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Atherton: IMSA “Actively Involved in Dialogue” on 2019 TV Deal

IMSA “actively involved” in dialogue for new TV deal for 2019…

Photo: Rick Dole/IMSA

IMSA President Scott Atherton says they are “actively involved” in dialogue for the next TV deal for the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, which is set to begin in 2019.

Its current five-year contract with FOX Sports, signed in 2013, concludes at the end of next year, which gives the sanctioning body an opportunity to explore other possible options in the ever-changing media landscape.

“If you go back to the earliest announcements of the merger and the partners that we had committed at that time, we were thrilled to be able to announce a five-year commitment with our media partners at FOX,” Atherton said this week’s Sportscar365 Double Stint Podcast.

“If you do the math from those early days to where we are now, you arrive at the conclusion that 2018 is the end of that five-year term. We’re actively involved in dialogue.

“The industry is expanding at a pace that is hard to describe. It’s moving quickly, and a lot of new opportunities are developing, which doesn’t imply anything.”

While it’s understood different options are being evaluated, Atherton has praised its current relationship with FOX, which has seen year-over-year gains, thanks largely in part to additional network TV broadcasts and more live races on FS1.

This year has seen a 37 percent increase in unique TV viewers, with 1.1 million people tuning into the live FOX broadcast of the Long Beach round in April. 

“The relationship we have with FOX is second to none,” Atherton said. “The increases that we’ve been able to report are because of that very solid, strong relationship that we have with FOX.

“We’re meeting with them again in the near term to plan our 2018 strategies.”

Atherton declined to comment any further on possible changes for next year and beyond.

“I don’t want to provide any more speculation because it wouldn’t be appropriate at this time because of the relationship that we’ve got,” he said.

Ryan Myrehn contributed to this report

John Dagys is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of Sportscar365 as well as the recently launched e-racing365 Web site for electric racing. Dagys spent eight years as a motorsports correspondent for Channel, and contributes to other publications worldwide. Contact John



  1. WBrowning

    August 9, 2017 at 1:21 pm

    I can’t complain much about the “live” broadcasts, though they had some full screen interviews while interesting racing was taking place.
    A good rule of thumb in my book would be that no pit lane interviews go full screen except during safety car/full course yellows. The fact that their timing or luck sucks when calling for commercials can’t be helped much. Is it just me, or does it seem that most of the action happens right after going to a commercial???

    My biggest complaint is with the taped broadcasts of CTSC races. Why can’t they go back and edit them so that the best action doesn’t get lost during commercials. I don’t know why the guys can’t keep doing their commentary and camera work going, then go back and add the commercials in during the week between the race and the first broadcast.

    • Psychlops924

      August 9, 2017 at 1:35 pm

      Well if you wait until the Monday or Tuesday after the delayed CTSC broadcast, IMSA posts the whole commercial free version of the race onto their YouTube page. So if you’re willing to wait a week to see the race (instead of watching it live on their app), you might as well wait another day or so in order to see all the action. Imo

      • Mike S.

        August 9, 2017 at 2:37 pm

        Yes, I haven’t watched the race yet. Youtube IMSA channel fired up the race just yesterday.I watched the qualifying on the IMSA channel and will watch probably tonight. Yep no commercials, full screen in HD. I tried to watch the FS1 start to the race. When they showed just the prototype start and not the GTLM start behind I was out and off to do something else. Ugh another year of this contract? All around terrible FS.

  2. Marc

    August 9, 2017 at 1:36 pm

    The FOX/FS2/FS2 coverage is what it is. Glad our favorite sport is on network TV and people are exposed to it. And I understand the limitations of network tv (ex: the need for commercials and time slots). However, I’ve started to watch the races instead once they are available on YouTube – from the international IMSA TV with Radio Le Mans broadcast.

    This is because RLM does a much better job and there are no commercials. I would happily pay $$ a year for access to this feed live (yes, I suppose I could get an international proxy instead). I pay annually for the WEC live stream and would gladly pay to have my favorite series (IMSA) live with uninterrupted flag-to-flag coverage.

    • Mcnamara

      August 9, 2017 at 7:40 pm

      Are u in the US or Europe

  3. guest

    August 9, 2017 at 1:49 pm

    Fox Sports 2 kills me. Comcast will not add it and is geoblocked, really frustrating for those few race weekends. I sincerely hope they offer streaming for cost. I will gladly pay.

