Yesterday the announcement everyone knew about became official. Beginning in 2019, NBC will be the exclusive television home of Indycar. Eight races will be on NBC proper, with the remaining races on NBCSN. The Indianapolis 500, of course, will be one of the eight. The others will be announced later. I will venture some guesses in a bit. This deal is a huge boost to the series. Indycar is at last on a network that seems to care about it and produces a great race broadcast. I like most parts of the agreement.
Another component to the deal is streaming. I am not a techno whiz, but here is what I understand. Some practices and qualifying sessions which are not televised will be on the NBCSports app or NBC.com. MRTI races will be on NBC Gold, a paid subscription app. My understanding is that Indy qualifying will be shown live on television. I hope that’s the case.
NBC will include the Indianapolis 500 in its “Championship Season” promotion along with other major events it covers like The Kentucky Derby and the Tour de France.
ABC, which had shown Indycar races since 1956, and the 500 since 1965, had shown little interest in producing quality coverage of the 500 or the other races the past several years. It will be interesting to see how they run out the string. Will ABC make their last Indy 500 a great broadcast? Will they produce the same tepid show we’ve seen the last couple of years despite some incredible races?
Back to the NBC package. My main concern is Mazda Road to Indy races being on the pay app. This arrangement does not help help the up and coming drivers establish name recognition and hinders their ability to attract sponsors. Indy Lights now has a large field one year and a small field the next. More Indycar teams need to run MRTI teams to keep this feeder system viable. Taking this series off broadcast television is not the way to go.
A positive is having a solid network broadcast package should help teams and the series attract sponsors. I could see a company signing on for the eight network races, which gives a team at least a half season of sponsorship, and perhaps lead to a full season deal.
Another advantage of the arrangement is better coordination with NBC’s NASCAR coverage. NBC covers the second half of the stock car season. Does that mean the eight Indycar races on NBC will be front loaded? It’s likely the two series will not be on against one another. Will one follow the other? If so, the series that doesn’t believe races should go overtime should be first to avoid bleeding into the next broadcast. Indycar can set the stage for NASCAR.
My guesses for the eight races on NBC are St. Pete, Phoenix, Indy, Road America, Iowa, Pocono, Mid-Ohio, and the season finale. This schedule showcases the diversity of tracks the series runs, and it includes the season opener and the finale. It might provide the impetus to move Iowa to a Saturday night race and move the finale to Gateway.
Overall, I am very excited with this television deal. The next step is a new series title sponsor for 2019. This broadcast package may help that process move more quickly.