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TV News: F1, Speed Break Up While Fox, NASCAR Renew Vows

John Sturbin | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Tuesday, October 16 2012

Darrell Waltrip and the folks at Fox will be covering NASCAR for years to come. (File photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

Formula 1 will have a new broadcast platform beginning next season, with NBC Sports Group securing the rights via a four-year contract that marks the end of the series’ long-standing partnership with Speed.

Four of the 20 races on the 2013 schedule will be carried on NBC, with the remainder on NBC Sports Network –which also is the cable home of the IZOD IndyCar Series. Reports of the impending switch surfaced Saturday, when a release from Fox Sports Media Group to The Associated Press stated F1 and Speed would part ways at season’s end. Formula 1 has been a carried domestically by Speed since 1996, with live coverage beginning in 1997.

Meanwhile, with two full seasons left on their current TV contract, NASCAR and Fox Sports Media Group announced Monday a new eight-year, multi-platform media rights agreement that ensures FSMG’s broadcast of NASCAR racing through 2022.

NBC officially confirmed its exclusive U.S. media rights deal with F1 on Monday. NBC plans to cover all 20 F1 events live on-air. In addition, all races will be streamed on NBC Sports Live Extra, the NBC Sports Group’s live-stream platform available on-line at NBCSports.com as well as on mobile and tablet apps.

“We are thrilled to add the top international open-wheel racing series to our already-strong motorsports portfolio,” Jon Miller, president, programming, NBC Sports and NBC Sports Network said in a statement. “Formula 1 is a perfect fit for the NBC Sports Group as it provides content across three platforms – broadcast, cable and digital – for nine months a year with more than 100 hours of premier programming annually.”

The Associated Press reported the four races to be broadcast on NBC in 2013 are the Canadian Grand Prix on June 9, and the final three races of the season at Abu Dhabi, the second U.S. Grand Prix at Circuit of The Americas in Austin, Texas, and the Brazilian GP in November. The inaugural Grand Prix of America at Port Imperial, N.J., is scheduled for June 16, same date as the U.S. Open golf final round – another NBC property.

Meanwhile, RACER.com reported that five F1 races – Malaysia, China, Germany, Belgium and Korea – would serve as “lead-ins” to the IndyCar Series events at St. Petersburg, Fla., Long Beach, Toronto, Sonoma, Calif., and Houston. Those races are set for March 24, April 14, July 14, Aug. 25 and Oct. 6, respectively.

“NBC and its various media assets have a huge profile throughout the United States and I am obviously delighted to have concluded this agreement,” said Bernie Ecclestone, F1’s commercial manager. “I feel that they will promote Formula 1 to a level not seen before in the United States. I very much look forward to working with NBC. Together, we will endeavor to broaden the scope of Formula 1 coverage available to U.S. viewers incorporating additional digital content in particular that has not been available before.”

FSMG’s loss of F1 comes at a time when it has been rumored to be rebranding Speed as a broad-based national sports network, possibly to be called Fox Sports 1.

“It’s disappointing to learn that F1 has elected to move forward with a different media partner,” FSMG said in a statement. “SPEED has been the U.S. voice of F1 since the mid ’90s, and it is a passion for many people at the network. Fox Sports Media Group made what we believed to be a fiscally responsible bid based on the sport’s current viewership levels, but F1 has elected to go in another direction. We wish them well.”

Speed‘s on-air team has been anchored by veteran reporter Bob Varsha, with color commentators David Hobbs and Steve Matchett as his sidekicks. Will Buxton has been Speed’s on-site pit reporter since 2010.

Re-focusing on NASCAR, FSMG’s new agreement significantly increases its digital rights to include “TV Everywhere” live-race streaming of its portion of the season for the first time beginning in 2013.

“NASCAR has been in very good hands and has enjoyed tremendous success the last 12 years in large part because of our fantastic partnership with Fox and Fox Sports Media Group,” Brian France, NASCAR chairman/CEO, said in a statement. “We are thrilled to be able to extend our relationship in such a significant way for our track partners, race teams, and most importantly, our millions of loyal and passionate fans. This extension with FOX Sports Media Group helps position the sport for future growth as NASCAR continues to be an anchor with one of the world’s largest and most influential media companies.”

