What Can IndyCar Fans Expect From NBC?
In less than a month, the TV network soon to formerly be known as Versus will officially become the NBC Sports Channel. When Comcast bought NBC, we fans of the IZOD IndyCar Series let out an audible cheer. We just knew that luck had shown on the sport we follow, because we were certain that most races would no longer be shown on an obscure channel that most people didn’t even know they had. Instead, we believed that NBC would convert Versus into the next TV sports powerhouse (read: ESPN). Now that the NBC merger is almost complete, many of us are not so sure.
It didn’t take long for NBC’s presence to be noticed on Versus. The peacock was suddenly popping up everywhere. All of us saw that as a good sign. Some went so far as to believe that IndyCar races would end up on NBC, however the contract with ABC/ESPN prevents that from happening – at NBC or any other over-the-air network. Still, we assumed that presence of NBC could only help. We felt that aside from possibly the NHL, that the IZOD IndyCar Series was the crown jewel in the soon to be re-named sports channel. Surely they would do whatever they could to promote one of their key products on the main network. Wouldn’t they? Maybe not.
Our first indication that things may not be quite what we expected, took place in April when Versus.com ceased to exist. Not that this was a destination website, by any means. It was too convoluted and hard to navigate. In addition, the white on black type was way too hard to re… uh, well…never mind about that. But they featured the reincarnation of two of the best IndyCar bloggers on the planet. Roy Hobbson and Jeff Iannucci both resurrected their blogging careers at Versus.com. But suddenly, that link took you straight to NBCSports.com and Jeff and Roy suddenly found themselves banished from the IndyCar blogosphere.
It gets worse.
NBCSports.com is a poor man’s ESPN.com. As much grief as I’ve given ESPN over the years, I find their website to be a very good source of online news. I cannot say the same for NBCSports.com. I find it more of a sports version of msnbc.com, and that is no compliment. It’s bad enough that I don’t care for their layout and their whole presentation is cheesy; but try to find one hint of IndyCar coverage on it. It doesn’t exist.
The closest thing you’ll find to IndyCar coverage is when you scroll down to their index at the bottom of the page. There, you will see a link labeled: “NASCAR/Motors”. Once there, if you scroll about halfway down past all of the NASCAR news, you’ll notice a box labeled “More on IndyCar”. Is it not the idea to promote your own products first? NBC hasn’t covered NASCAR for a few years now, unless you count a semi-arrangement with TNT to cover a handful of events in June.
Once again, the IZOD IndyCar Series has found itself linked with a network giant that acts as if they haven’t the slightest idea what to do with it. Although no one watched Versus, at least they acted like they were happy to have us. The IZOD IndyCar Series was the big fish in their little pond. Now the series has been relegated to unwanted guppy status…again.
Cynics will say that the bottom rung is where IndyCar belongs until they become a proven commodity that will draw ratings over time. I say that they can never draw the desired ratings when linked with a broadcast partner that tries to sweep them under the rug.
When NBC’s presence first emerged on Versus last spring, we felt that the IZOD IndyCar Series would serve as the cornerstone on which the new broadcasting giant would build it’s latest venture. Now we see that NBC is folding it’s existing network products (NFL, the Triple Crown, Notre Dame football) into the NBC Sports Channel and IndyCar is getting lost in the shuffle.
On the web and on the tube, Versus has morphed into something we no longer recognize that is quickly becoming devoid of anything resembling IndyCar.
Randy Bernard certainly has a full plate for right now. With this being the time of year that little goes on in our sport, it has certainly been busy. With new cars and new engines in the news as well as trying to complete the 2012 schedule before the new year actually arrives – these are busy times for the INDYCAR CEO. Well, now there’s one more thing he needs to fix – and quickly. He needs to get with the brass at NBC Sports and try to reverse this treatment his series is getting from the new network. Some say IndyCar lost an ally when Dick Ebersol, longtime chairman of NBC Sports, resigned this past May. Whatever the case, Randy Bernard needs to address the neglect and shabby treatment that the IZOD IndyCar Series has been getting from NBC.
So what can fans of the IZOD IndyCar Series expect from NBC in the coming years? I’m really not sure. But if things don’t improve over what NBC has shown over the past few months, IndyCar fans may be longing for the days when the series was carried exclusively by ABC/ESPN. At least we knew what to expect from them.