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Fox wants to push NASCAR to cable; Red Bull may pull out of NASCAR

  TV's Darrell Waltrip (R) and Red Bull's Brian Vickers (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

   By Mike Mulhern


    Major league stock car racing got a double dose of potentially bad news Monday, with word that one of NASCAR's top sponsors may pull out at the end of the season and that top TV partner Fox is looking to push as many as half a dozen of Fox' 13 Sprint Cup events from the big network to smaller cable outlet Speed.

   -- Fox' sports boss David Hill says he's talked with NASCAR executives about moving some of NASCAR's premier races off the Fox channel to cable Speed, which would put a severe dent in the number of viewers.
   -- Red Bull executives meanwhile are reported to be considering a pullout from NASCAR's Sprint Cup series at the end of the year, which would put a considerable number of top crewmen for the two-car operation out of jobs. Currently racing for Red Bull are Brian Vickers and Kasey Kahne; but Kahne is only on a one-year deal, and he will be running for Chevy's Rick Hendrick in 2012. Vickers' contract is up this season. So general manager Jay Frye has been looking both at signing a new driver to replace Kahne and at renegotiating with Vickers or finding a new driver for that ride. Juan Pablo Montoya, Clint Bowyer and Carl Edwards are the three drivers in the rumor mill as possibly under consideration for a job with Team Red Bull.
    There has been speculation for months that Red Bull company owner Dietrich Mateschitz was considering selling ownership of the NASCAR operation and taking a new roll as just the sponsor. However the latest news appears considerably different, and somewhat surprising, considering the energy drink market -- Amp, Monster, Robby Gordon's Speed all in the sport.

    Hill, whose network has been NASCAR's TV anchor since the new TV era kicked off in 2001, and NASCAR officials have apparently been talking about options for what would be the sport's third major TV contract, when the current eight-year deal ends in 2014. And sources close to the situation say that Fox has become somewhat disenchanted with NASCAR and might not be all that interested in renewing.
   Hill complained last year that the sport was losing too many 18-34 males, which is considered a very important marketing demographic for television sponsors. In response, NASCAR put on a big push to hit that demographic this season, and judging from Nielsen ratings for the February-June part of the stock car season that push has been paying off.
   Over the past several weeks there have been indications that NASCAR executives were interesting in creating something that could be called The NASCAR TV Channel, though the specifics have been unclear.
   Hill indicates he is aware of such a possible move. NASCAR has been building a major television operation of its own in Charlotte the past few years, doing various specials. And Hill seems to be raising the possibility of bringing NASCAR itself into some partnership with the Speed channel operation.
   When NASCAR's Brian France pulled off the mega-TV deal some 12 years ago, the key impact was in putting the Cup tour on major network TV, first with Fox and NBC.
   Then NBC pulled out, and ABC-ESPN rejoined.
   Network TV is considered preferable to cable, generally. However only three more Sprint Cup races this season will be on network TV; the rest will be on cable.
   Regardless of the technical aspects of whatever Fox, Speed and NASCAR wind up doing, a key issue for the sport, particularly the teams, is the TV money that Fox, Turner and ABC-ESPN put into the purse. That money under the current contract has been a lifesaver for many teams, though something of a drag perhaps for the TV networks themselves, because they signed onto the NASCAR deal during the boomtimes, and that contract requires the networks to increase TV purse money each year regardless of TV ratings. And the last few years TV ratings for the sport have been on the decline.
   NASCAR just hired a new executive to help with the TV negotiations, Steve Herbst.
   Fox and ABC-ESPN carry most the Cup tour events; Turner carries just six of the season's 36.
   When ABC decided to push most of the sport's championship playoffs events to ESPN, that was seen as a significant blow to the sport, though officials tried to put a more positive spin on it, looking at ESPN's more youthful demographics. However NASCAR's TV ratings for the fall chase on ESPN were down significantly.
   A Fox dump to Speed would likely have similar results. Speed is seen in 78 million households; Fox itself is seen in 112 million.

   Meanwhile down in the trenches, the possibility that Red Bull might pull out of NASCAR is downright frightening. Red Bull is not only a major world-wide brand, but its cache is for high tension sports, certainly a plus for NASCAR. On top of that NASCAR's Red Bull operation is considered one of the premier operations for work for.
   However NASCAR Red Bull hasn't quite had the success hoped for since it opened in 2007.  
   On the other hand, Red Bull's Formula 1 operation has been highly successful.
   The team issued a brief statement: "Red Bull Racing Team is currently seeking outside investors as we evaluate next steps in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. We are not at liberty to comment on details while negotiations are under way. Red Bull fully supports NASCAR for the remainder of the 2011 season as we fight for victories and a position in the 2011 Chase for the Sprint Cup."

