IndyCar

Mailbag: Answering your questions about IndyCar’s new TV deal with Fox Sports

Mailbag: Answering your questions about IndyCar's new TV deal with Fox Sports

You asked, I answered − or at least tried to.

In the wake of IndyCar’s record-breaking exclusive media rights deal with Fox Sports starting in 2025, I invited my followers on X for questions. You came back with more than 100 replies on a wide range of topics − so many that we’ve split this IndyCar TV deal/2025 schedule mailbag into two parts.

The first dives into how streaming will work with IndyCar’s new partner, the future of IndyCar’s schedule, who may be calling races and the nitty gritty details of the deal.

The next part of this mailbag will dive into the production questions around Fox’s broadcasting of IndyCar races, including commercial-free broadcasts, how races will be archived and available to re-watch, how Indy 500 practice will be covered, the potential for future shoulder programming and how Fox might use YouTube for posting sessions and races.

IndyCar TV deal: Fox’s offer ‘was too good.’ Why IndyCar believes new media rights deal can lift series.

Fox Sports camera at an NFL game in 2023.

How will streaming IndyCar content work with Fox?

Practice and qualifying are on FS1 or FS2? Meaning, I don’t have to subscribe to the streaming to watch?

That’s correct. If you have a cable package (or something similar via YouTube TV or other mainstream cable-like streaming bundle) that comes with FS1 and FS2, then you’ll be all set to watch wall-to-wall IndyCar coverage.

Could IndyCar develop its own platform like F1TV to make streaming cheaper, or are US streaming rights exclusive to Fox/Venu Sports?

At the time of the announcement, a Penske Entertainment official confirmed to IndyStar that Venu Sports − the service including Fox, ESPN, ABC and TNT − would indeed be IndyCar’s future streaming home, so no.

Will Venu Sports be the only way to stream for cord-cutters?

Yes, the current Fox Sports standalone app only allows folks to watch via authentication – meaning, ‘Prove to us you pay for a cable subscription that comes with this, and we’ll let you watch things here, too.’ If you only want to consume live content via streaming and don’t have any cable subscriptions, then this new yet-to-launch Venu Sports app will be your only way to stream live IndyCar sessions and races.

Will there be a (relatively) low-cost streaming option similar to Peacock?

Unfortunately, no. Those who watched IndyCar via Peacock – which I’m told for practice and qualifying was typically in the 20,000-30,000 range, and 50,000 to 70,000 for races – and want the same experience via streaming will have to pay far more. Fox Sports’ new streaming option is a partnership with ESPN and Warner Bros Discovery where all the sports rights are available on one app – which is supposed to give access to more than 50% of all U.S. sports. Peacock was an NBC-only app, so it was much cheaper.

Without breaking the bank, is there going to be a way to easily watch practice and/or qualifying? Will there be on-demand replays that aren’t hours later? Will watching from my phone be an option?

One of the downsides of this deal is that those diehard fans who got used to watching every single on-track session via streaming will either have to pay for Venu Sports − somewhere between 6-8 times more per month than Peacock − pay even more to become a cable subscriber, or forgo watching practice and qualifying.

As far as replays go, I think replays for big events soon after the live broadcast is pretty standard nowadays, and I have no reason to think IndyCar’s treatment on Fox’s streaming platforms will be any different. Just how quick that turn around is remains to be seen. And as mentioned above, you should be able to watch on your phone if you can authenticate to an existing Fox account. Otherwise, you’ll have to subscribe to the Venu Sports app.

Will we finally get commercial-free streaming?

This one’s simple: not unless a company (i.e. an advertiser) is willing to pay for and sponsor it.

Does IndyCar not see an issue with forcing fans to get cable or buy an expensive streaming service to watch? $300 to watch IndyCar for 6 months? I’m a college student. Peacock was fine, but I just can’t afford this, and I’m willing to bet I’m not the only one.

This is part of the give-and-take in a media deal. I, too, see the lack of a reasonably priced streaming option a big hole, but it only affects a small percentage of its viewership. It should be said that for somewhere between a one-time purchase of $20-$50, you can get an antenna that picks up the major broadcast channels (CBS, ABC, NBC and Fox) to watch every race. I’ve heard from a few folks who say they live in an area where those don’t work, to which I’d suggest seeing if you can use a friend/family member’s cable login to authenticate and watch on the Fox Sports app or learn how to use a VPN.

