During Tuesday's "State of IndyCar" media presentation, IMS Productions senior vp/general manager Robby Greene provided details of the 2011 telecast plans for the IZOD IndyCar Series as well as the return of Firestone Indy Lights Championship to TV, while also hinting at a possible future expansion of IndyCar's broadcast footprint.
"While the official and public release of our broadcast schedule has not been released, I would like to tell you today that ABC has announced with us in partnership the races that they will carry. That is, they'll carry the season opener and the finale – which is, of course, to be determined – the opener in St. Pete, along with the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500. Also Milwaukee and Loudon, N.H.," Greene said. "Versus is going to be carrying the lion's share of the schedule, carrying the rest of the races and also qualifying for the Indy 500."
Greene added that Indy Lights will be back on TV this year, on Versus.
"Our plan is to deliver at minimum all of the Firestone Indy Lights Series races where Versus is the broadcast partner," Greene explained. "In working with the scheduling and distribution team at Versus, we have secured a much better time for those races to be aired, and that would be Wednesdays following the race at 6 p.m. Eastern. We are also planning to deliver the standalone event from Three Rivers as a broadcast as well."
With regard to the Versus side of the TV equation, Greene addressed speculation that the pending merger of Comcast (Versus' owner) and NBC, which still must be formally approved by the FCC and the U.S. Justice Dept., could lead to IndyCar eventually gaining some kind of presence on NBC's broadcast network.
"On the Versus side, I think the most popular question that I'm asked, and I think that you [media] also want answers to, is, 'When is the merger going to happen?' I wish like anything that today I could tell you that. I wish I could invite my friend from Versus in the audience to answer that question, but I simply can't do that. I will share with you the information that Randy [Bernard] and I learned this weekend that is that by the end of this month, the merger is expected to happen and that within a day or two following, they believe the official announcement will happen as well.
"Will there be a peacock in our logo? Will our sport and races have the opportunity to air on NBC? I'm sure you've thought of these questions as well as many others. What I can tell you is that we're confident this deal is a deal and will soon close. Internally, we've prepared for that day and have received counsel not to finalize contracts or agreements with many of our TV talent and personnel in the belief that the post-merger will offer all involved greater strength and opportunities.
"We are excited and remain confident this is going to be great for the IZOD IndyCar Series and look forward to sharing more details as they fall into place. Our Versus ratings grew significantly from 2009 to 2010, showing a 40-plus percent growth in key demos while other motorsports declined in theirs."