A significant portion of the NASCAR Cup Series season could only be available via streaming services when NASCAR’s new television contract goes into effect in 2025.
According to the Sports Business Journal, NASCAR has upped the number of midseason races it’s looking to sell to a streaming service from six to 10. The summer races available via streaming would come after Fox’s portion of the season ends and before NBC’s rights begin.
A midseason package of races has proved harder to sell. Originally, NASCAR planned to carve out a six-race package. But now it’s shopping a package that includes as many as 10 races in the hopes that the added races will entice new bidders to close the deal. NASCAR created the midseason package with races currently carried by Fox and NBC, meaning those two broadcasters will have less inventory in the next deals.
Both Amazon and Turner remain front-runners to pick up the midseason package, sources say. It is possible that the two could split the package, with each getting five races. NASCAR hopes that one of the media companies will agree to take the entire 10 races.
The report also notes that Fox and NBC have agreed to re-up as NASCAR’s TV partners. The two companies have split NASCAR rights since 2015, while Fox has broadcast the first part of the Cup Series season since 2001.
It was inevitable that some NASCAR races would be available exclusively via streaming. After all, other leagues like the NFL, MLB and others have been offering select games on streaming platforms. But the move to streaming may be more of a challenge for NASCAR than it is for other leagues.
NASCAR teams are heavily reliant on sponsorship income, and sponsors want as many eyeballs as possible on their company logos. Races on streaming services — especially in the first few seasons of the new media rights deal — will undoubtedly have fewer viewers than those on cable or broadcast TV. Will any new revenue from the new media deal offset the potential difficulty in finding sponsors to pay for those races?
NASCAR’s fans are also some of the oldest in sports. The tech divide can be very real between generations. Are older fans going to sign up and pay for streaming services to watch NASCAR races during the summer?
If they don’t, it’s hard to see much of an audience for streaming-only races. NASCAR’s audience has declined significantly over the past seven years. The 2023 season finale at Phoenix had just half the viewership the finale in 2016 did.