SBD/Issue 178/Sports Media

Fox' David Hill Voices Concern Over NASCAR Ratings, Demo Drops

Fox' Average Number Of Viewers Per Race
Has Dropped This Year

Fox closes the 13-race portion of its NASCAR Sprint Cup Series schedule on Sunday with the Coca-Cola 600, and Fox Sports Media Group Chair & CEO David Hill "sees cause for optimism, as well as caution flags," according to Erik Spanberg of SCENEDAILY.com. Fox attracted an average of 8.3 million viewers per race in '09, and this year "will likely finish with an average hovering near 8 million." In addition, the network noted that ratings among men 18-34 are down 29% from last year. Hill said, "The biggest problem facing NASCAR is that the young males have left the sport. And if I was NASCAR, and I was an owner (of a race team), it would be something that I would be burning the midnight oil on a nightly basis, worrying where they’ve gone and how do I get them back." Hill mentioned the possibility of shorter races, but noted that "lower ratings mean lower ad rates and sales," and went on to outline the "challenges of raising ad rates when audiences are smaller, as well as the potential impact of shorter races creating more financial pressure." He said, "We've got ourselves in a bit of a conundrum here." NASCAR's current TV deal, which began in '07 and runs through the '14 Cup season, pays out a total of $4.5B, but "without consistent, significant ratings gains in the next few years, NASCAR could be forced to accept a lower rights fee next time around." Spanberg noted negotiations are "expected to begin between NASCAR and the current network partners in 18 to 24 months." But despite the concerns, Hill said that he "considers the current season a success for his network." Several races "showed gains as the season has gone on, a hint of momentum that could stretch into the TNT and ESPN portions of the NASCAR schedule." Hill: "You can spell it p-h-e-w, exclamation point, exclamation point. We might be out of the woods. It’s what the public’s telling us. The changes that NASCAR made at the start of the season are having the impact that we hoped" (SCENEDAILY.com, 5/26).

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