As much as I am loath to admit it there might be something to Indycar’s decision to compress the schedule in order to avoid bumping up against the NFL.
Almost 400,000 people watched the Shell/Pennzoil Grand Prix of Houston double header over the weekend, a more than 100 percent increase over last year’s numbers when the race was held in October. With America playing on Tuesday in the World Cup and NASCAR racing on Saturday night there was not a lot of direct competition for viewers, and it could be argued that drove sports fans looking for a fix to Indycar.
So far, NBC Sports’ Indycar coverage has averaged 390,000 viewers, which is up 34% from last year’s 291,000, according to Sports Media Watch. Add to that a slight increase in ABC’s ratings thanks to a strong Month of May and for the first time in a long time Indycar ratings are up against across the board. Looking at the numbers it seems to me that Indycar’s dedicated fan base that is making an effort to watch every race has grown to around 250,000 to 300,000 fans. If these numbers hold, it’s starting to look like Indycar is starting to pull ahead of other niche sports in America.
Two Sports Business Daily writers analyzed the WNBA numbers and the ratings of other comparable sports. Despite having their games on ESPN and ESPN2, an arguable better placed network, averaged 231,000 viewers a game in 2013, a number that jumped to 344,000 for the final. Ahead of the World Cup the MLS was averaging 104,000 viewers on NBC Sports. Looking at their work Indycar is getting close to X-Game numbers.
There’s probably a myriad of reasons for bump in racing, American Ryan Hunter-Reay won the Indy 500 in dramatic fashion, Verizon has stepped up as title sponsor and NBC Sports has been cross-promoting Indy on it’s F-1 races, which are also seeing a ratings bump. Still, it looks like not competing with the NFL might be a good thing.
So the numbers for this year aren’t bad, they’re showing growth. Indycar’s ratings aren’t anywhere close to what NASCAR is doing, but they’re growing, and not many sports can say that. Maybe it’s the result of an epic Indy 500 and strong racing throughout the year, maybe it’s a result of not going head to head with the NFL, but if it works, it works.