Disciple of INDYCAR Weblog

August 11, 2011

Indy Car TV Deal: WTF?

Filed under: The Disciple Blogs — Disciple of INDYCAR @ 12:38 pm

The braniacs at Indy Car/IMS signed a six-year renewal deal with the Disney broadcast bunch earlier this week. Second verse same as the first. The one thing that popped into my mind almost immediately were two Albert Einstein quotes:

Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.”

What the two parties signed appears to be merely a continuation of the same thing we have had for years only for more money. That may matter to bean counters actually running the show. Randy Bernard’s limited public statements seem nothing more than flowery lip service.

Here is what we know for sure:

-ABC gets to keep the Indianapolis 500 through 2018.

-Four other races will be on ABC.

-ABC seems to be the exclusive over-the-air network; i.e, no races on NBC. Just leftovers on Versus/NBC Sports Channel.

That is the same thing as right now. How can that possibly be considered an improvement? The only actual improvement is in-car views on ESPN3.com. Still missing is a realistic online presence. What about practice? What about qualifying?

The announcement this week drew virtually no attention. As a matter of fact another couple of ESPN-related announcement got a lot more national play. Jerry Rice and Bill Parcells are joining football coverage on the network. ESPN will no doubt promote that.

Here are questions that must be answered before any intelligent conclusions may be drawn:

-Will ESPN be allowed to continue treating the Indy Car Series as a red headed bastard stepchild?

-Will Indy Car have any sort of meaningful Internet presence on ESPN’s web site other than buried, non-intuitive links that are largely hidden from view?

-Will NASCAR coverage continue to remain center stage at the expense of Indy Car?

-Will ESPN on ABC coverage still stink to high heaven outside Indy?

-Will ESPN on ABC continue throwing fossils like Brent Musberger at the marquee event?

-Will Versus/NBC Sports Channel continue relegating Indy Car to obscurity? Their editorial philosophy lately has been to relegate Indy Car to obscurity, especially on the Web.

I am not worried about leftover coverage on Versus/NBC Sports Channel. They have and will probably continue to do a stellar job except online. What worries many the most is the mediocrity in coverage too many people have accepted as normal. The ABC deal as announced seems almost as exciting as a second helping of food at a Golden Corral.

Here is some unsolicited advice to Indy Car. The framework is the same old thing. What substance is there? The ABC relationship began as a stable marriage. It fell apart when they took a fat country girl as a mistress. Then they essentially divorced Indy Car, married the fat country girl and paid child support to Indy Car. Then they discovered Viagra and began horndogging any other sport they thought had merit.

What we have today is a continuing ABC/ESPN marriage to a fat country girl, an increase in child support to Indy Car and ongoing dalliance with so many others that Indy Car is simply ignored even more. Indy Car has accepted a little more money but acceded to a continuing and egregious lack of respect.

Randy Bernard has seemed very distant lately. Gone is bubbling enthusiasm for growth of the brand. Also missing is the candor that endears him to fans. What fans want to know is simple. Other than six more years of the same old thing, what is there to be excited about? And please do not tell me we are lucky to get what we have. What we have with regard to television is mediocrity, and that looks unlikely to improve.



  1. From the tiny bit I’ve found to read about it seems like they didn’t even field an offer from NBC. It seems like maybe the Hulman/George IMS group preferred to snuggle up to ABC again because it’s good for the 500, the rest of the schedule be damned. And it seems like maybe Bernard was elbowed out of the way. I don’t know, of course–but it seems that way.

    I could’ve understood it if INDYCAR was free to shop the rest of the schedule to NBC or another network, but the deal with ABC precludes that–no other broadcast network is (apparently) even allowed to carry the other races.

    And if they wanted to go with ABC, couldn’t they have gotten them to add a few more races? It would be nice to know what this deal is. And I’d like to know RBernard’s true feelings about the deal. Did I miss the press conference where all this stuff was explained?

    Comment by redcar — August 11, 2011 @ 1:47 pm | Reply

  2. Agree wholeheartedly. Especially this …
    “Indy Car has accepted a little more money but acceded to a continuing and egregious lack of respect.”

    Comment by IcyFog — August 11, 2011 @ 4:15 pm | Reply

  3. Between the lines

    ABC was in an extended exclusive negotiation period. NBC and other networks didn’t get a look in.

    ABC has successfully protected their stake in NASCAR by controlling the on air and online promotion and coverage of INDYCARS main races.

    At $6 m the ABC deal is worth 1% of NASCAR’s contract with ABC/ESPN.

    INDYCARS total TV income with Versus added is around $10.6 m. Do the math.

    Inside sources say an investment group recently approached Randy Bernard which he ignored because they wouldnt play ball if ABC was involved. Mr. B didn’t let on to the Hulman family.

    Larger sponsors are now looking to back away from INDYCAR or commit less $$$.

    INDYCAR is not going to survive this fatal amateur mistake. Which shows Mr. B’s true colors and lack of experience.


