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NASCAR Revs UP TV Rights Fees

NASCAR is getting a nearly 40% boost in rights fees from its new TV package. As expected, for eight years beginning in 2007, Fox Sports, TNT and ABC/ESPN will split the NASCAR Nextel Cup season.

The three deals are worth nearly $4.5 billion over eight years, up nearly 40% from the $400 million annual price tag on the current eight-year deal that expires after the 2006 season, which was shared by Fox and a partnership between NBC and TNT.

Sources close to the networks put ABC/ESPN’s portion of the deal at $270 million annually, Fox’s at $208 million and TNT’s at $80 million-$85 million.

Fox Sports returns as a partner and will carry the first 13 Nextel Cup races of each season.

While that number is down from 17 races in the current deal, Fox was awarded rights to carry the season-opening Daytona 500 every year.

The Daytona race previously switched between Fox and NBC each year. The deal also includes cable network Speed Channel picking up additional programming.

A source close to Fox says the network is looking to make money on the new deal, which has not been the case with the current NASCAR deal. "It took a couple of years for Madison Avenue to buy in," says Fox Sports chief Ed Goren.

Turner’s deal puts six consecutive races per year on TNT from 2007 to 2014, continuing the cable network’s relationship with NASCAR, which began in 1984.

Turner’s six races will fall between Fox’s first portion of the TV schedule and Disney’s coverage of the end of the season.

As part of the new deal, TNT will use its own production and talent teams. In the current deal, it partners with NBC for the second half of the NASCAR season, sharing talent and production costs.

Turner’s deal also includes new-media rights that will allow it to distribute highlights across the Time Warner family of properties.

The ABC/ESPN deal will give the Disney networks the final 17 Nextel Cup races in the series, including the last 10 races of the season that make up the "playoffs" known as the "Chase for the NASCAR Nextel Cup." ABC will carry at least 11 of the races, with ESPN picking up the others. The entire "Chase" will be on ABC.

Disney also gets multimedia rights, including simulcasts and highlights on all new-media platforms and opportunities for interactive television and e-commerce.

The wide-ranging deal also includes exclusive TV rights to the affiliated minor-league Busch series, as well as a daily news show and a reality series.

Disney is also bullish on the financial outlook for the new deal, citing the rights to the entire "Chase" playoff series and the ability to leverage all of its new media distribution outlets.

"We are very excited we will be able to make this a great financial opportunity for us," says George Bodenheimer, ESPN and ABC Sports president and co-chairman of Disney Media Networks.

NASCAR says its dispersal of the revenues from television partners will remain relatively unchanged, with 65% of the money going to the tracks, 25% to the race teams and 10% staying with NASCAR. In the past, TV networks cut deals directly with the tracks.

Each television partner also retains VOD rights for their individual content.