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Fox strikes new long-term deal with NASCAR

October 15, 2012|By Joe Flint
  • Matt Kenseth practices for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Bank of America 500 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Matt Kenseth practices for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Bank of America… (John Harrelson / Getty Images )

News Corp.'s Fox is putting the pedal to the metal and renewing its rights deal with NASCAR at a sizable increase in cash.

Despite some ratings declines, Fox has agreed to an eight-year, $2.4-billion contract to keep NASCAR on its broadcast network through 2022, people with knowledge of the pact said. That averages out to about $300 million annually -- a 33% jump over the $225 million Fox is currently paying for stock car racing. The new deal takes effect in 2015.

As part of the agreement, Fox will now be able to offer NASCAR races on mobile devices including tablets and phones. However, fans will already have to be subscribers to a pay-TV provider to access that content. The digital aspects of Fox's new contract with NASCAR go into effect in January.

Fox's accord comes just a few weeks after the network agreed to pay nearly $500 million a year for rights to regular-season and postseason baseball, which is about twice as much as it had been paying.

The other rights holders for NASCAR are Walt Disney Co.'s ESPN and Time Warner Inc.'s TNT. Though ESPN is expected to try to hold on to NASCAR, it is less certain that TNT will seek a new deal, people close to the matter said. Like Fox, ESPN's and TNT's deals expire at the end of the 2014 NASCAR season.

Fox could end up bidding for additional NASCAR races that it could run on the national sports cable network it is planning to launch next summer. The channel, tentatively called Fox Sports 1, will likely carry baseball in 2014. NBC is also eager to secure a NASCAR property for its NBC Sports cable channel.

Separately, NBC struck a four-year deal for the TV rights to Formula One racing for both its broadcast network and its cable channel. Formula One had previously been on Fox and Fox's Speed Channel. While terms of the deal were not disclosed, Formula One is not nearly as popular as NASCAR and the annual rights fees Fox was paying were under $5 million annually.

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Follow Joe Flint on Twitter @JBFlint.

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