Five NASCAR Cup Series races per season will be available via streaming only starting in 2025.
NASCAR announced Wednesday that Fox and NBC had re-upped as TV partners through 2031 while TNT and Amazon would each broadcast five races per season. NASCAR’s current media rights deal with Fox and NBC expires at the end of the 2024 season.
“Our goal was to secure long-term stability with an optimized mix of distribution platforms and innovative partners that would allow us to grow the sport while delivering our product to fans wherever they are – and we’ve achieved that today,” NASCAR president Steve Phelps said in a statement. “NASCAR has been a cornerstone property for both new and established platforms for several decades. These agreements demonstrate the staying power of our sport and the consistent, large-scale audience it delivers. This landmark deal underscores our collective growth opportunity to drive engagement across this diverse collection of platforms – whether on broadcast, cable or direct-to-consumer.”
The 10 races split between TNT and Amazon will happen during the summer months. Fox will broadcast the first 14 races of the Cup Series season including the All-Star Race and Busch Clash, Amazon will broadcast the next five races, TNT will televise five races and NBC will broadcast the remaining 14 races of the season which includes the entirety of the 10-race playoffs.
Just nine of the 38 Cup Series races in 2025 will be on broadcast television. Fox will televise five races and NBC will televise four. FS1 will televise nine, while USA Network will televise 10
According to Sports Business Journal, the seven-year deal is worth $7.7 billion from the four companies and is roughly a 40% increase from what Fox and NBC are currently paying to televise NASCAR Cup Series races.
That increase is slightly above the same bump NASCAR got in its current media rights contract. After NASCAR received an average of roughly $600 million a season from Fox, TNT and ESPN from 2007-2014, it got $8.2 billion over 10 years from Fox and NBC through 2024.
Fox and NBC will have less live programming
In addition to broadcasting fewer races in 2025 and beyond, Fox and NBC won’t carry practice and qualifying for most races either. Outside of the Daytona 500, All-Star Race and Busch Clash, Amazon will stream practice and qualifying for all Fox events and the five races it televises. TNT’s TruTV will televise practice and qualifying for its five races and the 14 races that NBC televises.
It’s a deep cutback in programming for both Fox and NBC as the CW is taking over the rights to the second-tier Xfinity Series in 2025. Fox and NBC have been splitting the Xfinity Series since they began splitting the television contract in 2015.
The cutbacks also make it more complicated for NASCAR fans to find NASCAR races. A hardcore NASCAR fan could watch as many as four different networks in a single weekend to watch the Truck Series (Fox/FS1), the Xfinity Series (the CW), Cup Series qualifying (TruTV) and the Cup Series Race (USA/NBC).
Far fewer races televised on broadcast TV
The nine races on broadcast television is less than half the current number available on either Fox or NBC’s main networks. Twenty of the 38 races (including the two exhibition races) are available on Fox and NBC while the rest are on FS1 and USA.
The drop in races available on over-the-air TV is significant given NASCAR teams’ reliance on sponsor income to pay the bills. Sponsorship has been harder and harder to find in recent years as TV audiences have declined and costs have increased. Recognizable companies like Lowe’s, M&Ms, Smithfield, Target and Home Depot have left NASCAR over the last decade while other brands like FedEx and MillerCoors have significantly cut back.
By putting more races on cable and televising five races via streaming-only, NASCAR is limiting the size of its audience. Races on cable typically draw fewer viewers than races on over-the-air TV and given NASCAR’s older fanbase, it’s reasonable to assume that the races available on Amazon will also draw smaller audiences, at least initially.
How can the TV deal help team sustainability?
The announcement of the new media rights deal came days after Phelps said that Cup Series teams “by and large are losing money.”
Cup teams have been wanting a greater share of NASCAR’s TV money and the new deal seems to pin the future sustainability of Cup Series teams more on what they can get from media revenue than they can from sponsor revenue.
That’s a decent idea, especially given NASCAR viewer trends. The 2023 season finale drew less than half the viewership the 2016 finale did. There does not seem to be any end in sight to NASCAR’s declining TV ratings.
If teams can work out a deal with NASCAR for a greater share of TV revenue, they could be less reliant on sponsorship to be profitable — especially if a cost cap is looming.