SBD/January 28, 2011/Media

ESPN Challenges ISC Claims That Moving NASCAR To Cable Hurt Ratings

ESPN challenged assertions made by ISC execs that moving NASCAR races from ABC to ESPN contributed to ratings declines in '10. During an earnings call Thursday, ISC President John Saunders said unique circumstances ranging from the pothole at Daytona to the Vancouver Games and FIFA World Cup contributed to '10 ratings declines. Lastly, Saunders said, "While in the longer term we believe it will lead to an increase in ratings, there was an impact in viewership when ABC network moved the majority of its races to ESPN." Viewership during the Chase for the Sprint Cup on ESPN and ABC dropped 18% last year. ESPN VP/Programming & Acquisitions Julie Sobieski stood by ESPN's position that moving races from ABC, which reaches 116 million homes, to ESPN, which reaches 100 million homes, did not affect ratings. She said in a statement, “While we understand ISC’s need to address shareholders, the majority of the decline in ratings and viewership for the Chase races last year came from homes with access to ESPN. The simple fact is fewer people tuned in. ESPN did match ABC’s viewership for the NASCAR championship race at Homestead and out-delivered it in key male and adult demos." Sobieski added, "NASCAR was down all season on all networks, not just on ESPN. We continue to believe in the long-term strategy of airing the races on ESPN. We support NASCAR and it remains a very strong property.”
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