INDYCAR announces NBC as exclusive television partner in new deal

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With the present Verizon IndyCar Series television deal set to expire at the end of this 2018 season, Hulman and Company CEO Mark Miles pleased many fans when he announced that IndyCar Series racing will be broadcasted solely on the NBC family of networks beginning with the 2019 campaign.  The new three-year deal was announced in New York City at the NBC headquarters.

The new deal will place eight Verizon IndyCar Series events on NBC for the 2018 season, which includes the 103rd Indianapolis 500 and its qualifications weekend.  The rest of the schedule will be broadcasted live on NBCSN, the NBC Sports Group’s cable option.  Also interesting to note, IndyCar will partner with NBC to provide an “extensive amount” of online streaming content through NBC Sports Gold.

NBC Sports Gold will allow subscribers to choose the content that they want to view, and access IndyCar practice and qualification sessions that will not be televised live.  Additionally, NBC will provide coverage of Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires series races on the platform, as well as an IndyCar postseason championship celebration, Miller Lite Carb Day at the Indianapolis 500 and additional programming to be announced.

“This arrangement brings all of IndyCar to one home, increases our exposure and includes our first direct-to-consumer offer for our fans,” said Mark Miles, CEO of Hulman & Company, which owns IndyCar and Indianapolis Motor Speedway. “We couldn’t be happier to have start-to-finish coverage of IndyCar’s season with the NBC Sports Group.”

The announcement formally marks the end of a 54-year relationship that current partner ABC has had with American open-wheel racing, most notably with the Indianapolis 500.  In bringing in NBC the IndyCar brass makes a statement by dictating the direction of the series and even with the rumor that ABC offered more races on network television, the perceived poor production and flow of ESPN on ABC broadcasts was enough for the series to make a move.

While I support Allen Bestwick as one of the best play-by-play announcers in auto racing (and hopefully he finds a new role with either IndyCar or another form of racing), the ABC broadcast had become increasingly stale over the past decade and their showing during 2018’s season opener at St. Petersburg was somewhat embarrassing.

It is hard to justify ABC sticking around when they lacked any pre-race coverage, missed the green flag on more than one restart and failed to find many of the 300+ on-track passes that served as a St. Petersburg race record.  The network was noticeably uninterested in any races that did not promote or follow up on their Indianapolis 500 telecast, and that was to the detriment of the entire IndyCar Series championship.

I praise IndyCar for having the guts to make this move, severing those ABC ties despite over 50 years of work at the Indianapolis 500.  Make no mistake about it: this is a huge day for American open-wheel racing and its resurgence.

The series is on an upswing and needs a singular television partner that will take this product and run with it.  The hope is that NBC will offer more in terms of promotion, an increase in network television races over the current deal where ABC had a monopoly over the air, and overall bring more enthusiasm and passion to covering IndyCar racing.

Additionally, NBC has shown their strength in promoting and executing successful large-scale events such as the Olympics, Kentucky Derby, Stanley Cup Finals and England’s Premier League.  With the Formula One World Championship departing NBC in 2018 for an ESPN deal that hampers the viewing experience for American viewers, NBC makes this move while trying to re-affirm their status as the leading motorsports provider in America.

“We’re excited to have NBC Sports serve as the exclusive home of IndyCar, which represents the most competitive open-wheel racing in the world,” said Jon Miller, president, programming, NBC Sports and NBCSN.

“We’re honored to bring the Indianapolis 500, one of the most prestigious events in all of sports, to NBC, further enhancing NBC Sports’ ‘Championship Season.’ We’ve seen consistent growth for IndyCar on NBCSN in the past decade, and we hope to continue that growth throughout the series by leveraging the television, digital, production and marketing assets that make NBC Sports a powerful media partner.”

Currently NASCAR’s second half partner, NBC adds IndyCar to the mix and another premier event in the Indianapolis 500.  In the year 2020, NBC will have a stellar summer of sporting events, featuring each leg of the horse racing triple crown, the Indianapolis 500, hockey’s Stanley Cup Finals, the Ryder Cup and British Open golf championships, French Open, Tour de France and the 2020 Summer Olympics.

While some members of the fan base will oppose such a drastic change, this was a necessary switch.  IndyCar will be better off by sticking up for themselves in this instance, and those who watch races on television generally understand this already.

Moving from ABC to NBC wasn’t just a popular pick – it was the right pick.  Well done, IndyCar.

Tanner Watkins

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