Nascar’s US$7.7bn TV deal: Why the annual value went up, who gets what, and the impact on fans

NBC, Fox, Amazon, and Warner Bros Discovery will split domestic coverage of Nascar between 2025 and 2031 in the stock car racing series’ most lucrative media rights deal by annual value in its history. BlackBook Motorsport analyses the key points from the stock car racing series’ latest TV contract.

As the 90s were coming to a close, and Y2K was thought to be on the verge of bringing global economies to their knees, Nascar was beginning to notice the increasing popularity of its races on television.

US viewers have been able to watch every Cup Series race live on TV since 1985, but broadcasters carried out negotiations with track owners for the rights to each event, rather than with Nascar itself.

By the turn of the century – as computers didn’t wreak the anticipated havoc – races were split between Paramount’s CBS and TNN, Disney-owned ABC and ESPN, Warner Bros Discovery’s (WBD) TBS, and Comcast’s NBC.

Seeking to capitalise on its new-found popularity, Nascar opted to create a centralised media rights offering in 2001. The new strategy yielded a six-year, US$2.4 billion deal with Comcast, WBD and the then-independent Fox.

Since then, the media rights landscape has evolved rapidly, as evidenced by Nascar’s new broadcast deal announced at the end of November, which will generate US$7.7 billion for the series over seven years.

But what does the deal mean for Nascar, its teams, the broadcasters, and fans of the series? BlackBook Motorsport digs into the details of the latest contracts to give its verdict.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by NASCAR (@nascar)


What has been agreed?

NBC, Fox, Amazon and WBD have agreed to split the Cup Series schedule in a seven-year deal running between 2025 and 2031. This means the series not only increases its number of broadcast partners, but it is also set to generate the most annual income from a media rights deal in its history.

The financial terms were not made public, but the new deal is widely reported to be worth US$7.7 billion, working out to an annual fee of US$1.1 billion. This figure includes the US$800 million generated from carving out the second-tier Xfinity Series in a standalone package, which was sold to The CW Network, also for a seven-year period.

For context, the current deal with Fox and NBC expires at the end of the 2024 campaign, and that ten-year deal was worth a combined US$820 million per season.

From 2025, all 38 Nascar Cup Series races will be split between four broadcasters, inclusive of the 2031 season, although this number could fluctuate depending on future calendar changes.


Who gets what?

Fox

Nascar’s long-time broadcast partner will show 14 Cup Series events from 2025, down from 18 in the current deal. Events will be available across both Fox and FS1, with the entire 23-race Craftsman Truck Series available exclusively on the latter pay-TV channel.

The deal also includes coverage of practice and qualifying sessions for the Busch Light Clash, the Daytona 500, and the All-Star Race.

NBC

The Comcast-owned network also receives 14 Cup Series events, down from 20 under its expiring contract. However, this deal still includes the postseason schedule, ensuring the Championship Race at Phoenix Raceway remains on NBC for another seven years.

NBC loses the Xfinity Series, which is moving over to The CW Network. The network’s multi-platform approach for its Nascar coverage continues, though, with live races and other content available across its flagship NBC channel, USA Network, and the Peacock streaming service.

Amazon

In a deal that represents Amazon’s first foray into live motorsport, as well as Nascar’s first partnership with a streaming platform, Prime Video gains the exclusive rights to five Cup Series races from 2025.

Prime Video’s contract also includes exclusive coverage of all practice and qualifying sessions from the first half of the Cup Series season, excluding the sessions secured by Fox. All of this content will be available to Prime members in the US, which will sit alongside the upcoming Garage 56 documentary being produced in collaboration with Nascar Studios.

WBD

TNT Sports also receives five midseason Cup Series races after securing Nascar coverage for the first time since 2014, when it carried a similar six-race package. All races on TNT Sports will also stream live on the B/R Sports add-on on WBD’s Max service.

This package also includes all practice and qualifying sessions from the second-half of the season, which will be simulcast on Max and TruTV. It is planned for Bleacher Report to feature Nascar content across its social, digital and mobile platforms.

Nexstar

The CW Network has not been known for its sports coverage in the past, but new majority owner Nexstar has started to build a small rights portfolio, including LIV Golf and a package of 50 college football and basketball games from the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC).

