NASCAR Should be on National Free TV

The New NASCAR TV Contract is a Step Backwards

In 2001 NASCAR started the season with a historic TV contract. Fox and NBC Sports were going to televise just about all of the Sprint Cup Series (Winston Cup Series as it was then) races on national TV. Set up your TV, adjust your rabbit ears and boom high energy NASCAR racing.

What followed was an unprecedented expansion of NASCAR fans watching the sport. Seats at the tracks were hard to come by as were campsites and motel rooms. Ticket prices for the same rising. Then something happened starting around 2007. Fan numbers visiting the tracks started dropping. Much has said that it was due to fuel prices and the economy in general but was it?

The 2001 through 2006 seasons saw most of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series broadcast on either Fox or NBC which most everyone could receive for free without paying for cable or satellite service. In 2006 NBC indicated they would not seek renewal of their contract for the last half of the season. In 2006, the last year of the contract, 26 of 36 races, 15 on Fox and nine on NBC, were on free TV.

ESPN and TNT picked up NBC’s part and most of those races then moved to cable or satellite TV. Suddenly those new fans that did not have access to cable or satellite TV were cut off from regular viewing of NASCAR in the last half of the season. At least ESPN is a widely held channel in the pay TV area, available in most motels, bars and other places with cable or satellite TV.

Through the years there has been much discussion about how to keep NASCAR fans engaged in the sport and bring in new ones. Well first and foremost if a fan gets drawn in during the Fox part of the season via a Jet Dryer explosion or some other drama, only to be cut off in early June when the series moves to cable; that is a problem.

Sure people get busy doing other things during the summer months and viewership does decline naturally but moving to cable is a self fulfilling prophecy.

In 2015, Fox and NBC have the contract back, as in the movie “Back to the Future”. This is a great opportunity for getting back to past success for both networks. Unfortunately that opportunity is being used to sell their other Sports channels; Fox Sports 1 and NBC Sports Net.

During the Fox half of the season most of the races starting with the last race in April will be moving to Fox Sports 1 a cable channel. This is not only the races that used to be broadcast on TNT but also ones that were previously broadcast on Fox; a step back. Only 10 races will be on Fox in 2015 in lieu of 13 in 2014.

During the NBC half of the season 13 of their 20 races will be broadcast on their cable channel NBC Sports Net. This includes most of the summer races. This is the bright spot in the new contract as there will be seven races on NBC in 2015 compared to only three on ABC in 2014.

Don’t get me wrong, it is great that NASCAR is even on TV, but it just seems that a great product is being wasted by putting it on cable TV. If you’re a NASCAR fan in the Midwest or West that doesn’t have cable TV or satellite, the only way you will be able to stay engaged after May, is an AP piece in the paper on Monday morning.

Brian Berg Jr. is a NASCAR writer for

Follow him on Twitter @brian_jr1 during the race and throughout the week for more NASCAR news and commentary.

Feature Photo Credit: 303102 Patrick Smith/Getty Images


12 thoughts on “The New NASCAR TV Contract is a Step Backwards”

  1. Watching on cable is still cheaper then getting ripped off on ticket prices, hotel and restaurant goudging and travel time.

  2. If I remember correctly most of the viewing public public has access to some form of paid service, be it cable or satellite. That is probably not the thing limiting Nascar. Rather its that there are more and more things to watch and do that are equally or more interesting. That is where the new viewers are going, not to what they deem an irrelevant sport. Remember the growth in the automobile in this country is over. That will inevitably effect motorsports.

  3. As someone who has “cut the cable”, due to the outrageous costs of paid TV, this is exactly why I don’t watch very many races. I’m a huge fan of Indycar and Nascar both, but at this point both leagues are lucky if I watch 10 races a year, combined. I used to never miss a race.

  4. it has nothing to do with the TV channels, people that WANT to watch the races will find them, the thing it that there is more COMPETETION for eyeballs these days (look at show ratings, the top rated shows today would be near 50th in the ratings 25 years ago).
    There are more channels, more options on TV (On-Demand, Netflix, etc.) and people are BUSIER than they used to be.

    I have been to exactly (1) race in person in my lifetime and that’s only because I was in Florida for work. I watch maybe 25% of the season on TV (I’m from that generation of booming ratings), but now my kids have activities on the weekends, and weeknights, my schedule now includes those household duties that used to be done during the week being done on a Saturday morning or Sunday because the “free time” I used to have no longer exists.

    It’s CYCLICAL, once my kids are grown and out of the house, my time to watch races on TV will increase again.

  5. Most everyone may have access to pay TV, but not everyone can afford it. Some of us older die hard fans have a hard time trying to live on only our meager Social Security checks and have to spend our money on things like medicine and food. We can’t afford to sit in a bar all day (if you’re lucky enough to find one broadcasting the race) so I’m sick of you people that say things like it’s out there, if you want to see it you can find it.

  6. All sports are moving to cable. Cable TV (because of subscription fees) support paying higher rights fees to sports leagues. So of course, NASCAR, NFL, MLB, etc. aren’t going to turn down more money. “You can’t stop progress.”

    1. This is not “Progress” sir. This is “greed” plain and simple. When their spreadsheets and pie charts don’t show profits for shareholders they look for ways to pull the wealth back into the fold. The test market was the sports network package. Now it is the NFL network, etc.

  7. If you live in Ontario, Canada, you do not get Fox 1 or NBC Sports so consequently you get very little racing. You can get the Sprint Cup race, usually after it starts and it finishes before the interviews. We cannot get any other NASCAR programming and as a result a lot of race fans do not even bother watching; it is to flustrating.

  8. Money and greed has taken over in America.. is NASCAR next on the list?? What untill other sports players paychecks are’s probably coming..

  9. i have no cable or sat, so i’ll be lucky to see some races, but would be nice to see all of them–listen on mrn radio and watch racebuddy on net (free, of course), but it’s not the same

  10. Seems to me that Nascar has a huge following as long as they can get it for free. However the group willing to pay to see it is substantially smaller. Interesting.

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