NASCAR will return to ABC Sports and ESPN in 2007 with an eight-year, content-rich agreement featuring a 17-race Nextel Cup schedule, ending with coverage on ABC Sports of the 10-race "Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup" for the driver's championship. It will be the first time "The Chase" will be on one network. The agreement also features exclusive coverage of the entire Busch series, as well as a significant schedule of related programming – qualifying and practice sessions for both series, a daily NASCAR news and information program, a Nextel Cup pre-race show, a reality series, specials and more.
Like other recent major ESPN rights acquisitions, the agreement also provides access to a vast amount of content that will fuel ESPN International and ESPN's extensive multimedia assets. These include ESPN HD and ESPN2 HD; ESPN.com; Spanish-language ESPN Deportes, ESPN Deportes Radio and ESPN Deportes.com; ESPN360 (the company's growing interactive and customizable broadband service); Mobile ESPN (ESPN's mobile phone service); Mobile ESPN Publishing (the company's wireless content licensing business); and ESPN Radio.
ESPN will also be NASCAR's exclusive international sales agent worldwide (excluding Mexico and Canada) and will have the right to air all ESPN or ABC Sports ancillary programs on its international networks.
ABC pioneered television coverage of stock car racing in the 1960s. ESPN introduced flag-to-flag race telecasts in the 1980s and was the sport's leading carrier through the 1990s; the networks last aired NASCAR events in 2000.
"This agreement totally embraces NASCAR's multimedia future," said George Bodenheimer, ESPN, Inc. and ABC Sports President and Co-chairman of Disney Media Networks. "NASCAR is a strong and growing property, and the ESPN of the 21st century – an array of new media platforms and content outlets reaching fans wherever and however they consume sports – will take the sport to even higher levels of exposure and growth."
He continued: "ABC Sports first exposed sports fans to the racing excitement of NASCAR in the 1960s, and ESPN and the sport grew up together in the 1980s and '90s. Our tradition is rich, and our future is bright. To NASCAR, its drivers and fans we say, 'Welcome home.'"
Brian France, NASCAR Chairman of the Board and CEO, said: "NASCAR's return to ABC and ESPN, the 'Worldwide Leader in Sports,' is a perfect fit for the sport and the fans. Today's media is much more than just showing races on television, and the new agreement allows our fans to get quality NASCAR content through several mediums. ESPN's network of networks means that NASCAR will have a strong presence on television, radio, print and new media such as the Internet and wireless applications."
ESPN's multimedia rights include simulcasting telecasts on all new media platforms, in-progress and post-race highlights across all outlets, co-branded merchandise and interactive television and e-commerce opportunities.
ABC Sports will carry at least 11 of the season-ending 17 NASCAR Nextel Cup events covered by the agreement, with the others on ESPN. ABC will broadcast the entire "Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup," a 10-race "post-season" for the top 10 Nextel Cup drivers. The agreement also includes the rights to the Nextel Cup and Busch Series awards banquets and the All-American Soap Box Derby.
Television viewers first enjoyed the action from tracks such as Daytona, Talladega and Darlington on ABC Sports' "Wide World of Sports" in the 1960s. ESPN aired 262 NASCAR Cup races over a 20-year period, starting in 1981. The network's award-winning, live flag-to-flag coverage – ESPN was honored with 17 Sports Emmy Awards and many industry honors – is widely credited for helping to popularize the sport nationwide. In the 1990s, ESPN2's extensive motorsports schedule was one of the driving forces behind the network's record-setting growth, reaching 50, 60, 70, 75, 80 and 85 million households faster than any other cable network previously. It is now seen in 89.3 million homes, virtually equal to ESPN's 90.1.