NBC will become the first network other than ABC to broadcast the Indianapolis 500.
NBC announced Wednesday that it would televise the 2019 Indianapolis 500. ABC has broadcast the 500 every year since 1965, but this May’s running of the fabled IndyCar race will be the network’s last broadcast. At least for the next three years.
The IndyCar Series’ current television contract is split between NBC and ABC, with most of the series’ races on NBC Sports Network and the Indianapolis 500 and a few other races on ABC. Starting in 2019, all IndyCar races will be on either NBC or NBCSN.
No other network has provided national television coverage of the Indianapolis 500 other than ABC. The network first started televising the Indy 500 in 1965 as part of the series’ Wide World of Sports broadcasts.
“ABC has been a fantastic partner, not only for the 500 but for its broad coverage of the Verizon IndyCar Series,” IndyCar CEO Mark Miles said in a statement. “This partnership will continue with the 102nd running of the Indianapolis 500 in May and together we look forward to the successful year ahead.”
The network switch comes as IndyCar’s television contracts are up at the end of the 2018 season. The news of the Indy 500 moving from ABC was apparently broken over the weekend by an Atlanta-based meteorologist, who tweeted an ABC internal release saying the 2018 race would be the last one on the network.
“We have had a wonderful and rewarding relationship with the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the Indianapolis 500 and INDYCAR and it has been our distinct honor to be partners for so many years,” ESPN vice president Burke Magnus said in a statement. “We look forward to the rest of our events this season and wish them all the best in the future.”
The Indianapolis 500 is still by far one of the two biggest auto racing events in North America despite the recent decline of the IndyCar Series. The series saw a slight uptick in television ratings for the season-opening race in St. Petersburg, a welcoming sign for a racing series that’s struggled for relevancy outside the month of May ever since the Indy Racing League and CART split in the 1990s.
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Nick Bromberg is a writer for Yahoo Sports.
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