Yesterday the Indianapolis Business Journal released an article in their sports section where it was opined that NBC’s recent win for the next few Olympic installments would help INDYCAR/Versus ratings. An assessment that I believe is a little bit of a stretch and probably wishful thinking at best. No disrespect to the author obviously, but I just don’t see how this is going to help anything.
The Olympic Games is a massive television draw that is usually spread out over a number of networks. Swimming on one channel and track on another. This will see a number of events televised on the Versus network that is billed as a cheaper alternative to ESPN. The problem is not many households get Versus without an upgrade to their current cable/dish television package. It was thought viewers who wanted to see the Olympics would upgrade their package to get Versus and the extra events that go along with it. I disagree unless Versus gets big time events like Michael Phelps going for 8,000 gold medals. The fact is, enough of the events will be on NBC and other Comcast stations that people receive without the upgrade. If you missed the event you wanted to see, there is ESPN and re-airing of events that take place. I for one see no reason why I would upgrade my current package. Even if I did, I would probably just turn it off once the Olympics ended.
As far as INDYCAR goes, the current advertising campaign (both series and Versus) will not permit a large growth in the casual sports fan viewership during something like the Olympics. That is after all what we are going for isn’t it? We have the die-hard fans, but we lack the casual fan base. The Indianapolis 500 produced some real theatrics this year and we were able to identify with some new “characters”. Many folks will want to track JR Hildebrand after his turn four accident as well as Graham Rahal and Simona. The month of May produced a number of great stories that will unfortunately be forgotten about given the current channel situation. ABC did INDYCAR no favors during its advertising block with the racing seeming more like commercials than an actual event. The bottom line is that NBC and Comcast need to take the current product shown on Versus and move it to NBC where the casual fan will be more apt to watching. It is unknown which direction NBC/Comcast will go with it, but to solidify the remaining portion of this 10 year deal, it would benefit them (Comcast) as well to move the series to NBC. We will wait and see which direction they go.
Back to the Olympic topic, I have the feeling that the Olympics may actual show a slight drop in ratings with the Versus channel getting events. I am of the opinion that the summer and winter games will suffer the same fate as INDYCAR with a large dip coming from the events televised on that channel. The sad thing is that I think Versus puts together some fantastic productions. The quality of the programming is not bad; it is just a matter of how the channel is set on the TV deals that gets them in the end. With economic times being tough and no end in sight, I don’t see this deal at all being truly beneficial the way it needs to be for the series. At the end of the day, the series needs a new home in NBC and it needs to be sooner rather than later to be honest. You cannot develop these great stories like we did last month and have them fall on deaf ears for the majority of the schedule.