One of the things missing from the release of the 2016 Verizon IndyCar Series schedule at first glance – and this was the key to note since the races were pretty much already known – was specific start times for races. Planned TV start times were listed.
As we click into the new year, INDYCAR has put out the start times for 2016. Many of them follow the trend of 2015: later afternoon or early evening start times.
In theory, it sounds stupid – hey, if you’re coming from out of town, and the race starts late, it means you’ll have to burn an extra day of vacation or you’ll get back super late Sunday night.
But witness the fact NBCSN’s ratings went up significantly this year, 34 percent from 2014 (from 378,000 in 12 races to 507,000 in 11 races), and you’ll see the strategy worked. It was the most watched IndyCar season on NBCSN since IndyCar rights were acquired in 2009, when the network was then known as VERSUS.
Was later start times the only reason? Of course not. Having NASCAR on the network drove additional viewership and worked in some cases as a perfect lead-in. Having all three major series – NASCAR, F1 and IndyCar – on NBC Sports Group properties allowed for a good level of cross promotion, as well.
Two other things to note below. One, the Toronto and Mid-Ohio races look set to air live on CNBC. NASCAR is yet to announce its full 2016 TV schedule but those dates, July 17 and July 31, see NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races on Sundays at New Hampshire and Pocono, respectively. The NBC portion of NASCAR’s schedule will begin at Daytona in July.
Mid-Ohio aired live on CNBC last year and then was re-aired on NBCSN immediately following the conclusion of the Pocono Cup race; in theory, it could make sense to do that again, as the NBCSN rating for IndyCar at Mid-Ohio was north of 600,000 viewers.
The second thing to note is that only three races – St. Petersburg, the 100th Indianapolis 500 and the new race at Elkhart Lake – have start times prior to 2 p.m. ET. The Elkhart Lake start time of 1:08 p.m. ET is particularly important for those fans from Chicago, Indianapolis or wherever who’d be making the trip. Figure that’s 12:08 p.m. CT and local time and if the race ends, worse case at 2:30 p.m., you can easily be home not too late at night. This is a good thing.
Anyway, without further adieu, here’s your start times and networks for the 2016 season. All are subject to change but figure these will be the likely targets:
|March 13||St. Petersburg||ABC||12:52 p.m. ET|
|April 2||Phoenix||NBCSN||8:35 p.m. ET|
|April 17||Long Beach||NBCSN||4:37 p.m. ET|
|April 24||Barber||NBCSN||3:37 p.m. ET|
|May 14||Indy GP||ABC||3:50 p.m. ET|
|May 29||Indy 500||ABC||12:00 p.m. ET|
|June 4||Detroit 1||ABC||3:50 p.m. ET|
|June 5||Detroit 2||ABC||3:50 p.m. ET|
|June 11||Texas||NBCSN||8:50 p.m. ET|
|June 26||Road America||NBCSN||1:08 p.m. ET|
|July 10||Iowa||NBCSN||5:50 p.m. ET|
|July 17||Toronto||CNBC||3:37 p.m. ET|
|July 31||Mid-Ohio||CNBC||2:37 p.m. ET|
|Aug. 21||Pocono||NBCSN||3:48 p.m. ET|
|Sept. 4||Boston||NBCSN||2:37 p.m. ET|
|Sept. 18||Sonoma||NBCSN||7:37 p.m. ET|