IndyCar Looks To NBC For More Aggressive Televised Promotion
Years after “internal strife sent open-wheel racing into a protracted civil war,” IndyCar shows “few signs of regaining the stature it held when names such as Andretti, Unser and Foyt were known to even casual sports fans,” according to Korman & Walker of the Baltimore SUN. Television ratings “remain paltry, as does attendance at many events,” and the race schedule “always seems in flux.” Former driver and current team owner Bobby Rahal said, "I don't think there's anyone working harder than [IndyCar CEO] Randy Bernard. A lot of what he's doing behind the scenes, trying to get the sponsorship deal worked out or the TV deal fixed, just hasn't come to fruition yet." Owners are asking Bernard to “push NBC Sports for more aggressive televised promotion.” Rahal said of NBC, "They've done, frankly, a terrible job." Korman & Walker noted with a split contract, owners "believe that neither ABC nor NBC is strongly committed to helping the sport grow.” NBC officials noted that ratings “increased in the first four years of the deal before dipping this year.” They attribute the drop “in part to unlucky scheduling conflicts with NASCAR races and NBA and NHL playoff contests.” Though the net has “faced grumbles about a lack of promotion, NBC launched a news series of driver profile shows” called "IndyCar 36" this year. Bernard said, "I think NBC is going to do what they have to do, because our growth is tied to theirs. We have to give them better programming" (Baltimore SUN, 8/26).
RUMOR MILL STOPS HERE: In Indianapolis, Curt Cavin noted Indianapolis Motor Speedway President & CEO Jeff Belskus “put an end to speculation that a group of car owners is interested in buying the series.” Belskus said that IndyCar “isn't even for sale.” Belskus: "The story is (fictional). We have had no meaningful conversations about anyone wanting to buy the series. The series is not for sale." Cavin noted if there are "indeed 'four or five car owners' consolidating to force a leadership change, they couldn't be counted Saturday” (INDIANAPOLIS STAR, 8/26). Meanwhile, Cavin in a separate piece noted Bernard “wants to have two races per weekend at some road courses and street circuits next season in an effort to give the series more exposure.” Bernard said that both races “would be televised, although he admitted there are many details to resolve before the plan becomes a reality.” IndyCar team owners “want to know how the additional costs -- for engines, tires and spare parts -- will be offset.” Team owner Bryan Herta said, "It feels pretty minor league to me." Team owner Dale Coyne said, "We have to build up our Sunday show, not dilute it" (INDIANAPOLIS STAR, 8/26).
RESOLUTION LOOMING: Dallara’s U.S. GM Stefano Deponti on Sunday said that a “resolution to IndyCar’s pesky and divisive car parts issue is expected this week.” Deponti said that the deal “will reduce the cost of parts to teams by as much as 20 percent, although details are still to be resolved.” The length of the agreement, which at “present is targeted for the end of the 2013 season,” also remains to be finalized (INDIANAPOLIS STAR, 8/27).