No IndyCar TV deal for Canada yet (2nd Update)


UPDATE Adam Stern tweets: IndyCar is planning to complete a new media-rights deal in Canada for this season within the next two weeks, per a person familiar.

IndyCar's most recent deal in Canada was with @Sportsnet.

IndyCar global TV viewership in 2019
IndyCar global TV viewership in 2019. None of the Canadian broadcasters want to touch IndyCar – ratings are minuscule

02/11/19 Norris McDonald goes into more detail about the lack of a TV in Canada for IndyCar:

Fans of IndyCar racing are worried that they will not be able to watch some of the races this summer because, at the moment, IndyCar doesn’t have a television contract in Canada.

A deal with Sportsnet that worked well for the racing series in recent years ran out at the end of the 2018 season and IndyCar seems to have had difficulty finding a home since.

And it’s a bit of a tangled web, too.

First, we are only talking here about nine of 17 races in the series. Eight of them, including the Indianapolis 500 and the final race of the season from Weathertech Raceway Laguna Seca in California, will be shown on the full U.S. NBC network, which is carried by all cable systems in Canada.

The nine races that have die-hards upset, including the season-opening Grand Prix of St. Petersburg in March, the Grand Prix of Long Beach in April and (yup) the Honda Indy Toronto in July, will be televised by the NBC Sports Network, which we can’t get in Canada because of legislation protecting TSN and Sportsnet.

TSN, which has a full Formula One commitment (pre-race, race, post-race) plus full Monster Energy NASCAR Cup and Xfinity Series coverage (they’ve even added the trucks this year), used to televise IndyCar races. But in 2012, after fans complained that races were being shown on a tape-delay basis, then-series-president Randy Bernard approached Sportsnet and they agreed to take over the telecasting.

TSN – unfortunately for IndyCar fans – couldn’t have cared less. Insiders told me at the time that the only race they were sorry to see go was the Indy 500 but as far as the rest of the schedule was concerned, see ya.

Sportsnet started out like gangbusters and had a dedicated host for the races, Rob Faulds, and Canadian colour man Bill Adam with Todd Lewis announcing from the pits. That lasted about – what? – six races and those folks haven’t been seen on a Sportsnet IndyCar telecast since.

Fast forward to a few months ago and Scott Moore, who made the deal to bring IndyCar to Sportsnet, retired. Moore was instrumental in delivering many of the properties that saw Sportsnet vault past TSN to become the No. 1 sports network in the country, particularly the deal with the NHL that made Sportsnet the “home of hockey."

But not everybody at Sportsnet was enamoured with all this. Some were not happy with some of the deals that were done. Maybe too much money was paid. Or not enough viewers tuned in. Whatever, there are suggestions that the IndyCar agreement was not at the top of the hit parade over there.

So here you have two, 24/7, multi-channel Canadian sports networks and neither one of them seems particularly keen to sign a contract with IndyCar for the reasons outlined in the last couple of paragraphs.

As I have written on previous occasions, auto racing is a niche sport. It is not mainstream like hockey, baseball, basketball and NFL football. Yes, every now and again it bubbles to the surface: Gilles Villeneuve was killed and the news led the CBC National for days. Then the sport went back to being niche again. Nobody knew who James Hinchcliffe was until St. Petersburg in 2013 and the next day he was on the front page of the Globe and Mail. He hasn’t been back there since. Even Robert Wickens’s terrible accident didn’t merit more than a paragraph in the sports briefs of most newspapers. It’s sad but it’s true.

Let me tell you a story. I flew to Tennessee two years ago for the opening of a Hankook tire factory. I asked a vice-president of that tire company about the implications for free trade as the result of the reopened NAFTA talks; there were indications it might not have continued to be as easy to ship tires to Canada without a tarrif. This is what he said: “It would be too bad – but it really wouldn’t matter."

Translation: we like to sell tires in Canada but we don’t sell enough of them to be bothered."

I tell you that because, in the end, it’s to IndyCar’s benefit to have their races on Canadian television but if they can’t get a deal, they won’t lose any sleep over it.

But I will finish by being optimistic. A few days ago, via the vice-president of communications for IndyCar, Curt Cavin, series CEO Mark Miles told me that the series is working hard on trying to get a deal.

Maybe they have one – and are waiting till they get closer to the season opener to announce it. Or they are hoping to eventually be able to get through to either TSN or Sportsnet. Or maybe they will have to do what IMSA did – make a deal with a Canadian channel looking for programming: Discovery-Velocity, for instance.

In any event, there are deals out there to be made. IndyCar just has to find the right one. Norris McDonald/

02/09/19 Toronto based motorsports journalist Norris McDonald tweets: With regard to IndyCar races on TV in Canada (other than the ones on NBC, like the Indy 500), series CEO Mark Miles said today: “We are working on that and hope to find a Canadian media partner to make that happen." In short, no deal – yet.

We are 4 weeks out and the majority of countries around the world that had IndyCar broadcasts because of ESPN International have no deal for 2019.

The loss of international exposure for IndyCar will be significant. It's hard to put an exact number on it, but it's quite possible that IndyCar will have a 300% to 400% decline in total global TV viewership in 2019. The family only cares about the Indy 500, so to them this is not an issue.

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