The “cat” pretty much came out of the bag last weekend with a tweet (from a staffer) stating ABC wouldn’t be conducting INDYCAR races after the 2018 season was completed. The tweet was quickly removed but sent prognosticators looking to Hulman and Co., the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and series officials for confirmation.
Today Hulman and Co. CEO Mark Miles confirmed a multi-year – actually three-year – media rights package with NBC Sports Group. The agreement brings a total of eight Verizon IndyCar Series races, including the 103rd Indianapolis 500 and its qualifying weekend, televised on NBC network next year, with the remaining races televised by NBCSN, which currently carries some, but not all of America’s top open-wheel competition. NBC’s eight races is an increase from five races on broadcast TV in 2018.
“This arrangement brings all of INDYCAR to one home, increases our exposure and includes our first direct-to-consumer offer for our fans,” Miles explained as he pointed out NBC’s inclusion of NBC Sports Gold, a direct-to-consumer product that allows subscribers to choose the content they view, as well as how and when they access it. The service provides feeds not available on any other platform, including practice and qualifying sessions not televised live. “We couldn’t be happier to have start-to-finish coverage of INDYCAR’s season with the NBC Sports Group.”
This decision and agreement bring to an end the long history of ABC’s coverage of the Greatest Spectacle in Racing. ABC has televised the Indy 500 since 1965, either tape-delayed or live. It has also carried a few INDYCAR events outside Indianapolis, but customarily ended coverage shortly after Indy. “ABC has been a fantastic partner, not only for the ‘500’ but for its broad coverage of the series,” Miles said. “This partnership will continue with the 102nd running of the Indianapolis 500 in May, and together we look forward to the successful year ahead.”
NBC’s president of programming for NBC Sports and NBCSN Jon Miller commented, “We’ve seen the growth of INDYCAR on our cable network NBCSN. We’ve had sustained growth each of the past several years, so the opportunity to have the entire series was very important to us. Of course, to be able to do the crown jewel, the Indy 500 on NBC, really puts the icing on the cake for us and makes our championship season portfolio even stronger.”
NBC Sports’ “Championship Season” marketing campaign touts its high-profile events from May to July. These include horse racing’s Triple Crown, The PLAYERS, Premier League Championship Sunday, the French Open, the Stanley Cup Final, the Tour de France and The Open Championship. To promote and market its Verizon IndyCar Series programs, Miller said NBC sports will leverage the “television, digital, production and marketing assets that make NBC Sports a powerful media partner.”
Miles ended the announcement by stating his “enormous respect for ABC and the partnership we’ve had with them for so many years. We’re very aware of the fact that we’re in the final year of our collaboration with them and we shouldn’t hang up without saying that we’re grateful for the relationship that we’ve had. We’re looking forward to finishing up strong with ABC in 2018.”