Television is all about money. Viewers equal sponsors. No viewers equals no sponsors equals show gets canceled.
And “viewers” in that equation means TV viewers. Sponsors don’t yet trust web numbers; sponsors don’t yet add in web viewers when making spending decisions.
I am assuming NBC/Comcast execs decided that losing a few hardcore fans who weren't adding to viewer numbers, was not as great a loss as gaining the fans who would, in order to get IndyCar, sign up for Versus. Someone did the math, and came up with that answer.
IndyCar Needs Television
NBC Comcast plans to make Versus into a cable sports channel rivaling ESPN (the current benchmark.) Comcast actually tried (and failed) to buy ESPN before deciding to go after NBC.
Versus, probably to be renamed “NBC Sports Channel” or something similar, needs to decide where to allocate airtime to make th most money, net the most viewers, and have the biggest impact so it can steal sports, and sponsors, from the titan, ESPN.Suppose NBC execs said to Comcast, "If you want us to invest heavily in IndyCar coverage on our new sports channel; if you want us to cross-promote; if you want us to use our leverage to try to get NBS Sports/Versus onto a lower tier, then you need to show us right away that the numbers make sense.
"If you want IndyCar to be one of Versus' big offerings in 2012, with coverage of qualifying and races and pre- and post-race shows and rebroadcasts; if you want IndyCar to get preferred treatment in 2012, you need to show us profits.
"If the best you can do is 1.1 ratings this season, then maybe next season IndyCar will be one-hour edited race reports late Sunday night when we need filler. We have the Summer Olympics upcoming, and lots of other sports we plan to bid for, which will either net us big bucks or big prestige. If IndyCar can’t measure up, it can be scaled back. "
And maybe Versus, Comcast, NBC, and whoever else decided that if even 1/3 of the web viewers signed up for Versus, that would be significant—even if 2/3 of the web viewers got mad and watched NASCAR instead.