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In the same week that ESPN is working towards launching its stand-alone streaming service, it has been reported by the Sports Business Journal that NASCAR is following this practice. They are in talks with streaming companies to air their Xfinity Racing Series. Their current media deal with Fox Sports and NBC is set to run through 2024. Given their relationships with those media networks, it would be fair to assume NASCAR would initiate conversations with those network’s streaming platforms; however, the deadline for communications has passed. Fox Sports and NBC split the NASCAR season with part airing on Fox Sports, including events like the Daytona 500, while NBC focuses on post-season coverage. As a result, NASCAR has seen stable viewership on those networks. However, their last media rights deal was executed at arguably the height of the cable era of television; today, sports consumers are migrating away from traditional cable packages to streaming platforms. When NASCAR signed its most recent media deal, there were roughly 100 million cable users; that number has decreased to 80 million, according to Sports Business Journal.
NASCAR’s Relationship With Streaming
NASCAR has tested the streaming waters by simulcasting its NBC events on Peacock. However, this will be the first time NASCAR seeks an independent streaming deal. Amazon’s Prime Video is speculated to engage in a partnership with NASCAR. Prime Video inked a $1 billion deal with the NFL to air its Thursday night games. Adding NASCAR to the Prime Video roster will potentially expand NASCAR’s viewership and create opportunities for advertisers. Some of NASCAR’s top executives intend to initiate the sale of a mid-summer package for streaming providers. In addition, they hope to maintain the same level of viewership as they would on a traditional network. If NASCAR can partner with Prime Video, it would add another property to the sports portfolio, including the NFL’s Thursday Night Football.
To Stream Or Not To Stream
Professional sports leagues like the MLB and MLS have entered into streaming agreements with Apple TV and laid the blueprint for NASCAR to migrate to streaming. Leagues that have ventured into streaming further emphasize the increasing value of digital media rights. NASCAR has a distinguished demographic that is different from that of the NFL, MLB, MLS, or the NFL, for that matter. As a result, NASCAR has to consider whether a streaming paywall will curtail its viewership. Furthermore, a situation where fans can have the option to stream NASCAR events or watch them on traditional television could mitigate potential viewership loss. Regardless if NASCAR offers an exclusive streaming service or simulcasts, for a league to invest heavily in streaming is a risk with a tremendous amount of upside.
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