Are that many people watching NASCAR? New Fox, NBC rights deals worth $8.2 billion

I debated whether to say this, and I know I am going to get ripped to shreds for saying it.

However, I have said stupid things before and will again. So here goes.

I don’t know anybody who watches NASCAR. Nobody. I never have had a friend or acquaintance say, “Did you see that race on Sunday?”

That’s why it is staggering to me that NASCAR’s new TV deals with NBC and Fox will be worth $8.2 billion. That $820 million per year, beginning in 2015.

Tripp Mickle and John Ourand of Sports Business Daily wrote yesterday about Fox Sports completing its deal:

Fox Sports and NASCAR closed a new $3.8B TV rights agreement that adds three Sprint Cup races, 14 Nationwide series races and two years to the deal the broadcaster cut with NASCAR last fall. The $3.8B price tag is $1.4B higher than Fox had agreed to pay through ’22. The deal pushes NASCAR’s total TV rights haul to more than $820M a year, a roughly 46% increase from the $560M it currently receives annually from Fox, Turner Sports and ESPN. Fox and NBC combined will pay $8.2B for NASCAR TV rights.

Again, if two networks would be willing to shell out $8.2 billion for a sport, you would think I would know at least one person who watches it on a regular basis. And I know a lot of people.

Now a large part of this is due to the fact that I live in Chicago. The town isn’t exactly a hotbed for NASCAR, even though the Chase for the Sprint Cup starts here with the Geico 400 in September. The race draws a big crowd. So obviously some people care.

I just don’t know them.

Obviously, my situation would be different if I lived in North Carolina or in the South. Then I wouldn’t be as stunned to see that two networks are willing to pay $8.2 billion to air NASCAR.

Still, it seems like a ton of money for a sport that basically has a regional following. It underscores the need for live programming on their cable outlets, NBC SN and Fox Sports 1.

Congratulations to NASCAR officials for their windfall. And if you think they did well, just wait until the NBA begins negotiations on its new TV packages, which run through the 2015-16 season. Should be off the charts.

Now I know people who watch the NBA.





13 thoughts on “Are that many people watching NASCAR? New Fox, NBC rights deals worth $8.2 billion

  1. I watch, but you have to remember that money is for 2 racing series and a lot of hours of associated track activity, which is needed to feed the monster of live programming. I am curious how the money stacks up compared to PGA and MLB in yearly take,since they have seasons as long as NASCAR

  2. Boy are you wrong! I am in Southern California and tons of my friends and I never miss a NASCAR race! It is not just regional but National! Maybe you need to broaden your horizons and go to a race. The excitement is incomparable to any other sport. I personally don’t watch football at all. Now that could leave TV and I wouldn’t even notice. But NASCAR is what I want to see!

  3. I’m pretty sure that the reason you don’t know anyone who watches NASCAR is that you live in Chicago. There are millions and millions of NASCAR fans, but they tend not to be concentrated in the major metropolitan areas. So it is incorrect to characterize NASCAR as simply a regional sport (meaning a Southeastern sport), because I have encountered NASCAR fans in upstate New York, rural parts of Vermont and New Hampshire, and throughout the Midwest. And even in the South, where I live now, city dwellers tend to follow stick and ball sports (college football, especially), while it’s the folks in smaller towns who gravitate to stock cars.

    The bigger problem, from the perspective of NASCAR, Fox, and now NBC, is that this fanbase is aging. Their happiest memories of the sport are largely from the 1980s, 1990s, and early 2000s, and they are dissatisfied with where the sport is now. Meanwhile, young folks are less and less inclined to grow up as fans of the sports. NASCAR would like to change that, obviously, but I’m not sure that they can.

  4. I can’t think of anything less interesting to watch than NASCAR, with the possible excpetion of wpmen’s basketball. So I don’t. I know very few people who do. That doesn’t mean there aren’t others – many millions of others – who do.

    Nothing real mysterious about that, Ed. Different strokes …

  5. I am more than a casual NASCAR fan, but I live in the Atlanta area and I can understand that a Chicagoan would not know anybody who watches it.

