DirectTV finds new angles in NASCAR deal

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NEW YORK -- NASCAR and DirecTV will pair up next season to bring racing fans closer to the action than ever before.

Early next year, the two will roll out NASCAR Hotpass, an NFL Sunday Ticket-like package that will give subscribers five channels for each of the 38 Nextel Cup series races, each dedicated to a different driver in the race, with a choice of four camera angles per car, audio between the driver and crew and other data. Viewers will get a broadcast crew -- including announcers -- for each driver, who will be picked ahead of time.

"This is an actual production. We have producers, directors, announcers on every channel," said Eric Shanks, executive vp of DirecTV Entertainment. "This is a fully produced event that actually interacts with the drivers and the teams. Imagine a home-team radio broadcast of your local home team NFL game. That's what this is."

NASCAR Hotpass begins with the season-opening Daytona 500 on Feb. 18.

Terms of the three-year deal weren't announced, though it replaces the NASCAR In-Car On-Demand subscription package that had been available on cable. That package offered eight cars but only one view per car, looking out the drivers' window, and there was only driver-pit crew audio and silence when they weren't talking.

With NASCAR Hotpass, there will be two announcers per channel that will be silenced when the crew and driver are talking. It is similar to a deal recently announced with Sirius Satellite Radio that features audio of 10 different drivers, one per channel.

Shanks noted that NASCAR fans wear the shirts and hats of their favorite drivers and listen to driver-pit crew communications via scanner. "We wanted to bring that experience of following your favorite driver home," he said.

DirecTV and NASCAR have been working on this since 2005, when Fox Sports chairman and DirecTV executive David Hill thought up the idea. A first test of camera angles and equipment was done last year2005 at the Brickyard in Indianapolis, with driver Tony Stewart; a second test with Dale Earnhardt Jr. came last season in Las Vegas.

Before Jan. 31, NASCAR Hotpass will cost $79 a year; afterward, a season subscription is $99.
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