The Xfinity Series will have a new long-term home starting in 2025, and it’s an entirely-free home. NASCAR has signed a seven-year deal with The CW, until 2031, to broadcast all 33 races along with practice and qualifying.
Xfinity races will be aired on The CW and can be watched either on its free over-the-air broadcast television or on the network’s free app. Revenue, then, will be entirely ad-driven, not subscription based.
The deal is worth $805 million, as The CW picks up the series’ one million viewers per race.
It’s the first time in Xfinity Series history that every race will free to access over-the-air, with digital content available as well. All races will be covered, along with the majority of practice and qualifying sessions.
Bryan Herbst, NASCAR’s senior vice president of media and productions, said that the move takes into consideration the rising popularity of streaming services and the diminishing popularity of cable, while still tying in a television broadcast element.
“I think in the media environment that we’re in today, where you have broadcast TV being as well-distributed as it is, cable TV still being very well-distributed but declining a little bit in terms of overall subscriptions, then you have direct consumer and streaming that’s rising alongside the rest of the media landscape that’s taking more kind of minutes in terms of consumption going over to digital and streaming,” he said.
“I think what we wanted to do is balance the distribution with the financials of this project for us, and feel like we were able to find a really good fit with The CW. Obviously, again, all broadcast, free-to-air available to all of our fans.”
One important element that separates this deal from existing NASCAR media agreements is the production: NASCAR Productions will fully produce all broadcast content, with The CW only providing a place to air it. Production will take place in a new facility in Concord, North Carolina.
Emmy Award-winning NASCAR Productions already has extensive experience.
“We, NASCAR Productions, produce all of the Xfinity standalone races for either FOX or NBC,” said Herbst. “We produce all the Trucks in the back half for FS1, we’re producing that content. We’re producing all of IMSA’s races, as well. That comes out of NASCAR Productions.”
The production move puts NASCAR in line with other sports, such as Formula One, that use the same model, rather than getting different production quality and styles from multiple broadcasting partners.
Current CW owner NexStar Media Group, America’s largest local television company, provides a platform for the new content to reach 100% of US households, or 125 million homes.
NexStar already carries NASCAR on its FOX and NBC affiliate stations, and has an existing relationship with NASCAR.
“I think the differentiating factor for us when we were thinking about the CW and Nexstar, you really get to work with two different companies within the context of one partnership,” Herbst said.
“One is The CW free-to-air broadcast network available in 125 million homes, then you also get the benefit of working with Nexstar, which is the largest television group in the United States.”
The move does mean that a series with title sponsorship from Xfinity, a Nexstar rival, will air on their network. Herbst called it “premature” to speculate whether that name would have to be changed because of a potential conflict.
Dennis Miller, president of The CW, called the move a “win-win” for fans, drivers, teams, sponsors, and affiliates.
“Live sports are key to expanding broadcast audiences and are valuable to our network affiliates and cable, satellite, telco and streaming distribution partners as well as The CW and its parent company, Nexstar Media Group, Inc. Nexstar’s owned and operated stations and The CW’s nationwide affiliate network will allow us to create local excitement for the Xfinity Series as we expand its reach and drive viewership growth,” he said.
He also highlighted the benefits of keeping the Xfinity Series on one network throughout its entire season, an agreement the Truck Series currently enjoys on the FOX network.
“By creating a singular home for NASCAR Xfinity Series races, fans will be able to quickly find their favorite racing entertainment each weekend,” Miller explained.
The CW was originally a joint venture between CBS and Warner Brothers, intended to create free content that’s primarily targeted towards younger audiences. In addition to original series, the network has also recently picked up ACC college sports.
The younger audience is something Miller commented on, noting that the NexStar television package has a considerably older demographic than viewers streaming on The CW app.
That means a wider range of audiences to be exposed to Xfinity Series coverage, hopefully growing the brand.
“We have this kind of dual platform capability platform,” Miller described it.
It’s not just broadcast television or the app, either. Its television programming is also available at places like YouTubeTV and Hulu, while the streaming content can be accessed through Netflix as well.
The series will remain on FOX Sports and NBC Sports for 2024 and the remainder of 2023.
As for the Cup Series and Truck Series, there’s no word yet. Herbst says those conversations are still ongoing.
“Yeah, so it’s the start of our relationship with The CW and Nexstar, which starts in 2025,” he said. “Proud to announce alignment on the Xfinity Series. We’re still in active conversations around Cup and Trucks obviously with our partners at FOX and NBC.”
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