Defender of IndyCar

Mind Changed: We Should Be Indy Racing in October

Mark MilesTime for ‘ol Disciple to weigh in on the shortened season. When Mark Miles announced it last year it made perfect sense. After all it attempted to address one of the primary concerns of fans about events being spread too far apart on the calendar. They even screwed that up by taking June off except the first and last weekends.

Another of the concerns that made sense at the time was not competing with the NFL. These suggestions and others are said to have originated with the Boston Consulting Group. My experience with them is that they offer what they feel are good strategies (for a very high price) and kick start the direction. Usually they are successful and promote those successes. In sectors where their experience is marginal (like auto racing) they often fail. Those failures are not promoted. On one hand it is always practical to get a broad outside evaluation of your business and its potential future from a group with their expertise. Conversely the risk of failure wrought by too radical a group of changes for fans that usually do not embrace rapid change gets higher.

Fast forward to today. Racing fans are simply not ready to give up auto racing before October, and being forced to do so is painful when IndyCar is a primary preference. That is why all other widely recognized series continue to run. Ending IndyCar’s season before NASCAR’s ‘Chase’ even begins now seems foolish given hindsight as 20/20.

Drink It UpThe real problem is not the NFL. That was proven when a tape delayed second tier sports car series drew respectable numbers on an NFL weekend.  There are actually two critical problems:

  1. Television network ‘partners’ that are completely ambivalent about the IndyCar product, ignorant about what it is, and who readily drink Kool-Aid expertly provided by NASCAR, F-1, etc. Worse, IndyCar is incapable of providing such Kool-Aid for them to consume.
  2. That leads to this point, which is that despite employing folks with marketing credentials no actual marketing ever seems to occur on a large scale. At least not the kind of marketing that fills seats up with rear ends and glues eyeballs to screens. The reason is difficult to ascertain, but the speculation of Internet Experts On Everything (EOEs) runs the gamut from internal politics to lack of money to ignorance equal to or greater than the television partners in terms of knowledge of the sport.

With a little creativity races could be scheduled most weekends in October with television slots that would not be head-to-head with football. Therefore IndyCar should, in fact, have a season that does not end toward the end of October.

It also requires more than creative scheduling:

  1. Education of television partners so that they step beyond the ignorance that makes them ambivalent.
  2. Meaningful and impactful marketing.
  3. Something that resembles a professional effort at tracks. The efforts expended at both Pocono and Fontana were utterly disgraceful. Uninspired, unpromoted and insulting. IndyCar MUST do better.

13 replies to “Mind Changed: We Should Be Indy Racing in October

  1. The Jim Jones crowd at Jonestown in 1978 drank grape Flavor-Aid, not Kool-Aid. However, you are in good company since it seems virtually everyone gets it incorrect, relying on folklore rather than, well, research.
    Editor’s Note: Thanks a bunch for setting us all straight after all these years. I, for one, will sleep much better tonight secure in that knowledge.

  2. College football kicks off at noon eastern on Saturdays, with the last games running well past midnight. If you include the very popular College Gameday (along with the SEC and BTN pregame shows), the day actually starts at 9:00am Eastern. And that’s for games on CBS, NBC, ABC, Fox, FS1, ESPN, as well as the aforementioned conference networks. Sunday offers similar pregame start times followed by games that run through until the late local news, albeit on fewer channels. Both days offer multiple games with extremely high ratings that both networks and advertisers love (and pay significantly for).

    Exactly where do you envision scheduling an Indycar race that would draw a measurable audience that would please advertisers?
    Editor’s Note: The vast majority of the college games are niche affairs of regional interest that are rated lower than IndyCar if rated at all, especially on the cable nets. My advice? Avoid the NFL and the top ten college teams and you’ll be fine. That is highly do-able.

  3. The college games routinely outdraw Indy car by a wide margin, as college football is infinitely more popular. You’re simply wrong on this point.
    Editor’s Note: Actually, I am 100% correct. The biggest college games do, in fact, outdraw IndyCar (and about everything else) by a wide margin. But, as previously stated, the vast majority of college games on cable channels barely register. Many are unrated. That is the reality. My point about counterprogramming stands.

