Disciple of INDYCAR Weblog

August 16, 2011

Indy Car and ESPN (on ABC): A One-Way ‘Partnership’ From Hell We Are Stuck With For Most of the Decade

Filed under: The Disciple Blogs — Disciple of INDYCAR @ 6:23 pm

Now that we know ESPN on ABC has renewed Indy Car for six more seasons at a ‘substantially higher amount’ we should review what they have done (or not done as the case may be) in the few days since the announcement was trumpeted.

Nothing. Literally.

Indy Car returned to New Hampshire after thirteen years away. Story lines and pictures abounded. Video highlights were led by a two fisted bird shoot at Race Control by Will Power. Owners, drivers and team members were angry in palpable ways and did not hold out.

Drivers crashed. Even Danica crashed. Someone other than a Ganassi or Penske driver won an oval race.

We should review some of the highlights of the SportsCenter rotation following the race for 24 hours or so.

-The heads spent minutes going over granular details of the NASCAR rainout at Watkins Glen.

-The only real mention Indy Car got was negative. ‘NASCAR wants to run on rain tires some day but they want to avoid an embarrassing moment like Indy Car had in new Hampshire.’

-Jeremy Schaap combined Tiger Woods and Dale Junior into a feature about big name athletes who have not won in three years.

-When not discussing NASCAR or big time stick n’ ball, SportsCenter featured a four minute segment about Ugandan little league baseball players.

-No Indy Car news hit the on-screen crawl, either. Mexican Soccer League results, however, did.

Here are some Indy Car tidbits other media showed, discussed and featured, but not Indy Car’s newly extended ‘partner,’ ESPN:

-Points leader and race dominator crashes on a restart

-Danica crashes

-Will Power’s salute to Brian Barnhart

-Tony Kanaan flipping his car

-Multiple owners, drivers and team principals angry and squawking

It was the same story on their idiotic web site. Lots of stick n’ ball and NASCAR, but Indy Car, as usual, is buried in a non-intuitive ‘other sports’ link.

This type of neglect week in and week out is inexcusable. I want answers from the people who thought this renewal was a swell idea.

-How will ESPN/ABC help Indy Car stand out in their crowded field of sports properties?

-When will Indy Car get a link on the ESPN home page as their other motorsports partner, NASCAR, has had since day one?

There is no web presence.

-What does ESPN intend to do to elevate the stature of the brand?

-How long will we be stuck with the abominable coverage with which we have been plagued for the past decade?

-What sort of on-air or Web video offerings besides in car cameras will be offered?

The only good thing this contract renewal accomplished was an increase in cash flow. None of the core problems, however, have been addressed. Unless they are, and soon, the fact that no negotiations took place with anyone else looks even more suspicious. Is IMS really that shortsighted? Come on, folks.



  1. Good stuff. Spot on as usual.

    Comment by IcyFog — August 16, 2011 @ 8:05 pm | Reply

  2. Maybe nobody else was interested in the broadcast rights?
    Editor’s Note: They would not know until/unless they asked.

    Comment by TroyM — August 17, 2011 @ 12:15 am | Reply

  3. “The only good thing this contract renewal accomplished was an increase in cash flow.”

    Contrary to popular belief the contract was extended. Not renegotiated. ABC/ESPN are paying the same fee they always have. It’s 1% of what they allocate to NASCAR each year – not enough to pay the bills. Forget building the sport. Ropin Randy believes more money is on the horizon because international and online coverage will be better. ABC promised, yes they did. It won’t be. Slick move on ABC’s part.

    Think about it RR, ABC/ESPN has exclusive rights to NASCAR, your NEMESIS, they have $4.8 billion invested which will be protected at any cost. ABC now has exclusive rights to Indycars main events for the next 7 years, they control not only NASCAR’s only rival but its commercial wellbeing and survival.

    What’s even slicker is ABC blocked any chance of Indycar releasing the new aerokits. Teams need sponsors, sponsors need better coverage than ABC offered. No money means no aerokits and.. it’s coming folks, who’s going to pay for Ropin Randy’s new cars! Didn’t anyone think it coincidental that a week after the ABC deal was announced, the aerokits were shelved.

    ABC’s played Ropin Randy and won.

    As they say, there’s one born every day. Ironically they all ended up working at Indycar.

    Comment by RG — August 17, 2011 @ 4:39 pm | Reply

    • Not saying you are wrong, RG (although there are a couple of leaps of logic that you’re making there that I’m not yet prepared to make; how could signing the ABC deal have effectively blocked the aerokits? If IndyCar had signed a deal for the same amount of cash and number of races on network TV with NBC/Comcast, wouldn’t the outcome likely have been the same? Does anybody have any proof that NBC was planning on giving IndyCar more races on the main network?), but do you have any citations on where you’re getting any of that info? I mean, other than that thing you cited from July 18 that doesn’t actually address any of the content of what got signed sometime during the week of August 8th?