The commercial broadcaster’s Xfinity Series deal, which was announced prior to sale of the main Cup Series rights, will see the network broadcast 33 live races each year, including all practice and qualifying sessions. All content will be wholly produced by Nascar Productions in close collaboration with The CW Network, and it will include additional viewing opportunities on its digital platforms.


How has the value increased despite viewership falling?

Interestingly, despite Nascar viewership falling five per cent to 2.86 million viewers in 2023, compared to 3.03 million the previous year, series executives have secured a reported 40 per cent increase in the annual rights fee. This should be viewed as a success, especially given how much the US media landscape has changed since the previous deal was agreed in 2013.

So how has it done it?

The number of pay-TV households in the market has dropped from just under 100 million in 2016 to 68.5 million in 2022. As the number of people consuming content via linear platforms shrinks, demand for top-tier live sports that can drive audiences for advertisers is soaring, which is a contributing factor to the price increase in this deal.

Yet Nascar’s new agreement also speaks to a wider trend that has seen other US sports properties secure handsome increases for their media rights. Indeed, the series hasn’t only added more broadcast partners, but is allowing those networks to air coverage across both their linear and streaming services for a higher price. That means it could potentially broaden the reach of its races while getting paid more in the process.   

And even with its falling audience figures, Nascar can still boast strong viewership, especially around marquee events like the Daytona 500. Plus, for all the talk of Formula One’s growth in the US, Nascar still has a dedicated following and remains the most-watched motorsport series in the market.

All things considered, despite some concerns, Nascar has secured a good outcome for itself in the current climate.


Will this be enough to appease teams?

Much of the talk in the lead-up to this deal was the dissatisfaction from Cup Series teams around the series’ revenue-sharing framework.

Towards the end of 2022, senior figures from Hendrick Motorsports, 23XI Racing, Joe Gibbs Racing and RFK Racing made their feelings clear in a public statement criticising the “broken” economic model in Nascar.

In what were reportedly frosty negotiations, teams were demanding an increase on the 25 per cent cut they receive from the existing broadcast contract. This currently works out to between US$8 million and US$10 million for each car per year, but the teams purportedly now want as much as US$18 million annually.

To help negotiate its new broadcast deal, Nascar enlisted the help of Evolution Media Capital, while the Race Team Alliance, the representative body for all Nascar outfits, secured Los Angeles-headquartered Wasserman to support the process of securing a larger cut of the revenue.

While all of this contributed to discussions taking longer than Nascar might have wanted, it will be considered time well spent if the increase in value gets the teams closer to their desired goal.


Go deeper


Are there any concerns around the deal?

There will be fewer races on network TV, something that will likely be concerning for teams even with the increased revenue they should receive from the deal. Furthermore, the midseason packages carved out for WBD and Amazon will both be locked behind a pay wall, which will be a point of contention for fans.

As greater media rights income is pursued by properties like Nascar, the unfortunate side effect is that this cost will be passed onto consumers. It is now commonplace for rights to be fragmented in this way, but the impact this will have on audience attention is not yet realised.

From the start of this new deal, Nascar fans will need to navigate five broadcasters and up to ten different platforms – whether linear or digital – to watch the entire Cup Series and Xfinity Series seasons. What’s more, viewers looking to watch practice and qualifying followed by the race will need to switch between broadcasters for all but three races.

One concern is that casual viewers will lose track of which channels are showing what, while the gap in coverage on Fox and NBC risks inducing a midseason lull from traditional viewers.


What does the structure of this deal indicate about future developments?

Making predictions about the future of media rights is far from easy, and Nascar’s decision to cover all the bases emphasises that rights holders are still trying to strike the right balance between linear and streaming.

The introduction of a company like Amazon may reap rewards, especially since the platform provides an arguably ageing series the chance to market itself to an audience of younger, tech-savvy Prime Video subscribers. But Nascar will need to rely on more than just the five races that will be streamed on the platform to diversify its audience.

Cross-promotion between its new group of partners will be essential, while the marketing campaign that will be built through Bleacher Report will be another crucial aspect for engaging with younger viewers.

It should be noted, though, that Nascar was targeting a single streaming partner for the mid-season package of races. Instead, that ten-race bundle has been split between Amazon and WBD, and falling just short of its target in that regard highlights that the series still had to adapt to secure the financial package it wanted.

Ultimately, though, it’s hard to argue that, for right now, this isn’t a good deal for Nascar.

Share

Related content