The status of IndyCar’s UK broadcasting rights
One talking point for motor sport fans in the off-season is what will happen to Sky Sports’ coverage of the Indy Car Series. With no news yet on whether Sky will be covering the series in 2013, if Sky choose not to cover it, the question becomes ‘which’ (if any) broadcaster will win the rights to show it.
Firstly though, why would Sky Sports choose not to cover it? Unfortunately, the first piece of evidence are the extremely low viewing figures that the Indy Car Series has on Sky. The fifteen races in the 2012 season averaged only 16,000 viewers, a very low number. The highest rated race was round four, which took place in São Paulo. That race achieved 39,000 viewers and coincidentally was also screened on Sky Sports F1. A few weeks later, and the Milwaukee round of the championship brought only 3,000 viewers. The blue-ribboned Indianapolis 500 event, which should comfortably be the most watched race, only had 29,000 viewers. All of the viewing figures can only be described as pitiful.
In comparison, Sky Sports F1’s entire live coverage of the GP2 Series averaged 24,000 viewers, whilst the GP3 Series averaged 20,000 viewers:
– 37,000 viewers – GP2 [Feature Race]
– 31,000 viewers – GP2 [Sprint Race]
– 21,000 viewers – GP3 [Feature Race]
– 19,000 viewers – GP3 [Sprint Race]
– 18,000 viewers – GP3 [Qualifying]
– 17,000 viewers – GP2 [Qualifying]
– 16,000 viewers – IndyCar Series
– 14,000 viewers – GP2 [Practice]
The purpose of the above is not to praise the GP2 and GP3 ratings, because, as I have outlined before, the feature and sprint races should be getting higher viewing figures, but for the IndyCar Series to have lower ratings the GP2 and GP3 Qualifying is criminal. There is the Sky Sports F1 argument and whether IndyCar Series would be benefited? Again, as said earlier, my opinion is that it would be. Any new contract between the IZOD IndyCar Series and Sky should state that races will be screened live on Sky Sports F1. Sky may consider the rights worthless in 2013 if Sky Sports F1 is not an option.
Aside from ratings, I assume that the rights are dirt cheap so they would not cost Sky much to renew it. But what if Sky Sports choose to drop IndyCars? Who will pick it up?
BBC – Highly, highly unlikely especially at a time of cut-backs.
ESPN – Would not be a good move. ESPN generally attracts less viewers than Sky Sports, meaning IndyCars would not reach out to anyone new. Plus, for people such as myself, IndyCars would become a no go as ESPN would be an extra £10 on top of my existing package.
Eurosport – A preferred option, but their treatment of four wheels is not the greatest. There is also the probability that not every race will be live. And their EPG is a mess at the best of times, sometimes it says Snooker yet you are watching something else.
ITV4 – I’d put this at the top of my list of choices, but I don’t think it would be something that ITV4 would actively look at. Nevertheless, the rights are relatively cheap and could boost IndyCars reputation in this country significantly as well as increasing ITV4’s sports portfolio ever more. A win-win.
Motors TV – Picture quality is not great, but they did screen the Race of Champions event in December, so do have some kind of budget if they wanted to screen it.
Premier Sports – This would be another likely option, but NASCAR also being on Premier Sports may cause potential problems.
My main concern is that the IndyCar Series may not have a home at all in the future in 2013. I dearly hope, that I am proven wrong. 2012 was a fantastic year for the series after a difficult end to 2011 and I hope to be able to see that continue in 2013.
Update at 20:30 on January 8th – In my initial few paragraphs, I forgot to link to this comment last September which goes into detail about the nature of Sky’s contract with the IndyCar Series.