PPG-DAYTON INDY LIGHTS ESPN2 TV AUDIENCE INCREASES 16% IN 1999
DETROIT (November 18, 1999) - The audience for 1999 PPG-Dayton Indy Lights Championship race telecasts on ESPN2 increased a hefty 16% over last year's viewership according to final television numbers which were released today by Championship Auto Racing Teams and Indy Lights officials.
The improvement is significant in that this year's dozen-race schedule included two fewer events than the 1998 calendar of 14 races. Despite the decrease in races, over half-a-million additional viewers tuned into to see CART's "Official Development Series" in action on ESPN2 this year. In total, 3,830,560 viewers watched this year's 12 races compared to the 3,290,576 that tuned into 1998's 14 races.
"We are extremely pleased with this increase in viewership in as much as it is the end result of a concerted effort by CART and our television partner ESPN to boost the promotion and exposure of the PPG-Dayton Indy Lights Championship and CART's Ladder System of driver development," said CART Vice President of Television Keith Allo. "At the end of the day, all television programming is judged by how many viewers a show reaches. It was CART's focus in 1999 to acquire the best possible time slots for Indy Lights and to improve production quality."
For the third consecutive season, each Indy Lights race was featured in a one-hour show on ESPN2 with most events showcased in same-day time slots. The majority of races were also re-aired on ESPN2 within 48 hours of the original telecasts.
In addition, several production and promotional advances are being touted as the primary reasons behind the increase in viewership. This past season was the first in which CART owned the series' television rights. In turn, CART entered into an advertising and production partnership with ESPN.
"Championship Auto Racing Teams made a substantial financial commitment to both the production and commercial aspects of Indy Lights television this year," Allo said. "The increased audience confirms that this was the right move, but we are also extremely grateful to our partner ESPN for raising the bar in its support of CART and Indy Lights in 1999."
Indy Lights telecasts were regularly promoted in FedEx Championship Series qualifying and pre-race CART 2Day programs on ESPN2. Several Indy Lights races were also slotted on ESPN2 to air immediately following or within an hour of the conclusion of a FedEx Championship Series telecast on ABC or ESPN. Additionally, the FedEx Championship Series broadcast team of Paul Page, Parker Johnstone and pit reporters Gary Gerould and Jon Beekhuis all regularly reported the achievements of current and graduate Indy Lights drivers in CART Champ Car race telecasts. Gerould and Beekhuis, the 1988 Indy Lights champion, also doubled as the talent team in the booth for Indy Lights telecasts this season. Rick DeBruhl was the Indy Lights pit reporter.
"It all adds up to getting more eyeballs focused on the PPG-Dayton Indy Lights Championship," said Indy Lights President Roger Bailey. "The fact that our current crop of drivers and series graduates are putting on a great show in both Indy Lights and CART Champ Car, however, also plays a major role in building our audience. Simply stated, the drivers are giving our fans something worth watching."
Indy Lights graduates won seven of 20 FedEx Championship Series races this year while competition in the junior series was just as strong. Eight different drivers won PPG-Dayton Indy Lights races while Dorricott-Mears Racing swept the top-three spots in the points-race for the first time in series history with drivers Oriol Servia, Casey Mears and Philipp Peter.
Mears, the son of off-road racing champion Roger Mears and nephew of Champ Car legend Rick Mears, gave U.S.-based viewers a familiar name to follow, but series champion Servia and three-race winner Peter were among several international drivers whose on-track achievements helped bolster Indy Lights' international television exposure. Indy Lights races were regularly telecast in Europe (Eurosport), Mexico (TV Azteca), New Zealand (TVNZ) and Brazil (ESPN Latin America and SBT) in 1999.
"Both here and abroad, the PPG-Dayton Indy Lights Championship was well represented on television this year," Allo said. "We look forward to building on this foundation in the future."
Television information for the 2000 PPG-Dayton Indy Lights Championship schedule, which was announced Wednesday, will be issued in the near future.