Mark Miles on IndyCar TV ratings, new markets and improving IMS

Hulman & Co. CEO Mark Miles told attendees at the ’13 Motorsports Marketing Forum in Las Vegas yesterday that fans of IndyCar, which is owned by Hulman, can “think about the Middle East and South Africa, India and other places in South America" as possible markets for the series.

Miles: “I think there’s enormous opportunity. About a year’s time will tell if I’m right. … When we started talking about it, the phones started ringing, I’m going from here to London pursuant to that. And there’s lots of interest now. We’ve got to have the right partners, they have to understand the economics and it has to make sense."

IndyCar in the summer of ’12 canceled a scheduled August race in Qingdao, China, but Miles said there still may be opportunity there. Miles: “I don’t think we did it well in China. I think that was more about execution, largely on our part. I think it’s tough to go through second and third parties to build meaningful relationships with promoters in other countries."

BACK HOME AGAIN…: Another Hulman property, Indianapolis Motor Speedway, in May received $100M in state funds for upgrades, and Miles said the track using a portion of the money is “likely to try" putting an apron back around the 2.605-mile oval. Miles said the speedway had an apron until the early 90s — before NASCAR’s Brickyard 400 race was in existence – and that spending a million dollars to build a new apron might help improve Sprint Cup Series racing there (Editor's Note: Anything to help arch enemy NASCAR, he still does not realize they want to put IndyCar out of business). Meanwhile, Miles said of the state granting the money, “The pushback didn’t come, and it was in some ways very motivating to see how – in a state where people don’t like spending taxpayer money, especially on private enterprise – there was so much good will toward Indianapolis Motor Speedway. We could make the case about the economic importance of the success of the speedway to the city and the state."

REVERSING THE TREND: With average IndyCar viewership dipping below 1 million in ’13, Miles said he thinks there are several things that could help send ratings back up. “One is the schedule," he said. “To be quite candid, we raced in Baltimore then took a month off, then we waited for a couple of weeks and were in Fontana. I don’t think that’s a recipe for presenting yourselves in the optimal way to the public." Miles also said that ending the season on Labor Day weekend and not competing head-to-head with football “is important to us." Miles: “Most of the rest of it is we’ve got to be better marketers."

• On the theory that there are not enough personalities in the paddock, based on his experience running the ATP Tour: “I wouldn’t trade the personalities in the IndyCar paddock for the tennis world, period. These are very attractive athletes, and we’ve just got to do a better job of getting on the same page with them about how they want to be seen."
• On the perception that IndyCars’ partnership with Dreamworks on the movie “Turbo" did not succeed as well as hoped: “There were definitely fewer abs in ‘Turbo’ than in ‘Rush’, so that may have had something to do with the box office results." Josh Carpenter SportsBusiness Daily

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