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NASCAR MEDIA CONFERENCE
November 14, 2019
THE MODERATOR: Good afternoon. We want to take a brief pause for a special announcement from NBC Sports and NASCAR.
Joining me on the stage, Sam Flood, executive producer and president of production NBC and NBCSN. Steve Phelps, NASCAR president. Jeff Burton, NBC and NASCAR analyst.
I want to run a quick video to set the stage for what's happening today.
THE MODERATOR: Sam, from the video, obviously you can tell this is going to be a fantastic platform. What is the significance of it from an NBC Sports perspective?
SAM FLOOD: First of all, great view of the track pass video from right here. Enjoyed every frame of it (laughter).
What we love is the deeper engagement with the fans, giving them an opportunity to see more events, more drama, more action. We consider NBC Sports the home of motorsports. We've gone deeply into this space across a number of platforms. This is just the natural next extension.
Most importantly it's a partnership with NASCAR that we're going to work together to make that bigger and better and make more people aware of it so we're going to get more people and more eyeballs consuming this sport, growing this sport.
It starts with grassroots racing and the opportunity down in the smaller series growing up to the point where you're racing for a Cup championship like we are this Sunday. To get people hooked on this sport early, to get them that local access and the passion at the roots of this sport is so critical.
To be partnered with Steve and the NASCAR team is so important to us because they have been a great partner as we build the sport and continue to work as one to make it bigger and better.
THE MODERATOR: Steve, Sam mentioned growth. From a NASCAR perspective, how important is this to continue to grow the sport?
STEVE PHELPS: First and foremost before I answer your question, I just want to quick shout out to NBC. They're a phenomenal partner. What they do from a production side, Sam and his team, the talent, it really is second to none. Thrilled to have NBC as our partner, not just on this but just overall. The things they've done from a grassroots standpoint is phenomenal. They care about racing, motorsports. They've made a significant investment in it and we're thrilled.
This is an evolution of fanschoice.tv. This is an opportunity for us to take all the good things that have happened there and frankly higher production value across all devices, additional content that will go on there.
Just a tremendous partnership. We're thrilled to be announcing this today. It's been a long time coming. Our folks have worked really hard with the NBC folks to craft something that really works. ARCA, Menards, IMSA, American Flat Track, grassroots racing, all the other opportunities for us from a library standpoint, documentaries, P and Qs. Just a really cool opportunity for our fan base.
THE MODERATOR: Jeff, you're a huge fan of racing in general, a great racecar driver. At NBC your role takes you on the road quite often, you're away many weeks out of the year. Talk about this from a fan perspective.
JEFF BURTON: Listen, I think this is great for the fans. I think all you know, unfortunately some of you are old enough to have covered me when I was racing late models, that to me, that shortâ€‘track racing, ARCA racing, IMSA, all that stuff is a treasure to our sport. It is truly where our fan base begins. If we don't have that excited fan base at that level, I think it's hard to have this weekend mean as much as it can.
I have to admit, I kind of a took some of that for granted till my son started racing. I started traveling around the country, going to short tracks, it rejuvenated me in regard to how important shortâ€‘track racing is to the health of the sport.
We all know we can't be there every week. Being able to pull your phone out and watch the race, I mean, a short track race, a modified race, just amazing how many different types of racing. It's not all just NASCAR, it's racing in general. I think that's huge because racing is awesome and there's a lot of different ways to do it. Now a better way to consume it.
To me, that's how you get race fans. You have to be able to be at dinner and watch a race. I'll tell you, that's what my wife and I do. We will watch a race at home on a computer. Being able to take it on our phone, I think it's going to be great. It's what our sport needs.
I'm proud of what NASCAR and NBC have done with My Track My Roots. This year it was incredible the amount of enthusiasm that brought, the number of comments we got on our NASCAR America show from it. There's a passion for shortâ€‘track racing, no question about it. This is just another way to do it. It's a much better way to do it.
SAM FLOOD: The great thing about NBC Sports, the platform this is on, you can watch it on any device, your phone, your tablet, computer. You can take your phone and put that image up on your television.
All those opportunities change the way you consume it and allow it to be portable, allow you to engage in the sport on a different level. We've seen it with our sports that are involved, from our cycling, to the Premier League. The numbers and consumption is through the roof because people want to consume at a high level. We think this will be one of the great offerings we every put out.
THE MODERATOR: We'll open the floor to questions.
Q. Steve, a group of owners, the RTA, purchased Speed51. What do you feel about that? Is that a bit of a rivalry with the package you're announcing today?