    It’s why indy car rightly avoids football after Labor Day. Low demand for open wheel racing plus the competition of football would produce ratings even lower than the microscopic numbers currently achieved, and no networks or advertisers will pay for it.
    Editor’s Note: IndyCar could easily run races through October without competing against the biggest college games and the NFL. It would require the kind of creative thought and packaging of which this version of IndyCar management is not capable.

    1. Actually, even the lower rated college games routinely get more viewers then indy car, so that argument falls flat.
      Editor’s Note: Wrong again. Let’s review some pesky facts, shall we? Through week 8 of this year’s college football season just 17% of rated games achieved a 12+ rating of over 2.0. 65% of rated games clocked in at sub-1 levels. No games on NBCSN, CBSSN, other national cable networks or any regional network with national carriage were rated nationally and/or were higher than 0.0. By the way, the majority of college games are aired in that manner. How long will you continue to make yourself look pointlessly foolish?

      In the end, Miles realized that there was no demand from tracks, teams, advertisers / sponsors, television networks or fans. Wisely, he chose to end the season before football. Anyone who understands either the sport or television wouldn’t argue against this decision.
      Editor’s Note: Easy to understand in theory but difficult to make a case for in reality. It requires scheduling and marketing expertise that simply does not exist at IndyCar.

      1. I noticebyou excluded the ratings from ABC, ESPN, CBS, NBC, Fox, and FS1, where virtually all college games are shown. Telling, since those ratings dwarf Indy car and destroy your premise that competing against football is anything other than a death wish. Miles knows sports and programming and realized this immediately, as did all knowledgeable observers.
        Editor’s Note: Obviously you have chosen not to read OR comprehend. I said: ‘Through week 8 of this year’s college football season just 17% of rated games achieved a 12+ rating of over 2.0. 65% of rated games clocked in at sub-1 levels. No games on NBCSN, CBSSN, other national cable networks or any regional network with national carriage were rated nationally and/or were higher than 0.0. By the way, the majority of college games are aired in that manner.’ In other words, the 17% of college games that hit a 2 or higher did so on the major OTAs and ESPN. No ratings from ABC, ESPN, CBS, NBC or Fox were excluded. Those are not the only networks that carry college football. My analysis considered them all. The facts remain the same. Only 17% hit a 2 or higher. 65% of all aired games clocked in at less than a 1. Most non-OTA games were not rated at all. Is there any morsel of these facts over which you are still having digestive anomalies?

      2. Why have you chosen to not make a case supporting your position? You’ve offered no data or any specifics whatsoever to bolster your notion that competing with football is a viable strategy. Once again, tracks, teams, spinsors, advertisers and fans have all made clear the lack of demand for this.
        Editor’s Note: Basically, no one else stops that early. In order to make a full season strategy work they need enough internal intelligence to make it work (they don’t), they need television partners who are knowledgeable about the product and willing to promote it (they aren’t) and IMS needs to avoid bone-headed in season scheduling (like Pocono on 4th of July weekend and Fontana on labor day weekend) and finally, they need to PROMOTE (they don’t). When thye do have an event they need to make it a presentation. As previously stated presentation at both Pocono and Fontana was well beyond embarrassing. It seems to me you are missing my points pretty significantly.

    2. No network chooses to carry indy car after Labor Day, so only a time buy would work.
      Link? Look, I know you enjoy pulling things out of thin air then passing whimsy off as fact, but you have fallen off the deep end. Do you even know how a time buy works? Why would IndyCar buy time when they get paid tens of millions every year for rights? You are getting more ridiculous by the post.

      By the way, no indy car race other than the 500 achieved a rating of even half of the figure you cited, with the vast majority well below that. Neither fans nor teams nor sponsors nor advertisers nor promoters nor tracks want to host races after Labor Day.
      Editor’s Note: Please name a few on record with that sentiment and provide attribution. Thanks.

