Maybe Better Than We Think

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First of all, I have a quick personal note before getting into today’s topic.

It’s good to be back after our travels across the country. Last Thursday, Susan and I flew to Idaho to go meet my new grandson who is now six months old. He was born while we were at Road America this past summer, and this is our first chance to get to meet him. I would tell you his name, but my son is of the generation that thinks the aliens are going to swoop down and abduct him if we put his name and/or location on the internet. I feel lucky that I am allowed to post this picture of Susan and me with the boy in the Idaho snow.

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Now on to racier topics…

For the last year and a half or so, fans of the NTT IndyCar season have been clamoring for a knock-off version of the very successful Formula One: Drive to Survive (DTS). In all honesty – DTS had been around for a couple of seasons and not that many people paid attention to it. It wasn’t until the COVID lockdowns that people started paying attention as they were searching for anything to pass the time. Once it was discovered, it took off in popularity.

Susan and I started watching it as she recovered from surgery in February 2021. We binged-watched the first two seasons and realize what a well-produced series it was. Then about a month or so later, Season Three was released, and we knocked it out over a weekend. It was about this time that IndyCar fans really started squawking about an IndyCar version. Fans could see how Formula One was surging in popularity, so they assumed that IndyCar would experience the same wave.

Mario Andretti cautioned fans that such a series would be viewed as a knockoff and would make IndyCar come across as nothing more than a wannabee series. Did that calm the fans screaming for it? No. For the last year and a half, I have seen social media posts from fans, insisting IndyCar come up with something to combat the growing F1 popularity that DTS brought.

Last week, it was announced that IndyCar would, in fact, have their own series. Did it make fans happy? No. They seem more ornery than ever.

100 Days to Indy is the IndyCar answer to DTS. I definitely have mixed emotions regarding this venture., but my opinion is probably more positive than most. First the good: This will only be a six-part docuseries. It will start with the beginning of the season with the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. It will follow the series to subsequent races at Texas, Long Beach and Barber before heading to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the GMR Grand Prix, the Qualifying Weekend and culminating with the 107th Running of the Indianapolis 500.

I think six episodes is enough. I am assuming they will be one-hour each like DTS, but I don’t know that for certain. That’s enough to build excitement for the biggest race of the year. The hope is that enough interest will be built that fans will tune into the Indianapolis 500 just after the final episode and before the remaining races on the schedule.

The bad is what I consider bad, but others consider a positive. This will not be on any major streaming service like Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, Peacock or Paramount Plus. Instead, it will air on The CW and VICE TV.

I am familiar with The CW, but I’ll admit I had to look for it to know where it is on my cable system. It appears they show older episodes of recent TV shows like Modern Family, Young Sheldon and Two and a Half Men (one of my favorites). I will admit, I had never heard of VICE TV. I did notice it is right after TBS and Comedy Central, and just before Comedy TV and IFC – all of which I am familiar with. I looked at VICE and did not recognize any of their programming either. I realize I am a dinosaur and I don’t have a clue what is popular today, but being on one channel I had never heard of, and another that I wasn’t even sure if it still existed; did not give me a ton of hope that 100 Days to Indy would become must-see TV.

We all know the streaming giants and the iconic sports and non-sports networks. I think most of us thought that IndyCar’s DTS knock-off would land on one of those. I don’t think any of us envisioned that it would be launched by a channel where we had to check our cable guide to see if we could access it.

It was stated that the goal was to attract the ever-elusive younger viewer. If that was the goal, I feared that they had missed the target by a wide margin.

Back to the good, I felt a lot better after reading an article that Marshall Pruett put up over the weekend. The article is filled with stats, some more interesting than others. The stat that probably raised the most eyebrows pointed out that 68.3% of NBC’s IndyCar viewing audience is my age group – 55 and older. If you throw in the 45-55 age group, those two groups combined mean that 83.6% of the IndyCar viewing audience is 45 or older. That is not the prime demographic that advertisers shoot for, and it also means that most of your audience will be dead or dying in another thirty years or so. Only 16.4% of the IndyCar viewing audience is under 45. Only 6.4% make up the 18-24 age group – the future fans of IndyCar.

This is why it is so critical for the series to gain new fans. My age group will be all but disappeared in another twenty years. I will be 94 then. If I’m still above ground and still have a brain, I’ll probably still be watching – but not many of us will still be around.

So what made me feel better in the Pruett article? The fact that The CW is a prime destination to young viewers, that’s what. There is a reason I didn’t even know if the station was still around – I am not a young viewer, nor do I pretend to be one. But according to the Pruett article, young viewers flock to The CW.

