NASCAR Images Revs Up Business

Sep 16, 2007  •  Post A Comment

As NASCAR begins the home stretch of its racing season on ABC, the racing organization is building on its efforts to find ways to attract new fans and generate fresh revenue. With television ratings and attendance for races down slightly, the league is looking to NASCAR Images, the entertainment production and marketing division of the motor sports behemoth, to bridge the gaps.
But don’t expect a NASCAR channel any time soon.
NASCAR Images, the entertainment company that repurposes NASCAR content into TV, film, home video and licensed consumer products, is completing its first full season wholly owned and run by parent company NASCAR Digital Entertainment.
The unit runs what it bills as the world’s most advanced mobile production facility. The compound is three times larger than the Super Bowl’s broadcast setup and delivers signals for Fox, ESPN, TNT, DirecTV, Speed and Sirius. In addition, the company scouts new opportunities to create exposure for NASCAR to find more fans while keeping longtime audiences connected to the brand.
In recent months, DVD successes such as “The History of NASCAR,” new shows including Biography’s “Driven to Win” and an Emmy and record ratings for “Dale” on CMT have all counted as coups for the organization. Heading into next season, even more race coverage is in the works.
“Basically what we are trying to do is maintain a balance, if you will, between multiple media partners and our own controlled media, and to do it in a manner that is the fan-friendliest,” said Jay Abraham, president and CEO of NASCAR Images. “From ESPN to Speed to DirecTV, we work with all of them to try, if you will, to maintain the integrity of the core telecast, and then once you start working out from that, our goal is to get as much product out in as many different formats as widely as possible to the fans.”
NASCAR Digital Images was created in 1999, the year media rights were consolidated by NASCAR. At the same time, NASCAR and Fox purchased Sunbelt Video in Charlotte, N.C., and turned it into NASCAR Images to serve as a production company for additional content.
When the broadcast deals with Fox, ESPN and TNT were renewed as part of an eight-year, $4.4 billion deal, NASCAR got back Fox’s 50 percent ownership in the company as of this racing season.
In order to serve its broadcast and digital partners, NASCAR Images expanded its production compound by two and a half times its original size, boasting more radio frequency transmitters than the entire city of New York as well as more than 20 miles of fiber optic cable.
That “TV City” has to be built in two days each week at every race, which means the entire setup must be transported from a Daytona race to California in as little as two days. The logistics of the setting up every week can be a nightmare, according to NASCAR officials.
For Fox, which broadcasts races in the first half of the season, the price tag to set up each race can run as high as $600,000, according to NASCAR, while covering the Super Bowl generally runs about half that amount.
Broadcasters aren’t the only companies that rely on the production compound. This year, DirecTV began “NASCAR Hotpass,” offering five fully produced channels that each follow one driver during the race. Satellite radio provider Sirius produces “Team Talk,” while on the mobile front, Sprint Nextel has “FanView,” which offers live audio and video. NASCAR Digital Images also offers multiple online components, including the Turner-run NASCAR.com.
“As the technology gets faster and broader, there are a lot more opportunities for us to grow,” said Mr. Abraham. “The key to us is to have a content center that distributes everything. As long as fans know that wherever they are and however they want to get it, they can get it, that’s what we’re trying to build.”
Critics of the company have called on NASCAR to form its own wholly owned channel akin to the NFL Network in order to allow 24-hour coverage for the sport. Mr. Abraham said no deals are in the works, but that fans next year can expect more comprehensive coverage of the races, both before and after the events, on channels such as Speed.


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