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Even on a fledgling cable channel, the events surrounding the Indianapolis 500 continue to be an attraction—though I’m sure the Indy Racing League’s new TV partner was hoping for better. Pole Day qualifications drew a .35 Nielsen TV rating Saturday (May 9) on Versus. That means about 385,000 TV households nationwide tuned in to the cable channel broadcast. It’s not exactly a Super Bowl type rating, but it’s as good as any Indy Racing League race so far this year.
Well, actually, Pole Day drew just less than the Long Beach race (388,864 households), but better than IRL races in St. Petersburg and Kansas earlier this year. Versus’ broadcast of the second day of Indianapolis 500 qualifications on Sunday nearly did as well, with 322,000 TV households tuning in.
It appears the Versus sales staff might be stuck in neutral. The same old advertisers (Apex, Honda, etc.) keep turning up time after time during the broadcasts. Versus will no doubt try to use the Indianapolis 500 as a springboard to sell ads.
This weekend, Versus will carry more qualifications coverage from noon to 6:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Versus also will air Carb Day activities May 22. The race will air on ABC at noon May 24.
ABC airs five of the next seven races. That should give the series time to build up speed and hopefully Versus some time to sell some more ads before it begins airing the final seven IRL races beginning with Edmonton July 26.