If 100 Days to Indy is produced to appeal to seventeen year-olds; that probably means I will find it unwatchable. That’s OK, I already know what’s happening with the series and I already know who the drivers are. In fact, you and I probably know more than those producing this show. This isn’t produced for us. They’ve got us. It’s the ones that don’t know that IndyCar even exists that this show will be geared for. They are the ones we want to watch – not us.

Assuming Marshall Pruett has his facts correct (he usually does), then I feel a lot better about this project. It is very different that DTS, which is geared toward hard-core and casual race fans. 100 Days to Indy is geared toward the non-fan, those that may have heard of the Indianapolis 500 but have no real clue what it is. We object to the latest looks of the DW12 with an aero screen, but the non-fan watching The CW may think it’s the coolest looking thing ever. The average seventeen year-old has never been known for good taste – even in my generation.

So while you and I may find the show unwatchable, it may appeal to teens and those in their early twenties – and that is the whole point. If they don’t do something, today’s IndyCar viewing audience will be assuming room temperature sooner than later – and that won’t be good for business at all.

George Phillips

11 Responses to “Maybe Better Than We Think”

  1. so, DTS is geared toward “hard-core”
    and 100 Days is for the “casual”.
    if hard-core has to actively look to
    find 100 Days, will the casual even try?

  2. George, you’ll be 94 in 20 years? That means you’re 74 right now? I don’t believe it!

    I saw an article dated Dec 4 from a younger-crowd site (I think it was about DC Comics, which is big on CW) and in it it said the CW LOSES 300-400 million dollars every year, and they are about to lose a bunch of the DC comics stuff they air. Not a word of this in Pruett’s story nor Miles’s rollout, and not very comforting thoughts.

    There might not even be a CW in a couple of years. Sound familiar?

    • billytheskink Says:

      I suspect the future of the CW is pretty secure since the company that just recently bought majority ownership in the network also owns a host of local CW affiliate stations. They are shedding a lot of their existing scripted shows, particularly the DC Comics stuff, in order to understandably cut costs and reorient the network to better support local affiliates (particularly the ones they own) with local live viewership. That may change the viewership demographics that Pruett touted (local live viewership skews older, of course), we shall see. Vice, especially through their online presence, is likely to be a more impactful source of younger viewers for this show.

      It is interesting in general that Indycar is a part of the network’s programming, I think most of us expected any and all Indycar auxiliary programming to wind up on Peacock or, at best, USA. The CW likely won’t be able to match the viewership of a well-promoted show on one of the top 4 streaming services, but I’ll bet it stacks up quite well against Peacock and USA.

    • You got me. I’ll be 84 in 20 years.

  3. I was wondering about your age too …

    Anyway, you can lump CW and whateveritis in with Peacock as channels unavailable outside the USA.

    Yawn …. who cares.

  4. billytheskink Says:

    I have to say I was a bit puzzled by the demographic shares Pruett quoted in that article. From the published Nielsen ratings, about 22% of Indycar’s TV viewership was in the 18-49 demographic. If only 16.4% of viewers were under the age of 45, then about 7.5% of viewers were in the narrow age range of 45-49? That seems like quite an unlikely concentration. Nevertheless, that doesn’t change the point. Indycar viewership does not skew young (though to be fair, A LOT of TV viewership does not skew young).

    More importantly, your grandson is adorable and I’m glad you all were able to go visit.

  5. I can’t speak for 20-somethings, but if IndyCar thinks this will appeal to teenagers I wouldn’t hold my breath. Everyone talks about how the F1 show has generated popularity for the sport, etc.

    I teach at a high school with 2,000 students (pretty decent size) and I can tell you I’m yet to talk to a kid who’s even heard of Formula One. In my experiences, whatever new fans F1 generated from their show, that didn’t come from teenage kids. I highly doubt that will be any different for IndyCar.

    That said, I’m all for the exposure. I mean, how can it hurt? I don’t feel like I need to watch it, but I’m sure I will anyway. That is, if youtube tv carries the CW or Miami Vice TV.

    Beautiful picture of you, Susan, and your grandchild. Thanks for sharing that with us. You know George, you’re really fortunate to have such a nice head of hair at your age. I’m 47 and bald as sh*t! haha

  6. This sort of reminds me of how “Turbo” was going to turn all of the toddlers into IndyCar fans a decade or so ago. I guess if it had, we wouldn’t be having such a problem attracting those dang teenagers today. I think you nailed it that DTS came along at the perfect time when we were all watching some weird stuff on Netflix (Tiger King, Squid Games, etc.) during the lockdown. I will watch it if I can figure out how and I hope it’s a huge success and attracts lots of new fans. But please don’t follow the NASCAR plan of “We’ve got the old Bastards, now let’s ruin the sport by trying to attract EVERY other human on earth”. Great photo by the way, congratulations on that Grandbaby!

  7. IndyCar is not at the place to ask for a primetime docuseries on major network

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