    • greg

      August 9, 2017 at 2:11 pm

      download Browsec add on for Chrome and switch your region to UK. Then watch IMSA TV that way. I’ve watch every race this way. You can watch youtube races too that are region blocked.

      • Marc

        August 9, 2017 at 2:25 pm

        Awesome! Best info I’ve ever received!

      • Alex

        August 10, 2017 at 12:47 pm

        Ssssh Greg, don’t let the non tech savvy people know how super easy it is, to watch IMSA 😉

    • jason

      August 9, 2017 at 2:11 pm

      Yes, I’ve got the same problem. No more races on FS2 and more live races. I’d be happy with that!

      • Andy Flinn

        August 9, 2017 at 6:03 pm

        Jason, as much as I love it and attend every year, broadcasting the Petit and other Fall IMSA races live on FS1 instead of college or pro football is simply not feasible to anyone who understands TV ratings and economics.

        Face it, compared to college or pro football, IMSA is a niche sport.

        • Jason

          August 9, 2017 at 7:56 pm

          Yes, I agree. I should have said live streams of the races. Because the whole fs2 authentication for some of the live streams sucks when fs2 isn’t even offered in my area.

        • Jeff Wagner

          August 9, 2017 at 7:58 pm

          Andy, If you lived in Canada you would see one of the reasons that is. You guys in the U.S.A. are right too and have a right to complain, but you wouldn’t believe what we put up with here. They need to get proper coverage all over North America, like there was on SPEED when the races were covered live. Here in Canada EVERY single commercial break it’s are u faster than a redneck, pimp my ride, hard parts south bronx, etc. I’m not KIDDING the SAME ones in the SAME order ALL race!

          • Andy Flinn

            August 10, 2017 at 3:46 pm

            Jeff, you folks in Canada must be stuck with re-runs.

            All of the programs you mentioned aired on SPEED years ago – not FS1.

          • Jeff Wagner

            August 10, 2017 at 10:19 pm

            First I wonder why the site froze this? Second I don’t know Andy but in Canada when a U.S. feed comes in if a CDN company(s) pays up they will play it over the U.S. commercial(s). My guess is nobody is doing that so they play that repeating loop of stupidity. I would rather they played recorded footage from a camera set up on a tri-pod in an old abandoned paint warehouse after somebody had just dumped 100 gallons of paint all over floor. During commercial breaks we could watch the paint slowly dry over the course of the season!

    • Rus'L

      August 10, 2017 at 12:08 pm

      As long as your cable package includes FS1, you can watch FS2 online whenever the IMSA race is on. You just need to login to Fox Sports Go (not IMSA) with your cable credentials. I do it all the time.

  4. jason

    August 9, 2017 at 1:51 pm

    I can’t complain about what is available now. In the USA you can follow the race live with a combination of on-boards from, IMSA radio, and live timing. You then get the full replay 2 days later and best of all its the IMSA radio version. Not the fox version. If they can cut the time from 2 day to 1 day then that would be cool though.

    If IMSA really wants to do something neat then for the big events like Sebring or Daytona you can have a setup of streaming channels where each channel follows the whole race with one class. A DPI channel, a GTD channel, and a GTLM channel.

  5. N8

    August 9, 2017 at 2:16 pm

    Yeah, the industry is expanding a pace that’s hard to describe alright. Guess who’s about 5 years behind everyone else in terms of delivery capabilities.

    The people that IMSA should appeal to the most are the people least served by this retarded broadcast agreement. Yay, more channel surfers than last year stopped to look at IMSA racing on TV. Big deal. A larger number of dedicated fans are cut out of the live racing completely, but those numbers you don’t hear about. The 10’s of thousands of people that are watching these Youtube replays are either unable or unwilling to sit through the miserable Fox coverage. It’s the core demographic and we’re left with replays 3 days after the event. Forget 2019. Fix the mess you’ve got on your hands now.

    • Andy Flinn

      August 9, 2017 at 6:21 pm

      The people who are unable or unwilling to watch a Fox commercial IMSA broadcast don’t attend those IMSA races, either.

      And you think these are the core supporters that IMSA should appeal to?


      Exactly how is someone who doesn’t attend any IMSA races and isn’t willing to watch a commercial (Continental, WeatherTech, GM, Porsche) broadcast going to benefit this series?

