How much is the new NHL deal worth?
This week, ESPN and the NHL agreed to a sweeping new TV rights package, beginning with the next season later this year.
The seven-year deal brings a reported $400 million to the league annually, or double what the league’s current deal with NBC brings.
The interesting part of this TV contract is that part of the schedule includes exclusive rights to 100 regular season games, of which only 25 will be on ABC or ESPN. The rest of the games will be on ESPN+ or Hulu.
This won’t be the only big contract that hockey will sign before next season. ESPN’s contract only calls for early round playoff games and three games of the Stanley Cup Finals, getting the fourth every other year. That means somebody, most likely NBC, will be signing the league to another TV deal for the rest of the Finals and playoff games, along with more regular-season games, which means the league is on pace to potentially triple its national media rights fees in one round of negotiations.
NHL will not be the only league announcing big new deals this spring. The NFL is currently in negotiations with its partners for their next round of TV contracts, during which it is expected it will be asking upward of $2 billion annually from each partner.
What does this have to do with NASCAR?
Everything. It has never been more evident in the past year that the thing that keeps the organization afloat are the current massive TV rights deals, from which NASCAR is earning a reported $820 million per year.
There’s evidence to suggest that NASCAR should theoretically have a big rights increase. Logically, it should if it’s beating hockey every single weekend in ratings. NASCAR being able to walk into boardrooms next year and flaunt that Michael Jordan and Pitbull are both active owners in NASCAR teams will be a huge icebreaker for negotiations, especially considering that a lot of the executives at the top of the food chain now were in their 20s and 30s when Jordan was the hottest thing in the world.
All of these media companies trying to push their cable channels and over-the-top streaming networks could create some fierce competition and bidders on who gets the right to show rednecks driving around in circles, driving up the price. NASCAR could also sweeten the deal by throwing in ARCA Menards Series and Hometracks content like it does on NASCAR Trackpass, which is currently managed by NBC Sports, and also potentially its tape library, which now has decades upon decades of content.
There’s also indications that the money could dry up by then. All of these media companies spending so much money on the NFL, the NHL, even WWE could well make NASCAR the last in line at the pool. But the reality of the situation is that the money simply hasn’t dried up on sports properties for over a decade now.
This sentence may age horribly, but there just has not been any indication that the sports-rights bubble is a bubble. People just love their sports too much, and it’s really the only thing that people regularly watch in droves now, especially the NFL. Just about everything else in the world of media is getting splintered off into their own little bubbles. I just found out about a show on HBO Max today with rave reviews and that I should go watch it, when 10 years ago a show like that would be much more known. But people come out of those media bubbles to watch sports and post on social media. Why? Probably because they hate themselves.
Who will win at Phoenix Raceway?
NASCAR has had an exciting start to the season so far. With just one playoff driver from last year having won a NASCAR Cup Series race in the first month of the season, what could possibly go wrong?
Phoenix, that’s what.
NASCAR has thrown everything at this track to make it exciting. And outside of restarts, it just hasn’t been. It’s almost impossible to complete a pass on the leader at Phoenix under green-flag conditions. Really the only way a driver could regularly complete passes would be to nudge people out of the way, but the cars just aren’t durable enough to do that now unless it’s the final lap of the race.
Welcome to year two of COVID-19 racing. This weekend marks the anniversary of NASCAR’s aborted Atlanta Motor Speedway race weekend, and Phoenix, which was a weekend earlier last year, was the final normal race for NASCAR for a year and maybe a few more months. That race should be a better indicator as to who will perform this weekend, as championship races are just an entirely different beast than regular-season races.
Michael McDowell is going back home a Daytona 500 champion. The Phoenix oval has just never clicked for the Phoenix native, though, with just two top-20 finishes in 20 starts at the track. McDowell has pretty fairly held his own since Daytona International Speedway, sitting a solid ninth in points.
Denny Hamlin should be a sleeper pick for any fantasy team this weekend. The new short track-esque track configuration has played in Hamlin’s strengths, with a win and three top fives in the four starts since the reconfiguration.
Will NASCAR look into penalizing intentional spinning?
Last Friday in the Camping World Truck Series race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Kyle Busch blew a tire late in the running before suddenly spinning out on the backstretch.
The ensuring caution allowed Busch to only go one lap down and enabled him to be the beneficiary of the free pass after another caution a couple of laps into the next green-flag run.
Busch refused to answer questions as to if he had intentionally spun. NASCAR’s Scott Miller responded to the story this week on Sirius XM’s NASCAR channel.
— SiriusXM NASCAR Radio (Ch. 90) (@SiriusXMNASCAR) March 9, 2021
Here’s the problem with policing intentional spinning: it can be just too hard to differentiate where exactly the line is between an intentional spin and one that simply could not be avoided due to a mechanical failure.
The biggest problem with trying to get strict like this is if NASCAR were to penalize a team or driver who has very easy-to-prove evidence that the spin in question wasn’t intentional. Because if they were to appeal the penalty and the independent board that reviews NASCAR appeals were to overturn the penalty and rule that NASCAR simply cannot penalize for spinning, that could be a disaster for when there are obvious spins.
A spin like Busch’s can be excused because there was something very obviously wrong mechanically with the truck. A spin like Clint Bowyer’s eight years ago at Richmond Raceway cannot be excused, and NASCAR needs to reserve its right to penalize teams for very obvious infractions such as that.
About the author
Michael has watched NASCAR for 20 years and regularly covered the sport from 2013-2021. He moved on to Formula 1, IndyCar, and SRX coverage for the site, while still putting a toe in the water from time-to-time back into the NASCAR pool.