NASCAR Media Conference
Friday, July 28, 2023
An Interview with:
THE MODERATOR: Good morning, everyone. Thanks for joining us today to discuss this unprecedented partnership between NASCAR and the CW Network to air all NASCAR Xfinity Series races beginning in 2025.
We are joined today by NASCAR senior vice president of media and productions, Brian Herb, as well as the president of the CW Network, Dennis Miller.
Brian, can you walk through the process of how this great partnership for the future of the Xfinity Series materialized. Also, can you talk about the highlights of the partnership, certainly one being that the entire Xfinity Series will air on network for the first time ever.
BRIAN HERBST: Appreciate the setup. Thank everybody for joining us on short notice. It’s a big day for NASCAR, CW. We couldn’t be more excited to share the details with everyone.
From a process perspective, when we got to our open window where we could talk to non-incumbents, we had a fair amount of interest from a number of parties. CW and Nexstar presented a compelling vision for what a NASCAR-CW partnership could look like.
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. 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.
When you think about our footprint in terms of the tracks that we run on week in and week out, when you think about Nexstar as the TV station group, within our track footprint, 84% of our tracks also have a Nexstar station, free-to-air distribution that will only benefit viewership for the Xfinity Series of up-and-coming drivers.
Then the second piece is on-site activation, local marketing, local coverage, ticketing, contesting, the full kind of event experience and local experience we think will only be benefited by having Nexstar as our partner.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Brian.
Dennis, thanks for coming on here. Can you talk about what the partnership means for The CW and why it made sense for your programming strategy.
DENNIS MILLER: Obviously a huge win for Nexstar and The CW. Brian is a hard act to follow, but I think he covered a lot of the important connective tissue between the two companies, base companies here, that established a chemistry early on. Our job is to grow The CW Network in terms of viewership and revenues.
We knew, since we had a lot of NASCAR events already on Nexstar stations, that live sports were the key to growing an audience were valuable from the MVPDs, and virtual MVPDs perspective. How loyal these fans were looked across the kind of rights landscape and saw how Xfinity did versus NHL and UFC and Premier League. Felt like this was the best package that would help drive the asset value of The CW and provide great local programming.
When combined with Inside the NFL, the ACC, obviously we wanted to establish 48 out of 52 weeks having a sports programming for our affiliates.
We couldn’t be more delighted, as Brian said. The fact that our stations lined up so well, advertisers were clambering for live sports that had never been on The CW before. This is going to be a very significant part of kind of the growth trajectory for The CW.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Dennis.
We’ll now go to the media for questions.
Is this the beginning of a relationship that could expand beyond the Xfinity Series? Is there the possibility of races in other series, the Truck Series, for example, going to The CW moving forward?
BRIAN HERBST: Yeah, so it’s the start of our relationship with The CW and Nexstar, which starts in 2025. 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.
What we’ve agreed to, which we’re really excited about today, is a partnership with CW and Nexstar that includes exclusivity around all Xfinity Series races and all practice and qualifying events for Xfinity as well, full season from February to November.
Brian, I’m not sure this is under your purview, but how much as far as economics for Xfinity Series teams of an impact will this have? Can you give any estimate on increase to their funding? Or do you see this more as the ability to be on broadcast all the time as increasing their value?
BRIAN HERBST: Yeah, luckily I’m just the lowly TV guy (smiling).
On the media rights side, this is just one step on the media rights process. Obviously a lot to work out on the Cup Series side as well.
I know that obviously Steve Phelps and Steve O’Donnell, Ben Kennedy and Scott Prime and others are having ongoing conversations with the entire industry in terms of what the future of that revenue-sharing relationship looks like.
I wouldn’t be in a position to comment on that at this time.
Dennis, we often ask on these deals how active will you be as far as the identity of the series. There’s a lot of chatter could the Xfinity Series be NASCAR’s electric series. How active do you anticipate The CW being as far as the identity of the product on the track?
DENNIS MILLER: We obviously are just getting underway with our relationship toward the new production facilities. I think The CW’s history has been doing innovative programming, kind of culture-defining programming.
We’ve seen to date what NASCAR has been able to deliver at the highest level. We certainly hope to build a very strong relationship creatively in terms of marketing, in terms of taking advantage of the IP that they have, take advantage of some of the great talent that is associated with NASCAR.
We’re going to spend as much time as we can with our new partners. This is our most significant investment to date. We just hope to be great partners and bring the best of what we know about broadcast television to NASCAR, and they’re going to bring us their great IP.
I think you’ll see this just continue to evolve to provide a great experience for consumers.
Dennis, Nexstar and Comcast Xfinity, they compete in a lot of different areas as well. How will this affect the branding of the Xfinity Series, or is that set going forth? How will that relationship work between two different companies like this?
DENNIS MILLER: I should let Brian speak to that specific branding piece.
I’ll let you handle that, Brian.
BRIAN HERBST: Yeah, of course.
As it was mentioned, obviously a good relationship between Nexstar and NBC, and also Comcast and CW with respect to just their business partnerships.
With respect to the entitlement of the series itself, the Xfinity Series sponsorship, which has been fantastic for us, I think is working really well for Xfinity as well, those are subject to larger partnership and sponsorship discussions that our sponsorship team is just working through now.
