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NASCAR Consolidates TV Rights

February 24, 1999

NEW YORK (AP) _ NASCAR, the only sport to see its television ratings increase each year this decade, will consolidate its broadcast rights to help cash in on its increasing popularity.

NASCAR announced on Wednesday that it will no longer allow race tracks to negotiate separate TV deals, returning to the setup it had until 1978 _ when it was in charge of the sport’s television rights.

``There wasn’t much interest back in 1978 in auto racing and NASCAR made a decision to loan the rights to the tracks,″ said Bray Cary, NASCAR’s vice president of broadcasting. ``But the sport has exploded in popularity in the past five years. ... As a result, we made a decision that this was the best way to market the sport for the future.″

The change will begin in the 2000 race season for its NASCAR Winston Cup and Busch Series events, but many of the tracks’ contracts do not expire until 2002. NASCAR could sign a deal with the television networks this year.

The tracks currently generate about $100 million in rights fees for the 34 races from CBS, ABC, NBC, ESPN, TBS and The Nashville Network.

A new deal, which also could include other networks such as Fox Sports, could bring in as much as four times that amount. That is a long way from 1985, when NASCAR received just $3 million for the TV rights to 28 races.

``The decision by NASCAR was made after considerable research,″ said Mike Helton, senior vice president and chief operating officer for NASCAR. ``Today’s decision will continue to propel the growth of the sport well into the next century and we believe it will significantly benefit the entire industry, and particularly our fans.″

NASCAR has enjoyed a dramatic rise in popularity this decade. Attendance has nearly doubled since 1990 and increased for 18 consecutive years. NASCAR races generate higher TV ratings than regular season events in every sport other than NFL.

This month’s Daytona 500 was the most-watched in its history and posted a 9.5 rating, up 10 percent from 1996.

Helton said that he has no plans to change NASCAR’s current TV rights fee distribution formula. Tracks receive 65 percent, competitors 25 percent and the sanctioning body gets 10 percent.

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