Moving Sprint Cup Races From Fox To Speed Would Be One Of NASCAR's Greatest Mistakes

Monday's SportsBusiness Journal report that NASCAR and Fox are thinking of moving some Sprint Cup Series races to Speed is an alarming concept that would mark a major step backward for stock car racing.

SBJ reported Fox wants to move "as many as six races" of its current 13-race portion of the NASCAR schedule to Speed – a network that is available in 78 million homes.

That's around the same number of homes as Versus, the channel that broadcasts most IndyCar Series races and national NHL hockey games to pitiful ratings.

Would NASCAR really agree to make its premier product less available to fans than the Nationwide Series?

Both ESPN and ESPN2 (which currently shows majority of the Nationwide races) are available in more than 100 million homes, which is acceptable to many fans because it's on a basic cable tier. The same can be said for TNT, which is found in 100.5 million households.

Channels like Versus and Speed often come at a higher price, which is out of the question for blue-collar NASCAR fans trying to watch their budgets.

And it's worth noting that a significant number of race fans don't have cable TV in the first place, which might help explain last year's 14 percent drop when ESPN broadcast most of the Chase races instead of ABC.

If Speed shows the races instead of Fox, it would be even worse.

SBJ noted this season's All-Star race received booming ratings by Speed's standards, but the viewership was less than half of what a Sprint Cup race gets on Fox: Four million people watched the All-Star race on Speed, while Fox's Cup broadcasts averaged 8.6 million viewers.

This is nothing against Speed itself. In many ways, Speed's overall NASCAR coverage seems to be the best of any network.

But Speed is simply not available in enough homes to make it work. 

In general, it's not good business to make your product harder for customers to find. To use a personal example, I used to be a big hockey fan prior to the NHL's current TV contract.

Until this month's Stanley Cup Finals, though, I hadn't watched a full period of a hockey game in five years. Ever since the NHL moved to Versus – a network I don't typically remember to look for while flipping through the channels – my interest simply fizzled.

The hardcore NASCAR fans would probably find a way to watch the races, and many fans already have Speed. But there would be a significant number of people who don't care quite enough to make the investment.

And if fans realize they can live without watching the races on Sundays, what's the incentive for them to keep coming back?

Surely, there are some economic reasons NASCAR would even consider doing something like this. But from the perspective of its fans, NASCAR would be making one of its all-time greatest missteps.

How else can we describe moving races to a network that currently reaches 37 million fewer homes than Fox? Hello, IndyCar Series.

The only thing worse would be if NASCAR decided to put Sprint Cup races on its own network. And, sadly, that's not out of the question either.

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