Monday, February 12, 2024

Musings From the Weekend: Let's Talk Television

Here is a rundown of what got me thinking....

The Kansas City Chiefs won the Super Bowl for a second consecutive year. More Formula One liveries were revealed, many in the United States, one in Las Vegas. Silverstone signed an extension to retain the British Grand Prix through 2034. Ducati remains quick. There was bickering over an exhibition race. A championship leader had to withdraw due to illness, and it didn't even matter because his team didn't close out the championship. Iowa announced a few more musical acts. There was some discussions over future Indianapolis 500 participation, but we will save that for a later date. One other IndyCar topic is on my mind.

Let's Talk Television
This will be a busy year for IndyCar. Besides having an actual season to run, which begins in less than a month, IndyCar has some off-track business to handle. The next television contract will be agreed upon at some point during this year, likely in time for a month of May announcement. 

The television deal is a significant source of revenue for the series, and it is the platform in which the series is brought to the masses. 

How television shows, movies and sports are consumed is constantly changing during this period. There are many more avenues for distribution than there were ten years ago, and in 2024 there is a difficult balance in sticking with what is known while venturing into uncharted waters. 

There is money in desperate hands. In the ever expanding digital and streaming worlds, these platforms need properties. They need reasons for subscribers. If they can buy a property with a dedicated audience it could mean a big swoon for that outlet. However, for the series, it might be a short-term gain but long-term loss. It could be a big payday upfront, but a decline in total viewership could mean less sponsorship interest and make it challenging for teams to fund their programs while being exposed to less eyeballs. 

The paved roads of linear television are comforting. Everyone knows what they are getting, but no one is shelling out more than the market price for a property. There is no desire to spend haphazardly. It is also an older part of town, some would even say outdated, and younger generations are looking elsewhere. The series will not end up with a king's ransom, but it knows what audience it will draw and it is still draws the most people, which makes sponsors more willing to spend if they know who and how many are watching. 

IndyCar's next deal must balance the linear and streaming worlds. We are no longer in a time of one or the other. There must be a way to engage with both. Many have a thought on what IndyCar should do, but there are clearly things that are and are not realistic.

The series needs exposure. It will have some linear portion of its contract. The Indianapolis 500 is going to remain on a known network television channel. That narrows the options significantly. 

NBC is the current broadcast partner, and remains in negotiation, while Fox, The CW and Apple reportedly have also had discussions with the series. 

No matter what is decided, it is important to remember one thing: You are likely not going to get exactly what you want. 

The selected option will not be the perfect option that makes everyone happy. For starters, it likely will not be on the streaming service you desire. If NBC retains the rights, that means Peacock is here to stay. If Apple is involved, that means a different platform all together, and likely at a different price point, which will likely be an increased cost to you the viewer. With NBC and Fox, that means a few races (or most races) could end up on one of the cable platforms, whether that be USA or FS1. If it is The CW, you will likely have to figure out where The CW is on your television dial.

IndyCar also isn't going to abandon selling broadcast rights. IndyCar isn't going to start its own streaming platform as its only option to watch races. Companies still want to broadcast the Indianapolis 500. If someone is offering money, you take the money. There is also a limitation to a streaming service. A full season streaming package wouldn't cost only $50.

F1TV costs $80 for the season. MotoGP's VideoPass is over $150 for the season. It would cost a pretty penny to begin with. For years, people said they wanted a one-stop shop where they could stream all the IndyCar sessions, and we have that now. Peacock offers that. If you subscribe to Peacock, you get every practice session, qualifying session and race, and it only costs about $6 a month and, in addition to IndyCar, that $6 a month also gets you movies, television shows and other sports if you so desire. 

It might not be commercial-free during the races, but commercials are expensive, and the network isn't going to recuperate millions in ad revenue through $6-per-month subscriptions. Commercial-free races will likely mean a substantial increase in subscription fee. That is the nature of the business. How much does not seeing commercials mean to you?

Expectations should be set accordingly when it comes to the next television contract. Be realistic. This contract will likely look like something we have in every IndyCar television contract look like before. There is going to be a network television partner that will show a race with commercial breaks. Practice and qualifying sessions will likely be only available streaming. A few races might be on cable. A few races might be streaming only. That is the way of the world in 2024. 

It all comes down to money, and what IndyCar decides is the best deal for the series. Whether that means more money coming out of your pocket, the answer is probably yes. Someone has to pay for it.

Champions From the Weekend
You know about the Kansas City Chiefs, but did you know...

The #4 CrowdStrike Racing by APR Oreca-Gibson of Colin Braun, George Kurtz and Malthe Jakobsen clinched the Asian Le Mans Series LMP2 championship with finishes of first and fifth in Abu Dhabi..

The #17 Cool Racing Ligier-Nissan of Alexander Bukhantsov and James Winslow clinched the ALMS LMP3 championship with a pair of runner-up finishes in Abu Dhabi.

The #91 Pure Rxcing Porsche of Klaus Bachler, Alex Malykhin and Joel Sturm clinched the ALMS GT championship with a third in the second Abu Dhabi race despite retiring from the first race of the weekend.

Winners From the Weekend
You know about CrowdStrike Racing by APR, but did you know...

In the first 4 Hours of Abu Dhabi, the #2 CD Sport Ligier-Nissan of Nick Adcock, Michael Jensen and Fabien Lavergne won in the LMP3 class. The #88 Triple Eight JMR Mercedes-AMG of Prince Jefri, Luca Stolz and Jordan Love won in the GT class.

The #25 Algarve Pro Racing Oreca-Gibson of Chris McMurry, Toby Sowery and Freddie Tomlinson won the second 4 Hours of Abu Dhabi. The #26 Bretton Racing Ligier-Nissan of Julien Gerbi, Dan Sko─Źdopole and Mihnea Stefan won in the LMP3 class. The #88 Triple Eight JMR Mercedes-AMG of Prince Jefri, Luca Stolz and Jordan Love won in GT after the #19 Leipert Motorsport Lamborghini was issued a minute and 43-second penalty due Gabriel Rindone exceeding maximum drive time.

Ken Roczen won the Supercross race from Glendale. R.J. Hampshire won the 250cc class, his second victory of the season.

Coming Up This Weekend
The 66th Daytona 500.
The 22nd Bathurst 12 Hour.
The 71st Rally Sweden.