CBS Says SRX Isn't Testing Ground for IndyCar, NASCAR Pursuit

·3 min read
Photo credit: Icon Sportswire - Getty Images
Photo credit: Icon Sportswire - Getty Images

Superstar Racing Experience is not a testing ground for CBS to explore additional motorsport acquisitions over the next several years with CBS Sports chairman Sean McManus ruling out an IndyCar bid.

During a Thursday teleconference, McManus responded to an Autoweek question and said there was no room for motorsports as PGA golf primarily runs head-to-head with racing on Sunday, including last month during the Indianapolis 500 TV window.

"This is a standalone property for us that is unbelievably exciting because we are getting involved on the ground floor -- working with Tony (Stewart), Ray (Evernham) and George (Pyne).

"Sandy (Montag) and his team has been working on a perfect made for television racing series. Our priority is on SRX. We are not currently looking at any other motorsports property primarily because our CBS Network schedule is full.

"We have golf pretty much on every week when there's an IndyCar or NASCAR race, so currently, there's no room for racing at the end for us on CBS. I would look at it as an exciting series and a breakthrough opportunity for us."

In addition to the PGA, CBS also has the rights to college basketball in the spring and the NFL in the fall.

Photo credit: Frederick M. Brown - Getty Images
Photo credit: Frederick M. Brown - Getty Images

The IndyCar television rights are up at the end of the year -- the final season of a three-year agreement. The NASCAR broadcast rights will come up after the 2024 season.

Superstar Racing Experience will debut on Saturday night with a marquee driver roster that includes Stewart, Greg Biffle, Tony Kanaan, Marco Andretti, Paul Tracy, Willy T. Ribbs, Bill Elliott and reigning Indianapolis 500 winner Helio Castroneves.

The series will air over the next six weeks from iconic short tracks Stafford, Knoxville Raceway, Eldora Speedway, Lucas Oil Raceway, Slinger Speedway and Nashville Fairgrounds.

For CBS, the mini-series is a low commitment, high-ceiling live sporting event that fills the network television void that is Saturday nights—while also providing another IP for its Paramount+ streaming platform.

"Streaming is a huge priority of this company," McManus said. "Paramount+ is growing substantially every month and to have really good content that skews towards a younger and more diverse audience is what we're striving for.

"So, this series fits in the wheelhouse for both streaming and CBS prime time … It's a great vehicle for us from a subscription standpoint and I think it's going to drive viewers to our network."

The Indianapolis 500 earned its highest television ratings in five years last month and a significant surge over the 2020 race, which was held in August behind closed doors due to COVID-19 and was the least-watched broadcast in race history.

The 2021 race averaged 5.581 million viewers.

IndyCar and Indianapolis Motor Speedway owner Roger Penske said on Friday during an appearance at Belle Isle Raceway Park that those numbers will be beneficial as his staff negotiates a new deal.

"Success never hurts when you’re about to negotiate something just in general business, so I would say that’s a good omen for us," Penske said. "But there’s many things that go into where we’re going and television for the future. Technology is changing fast."

CBS was the first network to air a NASCAR event in 1960.

It also aired the first flag-to-flag broadcast of the Daytona 500 in 1979, an event that drew 15.1 million viewers due in part to a snowstorm that locked many Northeastern families in their homes that afternoon. The race propelled NASCAR into the national mainstream and led to other broadcast deals with ESPN and Turner Sports.

NASCAR remained on CBS in some form until 2000, when NASCAR signed a new television agreement with FOX Sports and NBC Sports.

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