IndyCar CEO questions Maffei about recent comments on TV coverage

By Adam Stern
Liberty Media CEO Greg Maffei said that Sky Sports’ F1 coverage trumps NBC Sports’ Indianapolis 500 coverageGetty Images

IndyCar CEO Mark Miles disagrees with Liberty Media CEO Greg Maffei’s assessment that Sky Sports’ F1 coverage trumps NBC Sports’ Indianapolis 500 coverage, and he spoke to Maffei in recent days to question why Maffei suggested that publicly. Maffei was speaking at a Bloomberg Power Players conference sponsored by in Miami last week as part of the F1 Miami Grand Prix. At one point during his one-on-one while referencing how Liberty has tried to improve the fan and viewer experience, Maffei compared F1’s coverage to that of the Indy 500. He said, “If any of you watch the Indy 500 ... look at the difference in the coverage and how strong the F1 coverage [on Sky Sports] is versus the Indy 500 coverage [on NBC].” Maffei said in his comments that he was not biased against IndyCar as seen by how Liberty Media is an investor in Meyer Shank Racing, the IndyCar and IMSA team that won last year’s Indy 500. Nonetheless, the comments drew the ire of some of IndyCar’s fanbase and industry when they were shared on social media. Some felt it was poor form given that they came in the month of May, which is IndyCar’s most important month of the year. This year’s 106th running of the Indy 500 is May 29 on NBC.

LOOKING FOR CLARIFICATION: Speaking to SBJ, Miles said he spoke with Maffei in recent days but he did not specify how or where. Miles and Maffei know each other in part because Liberty was one of the companies that looked at buying IndyCar and Indianapolis Motor Speedway before Roger Penske ultimately purchased them for around $300M in late '19. Miles said of their conversation in recent days: “I just said, ‘Hey what was that about?’ ... He chose to say that, and we think that’s not true. If you take him up on the challenge and look at the 500, look at the quality of the production by Sky for F1 and NBC for the 500, I don’t think we’ll have any reason not to be proud.” Miles said it was a “quite friendly conversation and quite amicable -- I was just curious what his thought process was.”

BIG CROWD AT THE BRICKYARD: Meanwhile, Miles confirmed that IMS is expecting to host slightly over 300,000 people for this year’s Indy 500, which will set a new post-pandemic single-day crowd record globally. He says IMS is about 20,000 tickets ahead of where sales were in '19 at this time and about 20,000 tickets behind where they were in '16, which was the 100th running when 350,000 people attended the massive event on one day. This will be Penske’s first 500 with no capacity limits. His first 500 as owner in '20 was before no fans for the first time ever and last year the venue hosted about 135,000 fans.

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