WTHR president would ‘love it’ if Indy 500 could be televised live locally

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Now that this year’s Indianapolis 500 is in the review mirror, executives of NBC Sports Group are beginning to craft ideas to market next year’s race in hopes of increasing its exposure.

NBC is taking over broadcasting of the Indianapolis 500 from ABC, which had broadcast the race since 1965.

Topping the wish list of Larry Delia, president of local NBC affiliate WTHR-TV Channel 13, is to air the race live, further stoking the debate over the Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s choice to black the race out locally.

“Any sporting event you want live,” Delia told The Score. “We understand the interests of IMS and respect those interests, but if they would make the decision to air it live, we would love it.”

Delia continued: “Anything that’s live is going to be exciting. You’re going to be watching and learning, and you won’t know the winner until it happens.”

IMS, however, is standing by its longtime tradition, unless every ticket is sold, which happened for the 2016 race.

“The race will not air live locally unless it is sold out, as was the case with the 100th running,” IMS spokesman Alex Damron said. “Our TV partner is well aware of this.”

It’s hard to know how close this year’s event came to selling out, since IMS doesn’t release attendance figures. Damron did say, however, that attendance this year was up from 2017, but still with "plenty of room" remaining.

Still, everyone at IMS parent Hulman Motorsports “is excited to work with NBC on next year’s 500 broadcast and an entire season of engaging IndyCar content and coverage,” Damron added.

Under the new three-year contract, eight IndyCar races will be broadcast next season, up from five that ABC aired. The rest of the schedule will be on NBC Sports Network.

The 103rd running of the Indianapolis 500 is set for May 26, 2019. The race will be included every year in NBC Sport’s Championship Season marketing campaign, which touts several high-profile sporting events that NBC Sports broadcasts, including the Triple Crown, French Open, Stanley Cup Final, Tour de France and The (British) Open Championship.

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