The last two years, I covered ‘The Greatest Spectacle in Racing.’ In 2012, I didn’t and opted to enjoy the race from the comfort of home.
First, let me compliment the local news stations and the IMS Radio Network. Part of what makes raceday special and exciting is watching all the coverage from before sunrise up until opening ceremonies. All four local stations set the scene, interview drivers and celebrities, provide traffic and weather updates. Breakfast at the Brickyard, if you will.
I always look forward to it and soak it up.
The gang on the IMS Radio Network are true professionals. They each are efficient and get the important points across. Nobody is speaking to just hear themselves speak. To me, a sports announcer, I really appreciated the coverage. Best of all, they are almost all from Indiana. Homegrown.
Meanwhile, I still can’t get over the fact that the race is blacked out in Indianapolis and surrounding areas. In this era, an event of this magnitude should not be blacked out. Not anymore at least.
From what I’m told, it’s an Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s rule, not ABC’s. (Note: an email to an IMS spokesperson was not returned.)
Their argument, I’m sure, is that it will hurt crowds since fans can watch at home live. Sports are the only must-see live programs on television anymore. It’s a much different, less satisfying experience having to watch sports on the DVR. ESPN President John Skipper recently told CNBC’s Darren Rovell that about 99.4 percent of ESPN viewing is done live. That’s an incredible number.
The overnight ratings for both the Indianapolis 500 and NASCAR’s Coca-Cola 600, held on the same day, each pulled in a 4.1. A few days later, the final numbers came in and the Indy 500′s numbers were up. Partly due to the new cars but mostly due to the exciting action throughout.
Maybe I’m going against tradition here, but the race needs to be aired live locally. Those in areas roughly 60 miles away from Indianapolis in all directions are unable to watch the race live are.
Will crowds be hurt, sure. But there is a greater chance to attract viewers and new fans. If someone didn’t tune into any of the pre-race coverage and couldn’t watch the race live, there’s probably a slim chance they watched the race at 8 p.m. Sunday night. Those that tuned in either 1) only want to see the pre-race celebrations, 2) are already fans and would watch anyway or 3) were at the race and want to re-watch it or see what they missed. And the fans that want to continue to watch the race after they arrive home from attending, it’s as easy as D-V-R.
ABC ratings for the race were up 8 percent and about 6.8 million viewers tuned in, the most since 2008.
A lot has changed in 25 years. The Indianapolis 500 was shown on a delayed basis until the first live telecast in 1986. Now, ABC allows viewers to watch online and even control what cameras you see. But the additional features are not available for viewers that have to wait until 8 p.m.
I haven’t even mentioned twitter yet. The new way to watch sports is with a device alongside. Anyone can have an opinion and post a thought or memory on twitter. Media and experts provide updates and insight from the race to go along with what one is seeing or hearing. But if a viewer has to wait eight hours for the race to air, the experience is altered. By that time, all the local news stations have reported how the race went and interviewed the winner.
I get the reasoning of the past but it’s appropriate for the Indianapolis 500 to get with the times. I realize, this only affects a small portion of the viewers but at this point, they shouldn’t be penalized for living near the track. Keep in mind, many of those watching may have went to events earlier in the month like community or pole day. Not everybody wants to deal with the traffic, bake outside in the hot sun or can afford taking their family to the race.
Don’t penalize them. Or anyone. IMS needs to air the Indianapolis 500 everywhere live. It’s the right thing to do.
[Photo via John Cote / IMS Media]