IndyCar could get boost from unlikely ally

October 17, 2012
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The IndyCar Series this week got a boost from an unlikely ally: Formula One.

Despite the fact that F1’s worldwide audience dwarfs that of IndyCar and its reach is far more European and Asian than the American-based series, some within the IndyCar Series still think that the two open-wheel circuits compete on some level for fans and sponsors.

This week, F1 officials announced its American broadcasts in 2013 would be jumping from Speed, a Fox-owned cable channel, to NBC Sports Network, where the IndyCar Series resides.

NBC officials are confident the F1 move will add eyes to the IndyCar broadcasts, not divert attention from the series.

The agreement between NBC Sports Network and Formula One Management brings an end to the 17-year run Speed had as the U.S. rights holder to F1. Fox Sports officials last week said that NBC outbid Speed during contract negotiations earlier this year.

NBC will air four races—the Canadian Grand Prix in June, and the final three races of the season in November—while the remaining 16 races will air on the NBC Sports Network cable channel—formerly known as Versus. All practice and qualifying sessions will also be on the cable station.

The deal would seem to indicate that NBC is ready to make a major commitment to open-wheel racing in all forms. And if the growing U.S. F1 audience gets exposed to some IndyCar promotions, all the better.

“This is an opportunity for us to get further engaged in open-wheel racing and really acquire some great live first run content,” said Jon Miller, president of programming for NBC Sports and NBC Sports Network. “We think there’s real upside for IndyCar and this super-serves the open-wheel racing fan.”

NBC officials already are talking to IndyCar leaders about some intriguing cross promotions between the series. NBC hopes to pull some of the fans of F1’s U.S. morning broadcasts into afternoon IndyCar races.

“There will be days we have a Formula One race at 9 a.m. and an IndyCar race at 1 p.m.—we walked the IndyCar people through that … and they are excited about the opportunity,” Miller said.

There are four 2013 dates in which the F1 race be televised before the IndyCar race on the network.

Several IndyCar sponsors said they are excited by the prospects of NBC Sports Network’s cross promotions between the two series. Since F1 has a much larger international audience than IndyCar and a growing U.S. audience, the IndyCar Series would appear to have much to gain.

Bernie Ecclestone, Formula One Group CEO, is confident NBC will grow the American F1 audience.

“NBC and its various media assets have a huge profile throughout the United States and … I feel that they will promote Formula One to a level not seen before in the United States,” he said.

IndyCar officials and fans have reason to be skeptical about NBC’s commitment. NBC’s sports cable channel hasn’t exactly been a stalwart marketer of the IndyCar Series since the circuit came over from ESPN in 2009.

Ratings for IndyCar races that aired on NBC Sports Network during the 2012 season were down 27 percent compared to 2011. The average audience for each IndyCar race on NBC’s cable channel was fewer than 500,000.

Following this season, sports marketers and IndyCar sponsors said increasing the circuit’s TV ratings is the No. 1 challenge for series CEO Randy Bernard.

