NASCAR clueless as to why it has lost 25% of its fan base
Four years after signing a record $4.48 billion media deal with Fox, ESPN and Turner, NASCAR has lost nearly a quarter of its TV viewership base, a four-year trend of massive viewer defections that has been punctuated by the erosion of the young male demographic.
This year’s TV numbers were down for 26 out of 34 races (two Monday races weren’t included), extending the sport’s viewership free fall and separating it further from other sports leagues, which have seen viewership remain relatively resilient in recent years.
Unlike past years, however, NASCAR executives and their media partners are not considering major changes designed to boost TV ratings. Rather, they are preaching patience.
The sport’s leaders say that the changes they’ve already made to competition – from introducing new cars to allowing for more open racing – have resulted in much more exciting races. They point to the fact that viewers who tuned into ESPN over the latter part of the season watched races longer than a year ago and believe TV ratings will catch up with the exciting racing that delivered this season’s hotly contested Chase for the Sprint Cup.
“With the racing where it is now, I have no doubt it’s going to take hold, and the excitement we’ve built coming out of this season will build into next season,” said Steve Phelps, NASCAR’s chief marketing officer.
But as a mark of how far NASCAR’s TV ratings have fallen, even as the Chase came down to the final race this season, ratings for that race (Homestead) were down 8 percent compared with last year (3.3 versus a 3.6). Viewership was flat.
“The younger demos are not watching, and that’s the No. 1 trouble spot,” said Mike Boykin, GMR executive vice president of sports marketing.
“Are races too long? Is there enough emphasis on winning? Is timing of races working against the NFL juggernaut? Do they need a different format to attract a younger audience? Is there enough editorial and promotional support? Do they have enough personalities? They’re going to have to make some bold moves, and they’ll have to make several to get back to where they were.”
In 2006, when NASCAR finalized its current media deal, it was averaging 7.855 million viewers per race on Fox, FX, TNT and NBC. By this season, the fourth of its eight-year deal with Fox, ESPN and Turner, NASCAR races averaged 5.992 million viewers over 34 races across all the networks.
That means that NASCAR has lost nearly 2 million viewers in the past four years, or 23.7 percent of its viewing audience.
NASCAR’s steep decline flies in the face of a real renaissance of sports ratings numbers. For example, the NFL’s two national packages have seen significant increases since 2006. “Sunday Night Football” viewership is up nearly 4 million viewers from 2006, while “Monday Night Football” is up 2.4 million. The NBA’s regular-season Thursday night package on TNT is up more than 400,000 viewers from the 2005-06 season, and MLB’s Sunday night package has lost just 173,000 viewers since 2006. Scene Daily
[Editor's Note: It is clear that NASCAR is clueless as to why 25% of its fans have left the sport and are not coming back. Today's younger generation has no interest in NASCAR's hillbilly image, announcers that put out statements like "Boogity, boogity, boogity, let's go racing boys", to cars that look and are antiquated, to races that are 2 hours too long. But most of all fans are turned off by NASCAR's managed racing, where everything happens for a reason.]