SBD/Issue 152/Sports Media

Is Lack Of Exciting Racing Driving NASCAR Cup Ratings Down?

NASCAR's '09 Ratings Down
Compared To Last Year
The NASCAR Sprint Cup Aaron's 499 from Talladega Superspeedway yesterday earned a 4.5/11 overnight Nielsen rating on Fox, down 13.5% from a 5.2/11 mark from last year (THE DAILY). In Florida, Mark DeCotis reported eight Sprint Cup races have been run this year and “not one has drawn a larger TV audience than it did a year ago.” NASCAR’s ’09 ratings prior to the Aaron's 499 “have slipped 13[%] compared to last year.” Morris Communications writer Don Coble, who has covered NASCAR since '79, said, "I truly believe ratings are down because of the COT (new race car), not the economy. If the economy is bad and people aren’t going to races, it should increase ratings, not kill them." Coble noted because of the COT, there is "no such thing as side-by-side racing on the 1.5-mile and 2-mile tracks." Racing Web site The Daily Planet blogger John Daly: “This is a sport that demands 38 of your weekends a year to be a regular viewer. Add on top of that the increased commercial load, it’s been difficult for the fans to digest the fact that when they get to the TV perhaps they’re seeing a little bit less of the race than they had in the past because of the increased commercials and sponsorships inside the program.” But NASCAR Managing Dir of Corporate Communications Ramsey Poston said, “We tend to look at ratings over the long term. We’re still at a place where we’re reaching about six and a half million households and about 10 million viewers per week. … It’s a little bit too early to be able to identify any particular trend” (FLORIDA TODAY, 4/26).

CAUTION FLAG: In Charlotte, David Poole wrote the economy “can be used to explain a drop in attendance and sponsorship issues, but it doesn’t explain why television ratings have been down in recent weeks.” With the ratings down for Talladega, where racing is “almost guaranteed to be compelling,” it “will at least suggest a deeper, more systematic problem for the sport” (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 4/26). In Alabama, Josh Moon writes Talladega “continues to dish out the best racing, the most exciting finishes and the best TV ratings.” If the “back-and-forth competition isn’t there, very few people want to watch,” and if “you need proof of that, look at the numbers for tracks like Chicagoland, Phoenix or Kansas City.” Those tracks “suffer in the ratings” because the “racing stinks” (MONTGOMERY ADVERTISER, 4/27).

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