Largely because of climate, we don't have a lot of good choices for places to race in North America in February. And we don't have a lot of good choices or they'd already be on this calendar that goes to October in the fall. So we're going to condense what we've got. And I think that's important for your readers to understand. This isn't less.
Now, saying that, when we do that and we don't go head-to-head with the NFL and their favorite college football teams, we create the opportunity for two shoulder seasons. The first I think it starts in '15 as early as about the beginning of February. We could do three races in the southern hemisphere between, say, the beginning of February and mid-March and if we could get reasonable rights fees and pass it along to the teams, you can do your own math on if that would be beneficial.
MP: The “post-season” races wouldn't be part of the championship, obviously, but what about the “pre-season” races in February?
MM: Right now, they would be part of the championship. What we will do is end the championship in North America on Labor Day weekend. I don't see any problem starting the season out of the country, but I want to run the majority of the races here and finish it and have the culmination here. So the first three southern hemisphere races could be part of the championship. I'd like to believe that we start in mid-September and run through October; there's room for maybe three Australasian events that are not points races. Some kind of [IndyCar] Series Cup or Asia Cup.
We can do six of those, three right after the championship ends and three early the next year, and make each of those a decent matter economically to the teams. We can more than double what they're getting from us today in '15. So I don't think that is primarily a North American marketing thing but I think it adds breadth, it strengthens employment for the teams. Now we're talking about these guys are busy from the beginning of February to the middle of October. This isn't less IndyCar.
MP: Are we speaking about things IndyCar would like to do – ideas the series has that need action put behind them to see if there's any interest Down Under and in Latin America – or have you already done that research?
MM: There's definitely interest and we've already done a fair amount of investigating. I've spent 15 years expanding another sport all over the globe, particularly in the Middle East and Africa, in South America and in Asia and Australia too. We definitely expanded our footprint meaningfully. We, as IndyCar, have been approached often and we've reached out to people we know in those places and there is real interest now.
Now, I basically want to get on a plane and go away for a month to meet with all of the interested parties to make big strides with this plan. And that will have to happen after we get this [chief marketing officer] position filled, maybe right after the season ends, but it'll be a very high priority at the end of this year to put in place for '15.
I'm not interested in gouging promoters and being there for a year and then they figure it out and so it goes away. It takes the right partner and the right situation to work longer term. Our mission is to build something in the way we described for the long haul and I think there are real prospects.
MP: We always talk about TV at some point, so let's close on that topic. Team owners tell me every week – and I'm sure they tell you every day – that they need higher ratings to increase the value of the sponsorships they're trying to sell. The network races bring higher ratings, which is what you'd expect, but are there any immediate moves you can make to bring the cable ratings up?
MM: The first thing I'd say is we obviously want to have higher, stronger television ratings. Even with the ratings that we have today, there's a lot of value in our business-to-business sponsorships. So to me the way I think of it is, OK, yeah, but we want to get beyond that and be more appealing for commercial brands, but we're looking at how to improve the overall value for our teams, and it isn't only through ratings.
It's business-to-business and brand building. I think we did a pretty good job as a sport with the first part of that but we've got to get ratings up in the right direction to be confident in that and to move toward being a more powerful consumer brand.
Look, there is a market for live television and lots of live television programming. We have existing relationships [with NBCSN and ABC] to go for a few years. Both of our partners just were involved in new arrangements with NASCAR, which are very substantial, and I am more convinced after this weekend than at any other time that those new arrangements will make opportunities for us.
So we met this week with John Miller at NBC Sports for two and a half hours, and from an NBC perspective, they showed us the data on what happens to our ratings when we overlap with other motorsports programming like NASCAR. It makes a material difference. The ratings are much better when we don't air at the same time as NASCAR, and that probably isn't a surprise. Well, if NBC and NBCSN broadcasts NASCAR and IndyCar, we won't be overlapping, we're told. So that in and of itself is what the analytics suggests will be a measureable improvement.
Their strategy is to build what they call the strongest motorsports vertical; they're going to have a dedicated guy from PR in motorsports, their sales force will be oriented that way, and all the rest of it. They're going to pay more attention in general to motorsports and NASCAR for sure is a big part of that. But the programming possibilities, to lead in and come out of strongly rated shows will help us. One way or another, I think our ratings should improve.