IRL's new television package teleconference, part 2

Continued from part 1 Q: So you're leaning Versus at this point for the St. Pete race? TERRY ANGSTADT: That will not be our decision. But we'll be working that out over the next couple of weeks. Q: Marc and Charlie, how will you maybe...

Continued from part 1

Q: So you're leaning Versus at this point for the St. Pete race?

TERRY ANGSTADT: That will not be our decision. But we'll be working that out over the next couple of weeks.

Q: Marc and Charlie, how will you maybe during the next year try to grow the audience? We have the race here coming up this weekend. But Versus, in terms of penetration with Time Warner, maybe one in three homes gets it.

MARC FEIN: We're also available obviously on Direct TV and Dish, as well. You know, at the end of the day, there's a way for the viewers to get it. Certainly throughout the season, if there's markets where locally on the cable systems, we can work on penetration, this will be a great reason for us to get our team into those markets to explain why it's necessary to give Versus better penetration. Certainly we're going to make sure viewers know that the product's now on us and it's available any way they want to get it. Maybe, again, this is a way for our team to get into those markets and help get penetration.

CHARLIE MORGAN: Just adding to that, again, we haven't identified which races will air on which location. So, you know, at this point it's premature to even know whether that's a specific issue with the race you're talking about.

But in general, as I think we talked about on a previous question, I think one of the goals that all three of the organizations share is making sure everyone has access to the programming, awareness of the programming, and direct our fans to being able to find and access that in all the various ways it can be delivered.

Q: Charlie and Terry, what made Versus' presentation maybe rise above the other networks you were looking at?

TERRY ANGSTADT: One very memorable part of the meeting was a brand video that they played for us, and it absolutely was directly aligned with the IndyCar Series brand.

CHARLIE MORGAN: We could have made the video ourselves or wish we had.

TERRY ANGSTADT: Both being growth properties, both being focused on sport, competition, every good attribute that represents, there is outstanding brand alignment between the two organizations.

MARC FEIN: Here I thought it was just the fine cafeteria coffee we got you guys (laughter).

CHARLIE MORGAN: I would say we've also looked at the success model that Versus and the NHL have demonstrated in their short time together. As Marc indicates, their sort of approach of blowing it out, expanding the coverage, the promotion and marketing of the sports that they embrace, and to see the tangible and measurable results that that's produced in the way of viewership, was pretty exciting as we imagined those same sorts of the efforts being put against our sports.

MARC FEIN: Just to reiterate what everyone else is saying here, when you look at the Versus brand, raw, real, authentic, passionate following and fan bases, the way we cover the sport, give them more hours, embrace them, the way they cover them. I mean, on the flipside, you know, we walked out of there as well going, Boy, this would be a great property to have because it aligns so perfectly with who we are.

Q: Charlie and Terry, how much do you think with Versus having the Stanley Cup playoffs, having hockey on for 45 straight days, how is that going to help you in terms of promotion, not only for the beginning of the season, but especially for the month of May with qualifying and all of that?

CHARLIE MORGAN: Absolutely believe that the cross promotion will be outstanding. One of the things we looked at is what does an Indy racing fan or viewer, what's their awareness of Versus. If you look at the research, even before our sport has ever appeared once on that channel, it way out-indexes the average American for awareness and viewership. I think that's largely due to the kinds of programming they already have being appealing to the same kinds of people who are fans of Indy Racing and the NHL. And the playoffs leading into our season couldn't be a better platform to introduce our product to those viewers.

Q: Has there been any discussion with Canadian networks for broadcast rights?

CHARLIE MORGAN: The international distribution is certainly obviously a part of the deal. Together with Versus, we on the IndyCar Series will be determining the best way to do that.

We have not specifically -- to answer your question, we have not specifically identified which Canadian networks or distribution channels will be used for 2009. But very high on our initial action items is securing our international distribution partners and making sure, again, just as we're talking about domestically, that all of our fans are aware of where the programming will be available.

Q: Terry, how is Direct TV going to work into this? Potentially trying to draw the casual fan over to Versus so they can find it.

TERRY ANGSTADT: We've enjoyed not a long relationship, but a very good one so far with Direct TV. I don't know if you've seen their cross-channel promotion spot that is dedicated to IndyCar (Series) racing. They have stepped in and really hit the ground running.

We're very hopeful that this will continue in this new arena. Again, it's a little early to say. In fact, our contact, we were attempting to chat this morning on this, and is not available until Monday. But we think it will continue to be a very good relationship.

Q: The international distribution, in the past I believe ESPN International did all the distribution. As I read the press release today, I believe the races on ABC will be ESPN International distribution. Is there any chance that the Versus races would also go out that way or will it be a country-by-country deal?

CHARLIE MORGAN: I think there is a chance that could be a continuing relationship. Again, as I indicated previously, those rights and the decision on how we'll do the distribution we'll do in partnership with Marc and his organization at Versus. But I think all potential distribution methods are kind of currently on the table for us to examine what will be the most effective.

As Tony said, we started this process, one of our primary goals was giving our fans, both locally and worldwide, the most access to the most programming so that they could follow our sport. And that will certainly be the guiding principle on determining how we distribute internationally.

