White joins as new IndyCar arm replaces ESPN International to distribute rights
The organiser of US motor racing’s IndyCar Series has created a new division, IndyCar Media, that will be responsible for distributing international rights from next year.
Series owner Hulman & Company announced yesterday that IndyCar Media will be responsible for securing deals with more than two dozen licensees to broadcast races, including the showpiece Indianapolis 500, in more than 100 countries worldwide.
The new unit is taking on the international rights from ESPN International, an arm of the USA-based sports broadcaster, which has distributed the series for the past two decades.
Mark Miles, the chief executive of Hulman & Company, is overseeing the development of IndyCar Media, with support from Stephen Starks, the series’ vice-president of promoter and media partner relations, who will manage the co-ordination of IndyCar’s resources to execute the necessary functions.
An element of continuity is assured with the recent appointment of Heather White, an experienced UK-based media rights executive, from ESPN International where she worked on the distribution of IndyCar media rights in Europe, the Middle East and Africa.
White will serve as the primary licensing point of contact for IndyCar Media, working out of London.
Meanwhile, IMS Productions, which is also owned by Hulman & Company, will continue to deliver the televised world feed distributed globally.
In addition to handling broadcast facilities for IndyCar, IMSP carries out similar work for the NBA’s Indiana Pacers and Los Angeles Lakers and Professional Bull Riders.
The new international strategy comes after national network NBC was awarded exclusive broadcasting rights in USA to the IndyCar Series in a three-year deal starting in 2019, bringing an end to the long relationship with rival ABC and its sister network ESPN.
Until now, ABC has provided live free-to-air coverage of the Indy 500 and four other races, with additional content on ESPN and the ESPN website, in a straight rights fee deal, while the remaining rounds have been shown on NBC cable and satellite channels, in an expenses and revenue sharing agreement.
From next year, the main NBC channel will show eight races, including the Indy 500, with others on the subsidiary NBC Sports Network. It will mark the first time since 1965 that the Indy 500 will not be televised by ABC.
Outlining the new approach to international markets, Miles, who led the development of a similar programme in a previous role as chief executive of the ATP, said: “In the highest-priority countries, we will work more closely with our broadcast partners to define market-specific opportunities, and we will grow our international audiences by focusing on these specific needs. We can enhance the amount of video content by creating new clips or drawing from our extensive archives.”
He welcomed White’s continued involvement, saying: “Heather knows us, she knows our product, she knows our current customers, and she knows other broadcasters all over the world. She will work as a representative of INDYCAR Media from London and will be totally focused on the licensing aspects.”
Starks said: “We will define our most important global markets based on several factors, including the ability to support places where the INDYCAR following is already strong, by targeting nations represented among our diverse driver lineup, through focusing on countries where broadcasters are best at growing our audience, and by looking at where we might want to race in the future, to name a few. Because we have a baseline of where our content is in high demand, we have a clear direction.”
He added that the new international broadcasting arrangements would be in place by the time of the first race of the 2019 season, the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, in Florida, on 10 March.
The IndyCar Series can boast a line-up of top overseas drivers, including 2018 champion Scott Dixon of New Zealand (pictured), this year’s Indy 500 winner Will Power of Australia, and French racers Sébastien Bourdais and Simon Pagineaud.