After splitting broadcasting duties with ABC/ESPN since 2009, NBC Sports is set to takeover exclusive broadcasting rights to the Verizon IndyCar Series in 2019. Including the Indianapolis 500, NBC Sports is showing every race on either NBC or NBCSN and they are cementing their partnership with the open-wheel series.
AdAge reports that NBC Sports is teaming up with IndyCar to find a new title sponsor for next season. The title sponsor since 2014, Verizon had announced they would not renew their sponsorship of the series. And because of that, NBC is looking for a suitable partner.
Mike McCormack, VP of sponsorship and strategy for NBC Sports, confirmed NBC is assisting with the title sponsorship search. “We work with so many brands across multiple properties under the NBC Sports umbrella. So it allows us an opportunity to introduce and engage with partners that IndyCar may not be talking to,” he says.
IndyCar officials declined to name the companies they have approached. Rod Davis, Hulman’s chief revenue officer, says the effort has reached “a few hundred” potential sponsors, of which 15 percent to 20 percent entered serious discussions.
This makes sense for NBC and IndyCar to team up together to find a series sponsor. Despite slight but consistent ratings increases on NBC’s IndyCar broadcasts over the years, ratings for IndyCar races have gone down in nine of 12 races this year compared to last year (when combining ABC/ESPN and NBCSN races) and that includes lower ratings for the Indy 500.
Both NBC and IndyCar believe that having an exclusive broadcaster will help with ratings because viewers will know where the race is. In addition, NBC can be a bigger asset than just a TV partner and utilize their resources and potentially be able to obtain a better partnership, both in terms of the kind of company who signs up as well as a more lucrative deal than if IndyCar went about this by themselves.
This is purely speculation but it appears that IndyCar is less focused on making as much money as they can on TV rights at the moment and are more looking to solidify their sponsorship and partnership sector first. It’s no secret that IndyCar loves NBC and NBC loves IndyCar and the two are prepared to be together for the long haul. If NBC is able to help IndyCar bring in multiple big-time companies to the series, at a time where companies seem to be leaving auto racing, that is going to bring more money to IndyCar, more money to the teams and what both NBC and IndyCar are hoping for, higher ratings. It’s certainly an “out of the box” idea but the risk seems to be worth the reward and if this works out, the gap between IndyCar and NASCAR, both in viewership and strength as a company, may close much faster than expected.