With NASCAR having awarded its TV rights for $2.4 billion to Fox (eight years) and a partnership between NBC and Turner Sports (six years) beginning in 2001, the Web site NASCAR.com (now operated by ESPN.com) is its next property up for grabs. Fox and NBC indicate that they will bid for the NASCAR Internet rights, as will tech-savvy Quokka Sports, which already produces CART Webcasts. For its pitch, NBC will partner with Total Sports. The checkered flag is likely to go to the entity that offers the best combination of rights fees and hot technology.
There's plenty of the latter around the next turn if NASCAR.com wants to use it. Pit crews monitor myriad information about their cars and drivers—peak speed, speed into turns, g-forces, oil pressure—and the next incarnation of NASCAR.com could feed such data into fans' computers. The winning bidder might offer to put a real-time camera into each car. The chance to take a peek at the minutiae of any driver's performance could prove irresistible to racing's famously passionate fans.
Many details, though, will need to be ironed out. For instance, who has rights to all this tantalizing data: NASCAR, the Web partner, the tracks, the individual teams or the drivers? Will team owners, drivers and pit crews want to share crucial race data with the rest of the world? Finally, will they want to let the World Wide Web listen in on their salty trackside language?