Race Weekend Central

NBC Sports and IndyCar Reach 3-Year Media Rights Deal

For the first time since 1965, the Indianapolis 500 will be switching television networks. Wednesday morning (March 21), IndyCar and NBC Sports Group announced they have come to terms on a 3-year media rights partnership.

The deal will begin during the 2019 season and include both NBC and NBC Sports Network. Under the previous 10-year contract, NBC split IndyCar coverage with ABC. But during this period, ABC was the only network permitted to air races on broadcast television. NBC Sports could only show their share of races on cable.

Under the new contract, there will be eight races telecast on NBC, including the Indianapolis 500 and qualifying. The rest will be shown on NBC Sports Network, which has seen an 87% increase in IndyCar viewership over the past four years. The eight-race schedule is an increase from ABC’s previous schedule of five.

This deal also puts IndyCar in the NBC Gold Package. It’s a new, direct-to-consumer product where subscribers can purchase additional content that is not usually televised. Programming includes practices, qualifying sessions, support races, Carb Day at Indy, and IndyCar championship celebrations.

The Indianapolis 500 also joins NBC’s May-June “Championship Season.” It’s a package that broadcasts the Stanley Cup Finals, Tour de France, horse racing’s Triple Crown, the French Open, and Premier League Championship Sunday.

When speaking about the Indy 500, NBC Sports Group president of programming Jon Miller claimed it is “one of the great jewels in all of sports.” The fact the network has been “entrusted” with such a marquee event thrilled the broadcast team.

According to an Indianapolis Motor Speedway spokesman, the Indy 500’s live broadcast will still be blacked out locally. This rule also includes streaming devices located within the Indianapolis market.

ABC’s coverage of the Indy 500 was the second-longest sports TV partnership in history. It ranks only behind CBS’s partnership with the Masters, which started in 1956. However, it was a focus for IndyCar CEO Mark Miles, along with team owners Roger Penske and Chip Ganassi, to not split coverage between both networks moving forward.

“Mark Miles had a singlehanded focus in finding just one partner,” Miller confirmed to the Associated Press.

According to the AP, both NBC and ABC were in a bidding war for standalone media rights to IndyCar races. The negotiations concluded about a week ago, when ABC sent an internal memo tweeted out by an employee of one of their local stations. That tweet has since been deleted; ABC chose not to comment on the matter until after Wednesday’s announcement.

“We have had a wonderful and rewarding relationship with Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the Indianapolis 500 and IndyCar. It has been our distinct honor to be partners for so many years,” said Burke Magnus, ESPN executive vice president of programming and scheduling. “We look forward to the rest of our events this season and wish them all the best in the future.”

The news comes during a time where IndyCar is gaining momentum. Paired with a new car unveiling earlier this month, the sport looks healthier than it’s been. This announcement has already produced positive feedback from fans, drivers and team owners.
In particular, open-wheel championship owner Roger Penske feels NBC will “invest in the future of the sport.”
“We know that the ways our fans are watching races and viewing IndyCar content is rapidly changing. Staying ahead of the curve and developing technology with our partners is important to the growth of our sport,” Penske said. “We look forward to working with the NBC team to continue to build IndyCar and take the sport in new directions.”
Penske also thanked ABC for their longtime support of IndyCar and the 500. But it’s clear the sport’s new exclusive partner is thrilled to have this racing crown jewel.
“NBC is really going to be aggressive about promoting,”  Miles told the AP. “But in particular, they are going to take good care of the Indianapolis 500. They love their majors.”

NBC Sports/IndyCar Deal Highlights

  • All 2019 IndyCar races will be streamed live on NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app.
  • The Indy 500 and qualifying will be on NBC along with seven other IndyCar races.
  • NBCSN will air the remainder of the schedule. That channel has seen an 87% increase in IndyCar viewership over the past four years.
  • NBC Gold will provide subscription feeds to practices, qualifying sessions, support races, Carb Day at Indy and the postseason championship celebration.
  • NBCUniversal’s “Symphony” marketing program will target the Indy 500 and use the company’s numerous assets to promote “The Greatest Spectacle In Racing.”


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Tom Leftley

87% increase in viewership over four years.
One network to broadcast the whole season, not split between two.
The ways fans are watching racing is rapidly changing.
No one named Waltrip involved.
Are you listening Mr. France?????


Mr. France (both) are buried. Brian’s in the vault counting his pennies.


Saw a bunch of Indy Car haulers on I-65 North yesterday evening. They had a practice session at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham. Thinking about going; never been to an Indy Car race. 20 years ago I’d have gotten my ass whipped for saying as much.


Mike, go to Indianapolis, you won’t regret it, the competition is amazing. This will be my 21st year to attend. Stopped attending NASCAR many years ago and don’t miss it.


Commenting only because that’s a great name. Ernie was my favorite and I miss him, along with about 40 other competitors.


That’s great news. I look forward to the switch to NBC so we don’t have to listen to Eddie Cheever call the Indy 500 (he has to be the worst race announcer on tv).

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