ESPN have won the rights to screen the IndyCar Series in the UK for 2013, it has been confirmed today.
The news was first broken by Sky Sports on their Facebook page this morning. In response to a question directed at them, the broadcaster said “Indycar has been signed up by ESPN, so all races will be on there from March.” Following an e-mail request from The F1 Broadcasting Blog, ESPN has this afternoon confirmed that they will be screening the series in 2013, ending Sky’s involvement. One thing to note is that the tweet does not contain the word ‘live’, indicating the coverage may not be live.
I’m afraid for all concerned, this is disappointing news. The viewing figures for IndyCar on Sky Sports were very low, despite the racing being fantastic for the majority of the time, and on ESPN the figures will most likely be in four digits most of the time considering all of Sky’s figures were in the five digit range.
Another complicated factor is that ESPN could well be exiting the UK in the middle of the year thanks to the arrival of BT Vision. If ESPN does exit the UK, then it is anyone’s guess where the series could end up, it could end up like WRC and without a home in the UK. It reminds me potentially of the GP2 situation in early 2009, Setanta Sports went into administration halfway through the season, and British Eurosport picked it back up. One does wonder if it was Sky’s move to drop IndyCar, I suspect it was their decision. Part of the reason could be that the rights were worth a lot less to them now that they had the Formula 1 rights, which of course they did not have when they previously re-negotiated the IndyCar deal back in February 2011.
Unfortunately, as it stands, I, and a lot of other people, will be without access to IndyCar in 2013 thanks to ESPN being an extra £10 on top of Sky Sports.
Update on February 8th – ESPN have today confirmed to me that they do indeed have the rights to screen every race live. However, and I quote “this depends on the programming scheduled for each day. If the race clashes with a higher profile event then the race will not be shown live but on delay.”