Daytona 500 In Primetime Earns 7.7 Overnight After Red Flag Delay Forces Late Finish
Fox earned a 7.7 overnight Nielsen rating for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Daytona 500's debut in primetime, which saw Matt Kenseth take the checkered flag. That figure is down 6% from an 8.2 overnight for Trevor Bayne’s win last year, which aired on a Sunday afternoon, but up from a 7.0 rating in ’10 when the race was delayed due to a pothole on the track. From 7:15-10:30pm ET, the race was averaging a 7.8 rating, with ratings peaking from 10:00-10:15pm at a 9.2 rating. The race dropped to a 7.3 rating from 10:30-12:00am, during which the race was under a red flag due to a fuel spill resulting from driver Juan Pablo Montoya crashing into a jet dryer. The 12:00-1:00am hour finished also finished at a 7.3 rating. The race delivered Fox a win among all networks in primetime overnights, and is expected to give the net its most-viewed Monday night since the World Series. The 7.7 rating for the race was below the 9.4 overnight earned by NBC’s “The Voice,” which aired from 8:00-10:00pm. “The Voice” also topped all programs last night among adults 18-49 (Austin Karp, THE DAILY). In Charlotte, Roy Green Jr. wonders whether the large ratings could "lead to the Daytona 500 becoming a prime-time event" (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 2/28). ESPN’s Tony Kornheiser said, “Because of the history of ‘Monday Night Football,’ the American public is willing to accept a sporting event in primetime on Monday night.” This “could be the start of ‘Monday Night Daytona’ from now on if they do a great job” ("PTI," ESPN, 2/27).
READY FOR PRIMETIME: In Orlando, George Diaz writes moving the start of the race from 12:00pm to 7:00pm was the “best-case-scenario” for NASCAR, evolving from “a lousy 24 hours of involving zero cooperation with the heavens above.” NASCAR was “able to stage its signature event to kick off the season under the [lights], in prime time.” Diaz: “No doubt that Fox put a little squeeze on NASCAR officials to ditch the original plan of a noon start when the drizzle continued to drip on Daytona again Monday morning” (ORLANDO SENTINEL, 2/28). Dallas Morning News columnist Tim Cowlishaw said NASCAR is "making the best of a bad situation.” Staging the event last night had "more people watching obviously than it would have had they run this afternoon.” SB Nation's Bomani Jones said, "It’s much better than if they had been on the afternoon, when people are at work” (“Around The Horn,” ESPN, 2/27). The AP’s Jim Litke writes the Daytona 500 “wasn't just delayed,” it was a “flat-out disaster.” But NASCAR officials need to “look hard for a silver lining” because “that's what Monday night's race could turn out to be.” Litke writes, “‘Monday Night Racing’ is an experiment that might be worth trying again.” Moving a regular-season race or two from a weekend slot to Monday night “might be just the spark [the] sport needs to keep a still-fragile recovery on track.” Litke: “Racing just looks better at night, and it's a whole lot wilder, something that wouldn't be wasted on the 18-34 demographic NASCAR is so desperately seeking” (AP, 2/28).
BETWEEN THE ROCK AND A HARD PLACE: Fox Sports co-President & COO Eric Shanks said it was not a tough decision to run the Daytona 500 in primetime last night in place of new episodes from two successful primetime series. "You have a commitment to the Daytona 500 and you just make that work. ... Is it ideal for 'House' and 'Alcatraz' to be displaced? No." “Alcatraz” has been averaging a 6.2 rating and 10.4 million viewers this season to date, while “House” has averaged a 5.6 rating and 9.1 million viewers. This is the first time the race has been moved to a primetime slot, and Shanks was not prepared to offer any ratings guesses. "I don't think anyone is thinking that viewership will be higher or equal to if the race ran on Sunday, when everyone knew it was on," Shanks said. He pointed to strong entertainment competition on Monday nights, which includes four of the top broadcast shows among NASCAR's key men 18-49 demographic: "The Voice," "Two-And-A-Half Men," "2 Broke Girls" and "How I Met Your Mother." NBC's "The Voice" is currently the most-viewed Monday night program on TV, with its 8:00-10:00pm window averaging an 11.8 rating and 21.7 million viewers (buoyed by a post-Super Bowl season premiere). Additionally, ESPN aired two men's college basketball matchups (Notre Dame-Georgetown and Kansas-Oklahoma State) and USA Network broadcast WWE "Monday Night Raw," both of which attract the young male demo (Ourand & Karp, THE DAILY).
A LITTLE BIRDIE TOLD ME: YAHOO SPORTS’ Jeff Passan writes driver Brad Keselowski is “perhaps the social media-savviest racer in NASCAR,” and he used the two-hour delay from Juan Pablo Montoya's fiery crash with a jet dryer “to tweet from his No. 2 car.” Keselowski spent much delay "interacting with a group of followers that wouldn’t stop growing.” Keselowski, who started the race “with around 65,000 followers, more than tripled that number, leaving Daytona International Speedway with more than 200,000.” All but “eight of the 43 tweets Keselowski sent from his account -- @Keselowski -- were retweeted more than 50 times.” He was “informative, giving updates from inside and outside of his car on when the race might restart” (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 2/28). YAHOO SPORTS’ Dan Wetzel notes Keselowski “pulled out a smart phone, took pictures and tweeted.” He wound up “gaining around 135,000 followers in a matter of a couple hours” (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 2/28).
SAYING SORRY: USA TODAY’s Michael McCarthy reports San Diego-area KSWB-Fox' Ross Shimabuku “has apologized for stopping just short of calling NASCAR driver Danica Patrick an offensive word on-air Feb. 20.” The network showed video of Patrick at NASCAR media day “complaining that the news media always describe female athletes such as herself as ‘sexy.’” Patrick: “Is there any other word that you can use to describe me?” On the set, Shimabuku said, “Oh, I’ve got a few words. … Starts with a ‘B,’ and it’s not ‘beautiful.’” Fox posted a video of him “apologizing on its website Sunday” (USA TODAY, 2/28).