      • Andy Flinn

        August 9, 2017 at 6:24 pm

        And spare me the paid live stream nonsense.

        If that made sense economically – both to IMSA and its financial supporters – IMSA would already be offering that service.

        • N8

          August 10, 2017 at 12:23 pm

          Oh boy. I’ve been buying tickets to, or working at, IMSA events since the late 80’s. I would have a attended an event 3 weeks ago if I didn’t have a family wedding on the same day.

          As far as the stream, it’s not a question of economics. It’s a question of Fox holding the broadcast rights hostage in order to drive subscriptions to premium sports tiers on cable TV and traffic to their half-baked app. They don’t give to sh*ts about IMSA or it’s fans, as proven by a track record of unannounced preemptions or broadcasts on a network that only 2/3 of Americans have access to. Up 37% or not, IMSA is still a ratings loser compared to probably everything else they make time for. They’re forced to find air time for it because NASCAR tells them to.

          I’m sure it makes very little sense economically to have an an amazing streaming service in place that you can’t monetize. They’re giving it away outside of North American and breaking their necks trying to keep US IP Addresses off of it. Put up a pay wall and let the thing pay for itself. It’s not rocket science and EVERY other series I’m a fan of has one.

      • Andres

        August 10, 2017 at 8:32 am

        This statement is completely incorrect. By the end of the year I’ll have attended 3 IMSA races in person. Every race I don’t attend in person I watch during the week on the YT channel after the fact. The quality of the broadcast and ability to follow the race is infinitely better and is worth me having to wait and not watch live. And yes I do have FS1 and FS2.

    • Jeff Wagner

      August 10, 2017 at 1:44 am

      Very, VERY, well said!

    • Cm

      August 10, 2017 at 7:58 am

      Well if you want to encourage them to hate FS, just tell them to watch the 2015 Detroit GP. We will remember it as the most bullsh** ad placement in the history of motorsport broadcasting

  6. Overtake24

    August 9, 2017 at 2:46 pm

    Besides the amount of commercial breaks. My major complaints are the lack of replays( especially on imsatv) and missing action and overtaking on the track. Also not seeing the start of the GT classes. There’s been some major overtaking on the GTLM starts in some of the races this year and have completely missed out with what happened. Again not even a replay of the GT start. Not sure why they can’t show a split screen start.

    • jason

      August 9, 2017 at 2:54 pm

      The field is supposed to take the green flag together. Its the GTLM front row that seems to want to sit back a bit at the green flag. I think they decide to do that just to avoid hitting the LMPC cars in turn 1. By the halfway point of lap 1 they always catch the LMPC cars except for P. Tech. Only have to worry about that 1 more time 🙂

      • Rus'L

        August 10, 2017 at 12:13 pm

        They hold back on purpose with the blessing of the officials. There’s supposed to be two separate starts. One for the Prototypes and one for the GTs.

  7. Kirk

    August 9, 2017 at 2:51 pm

    My biggest complaint about the coverage is many times the races will feel like extended car ads. Do we really need to hear extended interviews with the Mazda rep, the Ford rep, the Chevy rep, the BMW rep, the Porsche rep, etc. at each and every race? I realize the reason for their involvement in racing is to sell cars, but lets try to tone down the salesmanship a bit and keep the focus of the broadcasts on the track. Save the salesmanship for the commercials where it belongs.

    • jason

      August 9, 2017 at 2:55 pm

      Disagree with you Kirk. That does not bother me at all. Its a lot better than the stupid tire tip segments FOX has. And yes its a way to commercialize while still watching racing.

    • Andy Flinn

      August 9, 2017 at 6:26 pm

      Kirk, who do you think pays to broadcast IMSA races?

      It’s that simple.

      • Kirk

        August 9, 2017 at 10:53 pm

        Uhhhh, the companies that run the ads during the commercial breaks? All I’m saying is I don’t want to have to watch a bunch of commercials only to “come back to the race” to see a long interview with some executive talking about his company’s cars. Thank goodness for DVR’s so I can fast forward through that stuff.

        • Bob

          August 9, 2017 at 11:37 pm

          To each their own. I appreciate those interviews and the occasionl insights they provide. To me the sport is more than just cars on track.

