NBC Ready To Impress With Net's First Indianapolis 500 Broadcast
Sunday's Indianapolis 500 will be a "monstrous proving ground for NBC, which has taken the reins from ABC" and will broadcast the race for the first time, according to Jim Ayello of the INDIANAPOLIS STAR. NBC will "try to halt the 500’s recent trend of plummeting TV ratings," which is highlighted by ABC last year drawing the race's lowest overnight rating ever. NBC Coordinating Producer Rich O’Connor has spent more than a year "plotting NBC's nearly four-hour pre-race show." He said, “You only get one chance to make a first impression." Ayello notes NBC has been "promoting the race with a vigor unseen in recent years." Ads for the race "began during the NFL playoffs in January and have hit another gear lately, including eight spots" during the Kentucky Derby. For the race itself, NBC is "arming itself with more than 140 cameras, a crew of near 400, a 14-person broadcast team, a helicopter, a blimp and a whole lot of star power" (INDIANAPOLIS STAR, 5/24). AWFUL ANNOUNCING's Phillip Bupp noted NBC has "made sure everyone is aware" the network is airing the race. From advertising "during other sporting events ... and other highly rated primetime shows," NBC is "hoping this pays off in terms of added viewership and bringing in both new and casual fans and turning them into diehard fans" (AWFULANNOUNCING.com, 5/23).
ON THE CALL: In Milwaukee, Dave Kallmann notes NBCSN has "carried IndyCar broadcasts for years, so the feel of the race itself won’t be anything particularly new." The broadcasting team of Leigh Diffey, Townsend Bell and Paul Tracy have "built the sort of chemistry that takes years." While much of the surrounding cast is "new to their broadcasts, they’re not the strangers it might seem" (MILWAUKEE JOURNAL SENTINEL, 5/24). Sunday will be Diffey's first time calling play-by-play for the Indy 500, and he said that fact "won’t quite become real until race day." Diffey: "When I joined NBC Sports seven years ago, I got to do a qualifying weekend and we did a Carb Day once. ... We did a pole day one year, which was very cool. But, then again you know, it’s removed, it’s different. It’s different to being able to do race day" (AWFULANNOUNCING.com, 5/23).
FORTUITOUS TIMING: In Indianapolis, Mickey Shuey noted NBC "battled through early-morning storms and intermittent rain" on Thursday to broadcast an hour of "Today" live from Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Show co-hosts Savannah Guthrie and Al Roker were joined at IMS by Tom Hanks, while Sheryl Crow performed a three-song set. The Hidden Heroes organization picked IMS "to celebrate military caregivers and their families on 'Today' as part of a special trip to Indianapolis." Libby Leist, an Exec Producer for "Today," indicated that the broadcast "was not originally part of NBC's strategy to promote" the Indy 500, but the net "made the most of the unexpected overlap." Leist: "This was actually done completely separately, but it happened to be a good chance to coordinate because we're so close (time-wise) to the race" (IBJ.com, 5/23).