ESPN and NASCAR have not begun formal talks about renewing a media rights package that includes the Nationwide Series’ entire 33-race season and 17 Sprint Cup races. But ESPN has had internal conversations about bidding only on the Nationwide races that overlap with its Sprint Cup schedule instead of the entire season.
The reason has more to do with production expenses than ratings points. From August to November, when it airs both Nationwide and Sprint Cup races, ESPN is able to use the same production crew, production trucks and other resources to cover both Nationwide Series races and Sprint Cup races on the same weekend.
It’s much costlier for ESPN to produce the Nationwide Series’ first 16 races during the first half of the NASCAR season, when Fox and Turner hold the rights to the Sprint Cup races held at the same tracks on those weekends.
ESPN has had rights to the Nationwide Series since 2007 and put considerable promotional and programming resources behind it. The secondary circuit aired on Fox and NBC from 2001 to 2006.
ESPN declined to comment. Formal renewal talks are scheduled to begin later this summer, and its executives have not spoken to NASCAR about the Nationwide Series. (More at SBJ)