During its rookie year with IndyCar, the Comcast Corp.-owned network will carry the first three races of the circuit, dropping the flag on its race coverage with the streets of St. Petersburg competition on April 5 from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. The service will follow with presentations from races in Long Beach, Calif. and Kansas on April 19 and 26, respectively.
From there, ABC will televise the Indianapolis 500 for the 45th consecutive year on May 24, the highlight of a five-race run over a seven-week period.
After airing primetime races from Texas and Richmond, Va. on June 6 and 27, amidst ABC’s run of coverage, Versus will finish the season with telecasts of eight consecutive races, culminating with the finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway on Oct. 10.
The entire 2009 IndyCar Series television package will be available in the high-definition format.
The IndyCar Series signed multiyear, multimedia partnerships with ABC and Versus last month. Under the pact, Versus will televise at least 13 races per year for the next 10 years, with each telecast to last a minimum of three hours and include extended pre-race coverage. The network also will air a one-hour preview show the day before each race that will feature qualification highlights and all of the relevant IndyCar Series stories of that weekend. Additionally, the service is committed to providing expansive coverage of all the qualification days at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway leading up to the Indy 500.
“We are very excited about engaging two broadcast partners beginning in 2009,” said Terry Angstadt, president of the commercial division for the sanctioning Indy Racing League, in a statement. “Having the season essentially broken into three segments - three races on Versus, five of the next seven races on ABC and then eight straight races on Versus - will give fans a consistent place to find the IndyCar Series all season.”
After the first season of the unification of open-wheel racing in 2008, the IndyCar Series averaged 1.7 million viewers for 17 races across ABC, ESPN and ESPN2, up 21.4% from the 2007 campaign.
According to Nielsen Media Research data, ABC averaged 2.7 million viewers for its seven IndyCar Series races, a 10.1% gain over the 2.5 million average for the same number of races in 2007. ESPN averaged 707,000 viewers for four races, up 27.2% from 556,000 for five races last year. For its part, ESPN2 averaged 892,000 viewers for its five races in the 2008 season, a 53.5% jump over its 581,000 average in 2007.