Tuesday, January 31, 2012

NASCAR Regains Digital Rights

The buzz has been around for several months, but Monday it was made official. After many years of the Turner Sports Interactive group running the NASCAR.com website and controlling all the digital (Internet) rights to the sport, big change has arrived.

Here are excerpts from the official news release provided by Turner Sports:

NASCAR and Turner Sports announced today a restructuring and extension of their long-standing digital partnership. The new agreement takes the relationship through 2016, with NASCAR managing business and editorial operations for its digital platforms beginning in 2013 and Turner Sports continuing to oversee advertising sales and sponsorships across NASCAR-branded digital platforms.

"Turner Sports has been and will continue to be a great partner for NASCAR," said Brian France, chairman and chief executive officer of NASCAR. "Taking a leadership role as it relates to our digital rights is something we as the sanctioning body know is important for the future of our sport, the development of our drivers and most importantly the experience for both our current fans and future followers."

"Turner Broadcasting and NASCAR have helped make each other successful for more than 28 years through a working relationship that, over time, has evolved with the media and technology landscape," said David Levy, president of sales, distribution and sports, Turner Broadcasting System Inc. "The latest extension of our partnership is a strategically and fiscally enhanced business model for our company and ensures that NASCAR.COM remains a core asset of Turner's leading digital ad sales portfolio. Our unrivaled sports assets and scale offer advertisers the means to deliver the most targeted and relevant marketing messages across multiple digital and mobile platforms and properties."

Under the new partnership, NASCAR will assume operational control in 2013 of all of its interactive, digital and social media rights including technical operations and infrastructure of all NASCAR digital platforms. Turner will continue to represent sponsorships and advertising for all NASCAR digital platforms, with the unique users from the NASCAR digital properties continuing to roll up to the Turner digital portfolio.

NASCAR’s comprehensive digital and social media portfolio includes NASCAR.COM, fantasy games, video highlights, social media elements and in-depth editorial content. NASCAR.COM, and the sport’s other digital and social media platforms, have been managed by Turner Sports since 2001.

"This move is about the media, our sponsors and most importantly, our fans," said Marc Jenkins, vice president of digital media for NASCAR. "We will build an innovative portfolio of platforms that strives to be as diverse as it is comprehensive. For our fans our digital platform will become the online destination for all things NASCAR. For everyone else, it will be the vehicle we’ll use to turn them into fans."

The bottom line is that NASCAR has taken back full control of its online content from a third party. Not mentioned in the release is what financial agreement really made this deal happen. Speculation was that NASCAR would be on the hook to pay Turner anywhere from $25 to 50 million to get out of the existing agreement.

Perhaps, the news that the relationship is going to continue in several key revenue areas through 2016 mitigated or negated the payment issue. We should eventually know those details as the story continues to be reported in the media.

This is good news for fans and opens the door to NASCAR scrapping the current NASCAR.com model and creating a viable and modern home website for the sport. This change should be a springboard for portable live video, online streaming of SiriusXM content and much more. Stay tuned for details as this story continues to evolve.

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