Meanwhile, the IRL is negotiating for a new television package, and it’s not going well, according to sources with knowledge of the dealings. IRL’s current deal with ABC/ESPN runs through 2009.
Officials for ABC/ESPN and Fox Sports have told IRL officials they are interested in the Indianapolis 500, but little else concerning the open-wheel series. ABC/ESPN and Fox officials have told IRL officials they will not pay a rights fee anywhere near the $10 million annually ABC/ESPN currently pays, according to motorsports insiders.
Despite unification with Champ Car, IRL race telecasts have seen no bump in advertising revenue, and ABC/ESPN officials said they continue to lose money on the deal. ESPN has suggested a revenue-sharing model, but the IRL has shown little interest in that.
IRL officials are still trying to put together a package with ABC/ESPN or Fox that includes the Indianapolis 500 and at least four or five other races. That could force IRL officials to buy time for their other 12 or 13 races, or let them go untelevised, which would be a marketing disaster.