    Comment by Keith M — August 11, 2011 @ 8:51 pm | Reply

  4. Either Ropin’ Randy has become disenchanted with Indy Car or his bosses are prepping TG to re-gain the mantle of the series…either way, resigning with ABC/ESPN is an awful decision that will doom this series and evaporate any momentum that Randy and his new marketing concepts may have brought to the table…enjoy the fun while you can but the idea that big time sponsors will come to Indy Car for races that ABC/ESPN fails to promote or that are buried on the non-existent Versus Network is absurd….sponsors will be passing on this product and taking their $$$ elsewhere…at least NASCAR can sleep sound…

    Comment by Neil Rubin — August 12, 2011 @ 8:44 pm | Reply

  5. NR said “evaporate any momentum that Randy and his new marketing concepts may have brought to the table”

    I find it really astonishing that Randy Bernard has so much support. What has the guy really “achieved”? Nothing! He’s a used car salesman with a CEO title.

    His so-called marketing concepts have completely failed and are nothing more than amateur gimmicks. My kids could come up with better. The tire debacle at Texas. The $5 million gimmick at Vegas which shows utter disregard for the champoinship. The new aero kits to launch 2012?? It goes on, and on.

    The guy doesn’t have a clue. He couldn’t make the local McDonalds a success.

    Please Mr. Bernard come through with at least one promise. IMMEDIAITELY RESIGN when TV ratings don’t triple at the championship final!

    Comment by Tim — August 15, 2011 @ 4:54 pm | Reply

  6. Dear Tim:

    I guess you are right inasmuch as Ropin’ Randy’s promotional scheme has failed to yield any concrete results despite much hope and hype for his tenure at the helm of the series…here’s my problem, what’s the alternative? I am resigned to the fact that since Randy has yet to drop kick Brian Barnhart from his position as chielf stewart, even though the officiating in this series borders on a complete joke, we can expect TG to reassume the mantle at Indycar and place us back in the same inert position in terms of leadership at the point of the merger….I watched NASCAR’s telecast before the race yesterday and its marketing machine exposes everything that’s wrong with Indy Car’s non-existent promotion program….those boys are mugging all kinds of products and have become household names while we have one overplayed Verizon commmercial for Will Power and one mindless after another mindless Danica commercial and that’s all….add this to the almost purposeful way that ESPN refuses to even mention Indy Car and we continue the downward spiral into oblivion…can anybody resurrect this series? I am curious to hear from the Defender about his thoughts on Ropin’ Randy’s impending departure and the return of TG.

    Comment by Neil Rubin — August 15, 2011 @ 6:15 pm | Reply

  7. Well guys I’ve just heard that RB might have more to worry about than BB and TG. Apparently a new open-wheel racing series is being worked on with the cash and credibility Indy car hasn’t been able to muster. RB should know when a horse is lame you shoot it or someone else will. The difference this time is Indy car might be forced to fold its hand and take the walk of shame. Yee haa!
    Editor’s Note: Without the Indianapolis 500 it won’t amount to a hill of beans. Is there really an entity out there stupid enough to try something like that again? If there is the people in charge should kill themselves early and get it over with.

    Comment by Cowboy — August 16, 2011 @ 5:59 pm | Reply

    • Formula 1 doesn’t need the Indianapolis 500. I guess it comes down to how much cash they’re willing to put behind a sport that hasn’t gone anywhere in the states. Indianapolis 500 is not the be all and end all my friend.
      Editor’s Note: Topic reminder…not once have I mentioned Formula 1. Relevance? And you are sadly mistaken about the Indianapolis 500. Without it there is no open wheel in America. This has been conclusively proven. Twice. I cannot believe in this day and age there is anyone stupid enough to parrot such a clueless sentiment, particularly after cart shot itself in the head, twice, in the last ten years trying to espouse that idiotic notion.

      Comment by Cowboy — August 16, 2011 @ 6:38 pm | Reply

      • Interesting viewership stats Indianapolis 500 (2011) 6.5 million. ABC/Versus combined (2010) 14.6 million. Big Brother (Sunday night) 7.2 million. Go figure. Formula 1 (2010) 527 million without the Indianapolis 500!!

        What if Formula 1 was behind the new series. Wouldn’t that make it interesting!

        Let’s get real. Indianapolis 500 is one day a year. It doesn’t dictate open wheel’s ability to succeed in America. You’d be stupid to think so. Smart people with cashola do and we haven’t seen this before.
        Editor’s Note: Wow. Nice apples to concrete comparisons, there Cowboy. LOL. You have a weird way of aggregation to suit a flawed argument. It doesn’t matter if Jesus Christ was behind a new series. It will fail until and unless it has the Indianapolis 500 as its centerpiece, especially if it is a road racing series. No major road racing series has EVER survived long term in the USA. Don’t you people EVERY learn ANYTHING from history? Twice?

        Comment by Cowboy — August 16, 2011 @ 8:16 pm

  8. Well, well Editor, a man of great wisdom and foresight. Clearly able to foresee the future with very little knowledge or understanding of what’s at work. History teaches valuable lessons to those savvy enough to avoid the same mistakes. Was there mention of road racing. It makes sense. But if you’re taking out a competitor don’t you strike where it causes the most damage. Enough banter, it was enjoyable. Let’s see how this unfolds.. Yee, haa!
    Editor’s Note: Why not explain it fully then? After all, there is NOTHING in the popular press ANYWHERE about such a venture. So do the world and you credibility a big favor and spill the beans, Cowboy? LOL

    Comment by Cowboy — August 16, 2011 @ 10:31 pm | Reply

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