NBC lands Indy 500 and promises IndyCar increased exposure

Graham Rahal (15) races into turn two before finishing second in the IndyCar Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg Sunday, March 11, 2018, in St. Petersburg, Fla. (AP Photo/Jason Behnken)

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The Indianapolis 500, an American staple on ABC for 53 years, will have a new television home next season.

In fact, the entire IndyCar package is moving to NBC in 2019 in what could turn out to be an exceptional deal for the series because of promised increased exposure across multiple platforms.

That's secondary, though, to another network ending ABC's stranglehold on the "The Greatest Spectacle in Racing."

The Indy 500 on ABC is the second-longest partnership in television and sports events behind only the Masters, which has been on CBS since 1956. It's a jewel ABC did not particularly want to give up, and IndyCar wasn't unhappy with the network's production of its most important asset.

But IndyCar badly wanted its races on one network and made that clear in negotiations with both ABC and NBC. The networks have been sharing the series for several years, with ABC owning the Indy 500 and the broadcast rights. NBC got the leftovers and was allowed to air IndyCar only on cable.

IndyCar CEO Mark Miles worked out a three-year deal assigning all media rights to NBC. The agreement announced Wednesday comes with an increased number of races on broadcast (NBC) and a subscription-only channel for IndyCar's diehard fans.

"Mark Miles had a singlehanded focus in finding just one partner," Jon Miller, president of programming for NBC Sports Group, told The Associated Press. "The opportunity to have the entire series was very important to us. Of course, to be able to do the crown jewel, the Indy 500 on NBC, really puts the icing on the cake for us."

NBC and ABC were in the bidding until the very end, with both networks interested in obtaining the whole package, Miles said. But negotiations apparently ended sometime late last week and ABC sent an internal memo to its stations notifying them the IndyCar package would end after this season. An employee at one of those stations revealed ABC's statement in a since-deleted tweet.

"We have had a wonderful and rewarding relationship with the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the Indianapolis 500 and IndyCar, and it has been our distinct honor to be partners for so many years," said Burke Magnus, the executive vice president of programming and scheduling for ESPN, which like ABC Sports is part of Disney corporation. "We look forward to the rest of our events this season and wish them all the best in the future."

Both Miles and Miller were complimentary of ABC's job with IndyCar, especially with the 500 each May. ABC had such a stranglehold on the event that landing it was celebrated as a coup for NBC.

"This becomes one of the leading properties on our air," Miller said.

Under the new deal , eight IndyCar races will be broadcast on the network next season, up from five that ABC aired. The rest of the schedule will be on NBC Sports Network. The deal also puts IndyCar in the NBC Gold package, a direct-to-consumer product in which subscribers can purchase additional content that is not televised.

"As drivers, we're out there risking our lives to put on a good show. The more people that get to see it, get entertained by it, the better it is for us," said IndyCar driver James Hinchcliffe, who has a cross-over fan base because of a starring turn on ABC's "Dancing With The Stars." ''As athletes, we're all individual brands in and of ourselves. Getting ourselves in front of more people, it raises our value to our current partners and potential partners. From every element, this is a huge win across the board."

Especially for NBC and IndyCar because of the guarantees surrounding the Indy 500. It will be part of NBC's "Championship Season" marketing campaign. The network touts numerous high-profile championship events from May to July that include horse racing's Triple Crown, Premier League Championship Sunday, the French Open, the Stanley Cup Final and the Tour de France.

It's the package that heavyweight team owners Roger Penske and Chip Ganassi were openly lobbying for during the season-opening race earlier this month.

Penske said NBC Sports will "invest in the future of the sport" at a time when the series has positive momentum. IndyCar debuted a new car at its opener that drew rave reviews from drivers and fans in a race that set a record for on-track passes.

"We know that the ways our fans are watching races and viewing IndyCar content is rapidly changing, so staying ahead of the curve and the developing technology with our partners is important to the growth of our sport," Penske said. "We look forward to working with the NBC team to continue to build IndyCar and take the sport in new directions."

___

More AP Auto Racing: https://racing.ap.org

Must Read

Hearing on Johnny Depp domestic violence allegations delayed

Aug 9, 2016

A judge is briefly delaying a restraining order hearing involving Johnny Depp and his estranged wife because it is expected to span several days; depositions of both actors set

If Trump can't get along with GOP, how will he govern?

Aug 9, 2016

Beyond the political fallout from Donald Trump's rocky relationship with party elders lies a fundamental reality: Should he win the presidency, the brash billionaire will have to work closely with the same GOP leaders he vilified on the campaign trail

Trump on sidelines as Clinton fills Olympics airtime

Aug 9, 2016

Clinton is taking advantage of the millions of Americans tuned in to NBC to watch U.S. athletes rack up medals during the Olympics in Rio

People also read these

Hearing on Johnny Depp domestic violence allegations delayed

Aug 9, 2016

A judge is briefly delaying a restraining order hearing involving Johnny Depp and his estranged wife because it is expected to span several days; depositions of both actors set

10 Things to Know for Thursday

Aug 11, 2016

Among 10 Things to Know: Criticism may be slowing Trump train; 'Grim Sleeper' sent to death row; versatile ESPN sportscaster dies at 61

Beyond 'Obamacare': State initiatives refocus health debate

Aug 9, 2016

Political activists are looking to state ballot questions to move beyond "Obamacare" and refocus the nation's long-running debate over government's role in health care

Weather, 20 December
Houston Weather
+7

High: +11° Low: -2°

Humidity: 83%

Wind: NNE - 7 KPH

Canberra Weather
+27

High: +27° Low: +17°

Humidity: 87%

Wind: W - 20 KPH

Roissy-en-France Weather
+6

High: +6° Low: -5°

Humidity: 87%

Wind: ENE - 7 KPH

Florence Weather
+9

High: +9° Low: +6°

Humidity: 97%

Wind: ENE - 17 KPH

Parga Weather
+7

High: +16° Low: +4°

Humidity: 100%

Wind: SE - 25 KPH