading NASCAR rights in '14, ESPN would "be able to eliminate production costs and shed" its roughly $270M annual rights fee. NASCAR-related production costs are a "concern for ESPN executives, particularly during the first half of the season when ESPN has rights only to the Nationwide Series." Sources said that ESPN also has "experienced a difficult ad sales environment around NASCAR" (SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL, 8/26 issue).