NASCAR’s Brian France and NBC Sports’ Group Mark Lazarus Talk Game

Last week, we were able to sit down for Q&As a pair of new partners in NBC Sports Group Chairman Mark Lazarus and NASCAR Chairman/CEO Brian France at the Cynopsis Sports Media Awards. As we conclude coverage of the event, here are some snippets from the conversations.

France on the evolution of NASCAR: Our sport has an interesting balance, as all of the drivers and teams are on the racetrack at the same time. So that means 43 teams are competing every weekend. On the other hand, sports fans in this country feel very strongly that winning is what defines their teams, drivers and their sport. So we had to balance that and that’s why we had to modify our Chase. You can see around the horn that college football evolved its college playoff system into a true playoff. You see baseball with its Wild Card evolution. You see the NFL starting to talk about changes as well. So for our industry, there is a balancing act we have to maintain but we are going to be bold. I tell people all the time that you can go anywhere in the world and you are going to see maybe one or two major sports in a country or region. You aren’t going to have all of these collegiate sports, which are very dominant in the US. This is obviously the greatest country in the world for sports, but it is also the most competitive. Everybody is well marketed. Everybody is embracing technology and running fast so I think we have to be bold down the road to stay in the game.

On recent challenges: One of the reasons we are really excited about our new partners, such as NBC, is that we will be given a significant priority for that network and that’s been a big challenge to overcome. Of course, we have the economy as well. What NASCAR relies on is activation. That’s coming back over the last 12-15 months, but we want to see more robust activation with all of our sponsor groups across the board. That’s getting better, so the future is bright.

On Days of Thunder or Talladega Nights: I’d have to say Talladega Nights.

Lazarus on the Olympics: We had 2700 people working for us in Russia. Getting all of those people in the country, feeding them, housing them, transporting them, and getting them home safely. The last people got home roughly ten days ago following the Paralympics. They did a great job and this is a labor of love with endless hours of work. If you go back to 2006 in Turin, 15 different shows beat the Olympics in primetime. In Sochi, no shows beat the Olympics in primetime so you see that the value of the Olympics continues to grow. It really encompasses and captures the nationalism and patriotism, not just for Americans, but for any country here.

On an upcoming bid for the NBA: We love sports. We are already partners with the NBA through our regional sports networks. We have great relationships with those teams and with the league. They are in relationships right now with other partners, but if the opportunity were to arise, certainly we would talk with them as we are all old friends.

His prediction for the NHL Finals: Bruins and Kings.

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