     Are Big TV bosses becoming disenchanted with NASCAR? (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

Moving the races to Cable

Moving the races to Cable would be the death knell of the sport as major league attraction. In my area SPEED is not offered as part of the basic cable package and I sure wouldn't pay extra for it.

The cost of the rights fees

The cost of the rights fees the networks had to pay NASCAR has finally come home to hit NASCAR when it needs it least. NASCAR gouged the networks in rights fees and it's blown up in their faces, even with this year's surprising - and perhaps tenuous - jump in ratings.

That Red Bull may quit is another sign that sponsors have reached the point of diminishing returns from their NASCAR budgets. Spending has been out of control for a long time and it's beginning to chase sponsors away.

PLEASE, ESPN, move the Chase

PLEASE, ESPN, move the Chase back to ABC where it belongs. A network-to-cable transition for a championship event should only be done to something that we know for sure would draw a big audience on cable such as the BCS. NASCAR isn't necessarily in that league. The more races on over-the-air television, the better, and 24 races on OTA was perfect for me.

let them move them to cable

let them move them to cable and i want watch. i'am a average working tax payer whose hours have been cut back all bills have increased all because the rich decides they need more profits and we have a spineless gov that want say enough is enough. i use broadband internet [no contract] so i can have internet by the month if i can afford it.i know theirs alot of people in the same boat. so nascar if you want ratings to drop go for it. on sponsors has anyone noticed how in the past few years the sponsors that have left teams or nascar left manufactures other than chevy. nascar is worried about red bull leaving then again they may just jump ship to chevy. after all sponsors want wins or atleast to be with competitive teams and history shows if any manufacture is not competitive on track nascar does nothing unless its chevy. a few years ago toyota and ford was spanking chevy on track then they jj,jr,jg started complaining and by the start of the chase the chevys had changed enough in the front ends to give jj the advantage and he won almost every race in the chase. nascar said chevy to run 2010 car huge change they said ford to run 2010 car they still look basically just like the 2008 models[same hoods]2010 street car have different hoods. there's been well known ford drivers racing with no sponsors while unknown chevy rooky drivers had multiple sponsors.nascar the level playing field you tried so hard to get in the 90s with all the ford rule changes while you let gordon have his perfect cars and win his 4 championships you need to find now and quit playing to chevy because every time you say the cars are even they cry and you change something for them to give them the advantage. which is what stewart is trying to get started. that hurts sponsors

Moving to cable wouldn't be

Moving to cable wouldn't be so bad if they offered a streaming service for those who watch nothing but NASCAR. Cable's reluctance to go 'a la carte' is going to be their undoing with internet streaming coming into play. If NASCAR were to sell access to all races, qualifying, and practices for a modest fee (about $10 a month?) it would probably be considered cheap enough to work for most people. I pay $60 for cable to watch nothing but NASCAR, and honestly I'm contemplating whether or not it is worth it.


Cable should not cost any thing . 30 years ago t.v. viewing was free even with Sateilite Dish till they blocked that as well . Now they (cable providers)are sucking it out of both ends . The advertizers and the viewers . With a lot of people out of work how can we afford it anymore. Time to cancel ! Which is what i did three years ago and have not missed it.

Declining viewers

Slowly but surely all of the low income people are being forced out . Example: A view years ago our government decided to change t.v. from analog to digital they didn't realize how many american people could not afford digital t.v.s . The Federal Government set aside 650,000 to help buy convertor boxes for them. When all was said and done the fed's paided 2.5 million for boxes . This goes to show you how out of touch the people with money are with the rest of American people. I guess what i am trying to say is that there is over 15 million people that can not pay for cable and do not watch Nascar anymore when they have to pay to watch it. We the viewing public should not have to pay to watch t.v. period. I can remember 30 years ago when we did not have to. I had cable a few years ago and watched the cost in 6 years time, increase by 100% so i canceled it and will not have it again. Its crazy for the viewer to pay as well as the advertizer paying to show us there goods they want to sell. . Same thing is starting to happen to college football , i will not be watching much of it in 2014 , Espn has the lion's share of the contracts and if you don't pay for cable you don't watch. It is not worth it!

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