IndyCar leaders feeling vindicated by NASCAR's new TV deal

July 24, 2013
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IndyCar Series officials, long derided for leaving ESPN for the fledging cable channel Versus, are looking quite a bit smarter in the last 24 hours.

NASCAR announced Tuesday that beginning in 2015 it would air the second half of its season—likely including the Brickyard 400—on NBC and NBC Sports Network, which was formerly Versus.

Former race driver and long-time TV analyst Derek Daly had only one word to say after hearing the details of the new NASCAR-NBC deal. “Wow.”

“NASCAR is a strong enough property to grow this cable channel [NBC Sports Network],” Daly said. “With IndyCar growing and improving its product, this couldn’t come at a better time.”

There is speculation among motorsports industry insiders that the new NBC-NASCAR deal could wreak havoc on the IndyCar Series schedule, but IndyCar officials weren’t letting that dampen their spirits Tuesday.

“This is the big picture going in the direction we all had hoped and signed up for,” said Kasey Coler, IndyCar Series’ vice president of marketing. “This is an extremely important development for us, and it’s definitely a positive move.”

The 10-year deal stipulates that 20 NASCAR Sprint Cup races—its highest level of racing—will air on the NBC family of channels, including 13 on the cable channel NBC Sports Network, where many of the IndyCar races are aired. The agreement, which runs through the 2024 season, also gives NBC 19 Nationwide races, select NASCAR regional touring events and other live NASCAR events. Much of that content also is expected to air on NBC Sports Network.

The deal will likely have two major, and relatively immediate, impacts on the IndyCar Series when it starts in 2015. The inclusion of NASCAR races will cause more cable networks to add the channel—and add it to lower (less expensive) tiers.

Secondly, NBC is expected to promote its other motorsports properties—including IndyCar races—during NASCAR races.

NASCAR races, even though ratings have declined somewhat in recent years, still draw 4 million to 8 million viewers on a regular basis.

IndyCar’s Coler couldn’t help feeling a little vindicated in the hours after the announcement.

“Going back to the days of Versus, we could see this was a sports network with the resources and the vision to grow,” Coler told IBJ Tuesday night. “This is a validation of that vision that was set out a few years ago.”

In 2009, the IndyCar Series ended its relationship with ESPN and signed a 10-year deal to air many of its races on the fledging cable channel now known as NBC Sports Network.

NBC Sports Network has two major problems. It reaches too few homes (about 75 million nationwide compared to ESPN’s 100 million) and too few people know where it is on the dial.

The NASCAR deal will help tens of millions of fans find the channel, said Larry DeGaris, director of academic sports marketing programs at the University of Indianapolis.

And DeGaris, who has conducted several in-depth studies of NASCAR, thinks the move will push the perfect audience to the channel for IndyCar.

“The biggest opportunity for the IndyCar Series to grow is exposing it to existing motorsports fans,” DeGaris said. “There’s a lot more opportunity to win over more fans by attracting people already into racing than increasing exposure among casual sports fans or stick-and-ball sports fans.”

Motorsports sponsorship broker Zak Brown, CEO of locally based Just Marketing International, thinks this gives the IndyCar sales staff something to roar about.

“It’s certainly a selling point,” Brown said. “I think the bolstering of NBC Sports Network is something that will resonate with sponsors and potential sponsors.”

Television viewership has long been a concern for the IndyCar Series—especially on races airing on NBC Sports Network. None of the IndyCar races airing on NBC Sports Network have earned a 1.0 rating (about 1.3 million viewers nationwide) this year, which Brown said is critical to attracting sponsorships to the series.

NBC Sports Network has the rights to air IndyCar races through 2018, and several motorsports insiders said new Hulman & Co. CEO Mark Miles needed to get out of the deal to save the sport. That’s proving not to be the case anymore.

“We fully expect significant cross promotions across NASCAR, IndyCar and Formula One [on NBC Sports Network],” Coler said.

There is, however, one major concern about Tuesday’s NBC-NASCAR announcement. It could foul up the IndyCar Series’ schedule.

IndyCar officials will sit down with NBC honchos soon to discuss the matter. IndyCar’s Coler said running IndyCar races on a tape delay is not an option.

“We have to figure out how we [IndyCar, NASCAR and Formula One] all compliment each other,” Coler said.

Coler said it will be imperative not only to work with NBC but also “to build out the schedule far enough in advance to make sure there are no conflicts.” In recent years, IndyCar officials have fallen in to the bad habit of not releasing the schedule for the next year until well after the conclusion of the current season.

IndyCar officials, starting this year, aim to get that rectified. Though he wouldn’t pinpoint a date, Coler said series officials plan to release the 2014 schedule before the end of the season.

Terry Lingner, owner and CEO of Lingner Group Production, which produces all the IndyCar races but the Indianapolis 500 for ABC and NBC Sports Network, thinks series officials need to re-think their schedule.

