IRL TV deal raises questions

August 7, 2008
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The deal the Indy Racing League got from Versus cable channel to air its races starting next season, is so good, league officials said during a conference call today, it prompted them to abandon the remaining year they had to air the entire IRL schedule on ABC, ESPN and ESPN2.

Instead, ABC has agreed to air the Indianapolis 500 and four other IRL races next year. Versus, a channel which reaches 23 million fewer U.S. households than ESPN, will broadcast at least 13 races next year.

Though IRL and ABC officials wouldn’t comment on financial terms of the deal, industry experts said that the ABC/ESPN portion of the deal is a rights fee deal which next year will pay the league close to the $10 million it was guaranteed through the old contract, but much less in subsequent years. IRL officials jumped to Versus after ABC/ESPN officials threatened not to run some of the series’ races next year even if the IRL held them to the contract, racing industry experts said.

Officials for Versus, which is owned by cable giant Comcast, declined to say if their 10-year deal with the IRL is a rights fee or revenue sharing deal. “I think at the end of the day, the IRL is going to be paid in a fair way,” said Marc Fein, executive vice president of programming, production and business operations for Versus.

ABC made their interest clear from the start. “The Indy 500 and Indianapolis Motor Speedway are very unique and very special,” said Scott Guglielmino, ESPN vice president of programming and acquisitions.

Versus is best known for broadcasting the Tour de France and National Hockey League. Some of the network’s staples include cage fighting, bull riding and hunting and fishing shows.

As part of its IRL deal, Versus officials promised to run expanded IRL coverage, including qualifications and pre- and post-race shows that will showcase the league’s racing and help expose driver personalities. Versus also will begin airing some of the IRL’s feeder series’ races. IRL officials said they like what Versus has done for the NHL.

One item that IRL officials said that still needs ironing out is the league’s international TV distribution. ESPN has handled that up to this year, but it’s unclear who will handle global distribution going forward.
  • Absolutely hysterical. So much for momentum from the fake merger rubbish.

    The 'league' is wallowing in its own fetid waste. Too bad FTG isn't smart enough to shut this pos down, but it will make for some high comedy when the ratings stories roll around next year.

    Hey Anthony, I know I give you and the (very few) 'league' fans a lot of crap, but I do enjoy this format you have here. I think this article was pretty good. Have to read between the lines cause if you stated the obvious about this disaster you'd get a tap on the shoulder tomorrow, but it speaks volumes about the ongoing trainwreck that is Anton H. George's flying circus.
  • HOLey MOly. THis is gone to be all we need. FIRst of alls, TOney finelly kills CARt this year and then now he takes care of the crap ESPN been doin. MAn oh man, this is grate. BUT I hope he keeps JACk AROot. HEs just that good. THe IRl gets grater day by day. WE get the new an improved schedule and now we get a triple play TV deal. ABC and ESPns and VErses. All gone to be pimpin the IRL now.

    PImp the IRl baby. THe new battel cry

    THANsk TOny. CANt amagione what open wheel racing woud be without you.
  • NASCAR controls all TV deals for any type of racing. They control Speed Channel which is the only network that any racing series can even hope to land airtime.

    NASCAR collects most of the network dollars available from ABC and ESPN and that leaves nothing for any other racing airtime. ABC and ESPN see the opportunity to reduce motorsport expenses by cutting the IRL. ESPN used to be the venue for USAC Sprint and Midget racing, but after ESPN lost out to TBS and FOX had to pony up the big bucks to get back on the table.

    Simple economics. Enjoy your viewing of the three NASCAR series races some weekends.
  • This is good for the IRL. ABC/ESPN treated the IRL races like a stepchild. Show just the race and nothing else. Versus gives the IRL a lot more programming and more exposure even with fewer viewers. The extra coverage will build a stonger fan base with more information and more coverage. Of course the c>rt/owrs/ccws folks are mad because the IRL does not have to pay to air their races like their trice defunct series did. Sorry guys, your series sucked.
  • And indyboy shows up with the Hulmanista shillbag spin. :lol:

    You completely made up the nonsense about the 'league' not doing a time buy. Did you even read the article?

    So since you are making things up, how does Honda feel about this new misadventure? They're thrilled about it, right? Ha.

    There never was an 'owrs' series, so your commentary there is just nonsensical and illiterate. Funny that you would complain so bitterly about 'cart' though, when a shoddy, lame imitation of that is what FTG wants the 'league' to be. Comedy gold. Have fun in Belle Isle, hypocrite!
  • Stan,

    Maybe you should change to Mr. Bitter. The gutteral, name calling diatribes you continue to offer are getting old. Your opinion is one thing, but can you tone it down a little? Goodness.......
  • Well, this will be great for Versus, which will likely increase its viewership by around 10,000% for IRL races. On the other hand, it totally sucks for Indycar. Many of the fans won't get Versus. Further, the share for the versus races will likely shrink to a fraction of the share the races get on ESPN. I suspect the numbers are few of people who flip through to see what's on Versus. A decent chunk of the TV ratings on ESPN likely ARE people who stopped while flipping through to see what was on ESPN. Seems shortsighted at best to settle for this nothing channel. On the other hand, the IRL has assured that those of us who do get VS, will see all of the races. Since ESPN wouldn't guarantee they would broadcast all of them, that was probably the clincher. Hopefully VS won't go under before the season starts. I guess we have to hope that the IRL picks up and that Versus becomes a real network as a result. If that happens, they'll have to beat away the broadcasters for the next contract.
  • Not a fan of the IRL, but this 10 year TV deal looks to be a death sentence. The Edmund Fitzgerald had better odds of survival than this about to happen Versus shipwreck.
    Man the lifeboats IRL fans, the winds of November are a comin' early.....
  • Mr. Anthony Negative Schoettle. Lighten up. The 2008 Olympics are here. Colts football is looking great. Big ten football. Carmel Football. Try writing something positive and quit asking for opinions. They will come.
  • These are the same things everyone said was going to happen when the NHL left ESPN for VS. and guess what.....NHL ratings were the HIGHEST IN YEARS!!!!! I look forward to an actual pre-race show, and post race show. Indycar fans will find the race.
    Don't forget NASCRAP really had much of its bread and butter TV on TNT for years. Versus is no different and probably better in a lot of ways since it is known for sports not movies.

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