The rise of NASCAR from a regional sport to national prominence comes with a hefty payoff: nearly US$4.5 billion in rights fees beginning in 2007.
NASCAR announced Wednesday that it had signed eight-year deals with ABC, ESPN, Fox and TNT to split broadcasts of its Nextel Cup series that will bring in more than US$560 million a year. That represents a 40 percent increase over the previous deal with Fox and NBC, a six-year contract from 2001 through 2006 that averaged US$400 million a year.
ABC and ESPN, which return to the sport to replace departing NBC, will pay US$270 million annually to televise 17 of the 36 Cup races, including the final 10 that make up the annual Chase for the Nextel Cup. As part of the deal, ESPN2 will carry races for the second-tier Busch Series as well.
Fox will pay almost US$1.7 billion over eight years beginning in 2007, up from its current six-year, US$1.2 billion deal. Fox will televise 13 races, including the Daytona 500, which it now splits annually with NBC. NASCAR is retaining TNT, which will broadcast six races for US$80 million to US$85 million a year.
"The bottom line is, NASCAR is a national sport with very large ratings," George Bodenheimer, ESPN and ABC Sports president, said Wednesday in a conference call with reporters. "Secondly, obviously the sport is extremely fan-friendly and sponsor-friendly. We're very bullish on the sales prospects of this property."
More bullish than NBC, which finishes its six-year, US$1.2 billion deal after 2006. Although NBC had exclusive rights to renegotiate a contract, it opted against renewing because of losses under the current deal.