NASCAR has tapped IMG to handle global media distribution through 2024.
IMG beat out eight to 10 competing bidders for the business, including Lagardère, MP & Silva and ESPN, which has managed NASCAR’s overseas TV distribution since 2006.
Financial terms of IMG’s 10-year deal weren’t available, but sources familiar with the agreement said IMG will pay an annual rights guarantee and share sales revenue with NASCAR after it recoups its upfront investment.
NASCAR’s interest in building its international fan base is part of what attracted IMG to the deal.
The decision to tap IMG to manage sales for the next 10 years represents a strategic shift at NASCAR. The sport historically has focused on the U.S. market and concentrated on building its fan base at home, but NASCAR Chief Operating Officer Brent Dewar wants to begin expanding the sport’s fan base overseas and broadening interest in the sport internationally. He believes media distribution is critical to that.
“We have a mature brand here in the United States that has an appeal because it’s about racing,” Dewar said. “We’re the No. 1 motorsport in the United States and we dream of being the No. 1 motorsports brand [in the world]. It’s a lofty ambition. The world is a big place but it gets smaller every day. In that way, the deal is immeasurable in terms of the opportunity.”
Hillary Mandel, who as IMG senior vice president will oversee NASCAR distribution, said, “We’re planting seeds, and we’re going to build a garden here. It can’t just be checking boxes and clearing markets. This is finding and building partnerships on a local level that provides NASCAR with sustaining growth in revenue and audience.”
In its pitch to NASCAR, IMG highlighted its global footprint and international distribution experience. The company has offices in more than 25 countries and distributes the NFL, MotoGP, PGA Championship, AMA Monster Energy Supercross and dozens of other properties across more than 200 markets worldwide.
Mandel said NASCAR’s interest in building its fan base abroad was part of what appealed to IMG about working with NASCAR.
“There’s an inherent challenge because NASCAR has built its reputation as being an American sport,” Mandel said. “The challenge is to take the flag off and help audiences see that this is really great motorsports, best in class and best in the world.”
NASCAR currently is distributed in more than 150 markets by more than 20 broadcast partners around the world. It says its largest TV audiences are in the United Kingdom, Australia and Canada. All of its current international rights, with the exception of Canada, will expire at the end of this season.
IMG will have 650 hours of live programming from NASCAR’s Sprint Cup, Nationwide and Camping World Truck series. It also plans to work with NASCAR to develop shoulder programming and highlights for distribution overseas. Mandel said she expects to sell live programming in some markets and condensed, tape-delayed programming in others.
“We’re going to make this work for the local markets,” she said. “That’s key.”
NASCAR began discussing its international rights with potential bidders at Sportel in 2013. It began a formal request-for-proposal process earlier this year and narrowed applicants to a handful of finalists this spring. It selected IMG earlier this summer.
IMG Sports & Entertainment President George Pyne, who was chief operating officer at NASCAR in the early 2000s, was involved in IMG’s bid. WME-IMG co-CEO Ari Emanuel, who is overseeing the company’s media and events division, consulted on the offer.
Steve Herbst, NASCAR vice president of broadcasting and production, and Sports Media Advisors spearheaded the evaluation process for NASCAR.
The IMG deal comes a year after NASCAR signed a 10-year, $8.2 billion TV rights deal with Fox and NBC for 2015 through 2024. The money NASCAR makes on the IMG deal will be added to the $820 million a year it receives in U.S. rights and shared with the rest of the industry, with 65 percent going to tracks, 25 percent to teams and 10 percent to NASCAR (see related story below).