The Indianapolis 500 has been broadcast on network television in the United States since 1965. From 1965 to 2018, the event was broadcast by ABC, making it the second-longest-running relationship between an individual sporting event and television network, surpassed only by CBS Sports' relationship with the Masters Tournament (since 1956). In 2014, ABC celebrated fifty years televising the Indianapolis 500, not including 1961 through 1964 when reports and highlights of time trials were aired on ABC's Wide World of Sports. Since 2019, the race has aired on NBC.
From 1965 to 1970, ABC televised a combination of filmed and/or taped recorded highlights of the race the following weekend on Wide World of Sports. The 1965 and 1966 presentations were in black-and-white, while all subsequent presentations have been in color. From 1971 to 1985, the Indianapolis 500 was shown on a same-day tape delay basis. Races were edited to a two- or three-hour broadcast, and shown in prime time. Starting in 1986, the race has been shown live in "flag-to-flag" coverage. In the Indianapolis market, as well as other parts of Indiana, the live telecast is blacked out and shown tape delayed to encourage live attendance. For 2016, the race was completely sold out, and as such the local blackout was lifted for that year. Since 2007, the race has been aired in high definition.
Currently, the television voice of the Indy 500 is Leigh Diffey, who has been working the race since NBC took over in 2019. The last television voice of the Indy 500 for ABC was Allen Bestwick, who held the position from 2014 to 2018. Past television anchors include Chris Schenkel, Jim McKay, Keith Jackson, Jim Lampley, Paul Page, Bob Jenkins, Todd Harris, and Marty Reid. Other longtime fixtures of the broadcast include Jack Arute, Sam Posey, Jackie Stewart, Bobby Unser, and Dr. Jerry Punch.
On August 10, 2011, ABC extended their exclusive contract to carry the Indianapolis 500 through 2018. Starting in 2014, the contract also includes live coverage of the IndyCar Grand Prix on the road course.
In 2019, the Indianapolis 500 moved to NBC, as part of a new three-year contract that unifies the IndyCar Series' television rights with NBC Sports (the parent division of IndyCar's current cable partner NBCSN), and replaces the separate package of five races broadcast by ABC. The Indianapolis 500 is one of eight races televised by NBC as part of the new deal, which ended ABC's 54-year tenure as broadcaster of the event. WTHR is the local broadcaster of the race under this contract; the existing blackout policy is expected to continue.
|Pit reporters||Roving Reporters|
|2020||NBC||Host: Mike Tirico
Studio analyst: Danica Patrick
|Leigh Diffey||Townsend Bell
|2019||NBC host: Mike Tirico
NBCSN host: Krista Voda
Studio Analyst: Danica Patrick
|Dale Earnhardt Jr.|
- Dillon Welch is the first second-generation broadcaster to be involved in the race telecast. His father Vince worked the race in the ABC era until 2014.
- Starting in 1986, the race was shown live in its entirety. The 1986 race, however, was postponed for six days due to rain.
- From 2007 to 2018, live coverage was produced by ESPN. Also in 2007, Rusty Wallace and Jamie Little worked the 500, but did not cover any other races that season.
- Rupert Boneham once worked as part of the ABC Sports production crew at Indy.
ABC-TV live telecast gallery
Same-day tape delay coverage
From 1971 to 1985, the Indianapolis 500 was shown on a same-day tape delay basis. Races were edited down to a between two and three hour broadcast, and shown in prime time. It was also blacked out in the Indianapolis market until a later date. The broadcasts would typically open with the rendition of "Back Home Again in Indiana", and the starting command, but no other pre-race ceremonies. In addition, the broadcast was supplemented with some pre-recorded, in-depth featurettes, aired during down times. Later telecasts included live introductions at the top and bottom of the broadcast, with the closing segment sometimes an interview with the race winner, which by that time, had been revealed to the viewers. During this period, the announcers' commentary at both the start and finish of the race were recorded as those events transpired. However, the commentary of the middle parts of the race was semi-scripted, and recorded in post-production, and edited into the broadcast as it was being aired.
- In 1973, Jackie Stewart was scheduled to be the color commentator. The race however, was red flagged on Monday due to the Salt Walther crash, and rain delayed the start until Wednesday. Stewart was unable to stay for the race running on Wednesday since he was due to compete the following weekend as a driver in the Grand Prix of Monaco, so Chris Economaki took his place.
- In 1971 Chris Schenkel was supposed to be the telecast host, but was injured when the pace car crashed coming into the pits at the start of the race.
- In 1971, a young David Letterman, who then worked at ABC's then-Indianapolis affiliate WLWI-TV, was one of the roving turn reporters.
Wide World of Sports & closed-circuit coverage
Race commentary for ABC's Wide World of Sports broadcasts was recorded during post-production. During the actual running of the race, anchor Jim McKay occasionally served as a roving reporter, recording interviews in the pits and garage area, which was later edited into the broadcast. In some years the broadcast also included highlights of time trials. From 1964 to 1970, the Indianapolis 500 was shown live on closed-circuit television in theaters and other similar venues across the United States. All live closed circuit broadcasts were anchored by Charlie Brockman.
