CHAMPCAR/CART: Champ Car television announcement press conference

CART Champ Car press conference with Chris Pook and CBS Sports Senior Vice-President of Programming Rob Correa. Adam Saal: Busy day here at the Molson Indy Toronto. We'll take a couple minutes out of your busy schedule. Thanks for joining us...

CART Champ Car press conference with Chris Pook and CBS Sports Senior Vice-President of Programming Rob Correa.

Adam Saal: Busy day here at the Molson Indy Toronto. We'll take a couple minutes out of your busy schedule. Thanks for joining us to talk about a very exciting announcement. As some of you may be aware, today's race will be live back in the US on CBS, as we continue to work with that great network in building our sport. Here to talk a little bit more about that relationship going forward is CBS Sports Senior Vice President of programming, Rob Correa. Welcome, Rob.

Rob Correa: Thank you.

Adam Saal: As well as CART Champ Car President and CEO Christopher R. Pook. Chris, if you could do the honors and talk about what we're here to announce today.

Chris Pook: Thanks, Adam. As you know, Championship Auto Racing Teams and the Champ Car series is now in the second year of its relationship with CBS. And it's a relationship that we've been working on together and building together over the past year and a half.

Today's announcement is to say that in 2004, 10 of our races will be on the CBS network, including the season opener at St. Petersburg in February. Other races that will be on, of course, will be Long Beach, and I would suspect Portland and races such as this next year. We are not announcing our calendar today. We will not announce our calendar, I would say, for at least another three or four weeks. But we did want to take the opportunity today to tell you about the growing relationship with CBS and to introduce Rob Correa to you, who is a big supporter of our series. We're very grateful to him for his faith in us and, indeed, our production team headed by Terry Linger. Rob.

Rob Correa: We're excited to be continuing and trying to build our ratings race by race, year by year. I think it's especially encouraging for us to kick off the season in February with the February 22nd race from Florida at 12 noon. I think that really will get us a leg up on the series as opposed to coming in during the season in June. So I think that alone is a terrific addition, I think for Champ Car and for CBS. The fact that we can get up to 10 races as opposed to the seven we're doing this year is also very encouraging, I think.

Adam Saal: The Grand Prix of Long Beach, as Chris mentioned, will return to network broadcasting after the SPEED Channel this year, and this will also be the first time since 2001 we'll kick off our season with the opener on network television. We look forward to that. Do we have questions or additional comments.

Q: Is this a time buy situation?

Chris Pook: Yes, it's a time buy-in production to CBS. We're still working with CBS on that basis, as I should point out to you, are many more sports working with networks. I want to remind you there still are a large number of golf tournaments that are time buys. Years ago, most of the golf was on time buy. As we rebuild our ratings and our relationship, we will continue in this business relationship with CBS, who have entrusted us with the production of their shows, which is for us very, very reassuring. We're very grateful to Rob and his colleagues at CBS for trusting us in that manner.

Rob Correa: It's the only live show, live series of shows, that CBS does where we allow "outsiders, outside package, non-CBS personnel" to produce and direct the show for us. That's really a sign of the faith we have in Champ Car.

Adam Saal: That system is in place this year, as well. We have CBS personnel on-site. We have Brian Lilly here to help out with the production team. Other than that, it is Lingner Productions through and through. We in turn are grateful for that support extended us from CBS. Additional questions.

Q: Where will the other nine races be?

Chris Pook: I would suspect we will continue our relationship with SPEED Channel. They've been with us. We haven't entered those discussions yet. We thought it was important to get the network programming in place first with CBS, then we'll open up those discussions and see how we move forward. SPEED Channel has been very good to us, have been with us for the last year and a half. They've been very, very supportive partners and do an outstanding job for us.

Q: Is there a chance that you won't be on SPEED next year?

Chris Pook: I suppose anything's a possibility in this world today. The first place that discussions would start would be at SPEED.

Q:   Maybe you could explain to us why CBS is not yet prepared to do a
non-time buy.  I don't know what the proper terminology is.

Rob Correa: I mean, I can answer that question two ways: First of all, there really shouldn't be a negative connotation with "time buy". It's a reality of doing business these days. On our schedule alone, let alone our competitors', we do everything from the Tour de France, horse racing, we've done college football bowl games in the past, we do golf, tennis, specials, I'm sure I'm leaving out three or four different sports. It's kind of the reality of doing business these days.

