Disciple of INDYCAR Weblog

September 20, 2011

The Television Situation for Indy Car And Where We Are Going

Filed under: The Disciple Blogs — Disciple of INDYCAR @ 1:52 am

When an Indy Car television deal was struck with Comcast and Versus a few years ago, the naysayers began cackling en masse. They tripped over one another to decry the deal on a cable channel millions of households could not get. After all Versus had been known as Outdoor Life, and most of its programming involved killing Bambi and watching Lance Armstrong ride a bicycle.

Many of us, however, felt it was ahead of its time. The primary anchor of the re-branded Versus was the NHL, then coming off a period of labor strife that almost killed professional hockey. Astute people could draw many parallels between the NHL and Indy Car. By the time Indy Car came along, the NHL and World Extreme Cagefighting were getting most of the attention. The folks then in charge of the channel trumpeted Indy Car as the next great programming anchor for the channel.

As we fast forward to the present day a big fear is that the Comcast takeover of NBC may present an ESPN-like challenge for Indy Car. The people then in charge of Versus are not in charge of what will become the NBC Sports Channel. The NHL season is just about ready to get underway, and a new deal they signed with NBC will pay it $2 billion dollars over ten years. Much NHL programming will be carried on NBC, but it has been positioned as a primary anchor on Versus/NBC Sports Channel as well.

Randy Bernard and many on the broadcast side of Indy Car heap praise on Sam Flood, who is the Executive Producer of NBC Sports and Versus. He calls the NHL a ‘tentpole property’ and touts being able to leverage relationships and build with the NHL. He also says the relationship ‘. . . started last year in a big way and we think with the production plan and talent we have, we can make this a big jump for the NHL.’

Meanwhile, Indy Car has all but vanished from a promotion standpoint, on the web site and in public discussion. NBC Sports executives tout the NHL and the stick n’ ball offerings they have, just like ESPN. New programming about the NFL is being flogged all over the channel.

One of the most important jobs for Randy Bernard should be to ensure an NHL-like plan of action for Indy Car. It is a more compact season and is easier to manage. The last thing we need is two ESPNs in terms of treatment like a red-headed bastard stepchild. Let’s see what Sam Flood has to say about Indy Car.

I have often wondered whether IMS would consider selling a minority share of Indy Car to an ESPN or an NBC. If either had a vested interest in the success of the series would they treat it with more than begrudging contract fulfillment but no promotion?



  1. I was really disappointed that the Mickey Mouse networks struck such a big deal with IndyCar. I was hoping I could see ALL IndyCar races on the NBC family of networks.

    Comment by IcyFog — September 20, 2011 @ 2:35 am | Reply

  2. A point well taken. My concern is that the IMS leadership, (the sisters) doesn’t have a plan going forward other than to preserve the status quo and make back as much money as they can from the reign of their spendthrift (in their eyes) brother.If the right network came along with the right deal, I have no doubt that they would strike such a deal. I do not get the feeling that they necessarily have the same feeling of legacy about the Speedway that their grandfather (or even their brother) had. This is the one reason I have said throughout that Tony George should be left in charge of the physical plant at IMS. He made improvements to the place that would have made his grandfather very proud, a family tradtion I am not sure the sisters have any intention of following.

    Comment by SkipinSC — September 20, 2011 @ 2:59 am | Reply

    • I’m amazed by these remaining Tony George bootlickers like SkipinSC. Tony failed in a big way. He was removed from power due to the constant outflow of cash to keep supporting his folly called the IRL, which he used to scorch the open wheel earth. He obviously had no plan to stop the red ink anytime soon, so he was removed from power.
      Editor’s Note: If the head bootlickie is so insignificant, why are you obsessed with him? Grow up.

      Comment by TroyM — September 20, 2011 @ 11:33 pm | Reply

      • Are you really a stupid imbecile? I didn’t bring him up, one of your followers did.

        Editor’s Note: I know you are but what am I? Might as well reduce this quaint little interaction to the maturity level it deserves.

        Comment by TroyM — September 20, 2011 @ 11:51 pm

  3. Gee, I turned on Versus late Saturday night/esrly Sunday morning and what did a see? A parade being held at a race course (if that’s what you can call it) in Japan. All the floats looked suspiciously like Indy cars and very politely kept a safe distance — several cars lengths between each. No crowding, no passing. It was a nice parade. It looked like they have an oval track at that place in Japan. Maybe next time Versus goes to Japan it could televise an Indycar race on the oval track instead of a parade of floats/Indycars on a road course.

