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This Little-Talked About Line Could Change How The Xfinity Series on CW Works

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The NASCAR Xfinity Series is now moving to The CW exclusively starting in 2025. This move was met with surprise, optimism, speculation, and virtually everything else under the sun. Let’s take a look at this deal, and what one major factoid say about what NASCAR can do with this deal.

What Makes This Deal So Unique?

This move came as a major surprise to many NASCAR fans. It seemed for a while that NASCAR was looking to move the Xfinity Series exclusively to a streaming service, but that did not happen. NASCAR instead elected to put the Xfinity Series on free-to-watch broadcast TV.

This is a major departure from the Xfinity Series nowadays, with most races being available on cable networks. Only five of the 33 races broadcast in the 2023 season are available on network TV. Typically, the Xfinity Series is behind a paywall and this deal removes that.

This also puts the Xfinity Series on an exclusive TV provider separate from the Cup Series for the first time in history. The only comparable deal was the second TV deal of the 2000s, where the Xfinity Series was on ESPN for the full season, with the Cup Series only being on ESPN during the second half of the season.

The CW is also an interesting TV channel in that is is free. Both the TV channel and its online streaming service are free for people to consume.

The Major Factoid

However, the major factoid with this deal that is being talked about very little is that NASCAR will produce the races by themselves, with the CW hiring the talent. This is very significant, because it is a departure from how TV deals have worked in the past.

Previously, the production, the talent, and everything surrounding the broadcast was controlled by the television companies. That’s how the current TV deal operates.

Now, a large part of this at the very least will be controlled by NASCAR. This means that NASCAR should, in theory, have more control over the broadcasts. How much control NASCAR will have is unclear, but they should have more of a say in how these broadcasts will go.

With all of this in mind, what are a few things that we hope to see NASCAR do with their CW TV deal in light of everything that we just mentioned?

Idea 1: Give the Xfinity Series Its Own Identity

Currently, the NASCAR Xfinity Series is lower on the priority list for NASCAR’s TV partners. Sure, they broadcast the races and practice and qualifying sessions, but rarely are they talked about in mid-week talk shows. This is because of the Cup Series being the biggest draw, and there is just not enough room for the Xfinity Series in these settings.

The CW can now have Xfinity Series specific content on their platform. Now that NASCAR is responsible for the production, they can also have more input in terms of what stories can be told. NASCAR can highlight other things that maybe those at The CW would overlook.

As opposed to being merely a second-tier racing series, the NASCAR Xfinity Series can be seen for what it is. It can be called a minor league racing product, sure, but great drivers participate in it. Some drivers like Justin Allgaier make entire careers for themselves in the series.

It does have an appeal to it. The NASCAR Xfinity Series is the perfect place to be able to say, “I knew who that guy was before he was famous.” It’s no longer just the preliminary to the Cup Series because the CW does not have the Cup Series.

Now, NASCAR should not completely ignore the Cup Series on the CW just because it’s still the top series in NASCAR. However, it still should not overtake Xfinity Series coverage on their exclusive TV channel.

NASCAR has a chance to give the Xfinity Series a chance to flourish on its own. Now that NASCAR has a say in how the races are produced, they can be even smarter about how they do it.

Idea 2: Make an Xfinity Series CW Show

Everyone in motorsports is making their own “Drive to Survive” clone these days it seems. The Cup Series had “Race for the Championship” and IndyCar had “100 Days to Indy”, which was on The CW oddly enough.

NASCAR needs to take the time to produce something similar to this. However, NASCAR also needs to take this opportunity to be smart about what they highlight on this show.

The spotlight needs to be on everyone in the Xfinity Series field. Nowadays, those who sit in the back of the pack on a weekly basis barely get a mention on television broadcasts. This show could be an opportunity to give some of these drivers, teams, and their sponsors some publicity.

It also highlights the stories of the young drivers that are working their way up to the Cup Series. It allows a potentially younger audience to attach themselves to drivers that are their age. They can follow these drivers into, and hopefully through, a successful Cup Series career.

Idea 3: Rethink How to Work Advertising Into a Race

This is a general idea for the next TV deal, but NASCAR now has more ways they can control it since they are responsible for the production side of the broadcast. One of the things that people complain about with NASCAR races is the amount of full screen commercials. We talked about this some when we discussed how to improve FOX broadcasts.

One of the things discussed was more creative ways to implement advertising. Formula One races are broadcast in the United States commercial free. That makes for a much more streamlined experience for the viewer.

To ask for NASCAR races to be commercial free is too much to ask for, given the length of the race and how much broadcasting companies pay NASCAR to broadcast the sport. However, they can work on getting more creative.

Maybe NASCAR can produce different sponsored segments to play during the race as a side-by-side. FOX used a “Toyota All-Out” segment, where the broadcast ran on board with a Toyota driver without cutting to commercial. The more ways to get advertising into the broadcast in creative ways, the better.

Even if it does cut off some of the action on screen, more banner ads could be used as well. The more ways that races can be broadcast with limited interruption, the better.

A new TV deal is the perfect time to rethink some of these things. NASCAR now has some say in how these broadcasts will be run, so they should take advantage of it. If fans want less commercials, then NASCAR has the freedom to get creative and potentially pitch some ideas for sponsored content aside from commercials.

Idea 4: Make As Much Exclusive Content for the CW Streamer as Possible

The CW appeals to a much younger demographic. A major reason for this is what they offer on their streaming services. Sure, we already pitched the “Drive to Survive” clone earlier, but NASCAR should not stop there when it comes to content.

Any Xfinity Series driver that has a good personality should be allowed to do something on the platform. Even if it is something like a reality show. Find a way for these personalities to shine on this brand new platform, and, again, allow younger fans to relate to drivers who are their age.

NASCAR needs to view the streaming side of things as more than just a nice to have. They need to make sure there is consistent content on there. As for how much of that content fall on NASCAR and how much of that falls on the CW remains to be seen, but there needs to be content.

Even just seeing NASCAR related thumbnails on the CW’s streaming app could cause people to get curious about what it is this thing called the “Xfinity Series”?

Idea 5: More Publicity to Underfunded Teams and Drivers

We already discussed the idea of a CW show, and we also highlighted the necessity of highlighting underfunded teams and drivers. However, let’s expand more about that specifically.

On a weekly basis, the drivers and teams at the back of the pack get little to no attention from the TV broadcast. This is understandable as the fans are primarily focused on what is going on up front, however, it makes for a tough life for those teams. It’s hard to sell a sponsor when they rarely are seen on television.

Funding is everything in NASCAR. If you do not have enough funding, then you cannot race. It is as simple as that.

The television audience is far bigger than the at-track audience. If NASCAR works on highlighting these teams not only on race day, but every day on the CW, then the sponsors get better publicity. It’s a much easier sale pitch to say, “We can get your name out there multiple times a week” rather than, “In front of 30,000 people in a very specific location at a very specific time”.

It also helps the big teams as well, because they will get even more publicity as those who run up front every single week. All of this exclusive content we discussed goes back to this very principle. Make sure that the ones that NASCAR needs to promote get that necessary promotion.

Now that the Xfinity Series has an exclusive television partner, there is more potential for that. The Xfinity Series can be a high priority for more people than it is now.

Conclusion

The NASCAR Xfinity Series moving to the CW is a big move for NASCAR. It’s not a move that many expected, but some key elements of it mean that there could be some major changes in how these races are both produced for the broadcast and consumed by fans.

NASCAR has more control over these broadcasts and the Xfinity Series is no longer the second-tier NASCAR Series on a TV deal. This means that the envelope should be pushed.

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Joshua Lipowski

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