10 November 2009

How Could Comcast's Acquisition of NBC Affect IndyCar?

According to AOL's finance page, Comcast and GE are nearing an agreement in principle on the value of NBC-Universal - $30 billion.  It's a complicated deal, and there are several roadblocks that will need to be cleared before Comcast (who owns Versus and the Golf Channel) takes control of the Peacock Network.

But if this deal does transpire, how does this affect the Izod IndyCar Series, which airs nearly all of its races on Versus (with selected races still airing on ABC, including the Indianapolis 500)?  We've taken a stab at it before, but let's try and tackle how the Izod IndyCar Series can continue its forward momentum if Comcast were to buy NBC-Universal.

First off, I don't believe that the IndyCar Series would move from Versus to NBC for all 17 races (and let's hope that number grows).  Keep in mind that Versus needs programming, too, and the IndyCar Series is one of its bigger clientele, up there with the NHL, college football (it's where you can find TCU), rodeo and mixed martial arts.  

Admittedly, not the sexiest lineup of sporting events (unless you have HD - then the NHL is great).

However, the biggest benefit of Comcast's purchase of NBC would come in the form of crossover promotion.  The Izod IndyCar Series has already committed itself to more advertising across the board - from more commercials to their placement (ESPN/ABC, Golf Channel, etc.).  Having the NBC-Universal platform on which to advertise would be huge for the series.

Now, I doubt that the purchase is finished by February, when the Winter Olympics air on NBC.  But Izod, with their "sport" apparel, would love to have advertising during the winter games; the Izod IndyCar Series would love to have additional advertising leading into their first race of 2010 (hopefully in March in Brazil) - putting commercials not only on NBC, but on CNBC, MSNBC, Univision and all the NBC-Universal networks that will be carrying live Olympics coverage would be huge for Izod IndyCar.

One of the pillars of NBC Sports is their golf coverage; again the Izod IndyCar Series would benefit from crossover promotions during golf tournaments (especially the ones in which Tiger Woods plays).  In many of the PGA Tour stops, the Izod IndyCar Series could set up booths promoting future races in those markets (for instance, the third leg of the FedEx Cup is in Chicago, right around the time of the Chicagoland race).  Izod benefits because they can show off their Golf line of wear, as well.

Another avenue to be explored is the action/extreme sports that NBC airs; NBC Sports carries the Dew Tour (that might not be the whole name), which stages BMX, FMX, skateboarding, snowboarding and other "extreme" events around the country.  Some want to promote the Izod IndyCar Series as an extension of extreme sports; advertising and marketing could be tied together between the Dew Tour and the Izod IndyCar Series, helping capture that young audience so many people want.

Finally, Comcast's purchase of NBC-Universal would create competition for ESPN/ABC in all sports, not just auto racing.  But, for purposes of this blog, let's focus on the Izod IndyCar Series.  

To me, the broadcasts on ABC have become stagnant.  Switching announcing crews, a lack of partnership between ABC and Versus hold the series back.  If Comcast bought NBC-Universal, ESPN/ABC's coverage of their four or five IndyCar races must be stepped up, or else they would guarantee themselves losing the Indianapolis 500, which has been a Memorial Day weekend staple for 30 years on ABC (it is a decent ratings grabber, as well).

Forcing ESPN/ABC's hand to step up their broadcast and promotion of Izod IndyCar Series races would be great for the series; to me, moving their four races already on ABC to NBC would be more beneficial.  I think the new Comcast-NBC would pump promotional materials into their broadcast of the Indianapolis 500, making it clear across their networks that NBC is the new home of America's foremost auto race.  Think about how NBC promoted reacquiring football broadcasts (and how much they promote their football games now) - if they did even half of that, the Izod IndyCar Series would be a big winner.

Continuity would be another reason that moving races to Comast-NBC (and Versus) would work; races on Versus already come with the additional pre- and post-race shows; ones on ABC (aside from the Indianapolis 500) do not.  Putting all the Izod IndyCar Series races on one network (in this case the new Comcast-NBC, along with Versus), would allow for this to continue; also, the same crew would work - instead of flip-flopping between Bob Jenkins, Robbie Buhl and Jan Beekhuis to Brent Musberger, Eddie Cheever, et al, viewers would maintain their connection with the booth, which does help.

I don't know when the purchase would be finalized, but keep an eye on it - it could be one more step in the Izod IndyCar Series' return to prominence down the road.

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