STEVE PHELPS: Absolutely not. Any opportunity to service the fans is what we want to do. Whether it's Speed51, Bob and their group have done a really nice job. That will serve that particular audience with those particular races.
We have our own races, our own type of production, our own type of how it's going to come across your device. I think they're complementary, frankly. Do I think there will be folks that will do both Speed51 and TrackPass? I do.
But we're really excited about what it means for our sport and the different motorsports that we're representing. I think it's going to be a huge win for the fans.
Q. Since IMSA is apparently going to be involved in this TrackPass thing, they stream their qualifying sessions for WeatherTech, a lot of their support races on their website, they advertise it with no blocks, all this other stuff. Will that be (indiscernible) for American viewers next season?
STEVE PHELPS: It will not.
Q. That's interesting. You'll still have multiple places to see IMSA coverage?
STEVE PHELPS: I think there are a lot. Like practicing and qualifying on the NASCAR side, it will be available in multiple opportunities, multiple places, which is what we want. If someone wants to watch it on TrackPass, they can. If they want to watch it on NBC Sports Network, they can. If they want to watch it on the NBC Sports Gold app, they can. We'll have opportunities across the various sports to do that, as well.
Q. With the TV contract coming up for renewal in a few years, does that open up some new areas for NASCAR Cup, Xfinity and Trucks to do more with NBC and not have a split partnership with FOX, to go to more streaming of races itself?
STEVE PHELPS: Is this a question for Sam or for me? I'm just kidding (laughter).
I think right now we're here obviously talking about what TrackPass is. We're thrilled to be able to have the partnership with NBC that we have. They've been a phenomenal partner.
Listen, FOX was a great partner of ours in the first half of the season. FOX doesn't have a competitive product to this. NBC was the logical partner for us to come to. They're a leader in this space. We're thrilled to be able to have a partner like NBC.
Do I think this creates a deeper connection between our two organizations? I do. What happens down the line, we'll figure that out when it comes. We have a number of years to partner with FOX and with NBC. We're lucky to have two world class media partners.
SAM FLOOD: I'd say our relationship with FOX is unique in this sport. We both want success. We want them to have the best rated Daytona 500 to start the season. We want success on their side. They want success on our side as they grow the sport.
We all see this TrackPass as an opportunity to grow, dig deeper in the sport, reach our more tentacles touching more people. That's the strategy. It's not us against them. We're all together wanting to grow this sport, grow NASCAR and grow the opportunity for the fans to watch racing.
STEVE PHELPS: We had a discussion with FOX about this in advance. They were thrilled. They certainly understand it. I think if they had a competitive product, they may think differently, but they don't.
To Sam's point, these are two halves. When you look at the success that FOX had in the first half, they were plus three, and NBC has done a little bit better than that. We're going to finish the season up.
Q. To be clear, this new TrackPass, this is not taking away from anything that we can see now, so fans will still be able to watch practice on NBC Sports? You're not taking away anything now, you're just adding to?
STEVE PHELPS: Yes.
Q. You've had good numbers, ratings are up. How do you keep that momentum up? Have you talked to FOX and found out the good and the bad? How do you keep the momentum up next year?
SAM FLOOD: We're always talking. We're always looking for ways to engage the audience. I think what we did this year with reaching down to the grassroots racing, that approach to touch the core fan or remind them that racing on Friday and Saturday builds to the Sundays. We're all in on that.
FOX continues to innovate on the production side. We work with together with ideas on how we can make things better. As there looking at the 2021 Super, Mustang, Camaro, we're looking at ways to put cool camera angles, how we can make the visuals coming out of the cars even better.
We're constantly looking at ways to innovate, using the best brains and FOX and NBC to figure out the best ways to make that happen in 2021.
Q. In prior years the K&N Pro Series, ARCA, the modified tour, had been primarily tape delayed. Are those races going to be live moving forward?
STEVE PHELPS: I'll do my best to answer this question correctly.
The answer is for the ARCA East and West Series moving forward, they will not be tape delayed. For 12 of the ARCA series, the main series, 12 will be not tape delayed, eight will be tape delayed. The mods will all be live.
Q. Sam, will this be available to watch on X1, Xfinity Flex? Other sports on NBC Sports Gold like figure skating, rugby, are available on an international level. Will this be available to international fans, mostly Canada?
SAM FLOOD: On the Canada question, I know they're looking into that opportunity. In terms of the X1, I believe the system is in place. The answer is yes, that will all work perfectly. As you know, Xfinity and the X1 platform is the best in all of television.
