Disciple of INDYCAR Weblog

July 23, 2013

Movie and Television Deals: Chicken Little is BACK!

Filed under: The Disciple Blogs — Disciple of INDYCAR @ 9:55 pm

Box OfficeThe Internet is filled with people who not only type things but also fancy themselves experts on every type of sports business subject that arises. This behavior is most prominent when the subject involves IndyCar and any type of ratings or media. To those of us who actually make a living in the media business most of the opinions are not only without merit but are laughable in a ‘how-could-one-person-possibly-be-so-clueless’ way.

Here are some recent examples: The movie Turbo. By and large it has gotten great reviews but is not pacing as some thought it might at the box office. I am certain DreamWorks released it when they did envisioning a summer blockbuster. It has not been that, but the box office is steady, there is a comprehensive merchandising plan, and an offshoot television series is already committed. The media pundits also forget the overseas numbers are actually considered strong. Here are the automatic Internet conclusions based on headlines and carefully mined quotes: A) IndyCar is DOOMED. B) Anything associated with IndyCar is poison to whatever it comes into contact with, like a movie. Usually the critics are in the group that supported the series on which ‘Driven’ was based. If we applied their twisted, selective ‘logic’ on a similar scale we could say that based on the movie ‘Senna’  (a See Yawidely praised work but far from a money maker) Formula One is doomed and that the association was poison to the movie based on the box office.

The most recent example of internet panic is the announcement this week by NASCAR and NBC that beginning in 2015 NBC channels will be taking over the ESPN and Turner portions of the NASCAR schedule, featuring 20 Cup events (7 on NBC) and coverage of 19 Nationwide events and some practice and qualifying. Predictably the IndyCar-obsessed have been shrieking about how bad this is for IndyCar. Many have recommended fleeing to ABC/ESPN. Again my reaction to this hysterical bleating is, essentially, laughter. It is far easier to use my brain. Here are some things the Internet experts might want to ponder:

that was quick-ESPN and ESPN on ABC would not solve anything except making IndyCar even more obscure. The management there has little interest in or respect of IndyCar, and that has been obvious based on their actions for well over a decade. They may believe the marquee is great, but have done little to accentuate it. They have almost managed to kill off other sports as well, including horse racing, which NBC eventually saved and enhanced.

-Those who advocate moving the entire IndyCar kit and caboodle to ESPN forget that it already has a glut of primarily stick and ball fare and other diverse events such as hot dog eating, so when NASCAR leaves they will be rather distant from having any sort of programming void to fill.

-Remember what happened the last time NASCAR excluded ESPN? ESPN pursued NASCAR like an obsessed stalker. Even though for a while they were not even allowed inside race tracks they camped outside gates and used still photography and model cars for coverage. Even though IndyCar was its only motorsports ‘partner’ they treated it like an ugly girlfriend and kept it under wraps. Even their web site accentuated NASCAR and buried IndyCar. Given the management and editorial ignorance of those who produce the product why would anyone believe anything would change sans NASCAR?

-It is easy for the ignorant to chide NBC Sports Network about low ratings, especially 12+ overnights that are used as the basis for most of their ‘arguments.’  Most Internet television executives advocate IndyCar buying their way out of the contract. These iInternet Contributorndividuals should stop and think for a moment. NBC now has ‘the big three,’ NASCAR, F-1 and IndyCar, on the same channel. The opportunity for meaningful cross promotion exists, and NBC is not as editorially ignorant as ESPN. Granted NBC’s enthusiasm of IndyCar is less, but that is primarily due to ignorance and IndyCar’s long term inability to effectively disseminate effective product messaging or promote itself in a modern way. As for low ratings, everything on NBC Sports Network gets low (or no) ratings. This is well documented. If NASCAR can improve the overall impression folks have, why would that be bad?

The Internet is a very entertaining destination if you are interested in observing primitive behavior.



  1. Without making any claim of being an “Internet expert”, I would agree with you that movies have had little influence on motor sports popularity. “LeMans” with Steve McQueen, no less, did not turn sports car racing into a main stream sport. It remains in a niche which is getting even smaller. Formula 1 did not need “Grand Prix” with James Garner to become what it is today. Will “Rush” create a boost for Formula 1? Doubtful.

    As far as network coverage of IndyCar, none of the networks seem to create the drama that CBS did when Ken Squier was the announcer. ABC always seemed to put in the emotional “human element” starting when they began the same day delayed coverage of the 500. Somehow it just did not seem as dramatic as the IMS radio team coverage. Perhaps it is telling that Paul Page is now reduced to announcing hot dog eating contests and snowmoble races. In a recent post you commented on the Euroization of IndyCar. Certainly, while no doubt a very intelligent person, Steve Machett comes across as very “professorial” as a commentator and watching the Toronto races he made it more like a seminar than a sporting event. That in itself creates problems for casual and regular viewers of IndyCar. As you said it is not a “safety car” and it is not a “formation lap”! Sports coverage in general has become too analytical. There seems little excitement in the voices of the commentators today regardless of the network.

