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Could the Indy 500 be live on TV locally for the first time in 66 years?

May 23, 2016

Indianapolis Motor Speedway officials are monitoring the sale of Indy 500 infield tickets as they consider whether to lift a blackout that prohibits the race from being broadcast live in central Indiana.

IMS President Doug Boles told IBJ earlier this month that televising the race live locally has been discussed by IMS and ABC officials for several years but the track had no plans to change the policy this year, even as IMS sold out some 240,000 reserved tickets.

But now, several media outlets say the track could reverse that stance if the infield sells out. It’s not clear how many unreserved tickets are available in the infield, where most fans sit on mounds or in lawn chairs, or how many have been sold already.

The 100th running of the Indy 500 is expected to bring as many as 100,000 spectators more than it has been in recent years.

While ABC airs the race live nationwide, WRTV—per ABC’s contract with the Indianapolis Motor Speedway—will broadcast the race on a delayed basis. Typically, the race has aired in central Indiana the night of the race—several hours after the 500-mile race has ended. This year, WRTV will air the race at 7 p.m. on race day this Sunday and again from 10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. on May 30, Memorial Day.

Andy Hall, a spokesman for ABC and ESPN, said Monday the decision about lifting the blackout belongs entirely to the Speedway.

“It’s not our decision,” he said. “It’s whatever they want.”

But he said lifting the blackout could likely be a last-minute decision and “most likely could be accomplished pretty quickly.”

IMS controls the local broadcast rights and has blacked out the live broadcast in the Indianapolis market since 1950, according to WRTV officials. 

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