SBD/Issue 222/Sports Media

ABC, Versus Sign Deal To Share Rights To IRL Races Through 2012

ABC, Versus To Share IRL
Television Rights Through 2012
The IRL scored a coup by signing about $10M per year worth of deals with ABC/ESPN and Versus for its IndyCar Series, nearly matching the license fee the racing series had been collecting from ABC/ESPN. The new deal takes effect next year and essentially wipes out the final year of the deal the IRL had with ABC/ESPN. Deal terms have ABC/ESPN paying close to $4M per year for the rights to the Indianapolis 500 and four other races -- all of which will be broadcast on ABC -- through 2012. ABC has broadcast the Indy 500 for the past 44 years. "The Indy 500 is something we were focused on," said ESPN VP/Programming & Acquisitions Scott Guglielmino. "It really boiled down to that." ESPN decided to take a pass on the remaining 13 races of the IndyCar Series season, which had been carried on ESPN2. Versus stepped up and paid about $60M over 10 years for the rights to those races.

INCREASED EXPOSURE: IRL executives are most excited by the increased exposure that Versus is promising, saying that the amount of IRL programming will increase at least 200% over what had been on ESPN. The biggest gripe from IRL stakeholders has been the short window for the race and lack of ancillary programming on ESPN. Versus addressed that with a 3-hour window on race day, a Saturday show and re-airing the races during the week. Versus also is planning pre- and post-race shows around the races, plus other ancillary programming it plans to develop. "ESPN's blessing and curse is all the sports properties it has," said Versus Exec VP/Programming, Production & Business Operations Marc Fein. "The position of our network is to go after properties we can own. We want to surround and embrace it." Fein said Versus plans to replicate the amount of promotion and marketing that it has used for the NHL. "We're going to promote it a lot more than it has been promoted," Fein said.

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