  8. Doug

    August 9, 2017 at 2:57 pm

    “The industry is expanding at a pace that is hard to describe. It’s moving quickly, and a lot of new opportunities are developing, which doesn’t imply anything.”

    WHAT??!! Doesn’t imply anything? Then why say a lot of new opportunities are developing?

  9. Ron Mills

    August 9, 2017 at 3:05 pm

    Scott Atherton is the king of baffle-speak-No matter what IMSA does,we’ll not see it on TV here in Canada again-the best coverage of all was the old ALMS crew on SPEED TV!

    • Jeff Wagner

      August 9, 2017 at 8:08 pm

      EXACTLY we in Canada don’t matter. You are 100% right when it was the ALMS with SPEED TV it was FANTASTIC coverage.

  10. PatrickB

    August 9, 2017 at 5:29 pm

    It would be nice if they worked out a tv deal for Canada. But i have no problem watching them on youtube with the roku. Picture quality actually seems better on the online version

  11. Andy Flinn

    August 9, 2017 at 6:12 pm

    Jason, instead of paying to air races on three channels, it would be cheaper if IMSA just streamed every race live.

    However, then IMSA would be giving away their product for free and shafting their sponsors (Continental, WeatherTech, GM, Porsche, etc.) in the process.

    • Jeff Wagner

      August 9, 2017 at 8:16 pm

      But Andy, Respectfully that’s stupid too! Why do I have a 62″ plasma flat screen T.V., with high definition channels coming into it, to be forced to watch it on my crappy laptop! See my point? They MUST have the proper LIVE broadcasting ALL OVER NORTH AMERICA like SPEED did with the ALMS! It’s bad enough they make you Americans jump all around like jelly fish on FOX 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8, we don’t even get the races in CANADA! We ALL deserve BETTER!

      • Matt

        August 10, 2017 at 4:33 pm

        You can hook your laptop up to the TV with an HDMI cable and watch in HD, ya know.

        • Jeff Wagner

          August 10, 2017 at 10:28 pm

          Matt: Did you mean that sarcastically? I hope not as I’m VERY appreciative of the advice/tip. I’m mechanically inclined but home entertainment is a little hard. BUT we STILL have to get to the point of having ALL races covered LIVE. If we do, I can do that!!! Thank-You, I really appreciate it. Jeff

  12. Barton Workman

    August 9, 2017 at 6:43 pm

    Not so “thrilled” about IMSA’s tie-up with FOX here.

    Made plans to watch the IMSA Road America race last weekend. Went on FOXGONOW (or whatever its
    called) and on clicking the “Watch Now” toggle was informed that our cable provider (Comcast in Miami)
    does not offer FOXGONOW.

    Tried numerous other on-board camera views but there is no context to that unless you bring up Radio
    Le Mans.

    Sorry guys, I gave up in the 16th largest market in the country where there were others not best pleased
    with this I may assure you.

    Get IMSA racing on a f-ing network we may actually see this year now, don’t wait until 2019 please. It’s
    far easier to watch the WEC races live streaming than races in my own country, pitiful.

    • Matt

      August 10, 2017 at 4:35 pm

      If you have Comcast, you can just download the Xfinity app and watch TV live from any channel if you don’t have access to your TV.

  13. el_gordo

    August 9, 2017 at 9:01 pm

    Give the deal to The Speed Channel……_starts crying_

    • Jeff Wagner

      August 10, 2017 at 1:49 am

      Speed Channel no longer exists.

      • Rus'L

        August 10, 2017 at 12:15 pm

        Umm, you obviously missed his sarcasm…

        • Jeff Wagner

          August 10, 2017 at 10:37 pm

          Oh, I got it. You just didn’t get my sarcastic reply to him. To begin with he missed all of our points completely. Our points were SPEED carried all races live, all over North America, and that’s what IMSA needs and we as fans BADLY deserve. It’s also what the series should not settle for anything less than!

  14. Jeff Wagner

    August 10, 2017 at 2:09 am

    I have thought it over, changed my view a little, and came back. I do want to watch the races on my 62″ flat screen plasma T.V. with the high def channels. I have a small crappy laptop. However technology changes, and we have to be willing to change too. What is important is at LEAST being able to see ALL races and LIVE! This is EXACTLY the time in Sportscar Racing, and a turning point in technology where a visionary like John Bishop would contract it out, enter into a broadcasting partnership, or take the broadcasting completely all in house and live stream broadcast the races. It would be a hell of a lot better than what we have now. And we would all be as close to happy as possible. (It’s 2am, if I said an idea that was already said, sorry!)