“It would behoove IndyCar to get really creative with their schedule and think about things like mid-week races, maybe on a Thursday night, and things like an earlier start to the season,” Lingner said. “There are always going to be scheduling issues and the inclusion of NASCAR on NBC might increase the challenges for IndyCar. But these are great problems to have.”

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  • Ahead of Its Time
    That has been my thought since the deal was signed. Look like there is something to that sentiment. I am certain, however, that one of the Internet television executives will be along shortly to concoct a reason why this is the latest sign of doom for IndyCar.
  • sked
    adjusting to Nascar couldn't foul up the Indycar schedule much more than it is--something like one race in a two-month period? it's good for Indycar, but they still shot themselves in the foot with the ABC deal--the 500 was their only bargaining chip and they gave it away.
  • It just makes sense. Putting all the racing on one group of properties makes everything easier. I know it is always interesting to see one network trying to promote NASCAR races this week when another network is carrying the race next week. Now Indycar needs to switch the 500 and other ABC carried races to NBC so they can be marketed together. I am not sure the schedule is "fouled up". Considering there are two days in most weekends, and sometimes 3 on holidays, I am sure NBC and Indycar can find a way to make it work. weeknight races are an interesting idea, but I doubt they would do well in the ratings.
  • Comcast's Upper Hand
    NBC could simply work the conflicts with a few moves, mainly on the NASCAR side by putting races on network television, or even starting Cup races at 4 PM after IndyCar races. The Homestead-Austin (F1) conflict could be done by shifting the Cup race to a 4 PM green flag after starting the F1 race at 12 Noon CT (1 PM EST, 6 PM BST, 7 PM CET).
    • Another opportunity for
      IRL fans to get disappointed. NASCAR fans aren't IRL fans. The last 17 years tells you that much. NBCSN already has 112 million viewers who won't watch the IRL. All this will do is increase that number. The always chuckling observer of place fan disappointment
      • INDYCAR
        This is great for indycar!!! Now the nascar donkeys will see how good indycar racing really is all under the same network.
      • Why is the IRl
        always dependent on someone else to make it popular?
      • Chicken or the Egg?
        As the great character Winston Wolf from the hit movie Pulp Fiction might say (and I paraphrase), let's not start 'slapping' each other on the backs just yet. FOX will be broadcasting the first 16 races so the IRL will be INVISIBLE from March to the end of June. The solution? DOUBLEHEADERS baby...all summer long. I get the feeling that with all the programming devoted to the NASCAR juggernaut there will be precious time to waste on the top tier AOW lightweight series with the 6 cyl engines and weird body styles. Keep praying for uphill waters you place fans. Maybe they should move the 500 to the Last week in June to capitalize on NASCAR's week off. Bwahahahahaha! NASCAR OWNS YOU INDY folk! Tooo funny. Geez, just sell to them and get it over with.
      • 3 to do
        IndyCar needs to: 1. Start the season earlier, with speedweeks at Daytona. No reason not to run the road course. 2. End the season earlier--no need to compete with both the NFL and NASCAR's chase; face it, if NFL is on NBC, guess what channel the NASCAR race will be on. 3. Get ABC out of the picture, that network has for 30 years been clueless how to broadcast a race of any kind.
      • behind the times
        I laugh at the "Ahead of its time" reference. So in the final 4 years of a 10 year contract, the IRL will be on a network that has major league racing. By the way, Nascar will be getting paid 440 million per year from NBC. The IRL is getting 6 million per year from NBC. That is over 70 times as much money.
      • fOX Sports Net was the cat's meow too
        ABC, Fox SportsNet, ESPN OCHO, being bumped for womens softball, VerSSus, and now NBCSN...all too crowded for the IRL. The IRL 2013, hmmm that'll sell like hotcakes ona 100 degree day. Conkles for everyone.
      • And F1 is getting
        a gajillion dollars a year from NBC. That is like a bazillion times more that TOney gotted
        • Congrats, Gomerz
          The irl has the same ratings and interest as Nascar's third tier truck series. This will be a grate opportunity for them as a support series, racing between practice and qualifying, when the Americans are racing on ovals, triangles, and rectangles.
        • ACkshully
          The France family has offered the coveted Thursday night time slot to the League. Show up, qualify, race, go home.
        • There is no IRL
          The IRL no longer exists. Not even on paper. It's called "IndyCar".
        • The Peanut Gallery
          Doug, you don't understand. It's merely a part of their obsessed, mostly illiterate taunting as they try to be cute. They are, in their own special way, the biggest IndyCar fans in the world.
        • the biggest .1rl fans in the world
          don't watch the lousy product and are cheering the continuing 27% drop in ratings, the dismal dropping attendance, the laughable clown cars, the nobody drivers, the urine soaked ghetto of a speedway, the continuing losses of H/G clan money and the frantic whining of the Kool-Aid drinkers who bought in to the vision. Yes, we have a lot to cheer about lately. :lol:
        • cough cough
