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Sunday, April 14, 2024
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With NBC Deal Expiring, IndyCar Nearing New Media-Rights Deal

  • IndyCar is in the last season of a three-year media-rights deal with NBC.
  • The series’ CEO gives ‘Front Office Sports’ an update on negotiations.
Mar 10, 2024; St. Petersburg, Florida, USA; Indycar driver Josef Newgarden (middle) celebrates winning the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. Indycar driver Patricio O'Ward (left) celebrates winning second and Indycar driver Scott McLaughlin (right) celebrates winning third.
Peter Casey-USA TODAY Sports

IndyCar is heading to Southern California this weekend for a new race with record-breaking prize money, as the series continues to get closer to the finish line of a new media-rights deal that should come with a pay bump of its own.

Dubbed the Thermal Club $1 Million Challenge, a 12-car race Sunday won’t hand out points for the series’ season-long championship, but it will pay out $1.756 million, the highest total purse for an event in IndyCar history outside of the Indianapolis 500. The winning driver will pocket $500,000. “It’s a big payday, so it will have their attention, for sure,” IndyCar CEO Mark Miles tells Front Office Sports.

The race is another shift in IndyCar’s strategy to stay competitive with other racing circuits and the ever-evolving broader sports landscape. In 2023, IndyCar generated its highest viewership since ’11, averaging 1.32 million viewers per race, and now it’s looking to cash in as its deal with NBC Sports, which reportedly brings in about $20 million annually, expires at the end of this season. “We would weigh reach above all else, but we expect to get some kind of increase in our rights fees,” Miles says.

NBC is interested in returning, but plenty of other parties have inquired. “Initially, there were several platforms that we had great discussions with—kind of did a road show to get in front of them,” Miles explains. Fox Sports, in particular, has proved to be a strong contender. “They were interested when we made our last NBC deal,” Miles says. “So, this is not a newfound interest; they like motor sports.” 

IndyCar would prefer to end up with one media partner, rather than splitting its rights across multiple broadcasters, says Miles. He confirmed IndyCar had conversations with more than three of what he called “major disruptive streamers,” but he said it would be a stretch to end up with both a traditional broadcaster and streamer for this deal.

Now negotiations are shifting from logistics to economics, and Miles says the field of suitors is “narrowing some.” A conservative deadline in Miles’s mind is having a completed deal by the Indianapolis 500 on Memorial Day weekend. “I don’t see it exceeding that,” he says.

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