  • this is GRATE news
    Now, the IRL can play second fiddle on their own network. I LOVE IT. This will bring more comparison, expose the IRL as the fakes they are and drive more viewers away. WIN WIN for AOW. It also will create a way for American advertisers to advertise...for the F1. The Indycarz are the red-headed stepchild of red-headed stepchildren! Go RANDY!
    • Chief or Chump
      Hey Chief, did you even read the article? And it's not the IRL, it's Izod IndyCar Series, or can remember that right? Or are you that dumb?
    • Why the hate
      Every time Anthony has a solid IndyCar post, the usual batch of haters -- Chief & his allies -- come out of their basements to root for the demise of IndyCar racing. There are so many entertainment options out there, I'm not sure why you guys are so singularly obsessed with wasting all of your energy rooting for the demise of something you don't like. Why not turn if off, be entertained however you choose to be entertained, and allow those of us who DO enjoy IndyCar racing to do so in peace. Why do you waste so much energy on something you don't like? As far as commentary on this issue goes, it's a win/win to get F1 & IndyCar on the same network, as there's a tremendous overlap between the two fan bases.
    • Cause the batch of haters are personally offended my TG, Indycar, IRL, IMS.... Chief did not get his personal apology from TG and so he has dedicated his life to acting like a jerk when it comes to anything Indycar related. The thing he does not mention is running Indycar and F1 in the same media outlets will show F1 fans here and around the world what close wheel to wheel racing is like. On track passing is not something they are exposed to much in F1. This announcement is not a negative, and could very much be a positive. And as NASCAR continues to alienate its fans, as evidenced by the declining attendance and tv ratings, Indycar should move to pick up those fans as well.
    • win win
      this should grow the households that nbc sports network is in since the huge investment was made to out bid speed. plus f1 makes a good lead in to indycar. now all we need is to get dave despain off the tin top channel and bring his show over. or better yet give robin miller and varsha their own shows on nbc. this could actually salvage a lousy tv deal.
    • Bring the Speed crew to NBC
      I hope that NBC brings David Hobbs, Steve Matchett, Bob Varsha, and Will Buxton as commentators. If not, it won't be worth watching.
    • Testy exchange you say?
      I merely post reality based content, some of you can't handle reality. NBC Sports Network didn't get F1 to prop-up the IRL IZODcarz. Get that straight right off the top...NBC was looking for sports to buy to put on their network, PERIOD. IF there is by chance a way to help out the hapless IRL IZOD series then so be it, but F1 is DIRECT competition for those precious few eyeballs the IRL has left. FACT. DOWN 27% in 2012 tv ratings the Indy Carz were, NHL on strike, other than the olympics...what is even on NBC Sports Network? Here's another fact: This VersuS/NBC Sports Contract has been the DEATH of the AOW sport. And yes, they will now compete directly with the Indy series. Who wants to bet on the outcome? I know what my sure bet will be...
    • The truth
      The truth about this deal is NBC got the F1 broadcast due to their partnership with Indycar. What motorsport ever wanted to be broadcast alongside CART/OWRS/CCWS? None. The series was kryptonite to all that encountered it. Good riddance to that wretched club racing series and long live the glorious Izod Indycar Series!
    • If the IRL din't have
      dumb fans, it wouldn't have any
    • Truth is
      NBC got the F1 broadcast due to Speed TV being revised and not caring about it any longer. NBC didn't out bid anyone, only itsownself
    • Facts
      The real facts, f1 is suffering too: no one on either side of the pond wants to look at what made CART & F1 successful. "Engineering & Competition" when new designs, tire compounds and set ups created racing excitement. Now it boring the and stats back it up.
    • Halle Berry could fall from the sky nekkid and land on my face too...
      but it aint gonna happen. The reason F1 is gaining fans in the USA is because AOWR is such a joke under the H/G clan's rule. I'm sure if I look around here, I could find articles about how the new batmobile and the Olympics on NBC Sports was going to be a boon to the .1rl's ratings too. 27% drop for that new car/Olympic bump. Yeah! That's what I'm talking about boys!
    • Good Catch for NBCSN
      I remain enthusiastic yet ambivalent in a way about the NBCSN acquisition of US rights to F-1; It is a nice get for NBCSN in terms of content, and it is logical to assume such programming will be complementary to IndyCar. The problem with F-1 is that most of their events occur in time period that are not prime viewing periods. So they will maintain their niche in this country. With regard to the handful of IndyCar-obsessed children that jump on any Anthony blog within milliseconds with whacko 'doom' scenarios for IndyCar...they have been wrong about nearly 100% of these scenarios 100% of the time for seventeen years, so why would their delusions subside? At this point in the process I might suggest professional help for both their denial and delusion filled attempts at thought. I am happy NBCSN is picking up the slack with the impending demise of Speed.
