The Verizon IndyCar Series has achieved increased television viewership over the last two years and the series, along with broadcast partners ABC and NBCSN, looks to continue the momentum with enhancements for the 2016 season.
ABC will provide additional coverage of the highly-anticipated 100th Running of the Indianapolis 500 while NBCSN will air 10 hours of live practice coverage, augmenting their existing qualifying and race coverage.
“Viewership of INDYCAR programming has surged the past two years and that is directly related to the incredible on-track competition, the quality of programming produced by our partners at ABC and NBCSN, and the careful selection of the best race time slots available,” said Hulman & Company CEO Mark Miles.
“In compiling the 2016 television schedule, we have continued to build off strong lead-in programming and optimal time slots to extend that viewership momentum. We believe this, coupled with the historic 100th Running of the Indianapolis 500, returns to iconic Indy car tracks at Phoenix and Road America, and an exciting new event on the streets of Boston will propel the excitement and viewership further forward.”
Combined, IndyCar’s television partners will air 110 hours of programming, an increase over 2015. That includes live coverage of the 16 races plus qualifying for all races airing on NBCSN (with Indianapolis 500 qualifying on ABC) as well as practice sessions for seven NBCSN races and recaps of Indy Lights events that will also air on NBCSN.
The 2016 Verizon IndyCar Series season begins on ABC with the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on March 13. ABC will then air the entire month of May beginning with the Angie’s List Grand Prix of Indianapolis on May 14 and culminating with the Indianapolis 500 on May 29.
Between the two races, the network will broadcast the final two hours of each day of Indianapolis 500 qualifying, including the Fast Nine Shootout on May 22 that will decide the pole. ESPN3 will supplement on-air coverage with live streaming during qualifying as well as onboard camera footage during the race itself.
ABC will then air both races of the Chevrolet Dual in Detroit on June 4 and 5 to close out its coverage of the series for the year.
Enhancing ABC’s races will be a revised version of its “Side-by-Side” feature during national commercial breaks. Changes include a larger screen for on-track footage and a rotating leaderboard for updates throughout the field.
Allen Bestwick will anchor ABC’s IndyCar efforts along with former Indy car drivers Scott Goodyear and Eddie Cheever with the trio returning for its third season. Jon Beekhuis, Rick DeBruhl and Dr. Jerry Punch will serve as pit reporters with Lindsay Czarniak hosting the Indianapolis 500.
“We’re proud to be part of a sport with not only historic traditions but also a very exciting future,” said ESPN’s vice president of league sports programming Julie Sobieski. “We have been pointing to the 100th Running of the Indianapolis 500 for a long time and especially look forward to that event and our 52nd consecutive year at the ‘Greatest Spectacle in Racing.'”
NBCSN will kick off its IndyCar coverage in 2016 with the return of Phoenix International Raceway to the schedule. The cable network will air the first practice session and qualifying on April 1 followed by the race in primetime on April 2.
NBCSN will next air qualifying and race coverage from the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach on April 16 and 17 followed by practice, qualifying, and the race at Barber Motorsports Park on April 22, 23, and 24. The cable network’s May coverage will include 4.5 hours of Miller Light Carb Day consisting of Indianapolis 500 final practice, the Freedom 100, and the TAG Heuer Pit Stop Competition.
The second half of the season will be broadcast exclusively on NBC cable properties beginning with the Firestone 600 at Texas Motor Speedway on June 11 and ending with the season finale at Sonoma Raceway on September 18. Six of the races will air live on NBSCN with two – the Honda Indy Toronto on July 17 and the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio on July 31 – airing on CNBC. Both will have re-telecasts on the same day on NBCSN.
On-air talent for 2016 remains consistent for NBC Sports with Leigh Diffey, Townsend Bell, and Paul Tracy returning to the booth. Beekhuis, Katie Hargitt, Kevin Lee, Robin Miller and Marty Snider will provide reporting from the pits. Rick Allen, NBC Sports’ lead NASCAR announcer, will also join NBCSN’s IndyCar team for select events.
“Coming off the most-watched INDYCAR season ever on NBCSN, we are excited to produce even more hours of thrilling open-wheel racing coverage this year,” said NBC Sports & NBCSN president of programming Jon Miller. “INDYCAR continues to be one of the cornerstone properties that makes NBC Sports the home of motorsports.”
In addition to Verizon IndyCar Series race coverage, NBCSN will also air five 30-minute “IndyCar Chronicles” specials and the INDYCAR Championship Celebration following the GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma.