Thursday, February 28, 2013

ESPN, Turner Executives Noticeable Absent at Daytona

ESPN President John Skipper was not in Daytona last week for the biggest race on the NASCAR circuit. Neither was David Levy, Turner’s president of sales, distribution and sports.

Even though ESPN and Turner’s exclusive negotiating windows for NASCAR’s media rights expire in late summer, the networks still are months away from serious talks, according to several sources. The exclusive window formally starts in early summer, but networks and leagues frequently start negotiations well before that time.

The fact that ESPN and Turner’s top executives were not in Daytona last week is a sign that the networks are opting to wait and see how well NASCAR’s TV ratings and ad sales perform during the early part of the season.

Publicly, ESPN and Turner executives say they are happy with NASCAR and want to keep the packages.

“There’s no secret we want to continue that conversation with these guys,” said Julie Sobieski, ESPN’s vice president of programming and acquisitions. “Our negotiating window doesn’t begin until later this year. So right now we’re excited about the start of the season and we’re putting all of our efforts toward that.”

Privately, network executives last week expressed concern about NASCAR’s TV performance, which last season posted its lowest viewership numbers for its current deals.(SportsBusinessJournal)