NASCAR returned to FOX Sports last Sunday for an iRACING telecast and the ratings were deemed successful enough to continue the partnership. With the American stock car racing series shut down indefinitely because of Covid-19, FOX NASCAR iRACING on FS1 helped fill the live sports void.
Tuesday afternoon, FOX Sports announced plans to cover the remainder of NASCAR’s iRACING Pro Invitational Series, beginning Sunday, March 29 at 1pm ET live from virtual Texas Motor Speedway. The simulated races will be simulcast on FOX, FS1 and the FOX Sports app, with a schedule that mirrors the actual NASCAR Cup Series and lasts until Nov. 1.
Sunday’s inaugural iRACING event drew 903,000 viewers, which according to Austin Karp of The Sports Business Journal was FS1’s most-watched telecast since the live sports hiatus began March 12. To compare, FS1’s NASCAR telecast from Martinsville almost exactly a year ago drew an audience of 2.455 million viewers.
“This rapid-fire collaboration between FOX Sports, NASCAR and iRacing obviously has resonated with race fans, gamers and television viewers across the country in a very positive way,” FOX Sports Executive Producer, EVP/Head of Production & Operations, Brad Zager said in a press release. “We have learned so much in a relatively short period of time, and we are excited to expand coverage of this brand-new NASCAR esports series to an even wider audience.”
Creating an even more realistic feel to the telecast, FOX NASCAR broadcasters Jeff Gordon, Mike Joy and Larry McReynolds were on hand to call the action last Sunday and will continue to do so for future iRACING broadcasts.
“The response on social media to last Sunday’s race has been incredible,” Gordon said. “We were able to broadcast a virtual race that was exciting and entertaining. It brought a little bit of ‘normalcy’ back to the weekend, and I can’t wait to call the action Sunday at Texas.”
Brandon Contes is a former reporter for BSM, now working for Awful Announcing. You can find him on Twitter @BrandonContes or reach him by email at Brandon.Contes@gmail.com.
Pac-12 Sources Express Concern With No TV Deal
“If we know anything about college sports, it’s that you can’t assume the status quo will last.”
Pac-12 Commissioner George Kliavkoff has been unwavering in his timeline for finalizing the conference’s television rights deals. However, many inside the conference are growing impatient.
A report from Jon Wilner of The Mercury News details conference sources growing in worry about the unresolved rights deals.
“The Pac-12 cannot get overconfident,” one source told Wilner. “If we know anything about college sports, it’s that you can’t assume the status quo will last.”
Kliavkoff’s lack of urgency is explained by his belief that Arizona, Arizona State, Colorado, and Utah won’t receive enough revenue from the Big 12 to explore a move to that conference, while the Big Ten reportedly remains reluctant to poach Oregon, Washington, Cal, and Stanford. The recent departure of Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren only cements that position.
The Pac-12 is the only Power 5 conference with remaining football inventory until 2031, giving it a position of strength. Wilner posits if Turner, Amazon, or Apple want Power 5 television rights, “there’s only one place to turn”.
However, sources inside the conference are worried about overplaying its hand.
“If you slow-play it,” the source told Wilner, “you become vulnerable to the unknowns.”
The conference reportedly sent “robust” proposals to ESPN and Amazon Prime Video to secure the conference’s television rights, but nothing has been finalized.
In the past, Kliavkoff has believed the conference’s women’s basketball schedule is an important factor in the television rights negotiations.
“I think women’s basketball is our fastest-growing television sport,” Kliavkoff said in November. “Ratings are increasing faster than any other sport. And I think it’s one of the sports that has been undervalued traditionally, in media rights. I think that provides a great opportunity.”
LIV Golf To Debut on The CW Next Month
“Saturday and Sunday competitions will be available both on The CW and The CW app. Friday events will only be available to stream through the app.”
The deal is done. All 14 events in the 2023 LIV Golf season will air on The CW. The tour and the network have agreed to a multi-year deal which finally puts the upstart LIV Golf on television in the United States.
LIV Golf makes its CW debut next month. The network will carry LIV’s competition at the Mayakoba Resort’s El Camaleón course in Mexico from February 24th-26th.
“This is a momentous day for LIV Golf as this partnership is about more than just media rights. The CW’s nationwide reach as America’s fifth broadcast network will provide accessibility for our fans and maximum exposure for our athletes and partners,” CEO & Commissioner of LIV Golf Greg Norman said in a press release. “The CW recognizes the enormous interest in and potential of our league and with their support, more fans will experience the energy and innovative competition that LIV Golf is using to reinvigorate the sport.”
The arrangement is unique. Saturday and Sunday competitions will be available both on The CW and The CW app. Friday events will only be available to stream through the app.
Finding a television partner has yielded some very public struggles for LIV Golf. The tour went without a media partner in the United States for its first season. All events were available for free exclusively online. Norman told ESPN Chicago that all four major networks spoke with LIV Golf, but those talks did not result in a deal. Apple and Amazon also reportedly passed with Apple saying the league and its backing from Saudi Arabia were “too toxic”.
Dennis Miller, president of The CW, sees the tour as a smaller piece in a larger strategy to remake the network.
“For The CW, our partnership with LIV Golf marks a significant milestone in our goal to re-engineer the network with quality, diversified programming for our viewers, advertisers, and CW affiliates. This also marks the first time in The CW’s 17-year history that the network is the exclusive broadcast home for live mainstream sports,” he said.
LIV Golf is not the only sport that The CW has been connected to in recent months. The network has also explored launching a college football bowl game in Cincinnati.
Pardon The Interruption Sees Highest-Rated Show in Five Years
It is the largest audience for the show since January 9th, 2018.
ESPN’s Pardon The Interruption has reason to celebrate. The show’s highest-rated broadcast in five years aired earlier this week.
On Monday, January 16th, 1.1 million viewers tuned into Pardon The Interruption. It is the largest audience for the show since January 9th, 2018.
The program was helped by being a lead-in to the network’s coverage of the NFC Super Wild Card game that featured the Dallas Cowboys facing Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. That game broadcast saw the most-watched NFL game from a Disney-owned network since Super Bowl XL in 2006. 30.6 million viewers tuned into the Cowboys victory.
The show — hosted by Michael Wilbon and Tony Kornheiser — airs at 5:30 PM ET and has been a staple program in ESPN’s afternoon lineup since launching in 2001.