IndyCar returns to Sky Sports for 2019

The IndyCar Series will return to Sky Sports for the upcoming 2019 season in a multi-year deal, the broadcaster has confirmed, following the news earlier this week that BT Sport have lost the rights to the championship.

The single-seater series previously enjoyed a longstanding relationship with Sky, which ended following the 2012 season. Now, the series returns to Sky, however the series will air exclusively live on Sky Sports F1, a surprising move considering the reluctance to air IndyCar action on the channel in 2012.

Sky will air both qualifying and the race for each round on the F1 channel, the first time this level of coverage has been available to UK fans.

Steve Smith, Director of Content and Production at Sky Sports, said “The NTT IndyCar Series is one of the most thrilling competitions in motor racing, crowned by the world renowned ‘Indy 500’, and it’s great to be able to work with our new partners at NBC to bring it to a whole new audience here in the UK and Ireland.”

“Alongside our biggest ever season of F1, it will be part of an incredible line-up of motor racing on Sky Sports this year.”

Mark Miles, CEO of Hulman & Company, which owns IndyCar and Indianapolis Motor Speedway, said “We are pleased to reach a deal with Sky Sports to showcase the NTT IndyCar Series on the Sky Sports F1 channel for the next several seasons.”

“IndyCar values the commitment Sky and NBC have made to the series and the support of Comcast-NBCUniversal to help make this deal possible. We look forward to starting our season next week on Sky.”

World Feed only coverage expected
I understand that Sky will be taking IndyCar’s World Feed, with no additional wrap-around or bespoke content, unlike in their previous iteration of coverage, when Sky provided extra studio coverage, typically fronted by Keith Huewen.

For those that watched BT Sport’s commercial free coverage, some may consider the move to Sky to be a downgrade, but airing the series on the F1 channel should open the series to a much wider audience, assuming Sky gives IndyCar promotion within their F1 coverage.

Prior to 2012, IndyCar was the only live motor racing show in town on Sky, and promotion was minimal as a result. IndyCar never benefited from Sky’s F1 coverage in 2012, with the F1 channel acting as an overflow station on two occasions, whereas this time round every race will air on the F1 channel.

It appears that Formula 1 themselves, now led by under Liberty Media, are happy for this to happen, whereas Formula 1 under Bernie Ecclestone’s ownership were reluctant back in 2012. It does make prospects for the Indianapolis 500 interesting, which falls on the same day as the Monaco Grand Prix, and features two-time F1 champion Fernando Alonso.

If given an appropriate level of cross-promotion, the 500 could benefit significantly. BT Sport’s coverage of Alonso’s Indianapolis 500 debut in 2017 peaked with 203,000 viewers, so Sky should be able to match that comfortably. I daresay Sky should provide some bespoke wrap-around coverage for the 500, but that might be a bridge too far.

Aside from the build-up for the 500, the chances of a direct clash with the F1 season is highly unlikely.

Multiple reasons behind Sky’s IndyCar deal
Comcast now owns Sky, and has done so since the middle of 2018. In the US, IndyCar is airing on NBC in a new deal starting this season. Comcast also owns NBC, which is one reason this deal fits together nicely for all parties as noted in the quotes from both Sky and IndyCar.

Additionally, one of the suggestions touted by industry sources is that IndyCar may be part of a wider strategy to expand the scope of Sky Sports F1 to cover other motor sport championships, which is now possible with Liberty at the F1 helm. In my view, this is exactly how Sky should use the channel outside of live F1 weekends.

Of course, adding other championships to Sky F1 helps drive up subscriptions for those fans ‘on the edge’ of taking out Sky’s ‘best ever’ deal for the F1 channel which runs through March.

It is unclear whether BT Sport bid for IndyCar this season. What we do know is that their new contracts with MotoGP and the World Rally Championship kicked in from this season. Both are world championships, the latter coming with a significant increase in hours due to WRC All Live, which may have sealed IndyCar’s BT fate if there was no money lying round for the American based series.

The 17-round IndyCar Series season gets underway on March 10th in St. Petersburg, finishing on September 22nd in Laguna Seca.

13 thoughts on “IndyCar returns to Sky Sports for 2019

  1. Is there any word on if it’s ad free in the green flag periods? Even if its just race audio, that’s better than the US ad riddled style coverage.

  2. Until proven otherwise im just going to assume this is going to be shit full of ads just like the US coverage with IS a downgrade I don’t care how much cross-promotion bullshit they do. In fact BT’s worst race was when they bothered to do cross-promotion for the 500 when Alonso was driving because it just dumbed down the entire coverage.

