In recent talks to avoid “lame duck status“, ESPN and Turner are trying to opt out of their broadcast agreements with NASCAR. This tends to be a rare move in sports, as broadcasting rights are a big deal. Even so, this will open the door up for Fox Sports and NBC Sports Group to take over.
ESPN and Turner look to avoid “lame duck” status
Not only has ESPN had difficulty in selling ads surrounding NASCAR, but the company has also made moves to cut costs with recent layoffs. By unloading NASCAR rights in 2014, ESPN would be able to eliminate production costs and shed its roughly $270 million annual rights fee. The lame duck tag would likely mean the sport of NASCAR will receive less promotion and less production if ESPN and TNT have to ride out the final year.
ESPN has also had financial concerns in keeping up with NASCAR. The most concern arises between February and July when ESPN only has the rights to broadcast Nationwide races; the Junior Circuit of NASCAR. This is opposed to the latter part of the year – July through November – when the company has the ability to air Nationwide races on top of the Sprint Cup races, which usually take place at the same track. The concern is about production expenses, in which the company spends just as much to produce one race in the first half of the year as they do to produce two races in the latter part of the year.
What this could mean for FS1 and NBC Sports
For Fox Sports 1 and NBC Sports, this could be good news. The two companies hold the NASCAR rights from 2015 to 2024. Picking up an extra year of racing rights would give both networks an extra asset to drive programming. As of now, the total of the two current deals are worth $8.2 billion collectively for NASCAR.
In order to transition from ESPN and Turner to Fox and NBC, this would require an agreement between four competitors and one property, which could prove difficult to structure.
Although NASCAR is open to the switch, this type of situation rarely arises. Sports rights tend to be “sacred” to those who own them. So what do you think of ESPN and Turner trying to opt out of their contracts early? Would you rather see NASCAR on Fox and NBC?
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