NBC and the IndyCar race series announced this week that a newly created esports tournament will be broadcast on television this weekend.
The move follows Fox, which has already started televising esports in place of real-world sports postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.
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Using the iRacing video game, the first IndyCar esports race to be broadcast by NBC is expected to include more than 20 pro racers from the real NTT IndyCar Series. It kicks off this Saturday, April 4, with a virtual version of the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama, taking place at the Barber Motorsports Park. Broadcast on NBCSN, the event starts at 2:30pm ET.
The event is expected to feature more than two dozen professional IndyCar drivers, including five-time series champion Scott Dixon, two-time and reigning series champion Josef Newgarden, and 2019 Indianapolis 500 winner Simon Pagenaud.
NBC's involvement comes just a week after the esports race series started, and follows similar moves by Nascar and Formula One, as well as the NFL and NBA.
Each sport was already well-represented in the esports industry, but with real-world sport currently on indefinite hold, the current situation has marked a real turning point for video games, as professional sports stars, commentators and TV networks get involved.
And, with no real sport to watch, the esports events have attracted large audiences. Last week, Fox's televised Nascar esports race drew in 1.3 million viewers. IndyCar's first virtual race, also last weekend and embedded above, has over 230,000 views on YouTube.
Although other sports are now joining in, motorsport was well positioned to pivot to video games when the coronavirus pandemic struck. There are realistic games for a wide range of motorsport disciplines, and many pro drivers already have internet-connected simulators at home, using a game console or PC, along with a realistic steering wheel and pedal setup, all mounted to a realistic seat with a TV screen.