|As long as IndyCar has most of its races on NBCSN instead of network TV, the series will never grow|
NBC Sports Group saw its TV ratings for its broadcasts of the Verizon IndyCar Series dip in 2016 after a record-setting 2015.
The network released its final 2016 numbers in September of last year — they showed an average audience of 488,000 viewers for its 10 IndyCar races on NBCSN and CNBC as compared to an average of 507,000 viewers from 2015. In other words, things are getting worse on NBCSN, not better.
The season finale from Sonoma on Sept. 18 — after which Simon Pagenaud was crowned the Verizon IndyCar Series champion — averaged 536,00 viewers and was not listed among the network's top-five viewed IndyCar races in 2016.
The most-watched race for the network came at Mid-Ohio on July 13 when the NBCSN and CNBC simulcast attracted 929,000 viewers.
On a positive note, viewership inched up in the 18-49 demographic to an average of 123,000 for the season as compared to 115,000 in 2015.
The network also boasted a record number of total viewers — 6.5 million. That number is a measure of unique viewers who tuned in to one race for at least six minutes.
ABC to the rescue
All the IndyCar races should be live on ABC. Because the ABC numbers were up for 2016, hence overall IndyCar was up, not down as it would have been if all the races were with NBC.
Thanks to ABC IndyCar finished the ’16 season averaging 1.3 million viewers across NBCSN and ABC, marking the open-wheel racing league’s best figure since ’11. This season was up from 1.2 million viewers last season, and 1.0 million viewers in ’14. This season’s figure excludes the event at Pocono Raceway, which was rained out on a Sunday and ran on a Monday. Included is the Texas Motor Speedway event, which was run in part in June (CNBC) and then finished in August on NBCSN.
If the average per race was 1.3 million, and NBCSN was delivering 500-600K viewers per race and they broadcast far more races than ABC, imagine how good the average number would be per race if all the races were on ABC. The average would be over 2 million per race and sponsors would be falling over themselves to sponsor cars, races and the series.
Instead IndyCar keeps the majority of their races on NBCSN so they collect that nice check they use to support the IndyCar welfare program called Leader Circle. The result is teams have to rely on ride-buyers to keep their teams afloat because the welfare check isn't big enough and they struggle to land huge sponsors themselves because of the NBCSN ratings.
NASCAR TV ratings have plummeted on NBCSN. F1 TV ratings are horrible on NBCSN. In fact, little, if anything, gets good ratings on NBCSN.
If there is any common sense sitting between the office walls at 16th and Georgetown, the new IndyCar contract will be exclusively with ABC and ESPN, with 75% of the races on ABC and 25% on ESPN.