08/26/13 ESPN and Turner Sports are talking with NASCAR about getting out of their [money-losing] broadcast rights agreement a year early, a move that could allow Fox Sports and NBC Sports Group to become the sport’s broadcasters next year.
It’s unlikely that the four TV companies will be able to reach a deal, sources say. But the fact that these types of talks are occurring is precedent-setting in an industry where live sports rights are held sacred. For at least the past decade, no rights holder has exited a major media agreement with a property early.
ESPN and Turner executives told the series that they are interested in forgoing the final year of their contract. Fox and NBC executives told NASCAR that they are interested in picking up those rights. And sources say NASCAR executives are open to the switch.
But any deal faces significant hurdles. Sources said it would have to be a complete switch, not a partial one in which Turner exits its six Sprint Cup races or ESPN exits part of its Nationwide Series season. That means it would require an agreement between four competitors — ESPN, Turner, Fox and NBC — and one property, which would be difficult to structure.
ESPN and Turner Sports are willing to sell their rights back to NASCAR for some sort of compensation. Fox Sports and NBC Sports Group are willing to buy the rights from NASCAR, but they feel they should be compensated for letting ESPN and Turner Sports out of their deals early. As the middleman, NASCAR would have to navigate those opposing interests.
Representatives from the four media companies, as well as NASCAR, declined comment. More at Sportsbusinessdaily.com