NASCAR Chase Viewership Finishes Down From ’14

The first season of a new NASCAR Sprint Cup TV package ended on a high note for the series, but the overall viewership for the Chase for the Sprint Cup dropped off compared to recent years. The Chase moved from ESPN and ABC last year to NBC and NBCSN this season. While last year's Chase was free of weather delays, two races in '15 — Charlotte and Phoenix — saw rain delays, moving coverage from NBC's broadcast channel to the NBCSN cable net. But the '15 rain-delayed races still ran during weekend windows and did not have to move to a weekday window.

Looking at 10 Chase races for both years, the Sprint Cup "playoff" viewership dropped 13% (3.8 million viewers last year vs. 4.4 million viewers in '14). If the two rain-delayed races are excluded, that decline is 6% (4.1 million for eight races vs. 4.4 million for 10 races). Using either average, the Chase for the Sprint Cup was also below the 4.5 million viewers in '13 and 4.2 million viewers in '12.

SLOW START, STRONG FINISH: The finale to the Sprint Cup season at Homestead-Miami drew 7.6 million viewers on NBC after a short weather delay. NBC stuck with the race and went without its "Football Night in America" lead-in for "Sunday Night Football." That paid off for NASCAR, as the 7.6 million viewers was the best for a NASCAR finale in a decade, as well as the most-viewed Chase race since '06, when NBC and TNT shared the Chase. The finale also was up 46% from ESPN's telecast last season. But the strong Homestead audience could not overcome lower numbers on NBCSN, which has less distribution than ESPN. Each Chase race that moved from ESPN to a scheduled airing on NBCSN this year saw a double-digit percentage drop in viewership. Outside of Homestead, only Kansas saw a gain, and that race moved ESPN last year to NBC this season.

NASCAR CHASE FOR THE SPRINT CUP VIEWERSHIP
SEASON
NETWORKS
RACES
VIEWERS (000)
'15*
NBC/NBCSN
8
4,100
'14
ABC/ESPN
10
4,477
'13**
ABC/ESPN
9
4,458
'12
ABC/ESPN
10
4,224

CHART NOTES: * = Figure for '15 excludes rain-delayed Charlotte, Phoenix races. ** = Figure for '13 excludes rain-delayed Chicagoland race.

SEASON-LONG LOOKS: Excluding rain delays, NASCAR Sprint Cup telecasts for the complete '15 season averaged 5.1 viewers, down from 5.3 million last year, excluding a rain-delayed Daytona 500. Meanwhile, the first season of Xfinity Series races across Fox, FS1, NBC and NBCSN averaged 1.5 million viewers, down from 1.7 million viewers on ABC, ESPN, ESPN2 last season. On a positive note, the Camping World Truck Series across Fox and FS1 averaged 723,000 viewers, up 4% from last year on the same nets. Austin Karp/SportsbusinessDaily.com

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