Tuesday, September 27, 2011
Why Are NASCAR's Ratings On The Rise?
The story behind those numbers also bodes well for NASCAR’s 2011 Chase. Nielsen reported a 28-percent increase in the highly desirable 18 to 34-year old male demographic for Sunday’s race, along with a 20-percent increase in the male 18-49 demographic and a 33-percent upswing in viewers age 55 and older.
There are a number of possible explanations for this sudden ratings surge. Sunday’s 2 pm ET start – one hour later than in the regular season – almost certainly played a role, reeling-in viewers when they wandered away from their favorite National Football League game at halftime. ESPN’s new NASCAR NonStop format – with a split-screen featuring racing on one side and commercial announcements on the other -- gave viewers fewer opportunities to wander back to the gridiron, as well.
There were four fewer minutes of commercial announcements in this year’s race than in 2010, and NASCAR’s Most Popular Driver, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., was in the thick of the championship chase for the first time in recent memory. After racing to a third-place finish in the Chase opener a week before at Chicagoland Speedway, Earnhardt was a contender again at New Hampshire, remaining in contention for the win until a flat tire relegated him to a disappointing 17th place finish. Whether Earnhardt remains a factor in the Chase going forward remains to be seen, but at New Hampshire, he was a player.
Ratings for ESPN's portion of the NASCAR Sprint Cup season are up two percent over last year; a figure that does not include three rained-out races that ran the following day. It does, however, include the Bristol race, which was pre-empted in favor of NFL preseason football in a number of prime markets, dramatically impacting the overall numbers.
After a long drought, it appears NASCAR’s ratings are finally on the rebound. The reasons for that surge remain open for debate.