As part of the new agreement, which takes effect in 2015, FSMG retains the television rights to 13 consecutive NASCAR Sprint Cup Series point-races beginning each year with the prestigious Daytona 500. In addition, FSMG retains the rights to the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race, the Daytona Shootout, the Duel at Daytona, the entire NASCAR Camping World Truck Series season and practice and qualifying for both the Sprint Cup and Camping World Truck races that FSMG broadcasts.

Fox also remains the exclusive home of the Daytona 500 – ”The Great American Race” – through 2022, a title it has held for the last six years and nine of the last 12.

“We’re extremely happy to have worked closely with Brian and his team at NASCAR over the last few months to expand and extend our relationship for what is without question the most popular motorsport in the country,” said Eric Shanks and Randy Freer, FSMG co-presidents. “NASCAR has been a staple at Fox for more than a decade and we consider it one of the signature sports we cover. With our commitment renewed, we look forward to presenting NASCAR thoroughly, professionally and creatively for many years to come.”

Digitally, FSMG gains “TV Everywhere” rights next season to live-stream all FSMG races, along with pre- and post-race coverage, race highlights and in-progress race highlights to events it televises. This portion of the deal was made possible by NASCAR’s re-acquisition of operational, business and editorial control of its digital platform, a move that takes effect on Jan. 1, 2013.

“NASCAR fans’ demand and desire for NASCAR content stretches across all platforms and distribution channels,” France said. “As we’ve done with this FSMG extension, we will continue to take the appropriate measures to ensure our fans have access to the sport wherever they are and through all available devices. NASCAR is one of the most accessible sports in the world and this new deal builds upon that in a very significant way.”

FSMG’s new and expanded television and digital media rights agreement with NASCAR includes:

–  An eight-year term from 2015 to 2022. The current FSMG/NASCAR rights agreement began in 2006 and runs through 2014.

– Thirteen consecutive point-races beginning with the Daytona 500 on Fox.

– The Daytona Shootout, Duel at Daytona, NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race and Daytona 500 Qualifying.

– Full NASCAR Camping World Truck Series season.

– Right to televise all practice and qualifying sessions for FSMG races.

– Ability to re-telecast races on a FOX network and via video-on-demand (VOD) for 24 hours.

– Right to ancillary programming including, but not limited to, a nightly NASCAR news and information show as well as weekend at-track shows.

– Right to NASCAR branded pre- and post-race shows.

– Extensive digital rights beginning in 2013, including:

– TV Everywhere, live digital distribution of all races FSMG has rights to broadcast.

– Pre- and post-race coverage, including race highlights, in-progress race highlights and replays of FOX-televised races.

The announcement comes less than two months after NASCAR and Fox announced they are teaming up to provide the sport’s most expansive Spanish-language broadcast offering with Fox Deportes’ coverage of 15 Cup races starting in 2013. Of the 15 race broadcasts, Fox Deportes, the No. 1 U.S. Latino Sports network, will carry six Cup races live, including for the first time a Spanish-language broadcast of the Daytona 500 on Sunday, Feb. 24.

– John Sturbin can be reached at jsturbin@racintoday.com

John Sturbin | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Tuesday, October 16 2012
3 Comments

3 Comments »

  • John Sturbin says:

    NBC’s announcing crew will be a critical element for domestic F1 fans, most of whom I believe have grown comfortable with Speed’s trio of Bob Varsha, David Hobbs and Steve Matchett over the length of the current contract. But NBC also has to find a new lead announcer for its IndyCar telecasts, now that Bob Jenkins has retired. I’m also wondering if NBC plans a show similar to “Formula 1 Debrief,” which not only reviews the previous race but also features the latest rumors, mostly from current pit reporter Will Buxton. He’s good at what he does, with the exception of those hit-and-miss pre-race pit lane reports and goofy outtake segments no fan really cares about.

  • Karl T says:

    Good riddance to Speed. They kill the excellent format of SpeedVision and replaced it with the joke that is NASCAR. And their executives just couldn’t get it through their heads that MORE NASCAR wasn’t going to save them/fix anything.

    • Steve T says:

      I agree completely. Now Fox can change the name from “Speed” to “The Nascar Network” since that is what they have focused on since Fox bought SpeedVision. I just hope that NBC gets some decent announcers. Someone with Steve Matchett’s experience and insight will be difficult to replace.