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Volume 25 No. 46
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Indianapolis 500 Sees Record-Low Rating; Will Race Stay With ABC In Next Media Deal?

The Indianapolis 500 drew a 3.6 overnight rating Sunday afternoon on ABC, marking the race’s lowest overnight figure on record. The race's previous low was a 3.8 overnight in '13. Takuma Sato's win was down 12% from a 4.1 overnight last year, which marked the first time it had been shown live in the Indianapolis TV market since '50. This year’s race, which returned to tape delay in the local market, drew a 14.7 local rating, down 56% from a 33.6 rating in '16, which also was the 100th running of the race. However, the 14.7 in Indianapolis was up 16% from a 12.7 rating in '15, when the race also was broadcast on a tape delay. The No. 2 market on Sunday for the race was Dayton with an 8.9 local rating, followed by Louisville (6.7), F. Myers-Naples (6.7) and Nashville (6.4). Sunday's telecast on ABC peaked at a 4.2 rating from 3:30-4:00pm ET (Austin Karp, Assistant Managing Editor). F1BROADCASTING.co's David Nelson cited TV data from FormulaTV as showing that the Indy 500 "unsurprisingly made a significant splash in Spain," as Spanish F1 driver Fernando Alosno made his debut in the IndyCar race. The race on TV in Spain "beat the Monaco Grand Prix" from earlier in the day on Sunday (F1BROADCASTING.com, 5/29).

AT THEIR BEST: In Tampa, Tom Jones wrote ABC's coverage of the race was "sensational," and the "finest moment Sunday was the coverage of the horrific crash involving Scott Dixon and Jay Howard." The "replays of the crash were astounding," and since both drivers were okay, ABC made the "right call to show several replays of the crash, both to show just how safe these cars are and to show how incredibly dangerous this sport can be." Broadcasters Allen Bestwick, Eddie Cheever and Scott Goodyear did a "thorough job explaining what happened, and interviews with both drivers, a few minutes after the crash, had just the right tone." Meanwhile, the broadcast and, "especially the broadcasters, let the final few dramatic moments play out" as Sato held off Helio Castroneves. Jones: "Once again, less was more" (TAMPA BAY TIMES, 5/29).

WHERE TO GO FROM HERE: The AP's Dave Skretta wrote a "rapidly changing sports media landscape has left a hazy cloud of uncertainty over the future" of the Indy 500. Its current contract with ABC "runs through next year, and some experts anticipate new bidders angling for the rights to the iconic sports property." NBC Sports, which already has cable rights to the Verizon IndyCar Series, "could take a closer look, or social media and streaming video services that have made sports television even more competitive." However, nobody expects ABC "to be on the sideline when it comes time for the Indy 500 to settle on a future TV partner." The net has "been part of the Indy 500 every year" since '65, and there is "intrinsic value in the Indy 500's long relationship with ABC" (AP, 5/27).

ANOTHER SOCIAL MEDIA LESSON: In DC, Scott Allen noted the Denver Post fired sportswriter Terry Frei "after he tweeted that he was 'very uncomfortable'" with Sato becoming the first Japanese driver to win the Indy 500. Frei tweeted, "Nothing specifically personal, but I am very uncomfortable with a Japanese driver winning the Indianapolis 500 during Memorial Day weekend." The newspaper's statement read in part, "The tweet doesn’t represent what we believe nor what we stand for." Allen noted Frei "issued an apology Sunday after facing backlash" (WASHINGTONPOST.com, 5/29).