      No one who understands the sport or television would argue differently. You’re simply incorrect in your assertion.
      Editor’s Note: As someone who works at the national television level with multiple networks on both coasts I continue feeling comfortable chortling at your response attempts. Either you do not realize how ignorant you are or you are trolling. Either way these types of responses are not sane.

      1. If you actually work in the business, then you should be well aware of why no network, sponsor, advertiser, team, track, promoter or fan wants this. You’re advocating someone for which there is no demand whatsoever.
        Editor’s Note: Hmmm. What explains the demand for NASCAR, F1 and every other series still running?

        College and pro football dominate the airwaves (as anyone in the business would know) and would crush indy car races. You can’t refute this with any data, since it all works against you. Miles was told know by all of these constituents and, given his actual sports experience, he realized post Labor Day races were a no go. No one who understands the sport or media would seriously argue with his obvious conclusion.
        Editor’s Note: So what you are saying is that since you cannot dispute the factual ratings data I actually presented earlier in this pointless tit-for-tat and do not possess enough maturity, mental dexterity or courage to recognize the ratings data as correct you will digress into your usual schtick of projecting your feelings as universally accepted fact. Do you ever wonder why you and your obsessed little friends are the target of such hearty laughter?

      2. You’ve provided no data in support of your position. Even regional college football routinely outdraws indy car on television, and the broadcast partners know this quite well. It’s why they want nothing to do with indy car after Labor Day. My hose are irrefutable facts that Miles and others who know the sport understand clearly, and it’s why they’ve pursued the course they have. Case closed.
        Editor’s Note: Here is an example of data to support my position: ‘Through week 8 of this year’s college football season just 17% of rated games on all networks, both OTA and cable, achieved a 12+ rating of over 2.0. 65% of rated games clocked in on the same networks at sub-1 levels. No games on NBCSN, CBSSN, most other national cable networks or any regional network with national carriage were rated nationally and/or were higher than 0.0. By the way, the majority of college games are aired in that manner.’ Source: Nielsen Media Research. Example of unsupported taunting: The continuing repetitive nonsense you continue to post with no attribution, links or other substantive detail.You’re welcome. Glad we could clear that up.

  4. Have you ever considered that they’ve done all that you’ve asked (and more) and, given the repeated rejection of the sport by fans, sponsors, advertisers, television networks and even participants, those cutting short the season to avoid even more bloodshed have actually made the wise move?
    Editor’s Note: I just feel as though IndyCar should take control of its own destiny and actually do something about it. The fact they consistently refuse to rise to their potential is frustrating. Don’t let that stand in the way of your disenfranchised cart enthusiast hater approach though. This ‘rejection’ notion seems silly when considering actual reality: Sponsors drive things like car additions; e.g., ABC + 10 years + Foyt + 41 car full time, title sponsors; e.g., Verizon, a bonafide blue chipper, television networks that pay tens of millions of dollars per year for IndyCar rights, and a participant list that consistently exceeds the number of available slots. But probably not in your fourth-grade level world.

    Once again, the product isn’t selling, and it’s not because it’s unknown or poorly promoted or poorly broadcast. It’s been thoroughly sampled. Patrons (of various stripes) just don’t like it and don’t wNt to pay for, attend, sponsor or host it.
    Editor’s Note: Another example of a sport needing to re-invent itself is golf. You should hear those enthusiasts scream about how it’s not like it was twenty years ago either. The real challenge for IndyCar is learning how to market so that it is relevant to this decade and century. I think they are trying, but have a long way to go.

    1. The enthusiasts scream for a healthy, contending Tiger Woods, which would immediately restore ratings.
      Editor’s Note: Obsessed enthusiasts here just scream.

      Rather than deflect to the supposed woes of other sports, perhaps you should stick to the problems of indy car, which continues to lose fans, teams, sponsors, and tracks.
      Editor’s Note: Is it your belief that IndyCar is the only sports or entertainment venue with attendance, ratings, sponsorship or other such issues?

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