CONCORD, N.C. (AP) — NBC will not extend its contract with NASCAR beyond the 2006 season, a person involved in the negotiations told the Associated Press on Oct. 14.
ABC/ESPN are expected to replace NBC as one of NASCAR’s television partners, according to a television executive who declined to be identified because the deal wasn’t complete.
NBC currently splits half of NASCAR’s 36-race schedule with Fox as part of a six-year, $2.8 billion deal that began in 2001. The contract expires at the end of next season, and NBC informed NASCAR that it didn’t want to extend the relationship because the value the network put on the package was far less than the asking price.
Alana Russo, a spokesperson for NBC Sports, said the network had no comment.
Fox Sports is negotiating to retain its rights to the first half of the season, and ABC/ESPN are also in contract talks. TNT, which airs a portion of races during NBC’s share of the schedule, also wants to remain involved.
“We are in the middle of contract negotiations right now, and we have nothing to announce at this time,” NASCAR spokesman Jim Hunter said. “But it is no secret that ABC/ESPN has expressed a strong interest in being a part of the television negotiations, and we are continuing those talks.”
NASCAR’s current television package was a landmark deal for the stock-car series. Before reaching the agreement with NBC and Fox in late 1999, NASCAR had received just $3 million for the TV rights to 28 races.
ABC/ESPN and CBS were left out of the last deal after decades of being the lone networks to broadcast any NASCAR events. CBS televised the Daytona 500 from 1979 until 2000, while ESPN broadcast many races and magazine-style shows.
Not long after losing the rights, ESPN folded “RPM Tonight,” one of the network’s longtime staples. The network then became embroiled in a battle with NASCAR over filming footage on track property.
Prohibited from bringing cameras into the track, ESPN reporters had to scramble to get drivers at airports and helipads after races from 2001 through 2003, when the dispute was resolved.
Now the network will be back with full access to a sport that tinkered with its rules partly to generate increased television ratings. NASCAR is in the second year of its Chase for the Championship, a 10-race shootout that decides the Nextel Cup winner.
The playoff system was created to raise interest in the title hunt and boost TV numbers during the second half of the season, when NASCAR is up against NFL football every Sunday.