Josef Newgarden drives through a turn during the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on March 10, 2024.

The ins and outs of the 2025 IndyCar schedule

Is the schedule really ‘subject to change’?

I see the line you’re referencing on the current schedule PDF for 2025, and from going back to the one released last fall for 2024, that line is a “just in case.” I don’t expect any of those dates/locations to change.

Why is Texas not on the schedule?

It’s all about two sides getting what they want. Without the 2025 NASCAR schedule being out, I can only assume that Texas Motor Speedway’s lone NASCAR weekend will again be in the spring. Understandably (and as was the case this year), they wouldn’t want two marquee events to be held against each other. For 2024, the track proposed a late-summer or early-fall date, and those didn’t work for IndyCar with how congested the schedule is at those times and having already announced Nashville as the season-finale.

More: Insider: Why Texas was left off IndyCar’s 2024 schedule, and NASCAR’s role in it

That only gets more difficult in 2025 with a season that ends earlier and a post-Indianapolis 500 slate that’s even more jam-packed. And when you’re not operating with cable TV’s flexibility, you’re at the whim of the network windows Fox can offer. Without knowing for certain, too, it’s been several years since Texas was able to host a remotely decent crowd for IndyCar, which makes it tough for the track to sell sponsorship and tickets at a level that would allow them to recoup the money IndyCar would require them to pay for a sanctioning fee. NASCAR giving TMS just one date and moving it to the spring seems to have been the impetus, and neither side has had the flexibility to come to a suitable agreement.

Will they return to Texas in 2026 or beyond?

Only if any of the above changes.

Any consideration to bring Indy NXT back to Carb Day?

I haven’t asked about this in a little while, but there are no hints that Penske Entertainment’s thinking has changed.

The Gateway date is one week later than its NASCAR weekend; I can’t seem them hosting back-to-back. Is NASCAR moving their date, or could it be a doubleheader?

Next year’s IndyCar race at World Wide Technology Raceway is actually two weeks after the post-Indy 500/Coke 600 slot when NASCAR ran there this year. But still, as first reported by The Athletic, it’s understood that WWTR will have its NASCAR race in the playoffs next year, allowing the track to spread out two of its biggest weekends.

Have they given up on the Nashville street race? Why aren’t we getting it back?

No one has said that IndyCar will never again race on Nashville’s city streets, but when the finale for 2024 was moved in February to Nashville Superspeedway almost 45 minutes away, race organizer Scott Borchetta indicated that the earliest the race could move back downtown would likely be 2027 – around the time the Tennessee Titans’ new stadium project is set to be complete. Last year, IndyCar and race officials inked a new three-year deal that would conveniently expire just before they’d have to make a decision on where to run in 2027 – if, of course, this event is to continue.

IndyCar news: How the Music City Grand Prix’s downtown Nashville race plans failed completely

So it’s no surprise IndyCar will be back at NSS in 2025. IndyCar could again be back near the city center a couple of years down the road, but Borchetta admitted in February that racing on Lower Broadway is unlikely as was originally intended. The one aid to the return of a Nashville street race would be IndyCar continuing to end its season before the start of the NFL regular season. Without knowing the Titans’ schedule before May, no one would know if the Titans and IndyCar would have conflicting schedules in mid-September. If a race was held in late-August or even Labor Day weekend, IndyCar could run around the new stadium the way it did the old one.

Will future seasons be just as short to avoid overlap with the NFL or can there be Saturday races?

Ending the season on Labor Day weekend and avoiding the NFL is considered a major win for Penske Entertainment president and CEO Mark Miles – and something he had been targeting for quite some time. Saturdays in the fall aren’t much better due to college football, so this schedule setup is a good fit for the series.

On the other end, early March is the sweet spot for St. Pete race organizers, so unless that isn’t the season-opener – which would involve finding a suitable warm-weather venue and scheduling around Fox’s NASCAR broadcasts in early-February, as well as IMSA’s Rolex 24 Hours that so many IndyCar drivers run – the season isn’t starting earlier.