STEVE PHELPS: I think just domestically initially, it will just be domestic. But we are, as Sam said, looking currently at trying to light up Canada as well. When that will happen, we'll let you know.
Q. Steve, what were some of the key learnings you had from fans choice? What are the sorts of things that you picked up on that went into formulating this package?
STEVE PHELPS: Yeah, I think for us, fanschoice.tv is something that has evolved. I think we had a lot of learnings from this year about obviously we're tracking who is on there, what they like, their consumption habits, what things they are interested in watching.
Some of the things we saw is some were specific to American Flat Track. Some were specific to, Hey, you just want to watch Bowman Gray, things on the short trackside. There were some that cut across all of them.
As we're looking at pricing, different things we're doing as part of this, there are options in there for folks. If you just want to do something with American Flat Track, with IMSA, there's separate pricing.
I think overall the pricing for the entire piece at 44.95 for the entire season is I think a fair thing in terms of the amount of content that you're going to be receiving. Or they can do a single entity piece, right? If they want IMSA, they can have IMSA for a full year at 19.95. Same with AFT.
A lot of that had to go into the learning of what we were doing this year. I think we'll continue to learn, continue to make additional content available as additional content becomes available because we want to try to service all these motorsports fans in a unique way.
Q. Speaking of international, the NASCAR Pinty's Series, Mexico, that was not involved in the video or press release. Will that be involved, too?
STEVE PHELPS: Initially, no. I think for us, we're looking at lighting up where we can from a Canada standpoint. We'll have to look at, there's some rights issues elsewhere we have to work through, including what happens on the Pinty's Series.
Again, right now it kind of looks the way it looks as we have talked about it. Opportunities for us to change this moving forward as rights become available are something we'll look at.
Q. The My Track My Roots campaign that you pushed really heavily this year, what did you learn that you might have not expected? Do you feel you bridged the gap?
SAM FLOOD: Get Jeff warmed up for Sunday.
JEFF BURTON: Have to save my voice for what we're going to see Saturday and Sunday (laughter).
I think the misconceptions that shortâ€‘track racing was in major trouble. With the enthusiasm we saw from the fans at each individual racetrack, how proud they were, I don't want to say it was surprising, but it was fun to see. Somebody was sending a picture about the race that would happen, something cool about the racetrack. Just the enthusiasm about shortâ€‘track racing.
Unfortunately we hear about the things that aren't going great. But they're never as bad as they're portrayed. This gave me a tremendous amount of hope about the faith and real belief in shortâ€‘track racing.
It's from the fans and the competitors. Shortâ€‘track racing is as much about the competitors as the fans in all honesty. Sending the pictures in, Victory Lane, telling the stories. It was fun. Seems like they were energized by doing it.
SAM FLOOD: The pride of hitting every state was a big deal, especially for Jeff (indiscernible). He was doing a victory dance, which was not attractive, but he did a victory dance.
STEVE PHELPS: From a NASCAR perspective, I think we lost our way a little bit, I really do. I think working with these guys, it was something that we committed to as NASCAR, partnered with these guys for this endeavor. I think it's been really helpful.
What it has shown is we have grass rooting racing that is alive and well, that there is a connection between grassroots level to the top level and vice versa. That's going to continue for a long time.
Q. Jeff, you have seen it as a competitor, now as a broadcaster. As a way to grow short tracks and eventually start to grow our attendance, TV numbers, talk about the connection if you get more fans to the short tracks. Talk about how important it is for both in the growth process.
JEFF BURTON: Listen, it's huge. The thing is enthusiasm about racing, if people are enthusiastic about racing, it doesn't matter if it's a threeâ€‘eighths mile racetrack or two and a half miles at Daytona, racing is a fun sport. It's full of drama. It's full of competitiveness, all the things we like about sports. It's getting people back to that short track to experience it.
Once you go, it's there. You don't have to make it up. You can smell it, see it, feel it. It's hard to get that anywhere else.
One of the things we have to continue to work on is finding a way to connect the superstars of the sport today to their home tracks, connect the superstars to tracks in the area. All those things are huge.
By the way, they've all been great. The drivers have been really, really good about wanting to make shortâ€‘track racing better. They deserve a tremendous amount of credit for wanting and for doing. That's who we all know, right?
But at one point they weren't who they are today. They were a guy in a street stockcar, didn't have enough money to put tires on the car. That's where they all started. Keeping that connection I think is vital to moving it forward.
THE MODERATOR: Sam, Steve, Jeff, thank you very much for your time.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports