IndyCar Series Drives TV Pacts With Versus, ABC

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Versus will roll into the IndyCar series next year, displacing ESPN and ESPN2 as the sport's cable outlet, while ABC will continue to be the home of the Indianapolis 500.

The Comcast Corp.-owned network has signed a 10-year pact with the Indy Racing League, the sanctioning body for both the IndyCar Series and the Firestone Indy Lights circuit, giving it the rights to air a minimum of 13 IndyCar races annually, beginning with the 2009 season.

ABC, meanwhile, signed a four-year deal to continue to air the Indianapolis 500 through 2012. In May, ABC televised the race for the 44th consecutive year. Also part of its pact: ABC will air four other races from the circuit annually.

The new TV agreements, which will feature the IndyCar Series in high-definition television, come just months after the unification of open-wheel racing in North America. Deal terms were not disclosed.

“We couldn’t be happier moving forward with our media rights with long-time partner ABC and now welcoming Versus to the IndyCar Series family,” Tony George, founder and CEO of the Indy Racing League, said in a statement. “Looking forward to 2009 and beyond, we have the opportunity to team up with our media partners and really capitalize on unification and the three-year Indianapolis Motor Speedway Centennial Celebration.”

ABC, which will televise its 45th Indy 500 in 2009, has covered the IndyCar Series since its inception in 1996. The Indy 500 will continue to be aired on ABC through 2012, extending its deal through and beyond the Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s Centennial Era, with the network airing four additional IndyCar Series races annually.

In addition to covering the races, which typically last for a minimum three-hour window, Versus will present a one-hour pre-race program that will feature qualification highlights and other stories tied to the IndyCar series during the attendant weekend. Versus will also present IndyCar Series encores in the week following every race, as well as the Firestone Indy Lights schedule highlighted in weekly 30-minute telecasts.

The competition network will also feature at least 10 hours of IndyCar Series ancillary programming each season focused on the drivers, teams and tracks, and provide extensive coverage of the Centennial Celebration at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 2009, 2010 and 2011.

“We are very excited to be entering into this multi-year partnership with the Indy Racing League,” said Mark Fein, Versus executive vice president of programming, production and business operations, in a statement. “All of the great live programming will be a perfect complement to our ever expanding lineup of elite competition. Versus is the ideal home for IndyCar racing since we pride ourselves on super-serving highly passionate fans and, as the new exclusive cable home of the Indy Racing League, we look forward to providing motorsports fans with the most in-depth coverage they have ever seen.”