SBD/Issue 179/Sports Media

Indy 500 Remains Only Major Event To Be Blacked Out Locally

IMS President & CEO Says Lifting Indy 500's
Local Blackout Seems Unlikely In Near Future

It is a "year of change at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, but one tradition remains constant: The Indianapolis 500 is the only major one-day national sporting event in the country that isn't televised live in the local market," according to Curt Cavin of the INDIANAPOLIS STAR. This year's tape-delayed local telecast of the race is scheduled to air on WRTV-ABC at 7:00pm ET Sunday, a "couple of hours after the checkered flag is expected to fall." IMS officials "have more than 250,000 tickets to sell every year" for the Indy 500, and IMS President & CEO Jeff Belskus said that "for that reason and others, lifting the local television blackout of the 500 seems unlikely 'in the foreseeable future.'" Belskus: "I see some scenarios where we could (lift it). Unfortunately, I don't like how most of them play out." IRL CEO Randy Bernard "doesn't think the 500 should trade that revenue for a few more TV viewers." Bernard: "We've done it this way for so long that I think a lot of people come to the race and go home to watch it. In the universe of 120 million (TV viewers), that's a pretty small segment. I don't think (adding them) will have any type of impact on the rating, maybe a tenth of a point." ESPN/ABC is in the middle of a four-year deal to broadcast the Indy 500, running through '12, and ESPN/ABC Sports Senior Dir of Communications George McNeilly said that blacking out the race is IMS officials' call. McNeilly: "It's part of our contractual agreement." Meanwhile, Cavin notes the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Brickyard 400 at IMS is "shown live locally," as IMS officials "have no authority to black out the 400 because the TV rights are controlled by NASCAR" (INDIANAPOLIS STAR, 5/28).

WHAT ABOUT DANICA? In Albany, Pete Dougherty writes driver Danica Patrick's career is "becoming more checkered than the finish flag," leaving ABC with a "bit of a dilemma Sunday with its telecast of the Indianapolis 500." Patrick "may be the biggest star on the Indy Racing League circuit," but she sits 16th in the season standings and qualified 23rd for Sunday's race. ESPN VP/Motorsports Rich Feinberg said, "We feel confident there is a large amount of our viewing audience that this may be the only IndyCar race they watch this year. We bring to the production a sense of explanation and broader-based storytelling." Feinberg added, "Our job is to balance that story with all the others but make sure we feed that curiosity factor in hope of building a larger fan base and bringing people to other IndyCar telecasts down the road" (Albany TIMES-UNION, 5/28). ESPN/ABC announcer Marty Reid, who will call Sunday's race, said of the impact of Patrick's "dabbling in NASCAR" on her popularity in the Izod IndyCar Series, "I would have thought that she's bringing attention back to IndyCar after being over there. Some stock car people I've talked to when I've covered the Nationwide Series are actually saying, 'I'm following IndyCar more because I want to see how she does so when she comes back again. ... I know more about her.' It's really an interesting dichotomy." Feinberg said that Patrick "will have the on-board, high-def camera in her ride, and she's done a 'lengthy sit-down' with" ABC's "GMA" co-host Robin Roberts "that will run during the prerace coverage" (L.A. DAILY NEWS, 5/28).

SWEET SPOTS: The Brazilian Sugarcane Industry Association (UNICA) during ABC's telecast of the Indy 500 Sunday will break two 30-second ads featuring sequences of short phrases with facts about sugarcane ethanol delivered by drivers including Helio Castroneves, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Ana Beatriz, Takuma Sato, Davey Hamilton and E.J. Viso (UNICA).

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