INDIANAPOLIS — Following Friday’s announcement from NBC Sports that NBCSN would get phased out by the end of the year, most were wondering what this would do for the racing package on that network.
The NTT IndyCar Series as is NASCAR and IMSA all three air on the NBC Sports platform. When their races aren’t aired on network NBC, they’ve been pushed to NBCSN as a result. But, without NBCSN now being available as the year goes on, where do those races land?
Plus, another question coming up was what INDYCAR would have done with the Gold platform that they use for practice as well as qualifying. Would this also be affected?
NBC Sports said on Friday that the affected events that are slated to be on NBCSN later in the year would either end up on USA or on NBC Peacock. In the open wheel world, it got people worried about races being put behind a paywall as a result of that decision.
Now as we sit here on Monday, I think it’s clear the direction for INDYCAR for 2021 at least. 9 of the 17 races are slated for network NBC itself. The other eight would either be on SN and with reading between the lines, I think most of the races that aren’t on NBC will still be on NBCSN.
That’s because if Olympics are still a go this summer, NBC Sports would have a need for NBCSN to be up and running. That takes us through early August if so. That would mean INDYCAR races scheduled for NBCSN at Texas (May 1-2), Road America (June 20), Toronto (July 11) and Nashville (Aug. 8) would be fine still with nothing affecting them at all.
The only events left would be the Indy Road Course, World Wide Technology Raceway and Long Beach. Those are 3 of INDYCAR’s marquee tracks now, so I would think NBC Sports would move them to NBC or USA at the very least.
So, some may ask, how does this move today affect me then?
Well, for 2021 it doesn’t appear to affect you at all it seems. All 17 races should air on either NBC or NBCSN. At the very least, you’d have 9 on NBC, 5 on NBCSN and 3 on USA.
Plus, on Monday it was unveiled that they will shift everything that would have been on Gold to the Peacock Premium.
Peacock Premium now becomes the new streaming home of NTT INDYCAR SERIES coverage beginning with the 2021 season. NBC Sports’ exclusive streaming coverage will move from NBC Sports Gold’s “IndyCar Pass,” to Peacock Premium, which is available for $4.99 per month. It’s cheaper than Gold and gets you the same coverage.
Peacock Premium will provide fans in the U.S. with live coverage of 2021 INDYCAR qualifying and practice sessions as well as coverage surrounding the 105thRunning of the Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge, Indy Lights races, race day warmups and full-event replays of INDYCAR races in 2021. Peacock Premium will surround the 105th Indianapolis 500 with exclusive practice and qualifying coverage, as well as ancillary content.
“Peacock Premium will offer NTT INDYCAR SERIES fans in-demand track action at tremendous value,” said Penske Entertainment Corp. President & CEO Mark Miles. “Alongside NBC Sports, we’re providing comprehensive coverage of practice and qualifications throughout our season, while also connecting to a larger platform with a world-class roster of programming.”
INDYCAR on Peacock Premium will also feature INDYCAR archival and library content, and other motorsports shoulder programming.
INDYCAR will join a robust library of live sports on Peacock Premium. Highlights of Peacock Premium’s live sports offerings include Premier League, a Sunday NFL Wild Card playoff game, U.S. Open golf, U.S. Women’s Open golf, and upcoming Olympics and Paralympics coverage, plus the Peacock Originals “Lost Speedways,” hosted by Dale Earnhardt Jr., and “In Deep with Ryan Lochte.”
Viewers can sign up for Peacock at peacocktv.com. Peacock is currently available on the Roku platform; Apple devices including iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, Apple TV 4K and Apple TV HD; Google platforms and devices including Android™, Android TV™ devices, Chromecast and Chromecast built-in devices; Microsoft’s Xbox One family of devices, including Xbox One S and Xbox One X; Sony PlayStation4 and PlayStation 4 Pro; and VIZIO SmartCast™ TVs and LG Smart TVs. Comcast’s eligible Xfinity X1 and Flex customers, as well as eligible Cox Contour customers, enjoy Peacock Premium included with their service at no additional cost.
The thing moving forward now is, what does this do for 2022? That’s the big question. 2021 seems to be greatly unaffected by this deal since nothing really changes other than the name of the network for practice and/or qualifying.
2022 is the big one though. If I’m INDYCAR, I’d negotiate the hell out of the contract for 2022. NBC has been a great partner and its been great to have every race on one network. But, for this sport, they can’t afford to have their live races be placed behind a paywall. That’s simple. It absolutely cannot happen.
If they remain with NBC though for the next deal, it’s best that all races are either on NBC or USA. Period. If you want to keep practices and qualifying on Peacock, then so be it. But to have races behind a paywall isn’t going to end well unfortunately for this fan base. You will lose fans. The races on NBCSN are in the hundreds of thousands, not millions. Now, you’re taking people out of those hundreds of thousands who absolutely aren’t going to buy NBC Peacock. That’s going to be fact. You will lose more fans in this option from tuning in.
That’s why they have to look outside of NBC in order to see what else is out there first.
INDYCAR can be very valuable to a TV provider as they’d come cheaper than NASCAR and are a rising sport still. The thing for them is, will NBC offer more to INDYCAR and give them the streaming rights back than the others? Remember, ESPN/ABC didn’t pay as much as NBC and surely didn’t promote them like they should have. Do you really want to go back to the way it was with them? They only wanted the Indy 500 and wanting really nothing to do with INDYCAR past that. You also can’t go back to that happening again as all the races outside of Indy are valuable too.
Is it better to get paid more and the higher exposure even if some races are behind a paywall? Is it better to have your secondary races on USA? Is it better to be on another major sports only network but not get the attention from that said network either?
The key to this 2022 contract is where the secondary network comes in. If it’s NBC, is INDYCAR’s secondary network USA or Peacock? What’s the price tag for that option and how does that affect this fan base?
If it’s ABC/ESPN, you know all races would be on ABC, ESPN or ESPN 2. But, what’s the marketing side look like for this and how much are they willing to pay? The ratings could be higher on ESPN 2 than USA and it’s certainly better to be on that platform than potentially behind a paywall, but will ABC/ESPN pay what NBC would be willing to and which option helps grow the fan base, not further diminish it?
What about Fox Sports or CBS? They each have their own sports networks, much like NBCSN. What would they be willing to pay for INDYCAR.
Racing has shown that they can be pandemic proof and if INDYCAR is going to survive another pandemic, they need to get a good TV deal. They’ve got a great playbook on how to still go on even under dire circumstances. Don’t think that won’t play into as a negotiation chip. With stick-and-ball sports still very susceptible to any future viruses, racing has shown that they can keep going and INDYCAR has the first contract up for grabs among them.
TV networks do notice that. In a day and age where TV rings king, to have a sport that can keep going and be live will play a pivotal role.
INDYCAR has to do the right thing with their contract up first. This decision for 2022 is going to pave their future even further. We know being behind a paywall isn’t ideal. But if NBC is willing to pay far more than anyone else, is being behind a paywall better than not being marketed well and losing fans because they don’t know when and where to watch your races?
This is arguably the biggest story heading into the 2021 INDYCAR season.