Efforts to build the audience for IndyCar Series telecasts on Versus got an additional challenge at the beginning of this month when the channel was removed from the lineup of satellite TV provider DirecTV due to a contract dispute. The former Outdoor Life network remains unfamiliar to many viewers, but Versus president Jamie Davis vigorously defends the coverage the network has provided this year to the league.
Davis told the Indianapolis Star
that more people already have watched the IndyCar Series this season (26.7 million) than did last year on ESPN or ESPN2 (25.9 million). He said that Versus has achieved this result by tripling the amount of per-event coverage. Davis also claims that recent viewership data demonstrates that Versus continues to grow its audience.
Officially, Versus' 11 races have averaged a 0.39 rating, which equates to about 400,000 households, the number Davis says that he projected for the first year of IndyCar's 10-year deal with the network.
“This first season has been a huge success for us,” he told the Star
. “I could not be happier with how it's gone.
“The amount of coverage and feedback from critics as well as fans has only been massively complimentary.”
Davis said the absence of 14 million DirecTV subscribers as of Sept. 1 has mostly been made up by nine million new Dish Network subscribers and 1 million via traditional cable suppliers. He said a study of viewers during the first three weeks of September shows a 30 percent increase during weekday primetime and a 70 percent increase during weekend afternoons from the same period a year ago.
“So, the momentum of this network is continuing to go despite this DirecTV issue,” he said.
IndyCar Series officials remain supportive of Versus.
“No one expected (ratings) miracles in year one, and we don't expect a massive increase next year, but we think they will go up,” said Terry Angstadt, president of the IRL's commercial division.
Versus has recently expanded its motorsports involvement to include NASCAR, via a weekly half-hour series, "Quest for the NASCAR Sprint Cup," which airs on Tuesday nights.