    Comment by PB2Y — July 24, 2013 @ 4:38 pm | Reply

  2. Dear Defender:

    I am very encouraged by NASCAR’s move from the Worldwide Leader (in covering Tiger Woods, College Women’s Hoops and College Women’s Softball) to the NBC family of networks if only for one reason: if NBC and its family of networks continues to televise Indy Car races while also covering NASCAR Nationwide Series and Sprint Cup, then we can avoiding having both Indy Car and NASCAR races on at the SAME DAMN TIME!!! It continues to amaze why Indy Car, with sixteen stops on the calendar, insists on scheduling its events to run head to head against NASCAR events, thereby ensuring that the millions who follow NASCAR will never watch an Indy Car broadcast…hell, there are fifty two weeks a year, each with a Saturday and Sunday to equal 104 available slots (unless Indy Car figures out what the NFL figured out in 1970 and even NASCAR figured out last year- TV ratings explode when you broadcast live in primetime!!! Install the lights at IMS already!!!) why in the world would you run events up against NASCAR??? Now is the time for Indy Car management to think progressively about retooling the joke of a schedule into something that will ensure that we do not go up head to head weekend after weekend against NASCAR and will hopefully draw some new viewers into the tent…the DW-12 has raced OK so far, especially at Indy, and nobody is watching….

    Comment by Neil Rubin — July 24, 2013 @ 4:54 pm | Reply

  3. Disciple, I must confess that this latest shuffle has the potential to be a problem. As I posted on Oilpressure, when you have ratings that can’t touch the Coney Island Grand Prix (of hot dog eating) with any race that isn’t the Indianapolis 500, (and THAT might be closer than we expect,) IndyCar is hardly in a position to call the tune. So, here’s what I am hoping for, considering that I expect there to be some movement of broadcast personnel among the contenders: 1. Kevin Lee needs to be in the anchor seat. I realize that he said he was not ready when Leigh Diffey was hired at NBCSN, (I’m inclined to call BS on that one,) but I challenge you to name one person who knows more about IndyCar as it exists right now who also has a sense of the history. Without being a “screamer” (like Mike King,) he’s knowledgeable and very likable as a personality without being an overpowering personality. 2. Someone needs to find a job for Paul Page. I truly hoped that he would take over the Musberger role for the Indy telecast, and while I understand the need to skew younger (and Lindsay Czarniak is a major improvement over the clueless Brent,) Page’s savvy and knowledge of the history of IndyCar racing is wasted doing NHRA, snowmobile racing and the aforementioned Coney Island GP. 3. That NBC has the vision of trying to become THE network for autosport. The NBCSN crew far outperforms their Disney rivals, and I submit that NBC is going to have to open up the pocketbook when the Disney contract with IMS expires and present the 500 on for-real NBC. The remainder of the schedule can stay on NBCSN until ratings warrant moving up to the “big” network. To be sure, the Triple Crown races plus Long Beach could, by virtue of creative scheduling, end up on “big” NBC almost immediately. (What the Hell, I can dream, can’t I?)

    Beyond that, I’m afraid we’re pretty much going to have to take what we can get.

    As for “Turbo,” I think it’s been hurt in box office by “Despicable Me 2” which, especially in 3D, was AWESOME. “Monsters University” has also done pretty well, so it appears our loveable snail is, at best, playing for 3rd place. Where “Turbo” will have an impact on our sport’s future is in cable and PPV. When it gets to HBO, you KNOW it’s going to get played to death, and lots of eyes that had not seen it in theaters are going to see it.

    At least that’s the way I see it….

    Comment by SkipinSC — July 24, 2013 @ 8:33 pm | Reply

    • Thank you for someone else mentioning the demise of Paul Page!….He should be brought back as the Walter Cronkite of Indy racing…….and why not a spot for Donald Davidson…..retired drives like Scott Goodyear also know what they are talking about….he knows he was behind the pace car and not a “safety car”!
      NBC and Paul Page knew how to do it in 1979!

      Comment by PB2Y — July 24, 2013 @ 10:04 pm | Reply

      • Come on, we’re going to bash Steve Matchett for his use of language applicable to F1 even though the concepts are the same in Indy Car? Guys, this type of provincialism makes the rest of the world consider us a bunch of yahoos….Matchett did a great job commentating during the Toronto races and really seemed enthusiastic about our version of open wheel racing….more than I can say for the tools over at ABC/ESPN who are lifeless, boring and generally appear disconnected from the on track action…and please, can Lindsay Czarniak from further consideration for the 500 telecast….she has no feel for Indy Car and it definitely showed as she knew little and cared less about the series and its drivers. I am all for bringing back Paul Page and any other broadcasters who have a passion and interest in the series….

        Comment by Neil Rubin — July 25, 2013 @ 3:43 pm

      • Agreed, and Neil, using F1 verbiage makes them look like idiots, not us.

        Comment by Bob F. — July 26, 2013 @ 1:33 pm

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