NASCAR: Are They Driving Toward a Future on Pay-Per-View?

David YeazellSenior Analyst IJanuary 13, 2010

Question: Is it possible Jimmie Johnson’s upcoming 24/7-Race to Daytona series on HBO and Showtime’s Inside NASCAR are actually being used as a testing ground for future NASCAR events on premium channels?

In 2003 owners of all 32 NFL teams made a ground breaking decision to launch their own broadcast network.

Eight months and $100 million dollars later, the NFL Network was born. While by and large the NFL Network is still in its infancy, they have proved it’s possible a sports league doesn’t always need to rely on mainstream broadcasting.

Given the recent standoff between Time-Warner Cable and Fox over fees, it would seem prudent for NASCAR to explore future broadcasting alternatives.

Enter the premium or pay-per-view channels.

It’s highly unlikely NASCAR fans would start paying to see a race broadcast.

Each venue on the racing circuit has its own unique fan signature, but, like the NFL Network, NASCAR wouldn’t actually broadcast or charge a premium for every race.

Racing at Bristol in no way compares to racing at Kansas.

It is possible that fans, for no reason other than the love of the sport, would pay a premium to see races at Bristol or Richmond.

The All Star Race at Charlotte consistently draws more of a viewing audience than racing the following week at the same track.

With each track being given a one year commitment, NASCAR could easily re-align premium events, like the All Star Race, to be run at ISC owned tracks.

Purchasing a package of races, for instance, Bristol, Richmond, Daytona 500, and the All Star Race, is no different than choosing what tier of programming you pay for with your local cable or satellite provider.

Tony Stewart’s Prelude to the Dream event at Eldora Speedway is showing a growing success in the pay-per-view market.

Yes, the majority of proceeds for this event are in fact for charity, but fans are still paying a premium to see it live.

Is the elite field of drivers the draw, or is it actually the venue itself?

Paying for one event certainly doesn’t dictate what NASCAR’s fan base is willing to do across the board.

It does, however, show a proclivity to pay.

If this is the future of NASCAR and event broadcasting, will the added value of paying a premium be determined by the race track or the racer?  

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