In a move few saw coming, The CW signed a seven-year deal to be the exclusive home of NASCAR’s second-tier Xfinity Series starting in 2025.
Sports Business Journal reported that The CW will pay about $115 million a year for the Xfinity Series rights.
below, The athletic‘s Jeff Gluck and Jordan Bianchi respond to Friday morning’s announcement.
The CW? That seems like a player out of the blue in NASCAR’s highly publicized media rights deals. What are your first impressions of The CW during each Xfinity Series race, practice session and qualifying?
Gluck: When I first saw the report I thought, “What!? The CW? How random.” I can’t remember the last time I turned on The CW. But that’s exactly the point, isn’t it? The CW was willing to pay nine figures a season to show NASCAR’s lower series as it tries to grow. And at the same time, it’s not like this is a bad thing for NASCAR fans – rather than another subscription service, The CW is completely free and available to 100 percent of households in the United States. Just because you might not check it out doesn’t mean it isn’t readily available. Once fans adjust, it won’t seem unusual. And with the number of sports The CW seems to be adding (it also broadcasts LIV Golf and ACC football and basketball), going to that channel could become more frequent after all.
Bianchi: If you’re a NASCAR fan frustrated that most Xfinity races are on cable, then this is welcome news, as all 33 races plus every practice and qualifying session are now on a broadcast channel that’s free and accessible over-the-air . This is a big departure from NASCAR’s previous TV deal, where Xfinity races felt like an afterthought at times, as they will now (presumably) be a centerpiece of a network that is booming and using sports to boost its popularity. enlarge.
Not too long ago, NASCAR would be looking at a streaming-only package for the Xfinity Series. Now every race will be available on free, over-the-air TV. How will this move affect the Xfinity Series and its teams?
Gluck: You could say that the Xfinity teams want exposure for their sponsors, and being on FS1 or USA Network might seem more relevant to sports fans. But what the teams really need is more money from their wallets. If NASCAR finds a way to share more of this windfall with the Xfinity teams and the mid-tier outfits don’t struggle as much as they do now, the whole product will be better and boost the series overall – no matter how many people to look. And hey, the availability of over-the-air TV (plus the same channel every week) is certainly more attractive to potential sponsors than a streaming service.
Bianchi: As speculation mounted that NASCAR was considering putting Xfinity races exclusively on a streaming platform, it caused a lot of hand-wringing in the garage about how it would affect the bottom line for team owners. Some owners and team managers thought that while such a deal could potentially generate an influx of revenue, the trade-off was that sponsors would also be less likely to sign up, as races would no longer be easily accessible and fewer people would watch. With The CW signing up, teams can go to their sponsors and sell them on the fact that Xfinity races are available for free in every home in America.
The CW has never televised NASCAR races and has few racing connections other than being home to IndyCar’s “100 Days to Indy” docuseries earlier this year. How does this work if NASCAR produces the broadcasts?
Gluck: NASCAR is in the process of completing a state-of-the-art building to house its NASCAR Productions group, which is the people who will do the racing for The CW. The SBJ report said The CW will hire the on-air talent, but all broadcasts will be produced by NASCAR. That’s mixed news in some ways. On the one hand, it’s great to have NASCAR in charge of things like camera angles and audio and everything that goes into making a race broadcast. On the other hand, it raises questions about how objective the broadcasts will be. For example, if NASCAR does something that deserves criticism, how will The CW handle it?
Bianchi: This is an interesting wrinkle in all of this. When NASCAR announced it was building a new building for its production group, it was assumed that NASCAR would eventually handle production for live national series (Cup, Xfinity, or Trucks) in some way. It made too much sense that they didn’t. So in this regard, it’s not surprising that NASCAR is taking on this role. What will be interesting is what the actual broadcast will look like and if it will be different from what fans are used to seeing.
What does this mean for the remaining parts of NASCAR’s TV deal?
Gluck: This seems pretty significant to bring in $800 million for the Xfinity series alone. If NASCAR was hoping for a reason to solicit more money from Fox and NBC to renew their Cup Series deals, or even the reported midseason streaming-only package, executives can simply point to The CW’s willingness to offer a . record amount to pay. NASCAR should be holding champagne toasts in its offices today.
Bianchi: Securing $800 million for a second tier series is impressive. So as Jeff said, NASCAR should be celebrating this deal. Champagne everywhere. And from a larger perspective, it reinforces expectations that the contracts NASCAR is currently finalizing with Fox, NBC and Amazon to broadcast Cup races should surpass the earlier television deal.
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(Photo of Ty Gibbs celebrating the 2022 Xfinity Series championship: Chris Graythen/Getty Images)