NASCAR, TMS Hoping For Needed TV Help

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, April 7 2018

With ratings nose-diving, television is swamping this weekend’s NASCAR racing at Texas Motor Speedway. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Jim Fluharty)

By John Sturbin | Senior Writer

FORT WORTH, Texas – NASCAR’s sagging TV ratings could receive a much-needed bump at Texas Motor Speedway this weekend via “saturation coverage” on the FOX Network, FOX Sports 1 and FOX Deportes.

With the exception of February’s season-opening Daytona 500, the other five Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series races run to-date reportedly have seen Nielsen ratings viewership drops as high as 25 percent from one year ago.

NASCAR’s doubleheader weekend at TMS has Saturday’s My Bariatric Solutions 300 Xfinity Series race televised live on FOX beginning at 2 p.m. (CDT). Sunday’s O’Reilly Auto Parts 300 Cup race will be televised live on FOX Sports 1 beginning at 1 p.m., while FOX, curiously enough, is airing a Women’s International Soccer match between Mexico and the United States.

Additionally, FOX Sports Latin America will be broadcasting both the Cup and Xfinity series races on-site to Central and Latin America for the first time in the 22-year history of “The Great American Speedway.” The broadcasts will be aired in Spanish to over 40 countries and territories.

The races will be televised on FOX Sports 3 in all Central and Latin American countries with the exception of Brazil. Both events will be aired on FOX Sports 2 in Brazil in Portuguese. FOX Deportes also will air the Cup Series race in the United States.

Tony Rivera and Luis Solis will be the on-air talent for both races and will broadcast from Fort Worth. North American Spanish-language broadcaster FOX Deportes also will be picking up the broadcast of the race in the United States.

Overall, NASCAR is televised in more than 185 countries and territories in 20 languages. The areas with live broadcasts include Canada, Latin America, Europe, Asia/Pacific Rim, Middle East, Africa and Indian Subcontinent.

TMS President Eddie Gossage termed the addition of FOX Deportes to the TV mix as especially significant to the Dallas-Fort Worth market, which ranks among the top-10 metro areas in the United States for Hispanic population at nearly 2-million. That demographic remains fertile, untapped territory for Gossage, NASCAR’s version of P.T. Barnum/former Charlotte Motor Speedway mentor H.A. “Humpy” Wheeler.

It (FOX Deportes) increases the reach of this race, I think, about four-fold,” Gossage said during a recent promotional tour with Mexican-born Cup driver Daniel Suarez at the Consulate de Mexico in Dallas. “The local powers-that-be around here don’t recognize that this race has been for years televised in about 160 countries.  So the reach of this race changed in a massive way.

“It makes sense. We’re in Texas _we’re not in some Midwestern city or Eastern city. We’re in Texas, we’re close to Mexico _ all the more important for Daniel to do well because folks watching on FOX Deportes can see it. They get to see what he does.

“That is so important to the growth of the sport. That’s a whole new audience that we hope will be fans of a sport we already know so well and love so much. I look forward to seeing what kind of impact this will have.”

A 26-year-old native of Monterrey, Mexico, Suarez is in his second full Cup season with powerhouse Joe Gibbs Racing. “This is a great opportunity to get some new fans get in front of new markets for NASCAR,” said Suarez, a graduate of NASCAR’s “Drive for Diversity” initiative who hopes his story will inspire the next generation of wannabe stock car drivers throughout Mexico and Latin America.

Meanwhile, the on-air product Cup stars like Jimmie Johnson, Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch deliver for their teams and sponsors during each race is tracked and recorded on the tube by Nielsen ratings _ the audience measurement systems operated by Nielsen Media Research that seek to determine the audience size and composition of television programming in the United States.

Those ratings clearly document an early portion of the Cup schedule marked by a downward trend in viewership. In reverse order, here are the Cup race TV ratings reports as supplied by jayski.com:

Martinsville ratings _ Postponed a day due to rain, racing from Martinsville (Va.) Speedway earned 1.19-million viewers on FOX Sports 1 the following Monday afternoon. Last year’s race was run as scheduled on a Sunday and had 4.0-million viewers.