    NBC and to a lesser extent FOX definitely overpaid for the rights, but it underscores the value of live sports programming in the age of the DVR. As one astute analysis pointed out, live sports broadcasts are among the few programs that viewers do not traditionally record, watch later,and “zip” through the ads, which makes it more valuable for advertisers, who know they will have a captive audience during the event.

    This even extends to NASCAR, despite the fact that the sport (yes, it is a sport) has seen both its television ratings and its attendance slide a good bit since its peak in popularity circa 2004.

    It also shows, as you pointed out, the need for programming to fill the networks’ new niche sports cable channels.

    NASCAR can be fun to watch and I would recommend it the neophyte such as yourself, but only races run at certain tracks – Chicago not being one of them. The next time they come to Talladega – Sunday, October 20 – do yourself a favor and tune in – at least to the last half-hour. You may be surprised that you like it.

  6. I’m not ripping you to shreds. You are entitled to your personal sports viewing habits. However, if you are a sportswriter, I wonder if your scope of reference is wide enough? I don’t think you would have to live in the South to know someone who watches NASCAR. It’s obviously a money maker or networks wouldn’t bid for it. Not watching NASCAR probably reveals more about you, your business, and your circle of acquaintances than about NASCAR just like what the following may reveal about me: I don’t know anyone who watches the Tattoo Advertisement Show, AKA the NBA, no one at work, no one in my wide circle of friends or family, no one at church, no one at the coffee shop, no one on the golf course, no one at football games. I have never heard anyone at any office over the last 40 years of my adult working life ask or comment about an NBA game, a playoff or any of its players. I see NBA copy in Sports Illustrated but I’ve never read it, never watched the NBA on television, have no need for it, no interest in it, and can’t understand anyone’s interest in it, except maybe for illegal gambling.

  7. lol. this reminds me of the hollywood actor who said, “I don’t know a single Republican.” Well, darling, they still exist. they really do.

    NASCA routinely draws more viewers than the NBA. These viewers may not be hanging out at the Sherman household, but network execs have still, somehow, confirmed their existence.

    we’ll just chalk this article up to Sherman’s admitted tendency to say “stupid things.”

    P.S. i’ve never watched a NASCAR race.

  8. They’re probably not, as even the most loyal NASCAR fan seems somewhat frustrated and jaded by the state of things, and the sport’s growth has certainly not reached the predictions at the time of the 2000 network deals. But the real point of these contracts was to keep NASCAR away from the competition; denying ABC/ESPN and Turner Sports product is priceless, particularly at a time when both FOX and NBC have new cable networks to program.

  9. I’m not sure how much the NBA will get. I’d say MAYBE around a 2 billion contract. FOX will give ESPN a run for it. The NBA talent is so watered down. I really do not see it getting much more than 2 billion..

  10. Hi Ed: No you’re not dumb at all. I spent 32 in Houston and nearly 20 more in Chicago, and met 1 person who likes racing (Indy time trials to be exact). After moving back to Texas 7 years ago, I’ve met two guys who are formula 1 fanatics. And that’s it in 58 years. The longest races I’ve ever watched was the fictional ones in Talladega Nights. I bet A LOT of Americans could make that very same claim.

    As for DTB not watching the NBA, he’s more of a sports outlier than we are.

    For the record, I don’t understand why people watch auto racing. Or golf. Or horse/dog racing. Or X games. Or WWF. Or kickboxing.

  11. I know this is an old post but needed to comment…
    Yes there are millions watching NASCAR across the planet…
    We are a weird bunch watching cars going around in circles as
    NBA watch them bounce a ball around the floor…
    I don’t know much about Chicago as it is a population of gun wielding gangs and its politician’s serve their first 2 terms in office ad the next I prison… that’s all I know

  12. I live in Austin, Texas and I don’t know anyone who likes Nascar either. I think it’s mostly rural people who like it. It’s not that surprising to me that Nascar has a decent sized audience, considering how successful a show like Duck Dynasty is.

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