ST. PETERSBURG, Fla – 2019 is the first season that NBC Sports will be the exclusive home for the NTT IndyCar Series. While they’ve broadcasted over half of the races annually over the last several years, this is the first season they get the whole 17 race slate – including the Indianapolis 500.
It’s something that both sides don’t take lightly.
It’s no secret, everyone couldn’t wait until the day that ABC’s contract ended with the series. While they were a great provider for the Month of May, they just didn’t give the series the attention that they deserved. By the end of the contract, having racing on ABC was more of a detriment than a good sign of the series’ well being.
See, ABC didn’t care about the series. All they wanted was the Indy 500. There was no promotion whatsoever. NBC Sports gave the attention the series needed but contractually, they were limited on what they could do.
Ever wonder why IndyCar got bumped to CNBC? Why couldn’t they race on NBC? It’s because of the absurd deal with ABC that IndyCar couldn’t race on any other network TV than ABC.
Now, it’s game time. NBC Sports replaces the five races that ABC past hosted and is poised to give the series the most attention on the network side in years.
Sunday marks the first race of the new relationship between the two sides. The leaders of IndyCar and NBC Sports spoke about it before the race.
“It’s absolutely true that NBC is magical about making big events bigger,” said IndyCar CEO Mark Miles. “When we think about the Indianapolis 500 race, I don’t think we could be in better hands.
“We think about the whole of the series, we love the fact it’s one platform, and for the first time we have a partner that can look from race to race to race and think with us strategically about the series, a partner that cares a lot about its success.
“That’s talk. It sounds good, like sort of early dating sometimes, you make promises. But we made an agreement. Now it’s been however few months since, and I can just tell you I have never worked with a broadcast partner that is so engaged, everybody part of their organization and our organization is talking every day. It’s a very focused priority for us, and we have no doubt that it will benefit the series and the 500 and all that we do. We hope it will be a great success for NBC, as well.”
Jon Miller, president of programming at NBC Sports agrees.
“We’ve had a lot of opportunities to work with each other in different capacities,” said Miller. “When NBC had the cable portion of IndyCar, always we felt like something was missing. When the opportunity came to bring the entire package under one roof, and we knew we could bring all the assets, all of the marketing and promotion efforts that Jenny Storms and her team get to do, we knew we had a real opportunity to make something special happen here.
“Nothing to take away from your prior partners who all did a good job, but we think we are the best in class, and we aim to prove that. We kind of live every day making sure we have do that.
“As someone said to me earlier, when they saw the promos we ran in the divisional championship and wild card NFL games back in January, they knew something special was going to happen.
“I think you all see the way we approach it, the way we produce and market, program, treat it the way we treat our most special properties. We’re thrilled to have you be part of the family.”
Sam Flood, executive producer and president of production of NBC and NBCSN is the man behind what you’re going to see this year. He said those familiar words “we always felt like something was missing.” Now, he gets the opportunity to produce the Indy 500, a race that Flood says is an honor, and it’s a responsibility that they don’t take lightly.
“We’ve been working on it since the day the deal was agreed to,” Flood said. “We’ve been thinking about it for years before that. How would we make a big event even bigger? That’s our goal and our job, is to make sure this story is told, this great day, this celebration. It’s much more than a race, it’s an event.
“Our team has been working tirelessly putting together a plan, figuring out the stories we’re going to tell, figuring out how to make sure those at home have the best seat in the house. If you can’t make it to the track that day, you’re going to have an incredible experience on the television and we’re going to work hard to make sure that happens.
“More importantly to this series for the whole year, have our team and our broadcast booth group, our pit road team in addition, having the production group do it week after week is going to create a continuity that is necessary, an ability to promote from race to race, build those storylines, build the relationship with the audience so they know there’s one place to watch this incredible series with great racing week after week, and we’re going to see it here in a few hours.
“This is one that you circle and are excited about and you want to put the NBC stamp on it. We’re excited with what we can do with a huge spectacle.”
Flood notes that there are races and there are events. The ‘500, is an event. He gave an example on how the first year that they aired the Kentucky Derby, it was a 90 minutes window. Now, they’re on air for six hours in total. That’s what their goal is to do for the ‘500.
“I’m pretty confident we’re going to have a big-time show come the 500 this year.”
IMSA/IndyCar Shared Weekend
It’s not just IndyCar that NBC Sports has the sole coverage of, it’s IMSA too. This is year one for both deals. With how closely the IndyCar and IMSA teams are, why not share weekend’s? It’s a win-win for both.
Several IndyCar drivers have come from IMSA or have gone back to IMSA too. Several IndyCar teams field cars in IMSA. They also shared some tracks including two race weekend’s. But, why not more?
Together, five tracks are shared, two of which during the same weekend. Could we see more than that in the years to come?
“We’ve had that dialogue, will continue to have that dialogue,” Miller said on the subject of sharing weekend’s. “That’s a very good idea. That’s something that Sam (Flood) and the team have been working on a lot.”
“Long Beach is a great weekend. We see it. Mark obviously looks at everything. He’s made a lot of great decisions along the way and will continue to push this sport forward in a great way.”
The only thing is that nothing against IMSA, but they’d be best suited to be the appetizer to IndyCar. It would help boost their series and help both in turn grow. IndyCar is more of a road/street course series now with only five of the 17 races on ovals. It makes sense for both to combine forces and help each other.
NBC Sports can be the igniter to the fire.