Auto Club Speedway ratings _ FOX earned a 2.4 overnight rating and 4.0-million viewers from the venue in Fontana, Calif., approximately 50 miles east of the key Los Angeles/car-centric Southern California market. That figure was down 25 percent in ratings and 22 percent in viewership from last year (3.2/5.2-million) and down 40 percent and 41 percent, respectively, from 2016 (4.0/6.8-million).

Phoenix ratings_ The race from ISM Raceway (formerly Phoenix Raceway and before that Phoenix International Raceway) in Avondale, Ariz., scored a 2.8 rating and 4.6-million viewers on FOX, down 15 percent in ratings and viewership from last year (3.3/5.4-million), down 30 percent and 31 percent, respectively, from 2016 (4.0/6.6-million), and the lowest rating and viewership in the history of the race (dating to 2005).

Las Vegas ratings _ The race from Las Vegas Motor Speedway, a sister 1.5-mile layout to Texas Motor Speedway, earned a 2.9 rating and 4.7-million viewers on FOX, down 19 percent in ratings and 21 percent in viewership from last year (3.6/6.0-million) and down 34 percent and 35 percent, respectively, from 2016 (4.4/7.2-million).

Atlanta ratings:  The event from Atlanta Motor Speedway in Hampton, Ga., another sister 1.5-mile layout to Texas Motor Speedway, earned a 3.3 rating and 5.6-million viewers on FOX, down 13 percent in ratings and 15 percent in viewership from last year.

Daytona 500 ratings: FOX earned a 5.3 fast national rating for “The Great American Race” from Daytona International Speedway. With inclusion of Nielsen Media Research out-of-home viewing data, the Daytona 500 averaged 9,781,000 across all platforms, peaking at more than 11.5-million viewers. According to Nielsen, more than 18.1-million viewers watched all or part of what is marketed to the fan base as NASCAR’s Super Bowl.

It was the highest-rated and most-viewed FOX telecast of any kind since the NFC Championship Game in January, and the most-watched motorsports event on TV. Out-of-home data inclusion provided a 7.4 percent lift in the coveted 18-34 age-group demographic, the highest percentage increase of any demo.

Race coverage garnered an average-minute audience of 51,004 for the livestream telecast on FOX Sports GO and FOX Now, up 28 percent over last year’s 39,832, making it the best-performing NASCAR event in FOX Sports GO history.

Gossage downplayed the weekly trending drop in Nielsen ratings while also addressing the issue of “engagement” indicated by the full complement of Daytona 500 numbers.

Something I’ve come to learn is that we can no longer measure sports by Nielsen ratings,” Gossage said. “It’s about engagement and you’ve got to consider all kinds of things. Certainly, Nielsen ratings is one of them but you’ve got to consider social media _ and that’s really hard to do because there’s all these independent accounts. You know, NASCAR can tell you what nascar.com did and NASCAR’s social media accounts. But that’s not telling you what Kevin Harvick’s social media account did or Bubba Wallace’s social media account did or what have you.

“It’s all about engagement and it’s something I’ve learned over the last couple of years and one of the networks showed me how they’re looking at it because it’s also streaming. So there’s all kinds of ways today you have to look at it and we will continue to see TV ratings for everything decline. Everything.”

Gossage said NFL ratings have gone down 17 percent over the past two seasons, alluding to a sport that is worshipped by all demographic groups in Texas as “the 800-pound gorilla that’s too big to die. It’s just a different world and it is not ruled by the Nielsen’s any more.

“I know that it’s harder than ever to draw live fans. College football was down, college basketball was down, NFL live attendance is down…certain games they clam are sold-out that I attend, easily 10 percent of the seats are empty and certain games 25 percent of the seats are empty. Come on. I don’t care who you are in sports, it’s harder to sell tickets and get people to attend. That is one of the things you do lose sleep over, because that’s my job. You try to take advantage of information that is gleaned from digital media and be very targeted and people claim everything from presidential elections and new and improved Tide _ it works for them.

“The truth is every time we’ve done anything targeting in this demographic category, that demographic category, email blasts or direct mail or anything of that nature _ it’s never worked. Not come close to working. Lost money. So it’s very, very, very difficult and it’s more segmented than ever. I’m glad we built this speedway 22 years ago and not today, because I don’t know how to get it started today.”

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, April 7 2018
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