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Professional

Xfinity has bold plans in NASCAR coverage

PHILADELPHIA – High above the city in Philadelphia’s tallest skyscraper, NASCAR’s potential future zooms into focus on a 140-inch screen.

It’s also just as clear on a mobile device.

There could be a channel dedicated to your favorite driver. Want the latest news on Jimmie Johnson? Maybe a replay of old interviews or his winning races? Or how about live scanner traffic between Johnson and his crew chief during a race?

It could all be just a push of a remote control button away.

“I’m going to be bold and say we’re going to do all of that,” said Matt Strauss, Comcast’s senior vice president of video services.

Philadelphia-based Comcast has innovative plans to beef up how NASCAR fans follow the sport, from routine news stories flowing on a ticker during the week to expanded coverage from inside the pits on the weekends.

Comcast Corp. signed a 10-year agreement to replace Nationwide Insurance as the title sponsor of NASCAR’s second-tier racing series beginning next season.

The series will be known as the NASCAR Xfinity Series through 2024. The deal matches the longest single agreement around title sponsorship of any NASCAR national series in its history, and Sports Business Daily valued the package at worth close to $200 million. Xfinity is Comcast’s residential cable and Internet
provider.

Unlike most sponsorship branding that has no impact on the average fan, Comcast is trying to make its X1 platform as necessary for fans as four wheels on a stock car.

At Philadelphia’s Comcast Center, Strauss showed on the big screen how the X1 service could work as a computer-on-TV. Search engines, apps, real-time scores, even the latest trends on Twitter can be customized to fit almost any driver or hot topic in NASCAR.

And X1 works on mobile devices.

Strauss said it would be possible to create on-demand content of drivers, and races could be viewed live on the mobile app.

Xfinity becomes just the third title sponsor in series history. Anheuser-Busch spent 26 years as title sponsor, and Nationwide has been sponsor the last 11, but is transitioning into team sponsorship next season.

“It’s the importance that live sports brings to our business in general as the reason we’re involved here,” said Matt Lederer, Comcast senior director of sports brand marketing. “We’re going to make a NASCAR experience unlike anything else. We’re in a very strong position with our product right now, as strong as it’s ever been. How we’re going to market the series? We’ll have to see what happens.”

One speed bump: Xfinity does not carry Fox Sports 2 on its cable systems, which the company hoped to have straightened out in time for 2015.

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