Editorial

Artificial Dissemination

 

 by Mark Cipolloni
February 13, 2003

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On Monday February 3, 2003,  IRL President and CEO Tony George, Senior Vice President of Racing Operations Brian Barnhart and Senior Vice President of Business Affairs Ken Ungar delivered a State -Of-The IRL presentation in Fontana, California.  During that presentation Ken Ungar stated: IRL TV ratings increased 17 percent on ABC and 31 percent on ESPN in 2002, and attendance was up 9 percent last year.  Was this a case of artificial dissemination?

I contacted Fred Nation of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway to verify where Ken Ungar's information came from because the data I had didn't bear out those claims. Nation stated, "the TV ratings information comes from Nielsen. We were up on ESPN, down on ESPN2 (up on the ESPN networks overall) and up on ABC. The ABC figure excludes the Indy 500, which was down 1 point from the year before. The total for ABC races outside of Indy was up. The attendance figures are taken from media estimates. Our total figure is 1,016,740. Atlanta dropped off the schedule. Fontana, Nazareth and Michigan were new. Pikes Peak, Nashville and Chicagoland attendance figures, according to media figures were down. All others had increases."

According to the 2000, 2001, and 2002 IRL year-end sponsors report published by Joyce Julius (a respected independent sponsor evaluation firm), the conclusions are totally inconsistent with the IRL claims that the series is growing.  I am not sure where Ken Unger gets his information, but according to the Joyce Julius report, supported by pages of exhaustive data, the IRL went down in performance in every measurable category as summarized below.

Summary of Joyce Julius Report (see detail at end of article)

Year No. of
Events
Estimated Attendance Viewing
HH's/event
In-Focus exposure time No. Sponsor mentions $ value based on cost per 0:30
2000 10 830,314 47:00:16 2,299 $175,330,660
2001 14 (+Up) 1,160,700 (+Up) 1.557m 65:33:40 (+Up) 2,421 (+Up) $208,099,510 (+Up)
2002

16 (+Up)

1,017,476 (-Dn) 1.509m (-Dn) 42:59:56 (-Dn) 2,138 (-Dn) $185,345,845 (-Dn)


According to this National Speed Sport News article by Steve Mayer, attendance at Indy Racing League races rose by 8.8% in 2002, after the league revised and lowered its series attendance for 2001. In contrast, an independent third party estimated that while the year-over-year IRL race day attendance was static, the per race average fell by 13.4%.

 

The Mayer article goes on to say that the IRL held 14 events in 2001, and increased its number of races to 16 in 2002. During last week's IndyCar Series State of Sport Address, Ken Unger, the IRL Senior Vice President of Business Operations, stated, "Because of the hard work of our promoter partners and the league staff, attendance grew by 9% from 2001 to 2002, with some of our tracks experiencing significant growth."

 

After making adjustments, the IRL estimated that 934,700 fans attended its tracks on race day in 2001. In 2002, the IRL estimated, 1,016,740 spectators attended its races. Joyce Julius Associates, a highly respected independent sponsorship-evaluation firm, tabbed estimates for the 2001 14-race season at 1,160,700 attendees.

 

Its estimate for the 16-race 2002 series was 1,017,476 people. According to JJA, the average number of IRL race-day fans declined by 19%% from 75,764 in 2001 to 63,539 in 2002. The IRL estimated a 5.7% decline of 3,172 fans per race from an average of 66,764 spectators in 2001. JJA derives its estimates from media reports, as does the IRL. The IRL, however, after Unger was appointed a year ago, introduced a new methodology, and retroactively applied the system to 2001 (so in fact 2001 may have been worse than previously reported).

 

IRL Accounting
2002 attendance for 16 races: 1,017,476 = 63,592 per race
2001 attendance for 14 races: 934,700* (adjusted down by IRL) = 66,764 per race

 

Joyce Julius Associates Accounting
2002 attendance for 16 races: 1,017,476 = 63,593 per race
2001 attendance for 14 races: 1,160,700 = 75,764 per race

 

Fred Nation provided the IRL's side of the story to Mayer - "When Ken took over business affairs at the end of 2001," explained Fred Nation, executive vice president of communications of the IRL, "he looked at the numbers provided in 2001 and determined that it was not the way to present them. They were too high." "We decided," Nation continued, "that the report which we would submit would be the average of all of the media reports. We then went back and recalculated the 2001 figures early last year, using that method." 

