Despite a record 68 lead changes, the 2013 edition of the Indianapolis 500 didn't draw viewers. The race's 3.8 overnight rating on ABC was its lowest ever, down 7% from 2012 and 12% from 2011. Since the race began to be broadcast live starting in 1986, this year marks the first year where the overnight has dipped below a 4.0, the previous low set in 2010. This also is the first time in history that the race has drawn under a 4.5 rating in five straight years.
As for what's causing the ratings decline, the popular reasoning is because there aren't any American drivers to grip the public. That's all well and good, but two Americans (Ed Carpenter, who won the pole and led the most laps during the race, and Marco Andretti of the famous Andretti family) were both on the front row to begin the race, and three more Americans (AJ Allmendinger, Ryan Hunter-Reay, and JR Hildebrand) qualified in the top ten. Five Americans would end up finishing in the top ten of the race, and a pretty popular driver in Tony Kanaan ended up getting the win.
So what could you blame the declining ratings on? The popularity of NASCAR and the decline in popularity of open wheel racing in America is probably a good bet. Formula 1 races have been shuffled off to mornings on NBC Sports Network. IndyCar races are also on NBC Sports Network and are struggling, especially when compared to broadcasts on ABC.
I don't think this is a death knell for IndyCar by any means, but it's not a step in the right direction. Open wheel racing is becoming more and more of a niche sport, and while the diehards will always tune in, the casual fans couldn't care less.
Monaco was on NBC, not NBCSN
People simply NEVER watch that channel. Versus/OLN assumed the ICS would bring it's 1,000,000 or so regular cable viewers with them, but that hasn't happened.
I agree that the announcers are significant. When the Aussie V8s turn away from Channel 7 each year for the Melbourne GP support races, the product suffers a ton, IMHO. But Goodyear has been announcing on and off for a long time now. He's not great but IMO doesn't drive people off (he's kind of bland). Cheever adds some character, again, not great, but not terrible either.
Chances are those who don't like the current crop of announcers didn't care for the ESPN announcers from 5-10 years ago either, yet 2-4x as many people watched those races as watch NBCSN today. And there are quite a few more viewers than there were back then.
Viewers get entrenched in their viewing habits. And they just don't seem to EVER dial up NBCSN in any kind of quantity. Only the Stanley Cup playoffs draw a million viewers. I think you can count the number of other programs that have drawn that many viewers on NBCSN on one hand.
Here are the reasons ratings are down: ABC/ESPN announcers are horrible. Their coverage is horrible. NBCSN had record viewership for it's coverage of a far less competitive race, the Monaco Grand Prix. NBCSN does a much better job covering its IndyCar races than ABC/ESPN. When IndyCar execs realize that and get all their races on a competent network, then ratings will improve.
This is the ongoing result of IndyCar management taking the fast cash from Versus/OLN/Outdoor Life/NBC Sports while destroying the long term value of the series.
When they signed that VERY long term deal, they gained $4 Million/yr in league TV revenue while losing 20x that much in sponsor value due to nonexistant viewers. That's just dumb.
.15s and .20s aren't going to build an audience. The series needs to work to make ALL of its events more successful if it wants to pop a large TV number for the 500. Step #1 of that task it to do whatever it takes to get them in front of eyeballs. Not coincidentally, that is also steps #2 thru 30.
heres whats sad, the race could get ohh i dont know, 5 or so million viewers in Indiana but ABC 6 out of Indianapolis decides to black out the race every year. Plus the FCC does not allow cable/satellite companies to give viewers channels out of their region, such as ABC 7 out of Chicago that carries the race every year.
A lot of the passing seemed contrived to me, i practically resented it. It's like they and NASCAR are going too far out of their way and have been for awhile now to capture the attention of the marginal fan, so they throw a whole bunch of stuff at the wall and see what sticks. Unfortunately, indycar and nascar care more about ratings and tv numbers than they do the actual racing...they think people are going to beat off to the # of lead changes when in fact ive enjoyed a lot of the older indy 500s where multiple guys were laps down and there weren't "phony" passes. I think indy and daytona have lost their allure because both companies have basically cheapened their products to court the marginal fan who doesn't care anyway.
Not that F1 would draw better any other time of day, but the races are in the morning because they're live and the time difference. Indy Car racing lacks star power, period. Fans don't know the drivers, they don't tune in.
I agree. I was at the 500 and thought it was one of the best races I had ever seen. I watched the rebroadcast at the hotel later that night, and the commentators may as well have been describing a golf tournament for all their lack of enthusiasm. Bring back Paul Page! If you ever see any of the old races from about 20 years ago on ESPN Classic, they managed to convey the drama far better.
Agreed. Also, I believe it was the first race those guys called this season. I know they're pros, but chemistry takes time. Give me the NBC Sports Network crew to make it a more entertaining race. What's really sad is the 2012 and 2013 races have been amazing, even with finishes under yellow. The new cars are so racy, it's a shame more folks aren't watching. (Also, it's crazy that Indianapolis still has a blackout, but that's another topic.)
Part of this was because Marty Reid, Scott Goodyear, and Eddie Cheever were all boring and overly repetitive...how many times did they do the "well let's take turns for first place" bit? Marty Reid messed up and suggested that Scott Dixon was the one going for 4 Indy 500 titles, and there seemed to be some animosity between Cheever and Goodyear for whatever reason...but both of those guys are snoozefests.
@The_Lakelander If viewers are entrenched, then why is viewership going down?It's because the announcers are on the same station they've always been on and they suck.
The fact of the matter is NBC/NBCSN > ABC/ESPN, not only in announcing but also in promotion of the sports they're covering.
@The_Lakelander couldn't agree more here. back when the deal was signed, it wasn't a bad deal per se (*a* deal is better than *no* deal), but with the passing of time and the transformation of the network across half a dozen different target segments, the deal turned sour pretty quickly. the boston consulting group report released a few months back touched on the possibility that nbc sports is in breach of contract for their lack of support in providing for a stable promotion base for the series - i for one would welcome a challenge to the nbc sports nightmare.