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So, why was the Indy 500 blacked out at all?

Posted at 1:16 PM, May 25, 2016

INDIANAPOLIS -- When IMS officials announced the media blackout would be lifted for this year's Indianapolis 500, the first reaction was overwhelmingly positive. 

REACTIONS | Indianapolis Motor Speedway makes historic decision to broadcast Indy 500 live

The second was "Why is the blackout a thing in the first place?"

The last time the Indianapolis 500 was fully broadcasted live locally in central Indiana was in 1949. In 1950, parts of it were broadcasted live. Since 1950, a local blackout has been in effect, forcing people in central Indiana to either go to the race and watch it in person, or wait for a rebroadcast.

PREVIOUS | Blackout lifted: RTV6 to show Indianapolis 500 LIVE on race day

So why does a blackout still exist? According to Mark Miles, the CEO of Hulman & Company, it's part of their "business model."

"This place is unlike any other modern sporting event," Hulman & Company CEO Mark Miles said. "It is so dependent on the gate -- or the paid attendance here at the Speedway. It is a vast place."

If the Speedway allows the race to be on television, the thinking goes, that means that fewer people will show up to watch the race in person.

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"That is a fundamentally important part of the business model for the event," Miles said. "Much moreso than television and the television rights revenues. The reality is, we have a different model. Previously, until today, we have to be vigilant about making the economy of the event work. That requires protecting the gate."

IMS has been criticized in the past for its blackout policy. One criticism is that by not allowing the race to be shown on TV, they're eliminating many potential new fans who could've grown up watching the race on TV.

Miles said to remedy that, they've allowed children under the age of 12 to come to the race for free. They've also tried to entice millennials with the electronic music in the Snake Pit. 

"Those are kids," he said. "Maybe they don't want to be called kids. They're here on race day. We think we have a pretty good shot of converting them to race fans."

As for the future, you probably shouldn't expect to watch the race on TV next year.

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"We cannot accommodate more people here at the Speedway for the race, it makes sense to make it available through live TV," Miles said. "Whether that's a unique situation or not, time will tell. It certainly didn't hurt that it was the 100th Running of the Indianapolis 500. We do not anticipate live coverage in Indianapolis again, but certainly, if there is a sellout again, it would be considered."

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