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NASCAR signs TV deal with NBC Sports that leaves out ESPN, TNT

You won't see a lot of NASCAR on ESPN beginning in 2015.
(Jim Cole / Associated Press)

NASCAR said Tuesday it signed a 10-year deal for NBC Sports Group to carry the second half of NASCAR’s premier Sprint Cup Series season, starting in 2015.

The multibillion-dollar deal means ESPN, which has the final 17 of the series’ 36 annual races, and TNT (Turner Sports), which has six races in the summer, will no longer carry Cup events after next year.

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NASCAR Chairman Brian France told reporters on a conference call that it was “a very exciting and huge day for the sport of NASCAR. There’s a real excitement about partnering with NBC.”

The deal calls for NBC to carry the final 20 Cup races -- seven on the NBC broadcast network and 13 on the NBC Sports Network cable outlet. That stretch includes NASCAR’s Chase for the Cup playoff over the season’s final 10 races.

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Fox Sports broadcasts the first 13 races of Cup series. Last October, NASCAR signed a $2.4-billion contract extension with Fox, also starting in 2015, that runs through the 2022 season.

That leaves three Cup races with television rights starting in 2015 still being negotiated. “We plan to place that [segment] very soon,” Steve Herbst, NASCAR’s vice president of broadcasting and productions, said on the call.

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ESPN is paying about $270 million a year under an eight-year deal for its NASCAR rights fees and TNT about $80 million, or a combined $2.8 billion over the full contract. ESPN’s contract also includes coverage of NASCAR’s second-level Nationwide Series.

NASCAR and NBC declined to discuss financial terms of their deal. But NBC likely paid a substantial premium for the rights that put the price tag at $4 billion or more, according to people with knowledge of the pact but not authorized to publicly discuss it.

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The new deal also calls for NBC to carry the final 19 Nationwide races of the season (four on NBC and 15 on NBC Sports Network). NASCAR is still negotiating the TV rights for the first half of the Nationwide season.

The deal was announced just as ESPN is starting its Cup coverage this Sunday with the Brickyard 400 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

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TV ratings for NASCAR stock-car racing have flattened in recent years, but Cup races still averaged about 5.8 million viewers last year.

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