Will a high-priced rights agreement with NBC rev up a struggling sport?
Though NASCAR's TV ratings have been down for 12 of the 20 Cup races this season, NBC last week made a high-stakes bet that the sport isn't out of gas. Beginning in 2015, NBC will replace ESPN and Turner Sports as NASCAR's television partner for the final 20 Sprint Cup races of each season until 2025. (Thirteen races will be broadcast on the NBC Sports Network and seven on NBC; Fox will still carry the first 16 races of the season.) The deal is reportedly worth $4.4 billion, a significant increase over the $2.28 billion, eight-year deal NASCAR signed with ESPN and Turner in '06. Despite the windfall, it's a risky move for NASCAR: The sport will lose the regular promotion ESPN gave it on SportsCenter, and it's possible that in '15 only eight races (seven on NBC and the Daytona 500 on Fox) will be on network television. (Fox hasn't said how it plans to divide its share of races between Fox and Fox Sports 1.) NASCAR executives are hoping that Cup races in the fall will serve as a lead-in to Football Night in America on Sundays on NBC, but NBC has yet to set its '15 schedule.
DOUG MCSCHOOLER/AP (CAR)