Robin Miller's Mailbag for March 13, presented by Honda Racing / HPD

Robin Miller's Mailbag for March 13, presented by Honda Racing / HPD

Insights & Analysis

Robin Miller's Mailbag for March 13, presented by Honda Racing / HPD

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One flag, many unhappy TV viewers. Image by Mauger/LAT.

What was IndyCar thinking when it signed this horrendous Canadian TV deal? Streaming the St. Petersburg race free online for Canadian fans was a positive development, but so far nothing has changed regarding the rest of the season. The cost to watch the complete IndyCar schedule in Canada this year is close to what someone would pay for MLB Extra Innings or NBA League Pass, which are dedicated services that provide daily coverage of their respective sports. The Canadian deal lumps IndyCar in with a bunch of non-racing content, and for people just trying to see an IndyCar race every couple of weeks, the value simply isn’t there.

I don’t think IndyCar realizes the damage this TV deal could do to the series’ future in Canada. I know some will say that this deal is “better than nothing,” but this deal truly is nothing. There’s no meaningful difference between this and no TV deal for 2019, given how few people are going to pay the exorbitant prices. It’s going to be harder to attract Canadian sponsors and advertisers after TV viewership plummets and the fanbase shrinks. Worse still, according to Norris McDonald’s reporting, IndyCar didn’t even reach out to TSN (Canada’s other sports cable network) about a possible deal, so we’ll never know if this fiasco could have been avoided. For a season that should be filled with excitement about a top Canadian driver, it’s off to a terrible start for Canadian fans. IndyCar owes its Canadian fans an apology.

Ryan A.

First off, you should tell your buddy Marshall that there’s no need for Miles to issue any clarification to us screwed Canadian fans. We know we’re being screwed. We’re not stupid. We know what the new deal entails. And to clarify, an NBC network channel is part of every basic TV package sold across Canada and then tiers are sold, or a la carte channels can then be added. There’s at least a dozen different TV suppliers, so packages and prices vary a little. NBC is not ‘free’. We all pay for it and the other U.S. networks as part of the basic package. As far as IndyCar is concerned, we will be able to see the races that are being broadcast on the network. Sim-subbing (substituting a Canadian channel feed of the same event and its own commercials) has been deemed illegal, so there should be no problem. I say ‘should’, because if Rogers insists it has exclusive rights and tries to block the network, it could mess things up further. However, I suspect that shouldn’t be the case.

The other races, plus Indy qualifying on NBCSN and qualifying on NBCSN Gold, are now only available if we purchase an extra channel called Rogers Sports World. If we already have the other many Rogers Sports channels, (East, Ontario, West, Pacific, One, 360) which are sold as a package usually, then Sports World “only” costs on average, $20/mo, plus tax. Sports World on its own costs $28/mo. plus tax. Except of course St. Petersburg, because it’s not available at all. Sports World shows nearly all soccer. No other motorsports. With most people getting six Rogers Sportsnet channels, nearly every sporting event will be on four of them. That happens without fail. It could be baseball or curling, but, it’s always on multiple channels. No-one has ever justified such duplication, but we pay for it. Maybe that’s it. Are we sensing how much of a total ****-up this has been? There’s no argument about not being anywhere to put the race. Considering the majority of people already pay for up to six Rogers channels, the thought of paying a lot more for the only added value of IndyCar is galling. And of course, it’s not even commercial-free. At a time when every single GD eyeball IndyCar had was valuable, it’s like deliberately sabotaging its awaited growth spurt.

Given what Miles said in Marshall’s piece, he seems to be firmly on Rogers’ side. i.e. we’re screwed, too bad. We don’t really care. The only solution I see to this is if NBC becomes the sole channel for races, and then perhaps qualifying can be an upcharge, somewhere else. Otherwise, as a fan of IndyCar for 50 years or so, I’m pretty much so pissed off that my level of interest will never be the same. I won’t bother going downtown to the Honda Indy. I won’t buy swag. Thanks for listening, have fun at the races you guys. I might be tuning in on May 11.