Q: Marc, can you give us a breakdown of subscribers between basic digital and satellite.

MARC FEIN: I cannot. I can do a follow-up with our PR person. I don't have that information. I'm not sure what we release in that area. Again, I know we are able to everyone everywhere.

Q: Scott, what will be the criterion for the four races?

SCOTT GUGLIELMINO: The criteria for the four races, again, I think Charlie might have hit on this earlier. We basically haven't really got into the detail there in terms of which races are going to go on which networks at this point.

There are a lot of things that go into it. I mean, certainly there's the discussion earlier about kicking off the season and which way makes the most sense for the property. There's also, from our perspective, obviously having the 500, that gives us a nice platform to promote from. That's certainly going to be something we're going to be looking at from our kind of centric spot.

I think there's also from our spot lead-ins and things like that, live lead-ins with similar demographics. Things like that all play into it for us. Again, I think it's something that we together have to discuss and figure out the best solution for.

Q: Tony, if the world is constantly changing, why a 10-year deal?

TONY GEORGE: Well, I think we're in the midst of a 45-year deal with ABC that has overtime reviewed. It doesn't seem prudent from either one of our standpoints to enter into a three-year deal. I mean, it takes some time. For that portion of our partnership, 10 years is not that long. I think also Versus is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Comcast. It's a leader in technologies. Those types of things are very appealing to us. We think it's going to put us on the leading edge of those technologies as they develop.

Q: Terry, when Tony mentioned constituents, how were the fans consulted?

TERRY ANGSTADT: Well, it's interesting because our fans are not shy about emailing all of us personally.

TONY GEORGE: Unfortunately, they all figure out my email address.

TERRY ANGSTADT: Tony's in particular, which then all gets forward to the rest of us (laughter).

Our fans are very vocal. We absolutely do appreciate the passion our fans show. And one of the things they are not shy about voicing their opinion on is when occasionally we will have a challenge, if we'll either come in late or have to leave early, whatever those challenges might be. So we think we know that not only are owners, drivers, fans, venues, just generally speaking to increased programming with a consistent message from all of those groups. So the ability to learn the personalities of Tony Kanaan and Scott Dixon and Dan Wheldon, deeper than we do now, and to be able to get to know a St. Petersburg more, all of the enhancements that just more exposure, more programming can bring, is important.

So we know that our current fans and hopefully future fans will appreciate the ability to just interact more with our sport.

CHARLIE MORGAN: In addition to that, we certainly do from time to time through a variety of venues market research to understand the behavior patterns of our fans and our viewers, both in the feedback that comes back from that overtime and really just in watching their behaviors. For instance, one of the things that was probably pretty readily observable to everyone is that when one of our dynamic stars was shown outside of his fire suit and helmet on Dancing With the Stars, the interest in him and our sport expanded. Again, literally seeing how people respond to those kinds of behaviors is another sign to us of when we have the opportunity to expose these drivers, not just in competitive mode, but beyond that, we've seen a positive result from it. That's another way we measure our fan response.

Q: Marc, I read that you have just signed a new interactive broadcast partner that will provide real-time content for the online fans to go along with your NHL and college sports packages on Versus. Is there any chance we may see something like that with the IndyCar Series telecast next year? To that end, what are your other plans on expanding the scope of the series beyond broadcast media?

MARC FEIN: That's the fun part that we're all looking forward to, the Indy guys and us, sitting down and figuring it out. The ink has just dried, but certainly we'll be having those meetings. I think we are all in agreement that anything we can do to enhance the viewer experience, we should do it. What site that lives on, we will all talk about that, too, to see how to maximize that.

But what you did read is something that we've done with some of our other sports with Jack for the company to just get a different experience. And I think we're going to be kicking around lots of great ideas, some of which will never make it out of the conference room, I'm sure, and others which will and hopefully will turn out great.

I think that's the fun part now that we're all looking forward to getting into it.

Q: How far away are we from live broadcast of the Firestone Indy Lights Series races? What will this new agreement mean as far as focus and programming about the Indy Lights Series?

CHARLIE MORGAN: The Indy Lights product will be a Versus product. To be perfectly honest, we have not yet really had the opportunity to get with Marc and his folks to discuss the exact broadcast windows, length of window, and live versus tape on that. I can't give you a direct answer on how close we may or may not be.

In general, though, and I'll let Marc expand if he'd like to, the Firestone Indy Lights, definitely was a part of the broader package that we were discussing, and I think Versus was excited to have added to their arsenal of IndyCar and IndyCar-related programming.

MARC FEIN: Well said. Pretty much what Charlie said, we're excited to have all the product coming to us from this deal. In one way, shape or form there certainly will be Indy Lights on our network. But, again, that's something else that is, as I keep mentioning, part of the fun process and meetings that we're going to have over the next few months to figure out what to do on that front.

THE MODERATOR: Gentlemen, thank you for joining us today. We appreciate that. Congratulations to all sides on today's announcement.

-credit: irl

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Scott Dixon , Tony Kanaan , Dan Wheldon