PRUETT: IndyCar’s day of TV reckoning

Image by Michael Levitt/LAT

PRUETT: IndyCar’s day of TV reckoning

Insights & Analysis

PRUETT: IndyCar’s day of TV reckoning

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The NTT IndyCar Series realizes it has a problem on its hands after this week’s announcement on international TV and live streaming availability was met with a steady backlash of frustration and disappointment by some of its biggest fans.

Through social media, the series has seen a flurry of comments from Australia, where the home to the reigning Indy 500 winner will no longer receive live coverage. The drastic change from 2018 will see Will Power’s performances go from real time to one-hour highlight packages after the checkered flags wave.

Latin America, as one intrepid fan noted, isn’t included in IndyCar’s new international TV distribution plans. But, he added, and curiously so, North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un and his Democratic People’s Republic of Korea will be able to watch Mexico’s leading hope, Patricio O’Ward, throughout his rookie campaign, thanks to a deal put in place in Asia with Fox Sports.

And then there’s Canada. Oh Canada.

From having everything live or readily available via streaming in 2018, to a new arrangement that’s both costly and confusing, our brothers and sisters to the north are feeling hosed, and understandably so.

Canadians are finding it tougher to cheer on their IndyCar favorites this year. Image by Leland Hill/LAT.

In most cases, those international problems are baked in for the rest of the year, and possibly longer. There’s rumor of a deal in the works for Latin America, and if that’s true, a significant oversight might be resolved before Sunday’s Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg gets under way.

For Australia, Canada, and other countries feeling left out following IndyCar’s misfires while brokering international deals, there’s hope for 2020 and 2021.

“The deals we’re making are one or two years, and they vary,” IndyCar CEO Mark Miles told RACER. “So, in the situations that are new or different arrangements, and we were offered less exposure than IndyCar wanted, they arrangements are [intentionally] short.”

Miles, along with members of IndyCar’s international distribution team, are currently working on a document that could clarify the finer aspects of where the series can be viewed in Canada. It’s believed eight of the 17 races will be free on NBC, and to receive the other rounds, a new multi-tier add-on would be necessary at nearly $30 dollars per month.

That document, confirming the accuracy of said information, could be made available before Sunday, we’re told, or held for a press conference Sunday morning featuring NBC Sports’ senior leadership.

Of all the takeaways from IndyCar’s international TV drama, the need for a simple, borderless streaming solution must become a top priority. As IndyCar has found, some international broadcasters have lost interest in airing all 17 rounds. Others are facing budget reductions, and with a premium placed on high value regional sports properties — think cricket or curling — to generate revenue, IndyCar’s place on the broadcasting pecking order has fallen.

In both scenarios, IndyCar is left prone to changes outside North America that it can’t control. However, with a robust and readily available international streaming option in position, the series would have a mechanism to ensure its fans throughout the globe can subscribe and stay connected.

The prospect of creating an international version of the $49.95 NBC Gold annual streaming package available in the United States, according to Miles, is unlikely. Aligning with an existing international streaming provider, however, could be the future-based fix to its current problems.

“The real solution might be to look at a company like DAZN and other providers like DAZN that compete directly with linear providers,” he said. “It’s being led by John Skipper, who ran ESPN for many years, and that’s a service where they aspire to be a global streaming producer and outlet for sports. They already have a lot of sports properties that fans want.

“We could look at something like that, to work with an international option, where IndyCar could be bundled with other popular sports on a streaming service like DAZN. It’s not the only company in that space, but if I had to predict what might make the most sense — IndyCar establishing its own international streaming service, or looking for a partner who’s already in that space — I’d think it would be the latter.”

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