IRL works on schedule, TV deal

July 30, 2008
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iamindyAt 2 p.m. today, IRL officials are expected to unveil their 2009 schedule. Motorsports sources tell IBJ there will be 18 races next year (10 ovals and eight road courses), with the Nashville race removed and a race in Toronto added. There will be no race in New Hampshire or Las Vegas despite speculation to the contrary. The race in Homestead will be moved from the beginning of the IRL calendar to the end. The race in Motegi, Japan will also be moved toward the end of the season. A race in Australia will not be on the 2009 schedule released today. But league sources said it could be squeezed in after the race in Japan and before Homestead. On a side note, IRL officials just announced today that the Australia race will be held Oct. 26, 2008. After much complaining by team officials, there will be no more than three consecutive weekends of racing next year.

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.
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  • A lot of the blogs in recent weeks have mentioned serious interest in the league from NBC, yet no mention here? Any word on materialization on that front?
  • For what its worth, I think everyone needs to take a deep breath here. This series did not make it to the top of the auto racing world in 6 months and it certainly did not fall from favor in that time frame either. One would think that the powers that be both in the IRL and TV networks have thought this out with the long term good in mind and not this years ratings as the main factor in making decisions. Here's hoping that cooler heads prevail and a season long deal that benefits everyone happens, and soon!
  • Is this really any surprise......a Negatively spun article by Scheottle? On most accounts he is as bad as that Donkey Kravitz. I wish the IBJ would give his assignments to the guy who knows about sports in this city......Bill Benner.
  • Wow, if you're going to call for my ouster IndyCarIU fan, at least have the courtesy of spelling my name correctly. O before E. Bill is a friend, so I'll tell him he has a fan. Seriously, though, this is all factual information, so I'm not sure how you think this is negatively spun. To JoBu, I had heard earlier this spring and summer that NBC was interested, but had heard the network had dropped out of the picture more recently. That may change. In any event, thanks for reading.
  • Hopefully they will work out a full season package with ABC/ESPN. ESPN and ABC can only blame themselves for some of the ratings problems. When you constantly switch the start of races to Classics with no warning, or tape delay a live race to watch the last hole of women's golf, you're going to lose viewers. Fans need to be able to find the race. Tivos need to be able to find the race. The audio should properly sync with the video. If a Nationwide race runs over by 45 minutes, switch the end of the Nationwide race to Classics - like they do when the IRL race runs over. You can't expect Nascar-level viewership when you clearly favor one fan base over another and constantly screw the IRL fans in favor of virtually any other sport. Tell me that they're getting a bigger market share on the women's golf. ESPN/ABC has done a piss-poor job this year with the IRL broadcasts. I'd lose my mind if I had to watch them without the tivo.

    If they do something to make it better to watch the broadcast than it is to stream it live on the web, then they'll get bigger ratings. The commentary sucks, the constant bumping of the start sucks, the channel switcharoo sucks. It's easy for them to blame the fans, but they really should look in their own backyard first.
  • By the way, while I suspect that Anthony Schoettle is out riding his bicycle on the last Sunday in May, while the rest of us are watching cars drive in circles, I have never found his coverage of the IRL or the merger to be biased or inaccurate when compared to any other news source.
  • A time buy? Hilarious. IRL fanatics always jokes about CART/CCWS having to buy time. How's that taste, suckers....
  • Don't worry about the negative comments Anthony and keep writing the truth. The IMS shills can't handle it.
  • I just find it interesting that Robin Miller nor Curt Cavin,.....both true industry insiders, have not reported anything of this nature. I guess that does not mean it is not true, but you have to admit the majority of Mr. Schoettle's articles are of a negative tone. That is what I meant by negatively spun. How about some positive news or stories? Ah, but then readers such as myself would not have such reactions and take the time to write our silly opinions on what really amounts to unimportant issues.
  • Come on Curt Cavin as an industry insider. The IBJ and Anthony Schoettle have scooped the Star on so many IRL/open wheels stories I have lost count.
  • Hazel:

    All I can say to what you said.....nonsense!
  • The reason no networks are interested is simple, it's the same reason no fans are interested; the 'product' is toxic garbage. Tony George is a cancer.

    The ratings don't warrant the type of coverage that the 'league's' (very few, mostly delusional) fans want. They can run their excuse generators all they want, it doesn't matter, the 'league' is a cheap, shoddy, lame copy of actual motorsport. A fraud. Even the fi-hunnerd is an absolute joke under FTG's failed 'leadership'. A pathetic imitation.

    It's only going to get worse. And the only marginally enjoyable thing about this farce is watching it crumble.
  • Stan:

    Opinions are one thing. Many of us are fans. All things should be open to criticism. Your name calling, hyper negative rants are getting old. It would be a reasonable idea for you to be civil. My father-in-law used to say, if you can't say something positive about someone, don't say anything at all. I don't always follow that adage, but I try to do so.

    So, again, your comments are welcome, your name calling and hate speech are not.

    Why don't you give it a try sometime?
  • Lifetime isn't an option?

    Danica-mania is not as big as I thought.
  • Problem is that the TV coverage is being marketed all wrong. The IRL should sell not just the race coverage, but the antics of the teams, management and drivers as a reality show. You gotta admit that it is, at times, better than Big Brother or the other similar shows. Danica vs. Wheldon; Danica vs. Briscoe; Danica vs. Milka; Danica vs. [your name here]. Between the driver spats, the team discord (see AGR this week), the management ego battles, etc., this would be a great series to have 3 and 4-day weekends broadcasting the back story. All access pass for the right network. Put the races on the main network channel and the drama on a sister cable network. At the end of the season, fans get to vote one driver out of the series (will it be Roth or Duno?).
  • So, again, your comments are welcome, your name calling and hate speech are not.

    Are you the self appointed miderator? Maybe you should grow some thicker skin.

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