Fox, NBC and TBS won the bidding war for the TV rights to NASCAR, the only sport whose ratings have increased each year this decade, three industry sources told the Associated Press today.
The deal, which begins in 2001, was expected to be worth about $400 million a year for consolidated rights to televise stock-car races. That would be about four times what NASCAR is making under its current arrangement, which covers many separate deals for races. In 1985, NASCAR received just $3 million for the TV rights to 28 races.
Terms of the new deal were not immediately disclosed. An official announcement is expected Thursday.
Fox, along with cable partners Fox Sports Net and FX, will get the first 18 weeks of the NASCAR season, while NBC and TBS will split the second half, sources said. The sport's premier event, the season-opening Daytona 500, will alternate each year among the networks.
NASCAR said in February that it will no longer allow racetracks to negotiate separate deals, returning to the setup it had until 1978, when it was in charge of the sport's TV rights.
Disney's ABC, ESPN and CBS networks were left out of the NASCAR package. CBS has televised the Daytona 500 since 1979 and ESPN features many NASCAR races and shows.
"We made an aggressive bid given the package," ESPN spokesman Mike Soltys said. "While we're disappointed and would have liked to continue our NASCAR relationship, we have an incredibly strong programming lineup and we'll continue to be the NASCAR fans' daily lifeline to their favorite sport."