NASCAR, ESPN and Turner Sports will announce a deal on Wednesday to stream nine of the 10 Sprint Cup Series Chase races live online.
Races will be available via RaceBuddy on NASCAR.com and WatchESPN.com and the WatchESPN application for smartphones and tablets.
"Enhancing the viewing experience and improving the sport's digital and social presence for our millions of fans, at the track, at home and everywhere in between, is a goal we never lose sight of," said Marc Jenkins, NASCAR's vice president of digital media in a statement. "Being able to offer this series of interactive products during the Chase will further engage our fans with a robust digital presence that will forever change how the championship points battle is consumed."
NASCAR.com's RaceBuddy will continue to offer DVR Functionality, Enhanced LIVE Leaderboard and RaceView's position tracker.
I'll say it for you: Hallelujah.
RaceBuddy will continue to provide track and in-car cameras, while WatchESPN will provide ESPN's broadcast. WatchESPN is available to those who have ESPN video service through a participating video provider, which at the moment, are Brighthouse, Time Warner and Verizon. (Don't fret, if you don't have either of the three cable services, you can still access the race via RaceBuddy.)
Until now, NASCAR fans with no TV access but with internet access have only been able to (legally) view the races broadcast on TNT through NASCAR.com's RaceBuddy application, which also could be viewed on Yahoo! Sports. For the Fox and ESPN races, those fans looking for a live feed have gone through other, not-so-legal outlets. (TNT and NASCAR.com are both Turner properties).
The only event that will not be streamed online is the race at Charlotte Motor Speedway, which will be broadcast on ABC and thus available on network television.
Plus, it's another step in a very fan-friendly direction for NASCAR and its TV deals. Sunday's race at Chicagoland will be the debut of split-screen commercials for the second half of races on ESPN.
Online streaming could also potentially open up new sources of revenue for rights holders through increase ad revenue for internet only or combination ad packages. And most importantly, it puts NASCAR on platforms accessible to millions more. Eyeballs aren't a bad thing.
Because of the ABC caveat, it's unclear how this deal could be the precursor to a deal between Fox and Turner for the first portion of the NASCAR schedule in 2012. All of Fox's points races were on network television in 2011.
In addition, all of the Nationwide Series races and NASCAR Now will also be streamed on WatchESPN for the remainder of the year.
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