IndyCar Cuts Online Races

In an unexpected and unwelcome announcement on the website on March 11, the series announced that it would no longer offer live online streaming of practice, qualifying and racing.

IndyCar CEO Randy Bernard told, "I understand their goal here, and it's to drive more people to watch the broadcasts on television—to get the ratings up. That's everyone's goal."

Fans are howling with displeasure.

Versus, the cable TV network which broadcasts IndyCar, already shows qualifying and does a great job broadcasting the races, allowing ample time for driver interviews, technical explanations, and race recaps. Losing qualifying might not seem like that big a deal.

The complaints come mostly from people who choose not to pay extra for Versus (often a third-tier cable channel—that is, part of a package three price increases beyond the cost of basic cable,) and those who for whatever reason cannot get Versus (the channel is not offered everywhere.)

Why It Happened

As a bit of background: when IndyCar signed a $40 million, ten-year deal with Versus in 2008, many fans screamed because they either didn’t get Versus or had to pay extra. Fans complained that moving the series to Versus was costing badly needed viewers, fans who wanted to watch but couldn’t.

Many other fans (myself included) argued that Versus owner Comcast (the biggest cable company in the U.S.) was deep in merger talks with NBC, and if the merger came off, Comcast would have the leverage to move Versus into lower tiers, and could also cross-promote toe series on some of the most popular shows on network and cable television, thus exposing millions of potential new fans.

Well, the merger went though. NBC won’t be making major improvements to Versus until 2012. To IndyCar fans, the merger has already cost a very heavy price.

Unpopular, but Possibly Very Sound Decision

Regarding this decision, I think it was made for exactly the reason stated: to drive more people to Versus.

A lot of people are saying they won't buy an extra tier of service or whatever. I can well understand that. My budget is ridiculously tight. Everyone has priorities.

In my home those priorities include Versus, regardless of the cost, because I must have my racing. I give up other pleasures for my racing. I am sure there are others like me, and I am sure Versus knows this.

I am not defending NBC/Comcast's decision, nor my decision, nor the decisions of those who decide not to upgrade to watch IndyCar. I am not criticizing any of those, either.

I am not ignoring the plight of those who cannot get Versus, and now cannot get live streaming. I would be crushed if I were in that situation; I totally sympathize.

That said, let’s analyze the decision. More at Epoch Times

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