    • Greg

      August 10, 2017 at 7:36 am

      Buy a google chromecast dongle and plug it into your tv. Fox sports and youtube has the chromecast feature. Love watching the re-broadcasts on youtube through the chromecast, full 1080p.

      • ops30

        August 10, 2017 at 8:11 am

        I use the Plex TV app on Roku (also available on Chromecast, Amazon Fire, Apple TV, and others) to do the same thing. Simply email the YouTube url to your Plex account email address.

        Due to other commitments, I watch the race replay in 30-60 min segments and Plex tracks where you stopped watching and allows you to pick up where you left off, even if you later watch through a web browser or app on another device (tablet/phone).

        • N8

          August 10, 2017 at 12:40 pm

          I’ve got a budget buster Win7 mini behind my TV with a browser. That’s my go to if I’m sitting down to watch. Flash streams look good on my 50″ TV.

          On the Roku, if you’ve got FireFox beta installed on it, you can send the feed to it from a device with the same. Kinda like Chromecast but without the limitation on content source. Simple mirror-cast isn’t bad either if I’m in and out of the house.

          Just get yourself a VPN service Jeff. It’s cheap.

    • NaBUru38

      August 10, 2017 at 9:18 am

      If all races were streamed live, how many people would tune them?

      It’s important to have IMSA ads on Nascar baseball, American football and soccer broadcasts.

  15. Greg

    August 10, 2017 at 7:40 am

    Everyone cut the cord and get sling tv. Their $25 package (sling tv blue) has FS1 and FS2.

  16. NaBUru38

    August 10, 2017 at 9:10 am

    Ratings are minimal, even for live races on Fox Sports 1. It’s not because the poor reach of the channel. It’s because North American sports car racing is a niché sport. Moving to ESPN or NBC Sports won’t change it.

    • Jeff Wagner

      August 10, 2017 at 10:46 pm

      BUT it ALWAYS will be a “niche” if the die hard zealot fans are on here spelling out on here for them and they still don’t GET IT that even we are getting jerked around! HOW are they going to attract new fans when even we are being constantly screwed around to the point where I’ve many times felt like telling them to go F themselves regarding viewing it if it isn’t a race I’m not at live? I’m not trolling I’m being serious.

  17. Muckz43

    August 10, 2017 at 1:03 pm

    Viewership is poor, possibly because most race weeks are not listed in local sports tv listings. IMSA and Fox Sports should push to have this done. Tv production is sketchy. I.E., there was a pre-race graphic of the Road America track with an in-car camera. Half-way around the track the graphic disappeared. I have heard the on track camera and technical people are NASCAR contractors. The commentators are IMSA radio and the producers are in the U.K.! Cheaper but, not better.

  18. Jack Schwartz

    August 10, 2017 at 3:54 pm

    Personally, I think the coverage is horrible! Fox keeps jumping around from channel to channel during a race. Yet they have the same show/same episode of other shows repeating all the time…but don’t have the ability to show the full race on one channel? Also, the streaming on IMSA is for foreigners and not Americans???…seriously??? If fox can’t cover the whole race…then get someone else who can and will!!!

  19. Bob

    August 10, 2017 at 4:17 pm

    This topic sparked a lot of comments! I havent read all of them. Being with FOX is…..nice. It’s not perfect. I think they interject way too many commercials during races just like they do during NFL football. And on top of that, they interject way too many Justin Bell tech moments about this & that: tires, tires & GM/Corvettes. And yes, the companies are involved to get promotion. But do you see this during other non-IMSA races? No. NBC Sports does a great job at F1 & Indycar broadcasts. They show Quali & races. Their race replays are more accessable on their app than the FOX Sports app. The IMSA YouTube channel is my favorite. You at least get to see qualifying & full race in HD everytime. Races are delayed though. Good luck with the new contract. Hoping for improvements. Would a Live Youtube channel be better than TV with race replays available on the YT channel like it it now.

    • Jeff Wagner

      August 10, 2017 at 10:49 pm

      Bob: You mentioned it! It’s not my first choice but at least if live on You
      Tube everybody can watch it!

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