Are there any ongoing talks with tracks not on the schedule, or any talks with new cities about potential street races?

I don’t have a list of where IndyCar is actively in talks, but they’ve indicated that new street venues are likely in the cards in the coming years. Rumored venues have included Denver, Dallas and San Antonio, along with the possibility of adding a race somewhere in Mexico and either adding another in Canada or moving from Toronto.

Is Thermal going to be a full ‘normal’ race weekend?

If by ‘normal’ you mean two practices, three rounds of qualifying, a warmup and a traditional race, then yes. We won’t see any gimmicky racing like we did this year for the $1 Million Challenge.

What part of the Thermal weekend made them think ‘Hey, we should make this a points race’?

Mark Miles said he spoke with a number of drivers, and their sentiment was that Thermal would be a perfectly fine track for a normal race. The track had to expand pitlane so it could accommodate the entire field – last year, they could fit all the cars, but the boxes weren’t long enough to safely race all 27 cars at once – and that work has been completed.

How many fans will be permitted at Thermal?

That’s unclear, but I feel comfortable saying many more than a year ago, when it appeared only a few hundred there weren’t guests of teams or club members.

If IndyCar expands their schedule to 20 races, will all the new races be on Fox?

I don’t expect IndyCar to hit 20 races soon, so that’s a bit of a moot point. But through the life of this deal, Fox is obligated to provide 19 network windows, and Penske Entertainment officials have consistently said they believe 17 races is a sweet spot for teams financially – and teams’ costs are only going up.

Will IndyCar return to the Northeast this century?

I know series leadership would like to venture into that area, but track locations – Watkins Glen or Loudon – have to want IndyCar. It makes finding a street race a more likely option, but that only comes when a backer and a city government want you. We already know what happened with Boston nearly a decade ago.

Will they ever add more ovals to the schedule?

I think the number of oval races is nearing a suitable level, with IndyCar running seven at five different tracks this year and six at the same venues next year. I think the biggest gap the series has is its lack of super speedways or even true 1.5-mile intermediate tracks like Texas. Virtually all of those are owned by NASCAR or Speedway Motorsports, and those companies aren’t going to host an IndyCar race unless they know they can make money – meaning they can get loads of fans to attend, and that hasn’t been the case for IndyCar oval racing of late. We’ll see how – if at all – that changes this year with a couple new venues on tap.

Why are there still no international races?

Because the series hasn’t found a municipality or sponsor willing to pay for a visit. Anything outside of Canada or Mexico that involves loading equipment onto planes or ships is going to have to come out of the pocket of someone (or a group) outside the paddock. IndyCar thought it had something like that with Argentina nearing completion last winter, but it fell through. It’s unclear at the moment where the series is in similar talks. And as the series has said for some time, any non-Canada/Mexico rounds are likely to be offseason exhibitions and not points-paying races.

Is Detroit as universally hated in the paddock as it is by the fans, and is there a chance they drop it in the future?

I don’t know that I would use the phrase universally hated, but I don’t think it’s very high on many drivers’ lists – at least not those who receive paychecks from someone other than Roger Penske. I think many in the paddock see Detroit as a smart and sensible market, but it’s no secret that the track layout – in its short length, surface and tightness − continues to leave something to be desired.

But IndyCar won’t abandon it with Penske Entertainment at the helm. The business-to-business deals Penske Corp. makes around the race – including filling up most of the dozens of suites with its many local partners – make racing in this market of utmost importance to a Penske Entertainment-run series.

When General Motors moves its headquarters out of the Renaissance Center in 2025, it’s unclear whether the iconic building that the race runs around will be demolished. If it is, race officials have said that could have some effect on the course layout – and I would wonder if they’d run into a year in which running anywhere near it might be tough. Many paddock members have begged for the course to go another block or two past where Turn 1 currently is located, but I’m not sure why it wouldn’t have already if that were possible.

What would need to happen for Watkins Glen to come back on the schedule?

Same as any track not currently on the calendar: a promoter who believes it makes financial sense to host IndyCar and can offer a date that works.

What is the plan to add races to the front part of the schedule?