Rick Moris

First of all, thank you for your coverage of IndyCar. As a recent fan (2011) you are a wonderful resource for the history of the sport, and I always enjoy reading your Mailbag. Sadly I’m writing in today to join the chorus of upset Canadians who got the raw end of IndyCar’s new international media deal. I will not be paying upwards of $200 per year to watch IndyCar. Full stop. I’d happily pay $50-$100, but I’m not subscribing to a streaming service to watch one sport 17 times. Please tell the powers that be instead of going to the Honda Indy Toronto, I’ve made the decision to go to the F1 race in Montreal this summer. My dollars won’t bankrupt the Toronto event, nor will the series care if my 26-year-old eyeballs (with disposable income for sporting events) moves on. Chalk me up to yet another has-been fan of a dying sport I would really love to help sustain.

Kyle Ferris. New Brunswick, Canada

So Canadians got a TV deal. Too bad it’s complete and utter trash. I understand when special events like a Mayweather vs McGregor cost $100. Or the Chili Bowl, or UFC. But this Canadian “deal” isn’t a deal. And I know Sportsnet management changed, and the budget was cut. But if they didn’t leave it till last minute, it could’ve been much better. It’s not the price that kills me. I’ll probably pay. But this all but eliminates potential/ future fans from scrolling through and seeing a race. Not to mention all the longtime fans that won’t pay. I know contract negotiations are a two-way street, I’m in a union. But Sportsnet and IndyCar didn’t even come close to 50/50.

Vince, from the country to the North

I remember how excited I was when the new TV deal with NBC was announced. I thought finally they are going in the right direction. Listening to Scott Goodyear explain everything like he is talking to a four-year-old was frustrating, however nowhere near as frustrating as having IndyCar throw its Canadian fans under the bus with this awful 2019 SportsNet deal. It seems quite clear that IndyCar does not care about its Canadian fans. I live in Vancouver and subscribe to Telus TV, where SportsNet World is an extra $15 per month. So, if I were to subscribe for the seven months that IndyCar is racing – excluding the eight races that will be on NBC along with Toronto, which will air on SportsNet 360 – it works out to about $22 per race. As they say on Shark Tank, for that reason, I’m out.

Mark Pooley

I’m a nearly lifelong IndyCar fan from the West Coast of Canada and was dismayed reading today’s news about the 2019 TV package for the series in Canada. We went from having every race on our basic cable sports channels (Sportsnet, Sportsnet One, or Sportsnet 360) last year to now having most races air on an expensive, super-niche sports channel (Sportsnet World) which no-one I know subscribes to and has no other programming of interest to me. The other option is to subscribe to a service from Sportsnet for cable-cutters (Sportsnet NOW+), which is extremely expensive because it includes all the stick-and-ball sports (NHL, MLB, NBA, etc.)

I’ve loved where the series has been going these last few years and had a great experience attending my first race last year when the series returned to Portland International Raceway. However, this new TV deal feels like a big step backwards. I know TV deals are complicated business, but I feel like IndyCar and/or Sportsnet really dropped the ball here by decimating the availability of coverage for the series in Canada. I wrote an email to IndyCar, Sportsnet, and Honda Canada voicing my displeasure with the situation, and although things looks grim right now, I’m still hopeful we can return to good coverage for the series in Canada this season.

Mark McLaren, North Vancouver, British Columbia

It’s looking pretty bleak up here for any coverage in Revelstoke, BC. I’m on Telus Optik TV, which comes to me along with my internet connection via a fiber optic cable. This is the only available coverage here unless I get a satellite dish and sign up for some other provider. Needless to say, I’m not impressed. For the past several years, coverage has been on SportsNet. They don’t show anything on the auto racing page on their website. No mention of IndyCar at all. I’ve checked the channel guide and did a program search, and there is nothing scheduled for the race on Sunday. The NBC channel we get doesn’t show anything, either. If I’m not going to be able to watch the race on my large screen TV, I may as well forget about IndyCar and find something else to do. I’m definitely not going to watch the race on a puny computer screen. IndyCar is in jeopardy of losing a lot of fans up here in Canada if they don’t get their act together. How long do you think the Toronto race will last if nobody in Canada can watch it on TV? The sponsors won’t get the exposure they expect if the race isn’t broadcast up here.

Doug Mayer, Revelstoke, BC

MX-5 Cup | Round 2 – Daytona | Livestream

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