This relationship with The CW is obviously something that we’re super excited about. Again, broadcast TV for all 33 Xfinity Series races. Our broadcast numbers, when you look at Xfinity Series broadcast ratings versus Xfinity Series cable ratings, you’re always performing better on broadcast. I think this elevates the profile of that series probably. But would probably be a little bit premature to speculate on kind of renewal talks with Xfinity as an entitlement partner.
Brian, when you’re going out for something like this, you said that y’all had interest from a lot of different people. How did those negotiations work when you’re coming up with something like this?
BRIAN HERBST: So 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.
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.
But we were lucky and continue to have conversation with both the incumbents and third parties. We thought this was a good fit for our sport and our fan base and was too good to pass up at this time.
Even though FS1 is cable, you’ve had the Truck Series on there to where people always need to go to FS1. Have you seen a growth there in the Truck viewership? Is that the reason you wanted to go with the Xfinity Series on one sole network with the hope of people always knowing that’s where they can go to watch the Xfinity races?
BRIAN HERBST: I do think any time you can create a destination for an entire series, that probably helps in terms of conditioning our fans in terms of where to go, whether it’s on Friday or Saturday or Sunday.
The Truck Series has grown in viewership. It’s about 15% over the last four or five years on FS1, which kind of flies in the face of most cable viewership, frankly.
But I think we wanted to develop a compelling proposition for The CW and Nexstar. I think they provided that in terms of their distribution footprint as well as kind of the station footprint.
It happened to work out that a full season of February-to-November coverage on the Xfinity Series side, it worked well.
Dennis mentioned a little bit earlier, as well, I think there’s a good culture fit between the two companies, as well, between NASCAR, the France family, and Nexstar CW also being a family-founded company by Perry Sook.
I’m thrilled to get in this partnership with them and roll this out over the next year and a half.
I know the NASCAR Productions facility, the new one in Concord is scheduled to be opened by the end of the year. The press release said these telecasts will be done by NASCAR Productions. How does this new facility make this possible?
BRIAN HERBST: Yeah, great question.
The rollout of the new facility, we’ll start to do essentially side-by-side testing of live events in Q4 of 2023. It will be fully operational in Q1 of 2024.
It is a brand-new building, comes with brand-new production technology, a heavy investment on behalf of NASCAR and the industry.
But we think it makes a lot of sense with that new technology to partner with The CW to roll that out in coordination with NASCAR Productions just so the group has a kind of understanding of the scope of operations today.
We, NASCAR Productions, produce all of the Xfinity standalone races for either FOX or NBC. 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.
With the new upgrade in production technology we’re having roll out in 2024, we thought it made a lot of sense to make sure that new technology and a new partner that we’re working together on that production plan.
Obviously The CW is a different kind of broadcast network. It’s not NBC, ABC, et cetera. It doesn’t have the same kind of prime time viewership. Does that open you up to some more creative time slots? There are some Friday night Xfinity races. Maybe some after a Cup Series race, for example?
BRIAN HERBST: I think we’d still target Saturday afternoons probably a little bit more, Saturday nights from a scheduling perspective is what we’re talking about with The CW. That’s in early stages.
Hopefully we’re not running on Sunday nights after Cup. If we’re doing that, it’s something Mother Nature had something to say about.
Yeah, the plan is Saturday afternoons and probably a little bit more on Saturday evenings for The CW. I think when you look at their recent investments in the Atlantic Coast Conference football, you can be looking at a Saturday in the fall where you have Xfinity practice and qualifying sessions leading into ACC football, leading into a Xfinity Series race. A really big block of sports programming. Not to steal Dennis’ thunder on The CW starting in 2025 and obviously earlier as well.
DENNIS MILLER: We’re going to ask Brian to be our head of scheduling shortly. Extremely articulate on and well laid out about what the weekends could look like on The CW (laughter).
Dennis, this is more to your demographic with The CW and the young drivers in the NASCAR Xfinity Series. When you say you were looking at other sports and things to bring on, how does that demographic work? How does this help with the target audience for what NASCAR and you guys both want to do in growing the second tier series in this sport?
DENNIS MILLER: I think it’s a good question.
As you know, the history of The CW has been under different ownership a kind of young adult audience delivery platform here. The linear broadcast has been younger than the other broadcast networks, but still in the older range here.
The digital app that we all know, as you know we’re getting broadcast and digital rights here, has skewed dramatically younger here. We have this kind of dual platform capability platform.
We think between the kind of history of the programming The CW has done, what the brand stands for, that partnering it with up-and-coming big five network with a sport that is at least with Xfinity driving some of the younger racers up to the Cup level here, this is a nice kind of fit with how we’re doing our brand management and where they want to go with Xfinity.
Again, as Brian said earlier, it was a good cultural fit. Both brands hoping to build the same kind of audience awareness out there. We have some flexibility between the linear broadcast and the digital app to take advantage of the breadth of our audience.
We’ve heard a lot about the split between teams and NASCAR and the tracks as far as the TV money. Do you have any specifics on what that looks like for this deal?
BRIAN HERBST: It’s not a part of this conversation frankly. I can’t comment on the rev share between NASCAR, the teams and the tracks.
THE MODERATOR: We’re going to wrap it up. Brian and Dennis, thank you so much for your time today. To all of our media that joined, thank you very much for your continued coverage of the sport.
— NASCAR —