    P.S. I thought I did see one float/Indycar pass another float/Indycar but I wasn’t sure.

    I hear Indycar is going to kentucky for its next race. Hot damn, a real oval race. I might see a car get passed for the lead for the first time in more than a month.

    Comment by spreadoption — September 20, 2011 @ 3:43 am | Reply

    • Spreadoption makes a good point. How do you promote that?

      Comment by Bob F. — September 20, 2011 @ 1:06 pm | Reply

  4. Indy Car signed with Versus because no other network wanted anything else from the series, other than the Indianapolis 500, and a few former jewels of Indy Car from the past (long beach most notably).
    Editor’s Note: And you would know this because….

    It was not a signing with an eye to the future, or how do you put it, “years ahead of it’s time” (laughing out loud). The Champ Car World Series found itself in a similar position when it put it’s product on Spike TV, though more people had access to that channel than people do now with Versus. I remember you blabbering all over internet race forums about how bad a deal it was then, so what has changed now? Same shit as far as most are concerned, just a different pile.
    Editor’s Note: The champcar bunch essentially bought infomercials on a small network before their second bankrupt failure. So facts prove conclusively it was a bad deal. Comparing that to Indy Car pegs the ‘stupid’ meter. Indy Car remains in business and gets paid to be on television. Twice.

    I also recall you in years past, making fun of the NHL, calling it a sport not worthy of being regarded as one of the big four sports in North America. Fast forward to now, and lo and behold, we have you using the NHL deal with Versus as something the league should strive for.
    Editor’s Note: You recall incorrectly. As usual. I admire the way in which the NHL recovered from their labor strife and parlayed their product into such a great deal.

    Do us all a favor, blah-blah-blah-blah-blah, when it comes to Indy Car fans.
    Editor’s Note: To the remainder of readers, you’re welcome in advance. I saved you from paragraphs of Disciple slamming that had nothing to do with the topic. Request for everyone: Please keep commentary confined to topics. Thanks.

    Comment by The Truth — September 20, 2011 @ 6:33 pm | Reply

    • I doubt the veracity of your statement that Spike TV had more viewers back when it had CCWS than Versus has now. Can you show me the numbers?

      Comment by IcyFog — September 21, 2011 @ 8:59 pm | Reply

      • The claim is that Spike is in more households than Versus. That, BTW, is totally true. Has been since day one. Spike carried over carriage contracts from TNN. Remember that switch over? Sorta important since TNN got coverage across the US back in the day when there was only room for 36 cable channels. Versus, meanwhile, started life as OLN and was always a niche network though Comcast spent a lot of money to expand its reach.

        Comment by throw some ds on that bitch — September 22, 2011 @ 5:40 am

  5. As I said in the other thread: You can’t sell something nobody wants. If the Indycar series is irrelevant and none of the other races matter other than Indy, and that’s how things are promoted, well, why would a network invest their money in such a product? It doesn’t make sense from a media company perspective with the split contracts. Historically, having a network invest in a league hasn’t helped any either. Go ask the original team owners from the first incarnation of the Arena League how that turned out.

    Editor’s Note: What makes you the expert on determining what people want? No one wanted the NHL a few short years ago and their product is essentially the same. What no one wants is the stench of cart scorched earth. That is why it is important to focus on the future.

    Comment by throw some ds on that b!tch — September 21, 2011 @ 3:29 am | Reply

    • They changed rules to speed up the game, finally found some star power in the Crosby and Ovechkin, and have begun doing what they should have done all along – move teams and attention back to the core audience in places it snows and ice exists. Chalk up some extremely popular and well watched hockey at the 2010 Olympics and a labor deal that makes the game profitable for most of the teams now instead of only a couple, and you have a much, much healthier league than what existed pre-lockout.

      On the other hand, you have Arena Football. When they went and signed with the folks in Bristol in 2006, they also signed away partial ownership to them. ESPN wasn’t really interested in paying off other people’s creditors though, and while they probably did a admirable job of trying to hype and grow a distinctly minor league sport, Arena League folded prior to the 2009 season. Legally, Arena Football wasn’t able to even reincorporate under that name and instead is now called AF1. If you are struggling to create and audience, trying to sell or give away part of your league to a network historically is no benefit. Just like a sports franchise, an owner not willing to invest actual money or pay real bills doesn’t help.

      Comment by throw some ds on that b!tch — September 21, 2011 @ 3:22 pm | Reply

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