  3. I was one of those on the fence for the Sky F1 £10 deal; this pushed me over the edge and I upgraded within a couple of hours of the announcement. Great news that we’ll get Qualifying as well as the Races; any idea whether we’ll get any highlights of the RTI series or anything historic to pad out the TV schedule?

    • I don’t know about the Road to Indy series, but I can see three full length repeats of St Pete in the schedule, which is good if you miss the live airing. 🙂

  4. indycar is back on my tv and thats all i wanted. dont care if there is no in studio pre or post show. dont care if its just the direct feed from the states (actually i prefer indy with the stateside commentary). this is fantastic news…..

  5. I’m afraid ajayrious is taking the right approach here. Keep expectations low and be happily surprised we’re it to turn out otherwise. He’s also correct about the woeful Suzi Perry incident.

    Mr Paul Boggan’s glass seems to be brimming over,which is nice to see.
    As I too prefer US commentary
    ( Which contains Paul Tracy who is an absolute HOOT )

  6. If you’ve never watched the U.S. IndyCar broadcasts, prepare yourselves: the number of advert interruptions is maddening. Maybe Sky TV viewers will be fortunate enough to not have to deal with this but if you do, I suggest keeping all throwable objects away from your TVs.

  7. If you Indycar fans download the Indycar Radio app or use Tune-In Radio or the Race Control website you’ll be able to avoid terribly timed periods of stupid British betting shop adds or promotions for SkySports and all that rubbish. Diverting your temptation to throw things at the telly.

  8. If it’s like Sky’s overnight Sunday NFL coverage (the third game of the day) and Monday Night Football NFL coverage, it will be the US broadcast with constant ad breaks – filled with UK commercials and brief filler highlights from the weekend’s other games (or races in this case).
    For the two earlier Sunday NFL games they have a UK studio team who provide build-up punditry and analysis, but for those aforementioned late games on Sunday and Monday they don’t as the small viewing figures must not make it worthwhile.

  9. If I was head of Sky Sports, this is what I do.
    Host: Simon Lazenby
    Pundits: Damon Hill, Jenson Button, Anthony Davidson, Paul Di Resta, Karun Chandock and Nico Rosberg (Alternating depending on schedule)
    Commentators – F1: Martin Brundle and Karun Chandock
    Commentators – IndyCar: David Croft and Johnny Herbert

  10. NBC’s commentary teams will be split on pre-NASCAR and after their half of NASCAR starts, which is 28 June with Round 16 at Joliet. While the primary commentary team will be the same with a few exceptions when Leigh Diffey has a secondary commitment, NBC will work with most of their motorsport talent. Pit reporter Kevin Lee (a local NBC affiliate presenter in Indianapolis) can move up to lead commentary, and they also have ex-Nebraska athletics star Rick Allen Schweiger (NASCAR and amateur basketball) available on the roster on those weeks as lead. Expect NBC to rotate pit reporters during these first four months between their INDYCAR talent (includes Katie Hargitt, Anders Krohn from INDYCAR Radio, and insider Robin Miller) and NASCAR talent Dave Burns, Marty Snider, and Kelli Stavast. NBC will use for “Peacock Pit Box” races their “big game voice” Mike Tirico for the Indy 500 and also use Dale Earnhardt Jnr. Once their half of NASCAR starts, Dillon Welch (son of Vince) will get a few reps working pit lane in lieu of Burns, Snider, or Stavast (there are four NASCAR pit reporters, but some races will only use three).

    Expect two or three pit reporters every race. They could also just run it through when side-by-side is being used full-screen. Also expect NBC and INDYCAR to use Media Day to have drivers filmed for promos.

    The graphics package NBC uses for INDYCAR is similar to how they did F1 coverage. When Lewis Hamilton was visiting a NASCAR race in 2015, they used their F1 graphics package for Hamilton, complete with this “44 Mercedes” silver, green, and red that was seen on F1 broadcasts. Same for Daniel Ricciardo in 2017 for Texas. It had the “3 Red Bull” red numeral, blue background from F1. Note too when a safety car occurs instead of “Safety Car” the lap counter is simply in a yellow background.

    Paul Tracy and Townsend Bell are gems. Bell did F1 when Will Buxton was on bereavement leave and was the one who pecked Nico Rosberg by calling Kimi Raikkonen “the other red car,” playing on driver code, after the Vettel incident during an interview. Some of the subs may be better voices than the lead!

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