      Comment by The Speedgeek — August 17, 2011 @ 10:10 pm | Reply

      • Speedgeek “how could signing the ABC deal have effectively blocked the aerokits?”

        RG “Teams need sponsors, sponsors need better coverage than ABC offered. No money means no aerokits”

        Sponsors were eagerly awaiting a better TV deal (with NBC) giving them more exposure, which would have meant more dollars to spend. It didn’t happen so they’re not willing to boost sponsorship dollars to pay for aerokits. New cars may be next on the list of budget cuts. Then who knows.

        Comment by RG — August 17, 2011 @ 11:28 pm

      • Are you talking about the current sponsors who are in the sport right this second? You mean that Izod and Target and ABC Supply and Telemundo and Snapple Group and DHL and (insert about a dozen other sponsors who have been around for more than 6 months under the current TV arrangement) have been dumping money down the “black hole” of IndyCar under the hopes that the TV contract would improve by 200% next year? What I am saying is that I sort of doubt that. I’m asking you several things here:

        1) Have you talked to any current sponsors who are so pissed about IndyCar going for 6 more years of the same TV deal that they’re going to walk for 2012 and never return?

        2) Again, if NBC was not going to offer more than 5 total races on free over-the-air broadcast (which is what I’ve heard might likely have been the case, since NBC/Comcast is trying to fill up the new NBC Sports channel with content, so they’d probably want as many races there as possible), then how is the ABC/ESPN re-sign any different? And why would any current or potential sponsors for 2012 be counting on a new TV contract on an entirely different network? Because they read a lot of Track Forum or something? I don’t get that.

        3) If the price for a 2012 chassis + 2012 engine lease = the price for a 2011 engine lease alone (those are the exact numbers that I’ve heard: $350k for 2012 chassis + $600k for 2012 engine = $950k, which is about what a current Honda lease costs), how could this deal disrupt the introduction of the new cars? Yeah, spares cost money, testing and development cost money, yeah, yeah, but we’re talking about a relatively minor percentage increase in team operating costs for next year (in fact, dampers and several other components are being carried over, in order to hold down costs a little). Meanwhile, one could, if they were so inclined (which I’m figuring that you are not), make the case that IndyCar in August 2011 is an even more attractive property than it was in August 2010, due to the increase of TV viewership for (I think, and you can by all means hold me up and comment punch me in the kidneys if I’m wrong about this) 7 or 8 of the 10 races that have happened so far that returned from 2010 (this doesn’t, of course, include Milwaukee or Loudon, which were “new” for 2011). Might that increase in TV ratings attract a couple more sponsors, the likes of which could pay for the incremental gain in costs for next year?

        4) This isn’t a question, just a separate comment, so you know exactly where I’m coming from. I have no defense for the team owners voting down the aerokits. I surely hope that the delay to 2013 was as a result of the kit makers saying they needed the extra year, and not down to the team owners not being able to see the forest for the trees with an interesting component that was only less than another 10% of the price of the rest of the new car and which was optional to purchase, anyway. If it was entirely due to the owners’ intransigence, then that’s blind stupidity, and shame on them for that. What I don’t think is that the aerokit delay was tied to was the TV contract. That, I think, was likely coincidental (and yes, by all means, call me however many names for “rube” that you like for believing what I do).

        Comment by The Speedgeek — August 18, 2011 @ 1:33 pm

  4. “Maybe nobody else was interested in the broadcast rights?”

    TroyM you may recall Ropin Randy extended ABC’s exclusive negotiations. No other network had a shot at it. What smells bad is a new TV deal didn’t have to be signed until late next year. ABC/ESPN were committed through 2012.


    Published July 18, 2011

    IndyCar, Indianapolis Motor Speedway extend bargaining window with ESPN

    Faced with an expiring broadcast TV deal, the IndyCar Series and Indianapolis Motor Speedway extended their exclusive negotiating window with ESPN for rights to the Indianapolis 500 and four other races.

    The exclusive negotiating window, which was set to end in June, was extended until the end of July. IndyCar officials are optimistic that they will be able finalize a new deal by the end of the month. Their clear preference is to keep the races on ABC, which has held the rights to the Indy 500 for 46 consecutive years. The parties held their first negotiations in late April for a new deal to replace the $6 million a year agreement that is set to expire this year.

    Comment by RG — August 17, 2011 @ 5:03 pm | Reply

  5. You really think they would have re-upped with ESPN if they thought they could get a better deal elsewhere? ESPN likely played a little hardball, and let them know that if they didn’t re-up in the exclusive period, the price would likely drop. Some have this pipe dream of tuning to NBC on Sunday of Memorial Day weekend and seeing Bob Costas on the yard of bricks. The 500 and the IRL does not contain the target demo that NBC is after.

    Comment by TroyM — August 18, 2011 @ 12:33 am | Reply

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