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Thursday, April 25, 2024

Bridges: IndyCar isn’t Formula One and that’s definitely a good thing

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Some things are certainly better left alone and intact.
We’ve all looked at something glitzier and more glamorous and wondered why can’t I do that?

The same can be said for the ultra-competitive business that is open wheel motorsports as they continue to wrangle with one another for both exposure and a larger slice of today’s viewing audience that tunes in.

When Formula One partnered with Netflix in 2019 to air their series’ docudrama, it became an instant success, providing even more content to meet the insatiable appetite of its ever-increasing global fan base. The series chronicles the cutthroat environment of the sport both on and off the track and has been extended to run through the 2023 season.

Simply put, it’s been both popular and profitable for a series that now boasts a robust $21 billion in terms of its overall net worth.

Couple that with an expansion in the United States that now features upscale events in Miami and Las Vegas, and all of a sudden IndyCar took notice and incorporated a plan that includes both a documentary-type series of its own and a more concentrated effort to appeal to a virtually nonexistent younger demographic that currently does not follow the sport on a regular basis, be it in person or through TV or streaming service coverage.

The series is entitled “100 Days to Indy” and will concentrate on the related activities of the teams in the races leading up to the crown jewel of their series, the legendary Indianapolis 500.

The biggest challenge for some time now for the NTT IndyCar Series has been attracting viewership away from the iconic Indianapolis event which remains immensely popular with the older demographic that has been attending the race for decades and renewing their tickets faithfully, which combined with increased television rights revenue has provided the series to subsidize its events on the schedule, even prior to the pandemic.

With a renewed financial commitment to their marketing efforts, the series is banking on the documentary to bolster the numbers in terms of the aforementioned younger demographic while also providing entertainment to curmudgeon fans like myself who would attend a dogsled race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway if it was properly staged and featured the more popular teams and drivers.

Will the investment in such programming move the needle for younger fans? That depends on who you might ask, but partnering with the CW Network for the distribution of the content is a logical step considering it’s been catering to the younger generation for ages.

The bigger question is why is it even necessary for what could easily be classified as reality television to be used to attract this coveted demographic when the spirited, competitive racing should do the talking?

One thought is an IndyCar event takes two hours minimum to play out, and it’s no secret that the attention span among the younger fans does not lend to them watching an extended portion of the telecast, and while streaming service through Peacock has enhanced the overall viewership, the series still continues to struggle for an audience away from IMS.

It’s certainly worth mentioning that Roger Penske had spent a sizeable amount of money to provide overall value for the ticket price, partnering with venues they race at to provide concerts and family midway entertainment-type options.

Will the upcoming documentary be helpful in attracting new viewers? Hard to say. I think the multi-discipline racing offers great value as it incorporates a festival-type atmosphere on street courses, along with legendary road courses to augment the ovals, but even the hallowed grounds of 16th and Georgetown have made efforts to capture the imagination of the younger generation with the Snake Pit offering the popular music they love to get down with. Never mind the greatest race in the world is underway that same day, as with many of those attending to hear their favorite DJ it really doesn’t matter if Chevy beats Honda.

I get the fact that Formula One is global and IndyCar is in North America, and while the latter is currently televised in select international markets, it will never be a serious threat to F1.

It’s a different animal and that’s just fine to us blueblood fans who are both gray in terms of our hair and loyal to the sport. I have no problem stepping aside for these coveted new followers that are supposedly on the horizon, as I can watch from a distance.

The real question is will the upcoming docudrama draw them in and keep a few of those folks interested in some of the best racing in the world?

Danny Bridges, who in his advanced age also enjoys Formula One and NASCAR, along with sprint cars and midgets on dirt too, can be reached at 317-370-8447 or at bridgeshd@aol.com.

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