There aren’t many truly viable options outside Phoenix – which the series went to recently and left after a couple years when almost no one showed up – and Homestead – which IndyCar hasn’t visited since 2010, and which I certainly would think IndyCar would jump at the opportunity to do if a reasonable offer were ever presented.

IndyCar driver James Hinchcliffe

The future of IndyCar’s booth with Fox

What are the remaining contract lengths for the NBC booth/pit lane crew? Would any of them have interest in following the series to Fox?

Outside Leigh Diffey, who calls several sports for NBC – including track and field for the Summer Olympics and U.S. Olympic trials – I’m under the impression that any folks you see on the broadcasts who strictly work IndyCar – James Hinchcliffe, Townsend Bell, Kevin Lee, etc. – would have the opportunity to jump to Fox. I’m less certain about pit reporters like Marty Snider and Dave Burns, who are seen frequently in the early part of the IndyCar schedule and then seldom appear once NBC’s NASCAR slate begins, unless their deals are up.

It’s also not uncommon for networks to allow booth members or pit reporters to work on multiple networks – i.e. someone working IndyCar broadcasts the first half of the year on Fox and NASCAR broadcasts on NBC to close the year. After all, NBC won’t kick off its NASCAR slate until August next year.

Are we keeping Hinch?

Fox executives would be wise to offer Hinchcliffe a lucrative deal. He’s a uniformly beloved member of the booth, knowledgeable, has a great personality, three years of TV chops and has been in this car somewhat recently. Fox Sports CEO Eric Shanks said on a call shortly after the deal was announced that IndyCar would play a role in helping Fox form its booth, which gives me even more hope that hiring Hinchcliffe is a top priority.

Who is predicted to be in the booth?

Outside Hinchcliffe, my best guess is Adam Alexander, who worked for six years on the IMS Radio Network on Indy 500 broadcasts, first on pit lane (2001-03) before graduating to turn announcer (2004-06). He’s been calling Xfinity races for Fox’s portion of the schedule – which next year will shift exclusively to The CW – and he’s co-hosted Fox’s daily NASCAR news show “Race Hub,” which has aired its final episode. So, if the network wants to hold onto him, placing him in charge of its IndyCar broadcast booth would be reassignment.

I’d be a little surprised if Fox hired both Hinchcliffe and Townsend Bell, only because I imagine they’ll want to put their own stamp on things.

Mark Miles, President and CEO, Penske Entertainment, attends Rev 2024 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

IndyCar-Fox contract details

How long is this deal for, and what are the financial details?

You’ll never get anyone involved in the negotiations to admit these details publicly, but Miles hinted that IndyCar’s recent record of signing three-year deals wasn’t abandoned. So until I learn otherwise, I believe this is for three years.

The money part is even tougher to uncover. Fox offered IndyCar a lot with the 19 network windows, while also putting practice and qualifying on cable, rather than just streaming. There’s a lot to be gained financially for the series and its teams for that alone, so I’m not inclined to think Penske Entertainment also landed a massive payday.

While Fox might’ve been willing to give Miles and Penske a bit of a lift in annual rights fees, I’m don’t believe IndyCar is receiving markedly more than they were previously. It was understood the previous NBC deal was in the range of $20 million-$25 million per year, so I would be truly shocked if more than $30 million a year is changing hands. And frankly, if it is, I’d be a little worried about how long Fox might be willing to stay around.

Is the ‘all races on network’ just for 2025 and will races be syphoned off to FS1 and/or FS2 as the deal progresses?

I asked Miles and Shanks on the call a couple weeks ago, and they said that the 19 network windows will last throughout this deal.

IndyCar races always aired on TSN in Canada during NBC’s US rights ownership. Will that continue with Fox, or will it change?

I received some variation of this question about the UK and numerous other countries, and the answer is the same across the board: Fox bought the domestic U.S. media rights for IndyCar. This highly publicized deal has nothing to do with how anyone will view the sport outside of the U.S. Deals that Penske Entertainment has to air races in other countries will remain intact, and deals expiring at the end of this year will be brought to market just as they always have.

This article originally appeared on Indianapolis Star: Answers to your questions about IndyCar’s new deal with Fox Sports

Source

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button