IndyCar in talks over behind-the-scenes TV series or one-off

Penske Entertainment Corp. is currently discussing the viability and nature of a series centered around IndyCar, following the success of the Formula 1-based Drive to Survive.

IndyCar in talks over behind-the-scenes TV series or one-off
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The Netflix-broadcast Drive to Survive documentary series has been credited with raising the profile of F1, particularly in the U.S., while yesterday MotoGP confirmed the series premiere of MotoGP Unlimited on Amazon  .

IndyCar drivers and senior team officials have commented both on and off the record that they’ve enjoyed Drive to Survive and would welcome something similar in IndyCar.

Now Mark Miles, Penske Entertainment Corp.’s president and CEO has told Motorsport.com that such a project based around IndyCar is being discussed with broadcast companies, although its exact nature has yet to be verified.

“When you say documentary, it’s historical, retrospective, and a genre that we’ve had conversations about,” he said. “There are unscripted series, such as Drive to Survive, where each episode comprises footage that they’ve shot and they pull it together and decide how they want to present it as a story. Then there are scripted series where there are actors and someone is writing, directing and turning it into episodes – Yellowstone, for example.

“And then there is specially-created shoulder content – an hour-long show, say, about something IndyCar. It might be a one-off, but it’s not live coverage of a race; it’s special content.

“Now we have what I’d term encouraging conversations, irons in the fire, about all of those, and I think we’re the closest with the latter, the special feature, and with the unscripted feature. But the reality is that it’s a little bit like our OEM hunt – you can have really good conversations, get to the ultimate meeting, and it doesn’t happen.

“So it’s not over until it’s over. What I can say is that a lot of work is being done by very competent content creators and producers, and the conversations continue about the platforms and the potential distribution.”

Miles pointed out that a series doesn’t need to be right up-to-date to be compelling, and that Drive to Survive has not suffered by being about the previous year’s racing but is being broadcast on the eve of the next season.

He said: “Looking at Drive to Survive, you have a British-based producer who came up with the concept, puts it together, literally made the episodes and sold it to Netflix. They create as they go. They look at what’s going on, they develop stories based on what’s topical or the drivers or teams that are compelling, and it’s a pretty fluid process. But it’s way after the fact.

“If we made a deal that we could announce in May, it might not see the light of day – just purely as an example – until September. The special sauce in Drive to Survive has been that it offers the chance for people to see behind the scene, the people and the color. The audience aren’t necessarily watching the races. They got interested in the series because it’s good drama and the interest for them is not about watching the championship evolve contemporarily, as a fan would do.”

The idea of seeing behind the scenes in Formula 1 has a natural appeal to current and potential fans because there has long been an air of mystique around the F1 paddock, given its extremely limited access. By contrast, the IndyCar paddock is renowned for being very open, allowing fans up close to watch car prep and maintenance and to interact with drivers, team owners and personnel.

Miles said he wasn’t worried that IndyCar lacked the essential intrigue that generates fascination and has led to Drive to Survive’s success.

“I don’t think that’s a limiting factor or much of an issue,” he replied. “I don’t think anyone who decides to take on an IndyCar project is going to follow the same formula as Drive to Survive. That has worked for F1, but I don’t think the way forward is to do the same thing just with a different brand.

“The creative folks talk with us about how they might want to approach it, which could be an episode on rookies, an episode on women in the series – those aren’t specifics, I just made them up – but it isn’t going to be the same editorial approach, I wouldn’t think.”

Miles said that the target would, however, be similar to F1’s cooperation in the making of Drive to Survive and Dorna’s endorsement of MotoGP Unlimited.

“The ideal opportunity would be where the format is such that, whether it’s an established fan or somebody who’s not following the races, to have them understand and appreciate the personalities, the dynamics and whatever the plotlines are, in a way that they can’t get by just following a race weekend.

“That’s really helpful and important, because we don’t have nearly as much coverage of our drivers and owners and engineers as we’d like. What we’ve got primarily is centered around drivers in helmets in racecars. To open them up, expose them as people, is really helpful in developing more fans.”

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