On the probably more important front, particularly in the Champ Car property, it is absolutely the best way to generate the most amount of revenue because Chris' people have access to sponsors that we, CBS, just selling media, don't have. Clearly, again, I think you have to get away from any potential negative connotation that the "time buy" has, and look at it more as a way of generating the most revenue possible.

Q: Over the course of this summer so far, I've seen, hasn't exactly been blanketed, but I've seen some pretty enthusiastic shall we say promotion of the CART races, Champ Car races, on CBS, not necessarily on the Champ Car race shows themselves, but I think I've seen them on the morning show and other sorts of things. Can you perhaps talk about how much promotion is going into it now and maybe will there be more next year?

Chris Pook: Clearly, I think our numbers back it up, we are promoting the series more and better this year, airing more on-air spots, we're doing radio. We've ramped it up a bit this year probably something to the effect of 30 to 40 percent. Clearly it's something we'd love to do in the future. You know, it's always a battle because there's a lot of shows at CBS that need to get promoted and want to be promoted. But I think we've proven this year that we've stepped it up. That's something we'd like to continue to do in the future. It's a very crucial element in building the series from a television perspective.

Adam Saal: As it does fall in the communications area, I can speak to the fact that we have been able to take advantage of some of the offers that and Rob and his people have given to us. Radio affiliates in the CBS networks, for example. We did a Bobby Rahal media tour that was very successful via radio a couple weeks ago, and even the promotions, down to the written words are done in cooperation with both offices. So we are grateful for that.

Q: We've heard many times that sports television is a different world than it was 10 years ago. What do you guys consider a realistic, achievable target for an average Nielson rating per show?

Rob Correa: I mean, I think what we're going to focus on is we're going to try and grow it every year. I mean, without getting into specific numbers, we want to see growth every year if possible. That's not easy to do. Particularly in today's day and age, if you look at virtually every other sport, flat from one year to the other is considered successful.

Q: This year it was decided not to go head-to-head with the Daytona NASCAR race. Cleveland was a very good event from a spectator point of view from the monitors. Is it on the table to go head-to-head, do a network broadcast from Cleveland?

Rob Correa: Going head-to-head with?

Q: If Cleveland is on the same day as the Pepsi race.

Rob Correa: Oh, the Pepsi race. No, at this point it's an afternoon series for us. Any sport that goes head-to-head with itself, whether it's golf going up against golf or auto versus auto, I just don't think it makes great sense at this point.

Q: The IRL runs day races. At some point, they have 16 races this year, you're going head-to-head.

Rob Correa: We'd love to avoid that, honestly. But with the CBS network schedule, the ABC network schedule, that's sometimes unavoidable. I mean, clearly we'd love to avoid that. It has nothing to do with IRL versus Champ Car, anything like that. It's just not good television programming when similar sports, the same sport basically, open-wheel racing, goes up against itself. We'd love to avoid it, but I'm sure in certain cases it will be unavoidable.

Chris Pook: We have had discussions on that. Rob has discussed that with us, our advisors. We will address that issue going forward. We've assured CBS we will address that issue. That means that we will talk to the IRL about that and see if we can arrive at a solution so we don't go head-to-head with each other.

Adam Saal:  On motorsports, you have to gauge your competition in total,
what you're airing against.  Cleveland was our highest-rated race this
past weekend.  We reached over a million households, I believe the final
was 1.1.  Even on a tape basis, we achieved some success with that.

Q: How many of the 10 races will be live next year?

Chris Pook: At the moment, I believe we're hoping to do at least eight of them live. But, again, that's a process of discussion right now, not only with CBS but with our promoters, as well, who are the other part of the equation. We have to respect what they're doing, as well.

It's a bit of a balancing act. But I would say to you at least eight of them. There was concern about going delayed from Brands Hatch. CBS did an outstanding job for us on that show. Of course, we followed the next day with our race from Germany. We were on a Saturday/Sunday schedule there which showed positive benefits to everybody involved.

Q: Can you give us any idea what the money figures are? I know you're a public company, but CBS of course is not.

Chris Pook: We don't discuss those things. It's a menu without prices.

Adam Saal:  We want to thank everybody for taking time out of the day to
join us.  Great news, Rob, Chris.  Thank you very much.

-cart-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Bobby Rahal , Chris Pook
Tags TV