Racing News

What is behind the decision by Rogers not to put Long Beach IndyCar race on regular TV?

Written by Norris McDonald

UPDATE: At or about noon on Thursday, Sportsnet announced it would show the Grand Prix of Long Beach on Sunday at 4 p.m. EDT on Sportsnet360.

Photo Courtesy, Schmidt Peterson Motorsports
Robbie Wickens of Guelph nearly won the first race of the IndyCar season in St. Petersburg, Fla., and then finished second at Phoenix last weekend (above). He is racing at Long Beach this weekend but unless you like streaming, you will not be able to see him in action. Rogers Sportsnet has scheduled an old wrestling program instead of showing the as-it-happens race.

If you are not an auto racing fan, you don’t know what you’re missing.

The neat thing is that all three series – the top three in the world – are holding races again this weekend, so batten down the hatches because it’s quite possible there will be repeats of what took place four or five days ago.

In Formula One, Ferrari driver and four-time World Champion Sebastian Vettel will be looking to score his third race win of this young season when the lights go out in Shanghai for the Grand Prix of China. Conversely, defending world champion – and another four-time series winner – Lewis Hamilton will be out to score his first win of the year and get rolling toward yet another possible title.
The Verizon IndyCar Series will be racing on the streets of Long Beach in the annual Long Beach Grand Prix. As of this writing (Wednesday night), there was some danger the race would not be on television and only available on a Rogers streaming service.

I was (and am) very upset about this – as are many others. Sportsnet got the IndyCar file a number of years ago after then-IRL president Randy Bernard got sick and tired of TSN’s shabby treatment of the series. Bernard went to see Sportsnet at the first opportunity and Sportsnet has carried every race in the series since – up to and including last Saturday night when they raced under the lights in Phoenix.

Even when there were many other sports being played, Sportsnet found a way to get the IndyCar races on television, including using another Rogers property, City TV. Most of the time, however, the races have been found on either Sportsnet360 or Sportsnet1.

On Wednesday morning of this week, TV auto racing listings guru George Webster noticed that the Long Beach Grand Prix was not listed as being on television. Instead, the schedule indicated it would only be available via a streaming service owned by Rogers.

Now, if Sportsnet had sent out a media release saying there was just so much going on that it was impossible to get the Long Beach race on TV and that the streaming option would be a one-time thing, fine. But they didn’t do that. They tried to sneak it through and kudos to George Webster for sounding the alarm.

And, by the way, although there are 200 hockey games on these days, and the Blue Jays are playing, and Toronto FC is on a tear, and the Raptors are about to start the playoffs and there is curling and golf and on and on and on, Sportsnet has found room on Sportsnet360 to schedule reruns of several professional wrestling shows during the time the Long Beach race will be on.

The question has to be asked then: why is Rogers doing this and why did they choose to do it this way? Rogers owns any number of TV channels. Why did they put this race on streaming rather than on City TV or another channel? On the weekends, when there is no business being conducted, NBC in the U.S. has been known to put additional sports programming on the CNBC business channel – so there are options.
Rogers says the streaming is free if you have Sportsnet on your cable package, which I do. All I have to do is sign in. Well, I don’t want to sign in, which is another way of saying sign up. I do enough business with Rogers. I have a Cadillac cable package with them, as well as Internet and my smartphone, and it costs me a lot of money over the course of a year.

I am always suspicious when I have to sign up for anything, particularly when it’s free. I’m no business genius, but you don’t make any money giving stuff away; sooner or later, people have to pay for it. I am not in any way suggesting that this is what is behind the decision to put this race on streaming but it does make you wonder, doesn’t it?

Many people won’t find out that this race isn’t available on television until Sunday afternoon and then there will be a mad scramble and many race fans won’t see it, period. Which is too bad because three Canadians will be in that race and two in particular, James Hinchcliffe of Oakville and Robert Wickens of Guelph, are tearing up the track so far this season. In fact, there is a very good chance that one or the other of them will win this race; after all, Hinchcliffe did so a year ago.

Which makes the Sportsnet decision even more curious.
Meantime, Kyle Busch won the NASCAR race at Texas Motor Speedway last weekend and the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series is moving to the half-mile speed bowl at Bristol, Tenn., for what always is a cliff-hanger of a race. Stewart-Haas Racing’s Kevin Harvick has been strong all season and is expected to give Busch the Younger a run for his money.

There is always controversy somewhere in auto racing, though, and NASCAR is up to its ears in a doozy.

In NASCAR, some teams have more money than others and can afford to spend money in areas that the poorer teams can’t, such as the equipment used to change tires during pit stops. NASCAR determined that some teams were gaining an edge because they had space-age pit guns while smaller teams had a Model-T variety.

To even the playing field, NASCAR decided to have generic guns manufactured and to hand them out to teams for practice, qualifying and for the races. No team would know which gun they were getting.
Now, cast your mind back to the CART days when that league would hand out pop-off valves for the turbo engines before every practice and the feature race. Teams were always complaining that some pop-offs worked better than others. We’re hearing the same complains about the pit guns.

Harvick even went so far on his radio program the other day to say that NASCAR had created a scenario that was dangerous, that tires were falling off cars because some guns were malfunctioning and not attaching the lug nuts securely.

We have not heard the end of this, I assure you.