The Indy Racing League and the National Hockey League are now television buddies.
The IRL announced that, like the NHL, it will end its relationship with the all-powerful ESPN in favor of a long-term deal with rival sports network Versus.
Financial details of the arrangement have not yet been announced, but we do know that it is a ten-year agreement. it would seem likely that Versus was willing to offer the IRL a healthy rights fee, along with more hours of programming and live race coverage. Versus said that it will dedicate a minimum of three hours of live coverage to each IndyCar Series race, and will also have an hour-long show the day before each race with qualifying highlights and analysis. Additionally, Versus will have at least 10 hours of other anicallary programming throughout the year.
By comparison, ESPN and ESPN2 over the last several years have generally offered little else in the way of IndyCar Series programming aside from races. And most of their race coverage has been of the green-to-checkered variety, with little analysis before or after the race.
Versus, however, did not land the crowned jewel of the IndyCar Series, the Indianapolis 500. ABC will continue to show the storied race along with four others through 2012.
I’m about to hop on a conference call to discuss the deal and will have more details here and in a story in tomorrow’s newspaper.