 

CART reported attendance for 2002 at 2.6 million, or about 2.6 times more than the IRL, a significant amount.  CART gets a big attendance on all three days of a race weekend, whereas the IRL only gets people to show up on race day, which is one of the reasons why CART attendance dwarfs that of the IRL.  Fans find it boring to attend oval events on Friday and Saturday, with cars just droning around in circles.  Such is not the case for street and road courses where the "event" keeps fans entertained all three days.

What's puzzling, and somewhat frustrating in all this is the fact that many reporters regurgitate artificially disseminated information and spout the IRL is winning the war, when in fact their race attendance is decreasing while CART's is increasing.   Whereas before the CART/IRL split TV ratings and the overall health of open wheel racing in America was thriving (back in 1995), the split, which all sensible people of good will forecast might destroy the sport, has caused the two sides to flounder while NASCAR and the France family are laughing all the way to the bank.

Tony Hulman must be turning over in his grave.

Detail from Joyce Julius report 2001 vs. 2002

2002 IRL Event Summary -  from Joyce Julius

DATE

EVENT

ESTIMATED ATTENDANCE

NETWORK

NR/NCR

VIEWER AUDIENCE

IN-FOCUS EXPOSURE TIME

SPONSOR MENTIONS

$ VALUE BASED ON COST PER :30

3/2

GRAND PRIX OF MIAMI

30,000

ABC-LIVE

1.5

1,582,500

2:33:58

134

7,140,150

 

 

 

ESPN-TD

0.1

82,500

 

 

3/17

BOMBARDIER ATV

30,000

ABC-LIVE

1.2

1,266,000

1:35:11

103

6,403,950

 

COPPER WORLD INDY 200

 

 

 

 

 

 

3/24

YAMAHA INDY 400

15,000

ESPN-LIVE

0.5

429,500

2:56:58

155

6,490,995

4/21

FIRESTONE INDY 225

23,000

ABC-LIVE

1.3

1,371,500

2:54:56

114

11,054,200

5/11

INDY TIME TRIALS--

 

ABC-LIVE

1.1

1,160,500

2:14:34

147

6,000,850

 

POLE DAY

 

ESPN-LIVE

1.3

1,123,200

 

 

5/12

INDY TIME TRIALS--

 

ESPN-LIVE

0.6

518,400

49:48

76

1,693,970

 

2ND DAY QUAL.

 

ESPN2-LIVE

0.3

250,500

 

 

5/19

INDY TIME TRIALS--

 

ABC-LIVE

1.0

1,055,000

2:14:28

148

5,938,875

 

BUMP DAY

 

ESPN-LIVE

0.8

691,200

 

 

 

 

 

ESPN2-LIVE

0.6

501,000

 

 

5/26

INDIANAPOLIS 500

400,000

ABC-LIVE

4.8

5,064,000

2:37:39

154

65,261,375

6/8

BOOMTOWN 500

83,476

ESPN-LIVE

0.6

519,000

3:13:05

113

6,781,910

6/16

RADISSON INDY 225

30,000

ABC-LIVE

1.0

1,055,000

4:35:48

200

11,440,680

 

 

 

ESPN-TD

0.2

167,400

 

 

6/29

SUNTRUST INDY CHALL.

45,000

ESPN-LIVE

0.6

612,000

1:47:21

99

3,963,845

7/7

AMERISTAR INDY 200

80,000

ABC-LIVE

1.2

1,266,000

1:32:59

122

6,459,050

7/20

FIRESTONE INDY 200

30,000

ESPN2-LIVE

0.5

418,000

1:48:28

82

3,908,565

7/28

MICHIGAN INDY 400

30,000

ABC-LIVE

1.2

1,266,000

2:20:16

117

9,106,700

8/11

BELTERRA RESORT INDY 300

50,000

ABC-LIVE

0.9

949,500

1:54:28

60

7,094,600

8/25

GATEWAY INDY 250

35,000

ESPN-LIVE

0.8

687,200

1:53:11

81

4,055,030

9/8

DELPHI INDY 300

50,000

ABC-LIVE

1.1

1,160,500

2:27:12

100

9,340,400

9/15

CHEVY 500

86,000

ABC-LIVE

0.9

949,500

3:29:36

133

13,210,700

2002 YEAR-END TOTAL 16-events

1,017,476

24 TELECASTS

 

