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IndyCar Series / Indianapolis Motor Speedway / Auto Racing / Sports Business

Indy Racing League TV ratings skidding toward season's end

September 25, 2009

It’s been a bumpy ride for Indy Racing League in its inaugural season on the Versus cable channel.

Pre- and post-race coverage has certainly been better than it was with the ESPN family. But that coverage along with those IRL specials that ran early in the season on Versus have done little to bolster the series’ TV ratings.

And earlier this month, IMS Productions lost its president, Charlie Morgan, who after two years with IMS, left to return to radio as market manager of Emmis Communications Corp.’s Indianapolis radio cluster.

Last Friday (Sept. 18), the Indy Racing League in Motegi, Japan—which aired on Versus—earned a national TV rating of .14, which means 165,000 households tuned in, according to New York-based Nielsen Media Research. A 10:30 p.m. start time likely didn’t help. In the Indianapolis market, the Motegi race earned a .7 rating, meaning about 7,500 TV households watched. Both numbers are below the season’s average.

The series fared a bit better in August. The Aug. 23 race at Infineon Raceway earned a .25 rating nationally (281,000 households) and 1.21 in the Indianapolis market (13,000 TV households). The green flag on the race dropped at 5 p.m. The Aug. 29 IRL race in Chicagoland earned a .24 national rating (271,000 TV households) and 1.13 in the Indianapolis market (13,000 TV households). That telecast began at 9 p.m.

Now Versus announced it will be airing some NASCAR fare. That has to make open-wheel fans scratch their heads. It could mean Versus officials are merely trying to build their motorsports portfolio as they’ve so stated. Or it could mean they’re taking their eye off the ball.

One race left this season, Oct. 10 in Miami. Green flag drops at 4 p.m. Stay tuned.

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