          It was the IRL that had to get inserted into the NASCAR season ticket package so they could hope to have fans show up. How is this TV deal any different of an opportunity? How did the season ticket deal work out for the IRL or Indycar? HaY DoUg, answer those questions honestly and I have a cupie doll for ya. (and honestly, every opportunity ever presented to the IRL/iZodcars has been squandered. Good luck in your research). LOL
        • 440 Million vs 6 Million`
          that is all any one needs to know
        • IndyCar still the best racing on NBC
          NBC adding nascar to its programming is likely to help IndyCar because nascar fans will be able to see for themselves that the racing IndyCar presents is far superior to nascar... The drivers are far more skilled (IndyCar drivers race on ALL types of circuits, have standing starts, two-wide starts, three-wide starts, etc.), the cars are much faster (41 MPH faster at Pocono, for example), and the competition is closer and more widely distributed throughout the field (90% or more of the field having a legitimate chance of winning), and no field-filling "start-and-park" entries. I just hope that IndyCar has a clause in their contract that requires balanced promotion and equal time presentation.
        • Place fans,,,you just have to shake your head
          How's IRL hiro Sam Hornish doing? How'd Dario Judd do in his attempt in the lesser series? I bet he got tired of winning every week, didn't he. Why would a series with .2 following get equal time or promotion? The IRL will be lucky to get 5%
          • We get it Sinclair...
            We get it, Sinclair... you don't like IndyCar. Give it a rest, or do you not have anything more worthwhile going on in your life? How pathetic!!!
          • Gots to bring back the Ovals
            It is going to be rough running Road/Street courses during the week or at night. The only solution is to get the Oval and lights back in play, maybe they can bury the hatchet with ISC?
          • Masses
            Just because the masses like WWE / NASCAR does not mean its a better product . Seems to me McDonalds sells an awful lot of horse burgers but I prefer a great sirloin burger anytime over Mr. Ed !!! Is rubbing really racing , or is it really just rubbing ???
          • Dear John
            Nobody likes the IRl...not on NBCSN. Out of 117million households, only 0.2% watch. Even lowly NHL hockey got a 2.3 tv rating on NBCSN this year. When are you place fans and Marion County IMS tax slaves gonna face up to it...the product STINKS like the busted sewer pipes at the run-down Speedway and the 3 sided ghetto that surrounds it. The DW12 is ugly, the spec garbage boring. Just relaying reality John. Quit fooling yourself.
            • Word error
              Excuse me, it's "complement" and not "compliment:" “We have to figure out how we [IndyCar, NASCAR and Formula One] all compliment each other,” Coler said.
              • supplements needed
                To complement something is something that makes up for a deficiency in another. Indycar and NASCAR is like a bad marriage so everyone already knows that. Trying to make a case for Irreconcilable difference is going to be the little guys hard luck.
              • SPECAR
                NASCAR has been running spec cars for years --still are. Ten quality drivers and the rest AAA league. Long races that are mostly wrecks and cautions. What's to like about such a series?
              • With all due respect...
                Jake Sinclair, IndyCar racing has not been the IRL for several years now. Thus, it is obvious where your loyalties (and knowledge) lie.
              • Racing
                so whens NasCrap gonna have a side by side finish? Like IndyCars, Now thats called Racing.
              • It's payback
                and don't forget it., It's nice you could chime in from Air Force One.
              • Paraphrasing Shakespeare
                crap by another name still stinks
              • Brian says
                “I know we’ll help them significantly by moving to NBC and the NBC Sports Network. We’ll give a lot of visibility to that network and that in turn will be good for them. Our hope is that they will get stronger because we run at a number of the same venues and if they can contribute to those venues that need all kinds of capital and improvements, (that) would be a win for us.” So, in that respect, a rising tide lifts all boats from a broadcast standpoint, and in theory should be good for all parties in 2015 and beyond. As for the sharing weekend question? “No. Nationwide is significantly ahead of the Indy Racing League in terms of its television ratings and attendance and everything else with the exception, obviously, of the Indy 500. We wouldn’t want to mix that. They have to stand on their own, and we have to stand on our own,” he said.
              • More SPEC
                They just went MORE spec series: twin turbos only in 2014. Same ugly bodykits though...and 25% drop in TV viewership. NASCAR won't even partner with them...unless it trucks or MODs. Bwahahhaha...this is gratest season evah!!!
              • The France Family
                will be paid for less than two months what Tony got for 10 years. Visionary & ahead of its time for sure.
              • The Stinkyard Bore Hundred
                NA$CAR ain't a helpin'. Yawn. NA$CAR is dying, roo, now, yeha, boy, dad gummit. She shore is, now ya hear?
              • Don't you worry friends...
                $100million tax subsidy is gonna fix everything. Yep, that ADA money sure will make it more comfortable for fans to not come and see the boring races. What is all this money going to do to fix the racing? Been like this since 1994...

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