24,145,900

42:59:56

2,138

$185,345,845

2001 IRL Event Summary

DATE

EVENT

ESTIMATED ATTENDANCE

ATN. CHANGE FROM 2000

NETWORK

NR/NCR

HOUSEHOLDS

IN-FOCUS EXPOSURE TIME

SPONSOR MENTIONS

$ VALUE BASED ON COST PER :30

3/18

PENNZOIL COPPER

40,000

+33%

ABC-LIVE/

1.0

1,022,000

3:57:06

146

10,588,050

 

WORLD INDY 200

 

 

ESPN-TD

0.2

163,000

 

 

4/8

INFINITI GRAND PRIX

35,000

N/A

ABC-LIVE/

0.8

817,600

4:44:06

152

12,532,050

 

OF MIAMI

 

 

ESPN-TD

0.3

245,700

 

 

4/28

ATLANTA 500 CLASSIC

48,500

+21%

ESPN2-LIVE/

0.6

457,800

4:53:01

128

5,613,675

 

 

 

 

ESPN-TD

0.2

163,800

 

 

5/12

INDY TIME TRIALS--

143,000

+43%

ABC-LIVE/

1.0

1,022,000

2:38:52

255

6,321,540

 

POLE DAY

 

 

ESPN-LIVE/

0.8

657,600

 

 

 

 

 

 

ESPN2-LIVE

0.5

383,500

 

 

5/13

INDY TIME TRIALS--

 

+43%

ESPN-LIVE

0.6

460,200

1:45:35

125

3,159,265

 

2ND DAY QUAL.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5/20

INDY TIME TRIALS--

 

+43%

ABC-LIVE/

1.2

1,226,400

3:11:10

106

7,668,740

 

BUMP DAY

 

 

ESPN-LIVE/

0.9

739,800

 

 

 

 

 

 

ESPN2-TD

1.3

997,100

 

 

5/27

INDIANAPOLIS 500

400,000

0%

ABC-LIVE

5.8

5,927,600

3:01:48

171

74,867,085

6/9

CASINO MAGIC 500

70,800

+42%

ESPN-LIVE/

0.6

492,600

4:50:00

118

8,780,060

 

 

 

 

ESPN-TD

0.2

164,200

 

 

6/17

RADISSON INDY 200

36,000

+20%

ABC-LIVE/

0.7

715,400

3:55:36

150

10,554,300

 

 

 

 

ESPN-TD

0.1

82,100

 

 

6/30

SUNTRUST INDY

53,000

N/A

ESPN-LIVE/

0.5

410,500

4:05:58

112

7,411,195

 

CHALLENGE

 

 

ESPN-TD

0.2

164,200

 

 

7/8

AMERISTAR CASINO

75,000

N/A

ABC-LIVE/

1.3

1,328,600

4:16:02

176

11,557,350

 

INDY 200

 

 

ESPN-TD

0.2

164,200

 

 

7/21

HARRAH'S INDY 200

38,000

N/A

ESPN-LIVE/

0.6

492,600

5:06:30

94

9,021,095

 

 

 

 

ESPN-TD

0.2

164,200

 

 

8/12

BELTERRA CASINO

56,000

-9%

ABC-LIVE/

1.1

1,124,200

4:29:06

140

11,843,550

 

INDY 300

 

 

ESPN-TD

0.2

164,400

 

 

8/26

ST. LOUIS INDY 250

28,000

N/A

ESPN-LIVE/

0.4

328,800

5:10:46

126

9,291,490

 

 

 

 

ESPN-TD

0.2

164,400

 

 

9/2

DELPHI AUTOMOTIVE

75,000

N/A

ABC-LIVE/

1.1

1,160,500

4:51:30

182

13,034,250

 

INDY 300

 

 

ESPN-TD

0.1

80,300

 

 

10/6

CHEVY 500

62,400

+2%

ESPN2-LIVE+1

0.4

323,600

4:36:34

240

5,855,815

TOTAL: 14 EVENTS

1,160,700

 

33 TELECASTS

 

21,808,900

65:33:40

2,421

$208,099,510

The author can be contacted at markc@autoracing1.com

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