Saturday, October 8, 2011

At This Point, Anything is a Good Idea

It was more than disheartening to read about the putrid ratings the IndyCar series pulled for the races in Japan and Kentucky. While you can try to paint it any way you want...Motegi was late at night, Kentucky ran up against NASCAR and the NFL. I say, blah, blah, blah, when the country's top level of open wheel races draws a COMBINED 300,000 viewers for the two races, something has to be done.

Of course, the Versus contract does the series no good. Millions of people don't have it, and the millions more that do have no idea. While the production is top-notch and the announcing is probably the best of any racing series, it doesn't matter when the race is the proverbial tree in the deserted forest.

Nope, it doesn't make a noise. Heck, I watched ESPN off and on all Sunday afternoon, not once on its crawler on the bottom did it even list who won the race. While I know ESPN doesn't allow such things because it might run the risk of pulling a viewer away of its Cup coverage, it's still tough to watch.

So where do we go next? Until the series can move to a better broadcast package, they have to get a little more creative as to how to attract viewership.

And I have an idea. Follow the mid-majors. Just like in college sports where the smaller schools do almost anything to get on TV, the series should do the same.

In football parlance, NASCAR is the BCS and IndyCar represents the mid-majors. But just because that's the case doesn't mean the series can't pull a Boise State and crash the party every once in a while.

For several years I was part of a newspaper's coverage team of Northern Illinois University football. Meaning I covered games that were played on almost every day of the week.

Northern played (and still plays) games whenever, wherever, for the opportunity to get on television, to improve the exposure of the program and the university. And by all accounts it has worked as the Huskies have been able to bring in better players and are a perennial bowl contender.

Maybe it is time for the series to follow the same blueprint. After all, why do races have to be on a Saturday or Sunday? I understand that racing is different from other sports in that people travel to the races and the weekend works best, my thought is this...if you pick the right place and the right night, you can pretty much draw 15,000-20,000 people any night of the week.

What is stopping IndyCar from holding a race on, say, a Thursday night that doesn't conflict with any other sporting event? Sure, the attendance would probably stink but that wouldn't be the point, it would be the opportunity to race in front of the largest TV audience possible on a network that would be willing to be a good partner.

Hypothetically, pick a track in a warm-weather state and run it at night in the early spring. Like Homestead for example. Get it on a channel that has national exposure and go. Qualify and race all in one day. The whole point is to get people to tune into the race because it's racing and it is not on TV against anything else. Face, it, NASCAR and the NFL will kick IndyCar's ass every day and twice on Sunday...which it did this past weekend! But maybe if the race was on at a time and place that might get people to tune

I think this would work, and hopefully the Vegas race will prove that if the series is on a major network that people will watch. Put an oval race in front of the largest audience possible and I guarantee a lot of people would like what they see and tune in again.


  1. Hmmmm. Remember "Thursday Night Thunder?" ESPN with Bob Jenkins and Larry Nuber made their respective "bones" with this broadcast, though largely headlined by midgets and sprints.

    Not a bad idea.

  2. your "same day qualify and race" idea is great.
    that ought to be the standard. i don't know that
    Thursday will work, though. personally, if it's
    on Live TV Thursday night, green flag better be
    by 6:30 PM EST. i'm at work by 6AM, it's a school night, etc....but, i know, i'm not the demographic
    that a MAJOR network wants to watch its programs.