- Associated Press - Monday, October 15, 2012

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) - NASCAR and Fox Sports Media Group announced a $2.4 billion, eight-year extension Monday that runs through 2022 and keeps the prestigious Daytona 500 and first third of the Sprint Cup Series on the network.

Fox, which has been with NASCAR since 2001, will pay an average of $300 million annually beginning in 2015 in its first fee increase in more than a decade.

“NASCAR has been in very good hands and has enjoyed tremendous success the last 12 years in large part because of our fantastic partnership with FOX and FOX Sports Media Group,” said NASCAR chairman Brian France. “This extension with FOX Sports Media Group helps position the sport for future growth as NASCAR continues to be an anchor with one of the world’s largest and most influential media companies.”

The deal was put together during an early negotiating window with Fox, which has two full seasons remaining on its current contract with NASCAR, and at a time when the motorsports industry is still battling the economy.

The Saturday night race at Charlotte Motor Speedway had an announced crowd of 100,000, the smallest since NASCAR began announcing attendance in 2003. Talladega a week earlier also had its smallest crowd.

Steve Herbst, NASCARs vice president of broadcasting and production, said the deal with Fox proved the sport is a great value and on solid footing.

“Any industry sport will tell you that ratings and attendance are cyclical. Our future is very bright and this is a great signal to the industry that we are on very stable ground for a long time down the road,” Herbst said. “Being able to attract a television partner is about the power of live sports. It’s still unique. There’s an ocean of programming to the masses and there’s still something special about live sports that reaches people.”

Fox gets the first 13 Sprint Cup Series races under the deal, and the entire Camping World Truck Series. Fox also retained the rights to the Sprint All-Star Race and the Daytona 500 qualifying races and the preseason Shootout race at Daytona.

An additional and important component to the deal for NASCAR is the inclusion of “TV Everywhere” rights, which allow Fox to live stream its races online beginning with the 2013 season-opening Daytona 500. Fox can also stream pre- and post-race coverage, race highlights and in-progress race highlights.

That portion of that deal was made possible by NASCAR reacquiring control of its digital platform, which goes into effect next year.

“This was something that was long overdue,” said Herbst. “It services the fans in a way we’ve never done before, and provides another great way to consume the product. NASCAR is now delivering across every platform.”

Fox has not determined if it will charge viewers to watch races online.

Fox paid a fee increase to NASCAR for the first time in more than a decade, and the deal puts NASCAR in the driver seat for negotiations on the remainder of its contract. ESPN and Turner hold the rights on the remainder of the schedule through 2014, and exclusive negotiations with NASCAR do not begin until next summer.

“We really enjoy the position we are in right now; this sets the stage for the next series of deals,” said Herbst, who wasn’t surprised by the fee increase because “our sport delivers incredible great live action on a week-to-week basis. We are DVR-proof programming, and we deliver February to November consistency.”

NASCAR’s current TV package is worth about $4.48 billion and $560 million per year. Fox could try to bid on other portion of the schedule after ESPN and Turner’s exclusive negotiating window closes, and other networks could also try to grab a piece of the programming.

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