NASCAR: TV Ratings Down, Online Demand Up

Ratings for NASCAR telecasts were down this year, and some started predicting last year that after 15 years of growth its popularity had peaked. But TNT ad sales/sports president David Levy said demand for NASCAR-related content online is still exploding, a notion confirmed by Google’s Tim Armstrong, who said NASCAR gets “tremendous” traffic across Google’s system.

So if demand for online NASCAR is high, why are ratings down between 4% and 8% this year on the TV networks with exclusive rights to the races: ABC, NBC and TNT? Turner’s Levy offers one theory: too many 30-second ads. “We tried to go to the advertisers to do product placements and product integrations to make the viewing experience better in hopes the ratings would be better,” Levy said, at Jack Myers’ “Economics of the New Television Marketplace” breakfast. The advertisers, however, told Levy to get lost. More after the jump.

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Reducing the number of ads shown on each telecast would mean charging advertisers a premium for the remaining spots.  While TNT had some success and was able to air one race with limited commercials, resistance from advertisers was strong. “We would have done it for all of our races,” he said, “but the advertisers weren’t ready.”  Translation: viewership is far below what we expected, and advertisers aren’t willing to let us off the hook.

Here are two other theories about why online interest in NASCAR is soaring while TV viewership is down. First, the general migration of TV viewership to the Internet. Second, NASCAR TV viewers may finally, understandably, be bored out of their skulls.  Who wants to burn three hours on a Saturday afternoon waiting for crashes and checkered flags, when you can just check in on YouTube later and watch ONLY crashes and checkered flags?

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