    • Disciple, you can't mean that they were wrong when they said Indycar would be gone by 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010..... or that IMS would be sold by insert date. Or that Indy would lose Honda and not have any new engines or that ABC would not reup and they would have to infomercial like cart did or any of several hundred other predictions, guesses or outright lies. My favorite is when Chief gets worked into a lather by some of the other haters and they will come up with some of the most preposterous predictions. Entertaining stuff.
    • F1 strong and getting stronger
      Way contrary to "F1 is suffering, too." - the Formula One series has the 2nd largest global TV viewing audience in sports (after soccer). While the crowds are way small at certain F1 tracks (China, Bahrain, Singapore, etc), the viewing audience continues to grow. Another comment about passing in IndyCar vs Formula One is also unfounded. If you've watched Formula One these past two years you'd know there's been more passing done than in the previous 5 years due to more competitive teams and the DRS (drag reduction system). There have also been 7 different F1 race winners this year alone. Formula One continues to deliver the most technologically advanced racing of any kind on the planet with arguably the best race drivers piloting the race cars.
    • Yes, Indyman
      you're correct. Isn't funny that the youthful Champcar enthusiasts who aren't even old enough to the Trollinger effect continue to obsess over 12+ overnights. As the nation's premier media insider, I can assure you that F1 could only hope to secure a deal as lucrative as INDYCAR's deal w/ NBCSN, which continues to bring in far north of $20million. Granted, that's in Guyanan dollars, but that's still well over $90,000 per year, which is at least TWICE what Champcar is receiving. Mr. Eccelstone may appear to be a tough negotiator on the surface, but his skills pale compared to Randy Bernard, of whose company I had the pleasure in the men's room at Fontana. Such a man, that Randy, though he did look at me oddly when I asked him to call me Harlan Fengler... Such wistful moments that the youthful Dipsicle-obsessed Champcar enthusiasts can never understand.
    • A sham is a sham of a sham
      Youse guys got all the answers. Why doesn't the IRL get out of it's ball and chains and get a REAL TV contract? This Versus deal is an albatross...which I am proud to say I was 1000% percent correct about. Again Disciple is WRONG, so he's batting .000 as usual with his European carryall. HaY, that super bowl bump was HUGE for the series! MINUS 27% Tv viwers this year. Why did that happen? Is NBCSN the 'graveyard' for americun open wheel'd sports? I suspect it is....
    • Well Most Of The Most Recent 'Responses' Were Predictable
      I am certainly glad the six or seven Honey Boo-Boo-like children behaving like four-year-olds throwing a floor fit at Wal-Mart and in the process embarrassing their chunky, red-faced parents are not in charge of television contracts for the IndyCar series. Their shocking lack of intellect (not to mention maturity) about actual business is as devoid of anything resembling sense on every other topic, particularly IndyCar's future. LOL. It will not be long until the hysterical prattling of the handful of our special friends reaches 100 comment replies filled with nonsense. That is a prediction on which we can probably count.
    • Honey Boo Boo gets great TV Ratings
      What excuses are the izodcar series providing for such horrific ratings on NBCSn? Fans love it when drivers quit mid-weekend and races are cancelled mid-season. This technically makes them the undercard for F1. How pathetic can it get for the hapless IRL bunch?
    • No 'Excuses' Necessary
      Not as pathetic as the obsessed meandering of delinquents.
    • You're right!
      No excuses! They suck and they know it! What do the fans want this year? Uglier car? Less ovals? More strret courses? Even lesser IZOD? Between Danica, the centennial "era", Sup-er Bowl bumps, Monday Night Football tie-ins, zip lines, Qingdao...and now F1. So, what's it gonna be this year? Italians? European races? New coffee flavors at the Dallara coffee autoclave? Come on D, what's it gonna take this year to keep the series in the RED, like it has been since it's inception in 1996? $700+millions and counting...
    • National exposure
      The only way indy car survives is they get a major anchoring channel to pick them up and I am a huge fan. With no tv coverage to watch them except an upper band channel most people don't get what do you expect. Whoever ok'd the 10 year deal with the nbc sports network signed fatal deal to the sport that was once outstanding.
    • It's the television channel, stupid.
      Ditto Scott. I have been in local TV news since Nov. 5, 1979. I became a fan of this sport when I was asked to cover the "fan atmosphere" at an Indy Car race held in Florida in 1987 at the old Tamiami Park circuit, ironically right across the street from my home. It was a great experience and I was hooked. My partner of 11 years has since become a fan and was nver a sports fan of any type. It is all about the big three or Fox. I work for one of the big three and we were interested in Indy Car from what I am told. Apparently, it came down to money and loyalty to ABC. The Versus deal was a terrible mistake. Things look better for 2013, with some Prime Time events on ABC. Exposure is everything. Not overexposure, but exposure. I agree with some here who have suggested a ten-12 race schedule on oval tracks. ALL on one of the big three, at least one-third in prime time. This would help a great deal. The entire indentity of the sport is the Indy 500. Several "like'events" on a smaller scale support and promote that race, especially if held on a Saturday evening on a big three. This sport is not finished yet. But it sure tries to be.

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