Aug 24, 2013; Bristol, TN, USA; NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Matt Kenseth (20) and Jeff Gordon (24) during the Irwin Tools Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

ESPN And TNT Want To Avoid "Lame Duck Status"

NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Danica Patrick does an interview with ESPN during practice for the Samuel Deeds 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Sports Business Journal (SBJ) reports that both ABC/ESPN and TNT (Turner Sports) want to exit their contracts with NASCAR a year early.  In 2014, both companies will be in the last year of their agreement with NASCAR before FOX and NBC take over the new broadcasting deals they recently obtained.  The report says both companies

“would prefer avoiding that lame-duck status.”

This is unprecedented in that live sports are invaluable as witnessed by the emmense contracts FOX and NBC paid NASCAR for the broadcast rights.  If they ended the agreements, of course FOX, NBC and NASCAR would all have to be in accord with ESPN and TNT, which is rare in the media and sports world.  FOX and NBC will collectively pay NASCAR well over $800 million a year starting in 2015 and running until 2024.

Good for everyone, but

Certainly, adding NASCAR a year sooner would help both fledgling cable outlets Fox Sports 1 and NBC Sports Network where most of the races will be televised.  However, as SBJ stated,

“But any deal faces significant hurdles,” and added “Such talks are exceedingly rare in sports media.”

In other words, although all sides are willing to talk and listen, don’t expect a deal to get done.

Fans of NASCAR have bristled at the arrangement whereby the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series starts the year off on FOX, moves over to TNT in mid-season for six races and ends the year with ESPN.  The Nationwide Series is being entirely broadcast on ESPN whereas the Truck Series has its coverage on Speed, which is now Fox Sports 1.  Confused?  Exactly.

Fans, ESPN and TNT not happy

Fans have complained for many seasons that TNT’s coverage of Cup races is strictly a giant promo for whatever else is on the network.  Furthermore, it’s not uncommon to see fans rail on internet discussion boards about ESPN’s coverage, although the network has moved announcers around in an effort to put the best product on television – but without a lot of success.  Plus, to add to the issues at ESPN, they are having financial problems and have been laying off personnel this year.  Not only does ESPN have tight fiscal concerns but TNT just had the lowest rated NASCAR broadcasts in three decades.

With ESPN and TNT no longer having a vested interest in selling the product, it would likely hurt the sport, which doesn’t need any negatives considering the economic impact the Recession has had among the many other issues plaguing stock car racing.  Neither ESPN nor TNT even bid on the latest contracts for NASCAR.  The current lack of effort from these two lame duck entities to promote NASCAR should alarm anyone associated with the sport.

It’s likely in the best interest of all concerned for this newest deal to get done, but …


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Tags: ESPN FOX Sports 1 NBC Sports Network Sports Business Journal TNT Turner Sports

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