Welcome to the Robin Miller Mailbag presented by Honda Racing / HPD. You can follow the Santa Clarita, California-based company at: hpd.honda.com and on social media at @HondaRacing_HPD and https://www.facebook.com/HondaRacingHPD.
Your questions for Robin should be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org. We cannot guarantee we’ll publish all your questions and answers, but Robin will reply to you. And if you have a question about the technology side of racing, Robin will pass these on to Marshall Pruett and he will also answer here.
Q: First of all, let me applaud the efforts NBC has made in the commitment they’re taking with their motorsports coverage. The entire IndyCar season, along with the display at the Rolex 24, shows they are truly committed to their motorsport properties. However, I am discouraged by the decisions made with the NBC IndyCar Gold Pass. My big disappointment with this move is that it does nothing to expand accessibility to the sport from the live race coverage side, it simply took the most accessible portions of following the sport and hid them behind a paywall.
I understand that producing coverage of practice and qualifying obviously takes money, but if the overall marketing goal is to bring more eyes to the series, this doesn’t seem to achieve that. Why couldn’t the series also include live race streaming for a higher price, since many viewers have called for a WEC-style stand-alone app? A cable-only option in 2019 seems utterly regressive for a property in desperate need of younger eyes. When Alonso took to IMS for IndyCar testing, more than two million people watched (free) across both YouTube and Facebook’s live stream, and the comments were flooded with F1 fans that were stunned that IndyCar routinely offered free practice streams on common platforms.
It seems like offering the hook of free coverage to these casually-interested viewers could help drive more app purchases for live races, rather than locking the entire race weekend behind a paywall. As for the Alonso-free races, trying to monetize the couple-thousand average YouTube viewers of an FP1 session seems like a cash-grab. I will still purchase the Gold Pass as a big IndyCar fan. My concern is that the series is losing a lot of valuable potential impressions, and with the rapidly changing media landscape, it’s discouraging to see the series sticking to an antiquated cable-subscription-only model for live racing.
RM: I think people may be overlooking the fact this Gold Pass will cover practice like never before, with NBC announcers calling the action and interviewing the participants with a broadcast-quality production. And all of qualifying (and some of practice) will be on NBCSN as well, so it’s not like it’s a closed shop or anything. The final details haven’t been released but the Gold Pass will likely sport features, old races and some cool interviews with legends in addition to racing coverage. And there are also eight races on NBC so, if anything, I think NBC has made a very affordable package for IndyCar die-hards.
Q: So I plunked down my money for the streaming service. I’ll be interested to see how good it is. One concern, though. I’ve read that the post-race uploads to YouTube will be ended. I think this is bad for our overseas fans that cannot get NBC Gold. Also, I think it’s bad long-term strategy, given how big YouTube is. I can understand the licensing rights that NBC bought gives them the right to stream, but I think the races should still be posted to YouTube, but maybe after the season has ended? That will at least archive them for all posterity and allow people to go back and watch them.
Doug B, Stafford, VA
RM: As I’ve written, the final details of the Gold package haven’t been announced and obviously the re-airs will be featured during the week on Gold, so I don’t know what the future holds for YouTube. IndyCar is working on programming for England and Canada as we speak, as well as some kind of international package that will be announced in early March.
Q: I’m very disappointed with the cost of the IndyCar pass on NBC. Most of what they’re covering was free last year; $50 is a lot of money to watch television on top of everything else that we already pay for television. Is this just me, or do others agree?
RM: Seriously? Less than $5 a month seems very reasonable to me, and I paid $150 to stream five nights of the Chili Bowl so I’d say NBC Gold is a bargain. Very few complaints about the price.
Q: I just subscribed to NBC’s IndyCar Gold Pass, and am extremely excited about it. One question I had was if there will still be streaming broadcasts with radio/other announcers on IndyCar’s website for qualifying, or if IndyCar Gold Pass has exclusive rights over that now? Either way I was going to buy the pass for its other features, and because I feel it’s just right to support the platform and show NBC the enthusiasm we fans have for the sport.
RM: My understanding is that IMS Radio Network will still call practice, qualifying and the races on Indycar.com but I don’t recall any formal press release, so let me get an official confirmation.
Q: With the NBC Gold announcement, it’s not clear how qualifications for Indy 500 will be covered. Will Bump Day be shown on TV or only on the Gold app? It was great last year to finally get some significant bumping for the first time since 2011, and now it looks like there’ll be more cars involved this year so it seems like a bad time to hide it behind a pay app where there’s no chance of casual viewers getting pulled in.
Also, I recently read that bumping is going to be changed this year to only one shot and that’s it. Is this true? That’s a terrible idea, since drivers taking multiple shots and getting setup adjustments in between has always been one of the best aspects of bumping, but it sounds like that drama is being removed. It really seems like the current regime doesn’t understand how much many fans enjoyed traditional bumping in the past and want it back again.
RM: Saturday will primarily be on Gold, but the end of the day will be on NBCSN and Sunday will be NBCSN and NBC. No change in the qualifying format to my knowledge.