Local live coverage
The Indianapolis 500 was first broadcast on television from 1949 to 1950 on WFBM (now WRTV) in Indianapolis. It was done to boost sales of television sets. At the time, there was consideration for the race to be broadcast nationally by 1951 or 1952, possibly through a network syndication arrangement originating through WFBM. After two years, however, the Speedway management decided to eliminate live television coverage, fearful that live local television coverage would hurt gate attendance. Likewise, the cost to expand the broadcast nationally was considered prohibitive. For 1951, WFBM-TV was permitted to televise time trials live, but not the race itself. In future years, local live coverage of time trials would continue in various forms, but the race itself was to be blacked out in the Indianapolis area. Only once (2016) would the local blackout be lifted on race day.
|Year||Network||host||Lap-by-lap announcer||Color commentators||Pit reporters|
|1950||WFBM||Earl Townsend||Earl Townsend||Dick Pittenger||Paul Roberts|
|1949||WFBM||Earl Townsend||Earl Townsend||Dick Pittenger
Time trials and practice
ABC carried highlights of time trials for the first time in 1961. ABC continued to cover time trials exclusively through the 1970s and early 1980s. In 1987 ESPN began covering portions of time trials. From 1987 to 2008, time trials was aired over a combination of ABC, ESPN, and ESPN2, in varying levels of air time. From 2009 to 2013, time trials was aired on Versus/NBCSN. Time trials returned to ABC in 2014-2018. NBC and NBCSN have aired time trials since 2019.
In 1993, ESPN began covering daily practice session, with a wrap-up show each afternoon. The "Indy Live Daily Reports" continued through 2006, and in some years were packaged as part of RPM 2Night or SportsCenter. Since 2009, Carb Day has been aired by Versus/NBCSN. Live streaming of practice began in 2001. Streaming providers have included: Indy500.com official site (2001, 2004), Yahoo! (2002-2003 & 2006), WhiteBoxPC/NeuLion (2009), YouTube (2010-2018), and NBC Sports Gold (2019).
- "Motorsports This Week on ESPN and ABC". ESPN Media Zone. May 23, 2011. Archived from the original on May 26, 2011. Retrieved May 24, 2011.
- Feck, Luke (May 27, 1961). "Men And Machines Race The Clock". The Cincinnati Enquirer. p. 10. Retrieved March 16, 2018 – via Newspapers.com.
- "Week's Programs Sunday May 20". St. Louis Post-Dispatch. May 20, 1962. p. 234. Retrieved March 25, 2018 – via Newspapers.com.
- "TV Programs". St. Louis Post-Dispatch. May 18, 1963. p. 16. Retrieved March 25, 2018 – via Newspapers.com.
- "TV Programs". St. Louis Post-Dispatch. May 15, 1964. p. 48. Retrieved March 25, 2018 – via Newspapers.com.
- Cavin, Curt (May 25, 2016). "IMS blackout lifted after Indy 500 sellout". The Indianapolis Star. Retrieved March 23, 2018.
- Yoder, Matt (September 30, 2013). "ESPN fires racing announcer Marty Reid". AwfulAnnouncing.com. Retrieved March 23, 2018.
- "Indy 500 will remain on ABC into 2018". ESPN. August 10, 2011. Retrieved March 23, 2018.
- Hall, Andy (March 25, 2014). "IndyCar Series Season To Open on ABC from St. Petersburg" (Press release). ESPN. Retrieved April 10, 2014.
- "INDYCAR SIGNS MULTIYEAR MEDIA RIGHTS PACKAGE WITH NBC SPORTS GROUP". IndyCar Series. March 21, 2018. Retrieved March 23, 2018.
- Ayello, Jim (March 21, 2018). "The Indy 500 will soon have a new TV network". The Indianapolis Star. Retrieved March 23, 2018.
- Steinberg, Brian (March 21, 2018). "NBC Sports Grabs Indianapolis 500 Rights From ABC After 54 Years". Variety. Retrieved March 23, 2018.
- Ayello, Jim (March 21, 2018). "How IndyCar-NBC deal will affect local Indy 500 blackout". The Indianapolis Star. Retrieved March 23, 2018.
- Ayello, Jim (April 3, 2019). "Dale Earnhardt Jr. joins Mike Tirico, Danica Patrick on NBC broadcast team for Indy 500". The Indianapolis Star. Retrieved April 3, 2019.
- Indianapolis 500 (2000) home page at Hollywood.com
- The 83rd Indianapolis 500 (1999) home page at Hollywood.com
- Race was scheduled for Sunday May 25, but rain postponed the start until Monday May 26. After 15 laps were completed, rain resumed, and the conclusion of the race was held Tuesday May 27.
- 74th Indianapolis '500,' The (1990) home page at Hollywood.com
- The 73rd Indianapolis '500' (1989) home page at Hollywood.com
- The 72nd Indianapolis '500' (1988) home page at Hollywood.com
- Race was scheduled for Sunday May 25, but rain postponed the race until Monday. On Monday, rain continued, and the race was rescheduled and held Saturday May 31.
- The 70th Indianapolis 500 (1986) home page at Hollywood.com
- 2004 Indianapolis 500 Telecast.
- Holliman, Ray (May 30, 1976). "Indy 500 'comes alive' on ABC". St. Petersburg Times. p. 35. Retrieved December 29, 2017 – via Newspapers.com.
- "TV". The Orlando Sentinel. May 27, 1972. p. 27. Retrieved April 19, 2017 – via Newspapers.com.
- "WFBM-TV to Cover '500' Mile-by-Mile". The Indianapolis Star. May 29, 1950. p. 11. Retrieved March 16, 2018 – via Newspapers.com.
- Cochran, Polly (May 30, 1952). "Everyone In Reach of Radio Will Have 'Ticket' To Race". The Indianapolis Star. p. 42. Retrieved March 7, 2018 – via Newspapers.com.
- "TV Will Show '500' Time Trials". The Indianapolis Star. May 6, 1951. p. 6. Retrieved March 14, 2018 – via Newspapers.com.
- Hynes, Beatrice (May 30, 1951). "WIBC To Radio Speedway Race". The Indianapolis Star. p. 36. Retrieved March 14, 2018 – via Newspapers.com.