According to a story in the SportsBusiness Journal, Fox saw a 4 percent decline in ratings and 8 percent decline in viewership for its portion of the Sprint Cup schedule. The network averaged a 4.8 Nielsen rating and 7.9 million viewers for 13 Sprint Cup telecasts this season.
The male 18-34-year-old demographic dipped 20 percent, virtually erasing a 20 percent gain the sport made in the area last year. The average Nielsen rating in that demographic fell to a 1.4 from a 1.8 in 2011. In 2010, ratings in that demographic dipped by 29 percent.
“Two years ago, I looked at the men 18-to-34 trend, and I personally felt like it was a crisis. It represented a real threat to the ongoing health of the sport,” said Mike Mulvihill, Fox Sports’ senior vice president of programming and research.
“I think the 18-to-34 problem we had this year was mostly driven by competitive scenarios, which change every year. I don’t feel like it was reflective of a long-term problem with NASCAR itself.”
According to the SBJ, which is owned by Sporting News parent company American City Business Journals, a combination of weather-affected races and competition from other sports properties impacted the ratings.
The Daytona 500, which was postponed until Monday night by rain and then interrupted for more than two hours after Juan Pablo Montoya’s car collided with a jet dryer, saw an 8 percent decrease in its rating. The next two races competed against a New York Knicks game at the height of interest in Jeremy Lin and then the college basketball tournaments. The rain-shortened race at California’s Auto Club Speedway, was off 17 percent.
Ratings then stabilized in April with an average 4.0 rating, which is flat compared to 2011.
Turner began its six-race Cup schedule Sunday at Pocono. ESPN and ABC have the final 17 of the season. The NASCAR television deal is up for renewal after the 2014 season, and negotiations have already begun between NASCAR and Fox, TNT and ESPN, with NBC also possibly in the mix, according to the SBJ report.
ESPN, which televises the Nationwide Series along with ABC, saw a 25 percent increase among young male viewers over the first 11 races of the season. Overall, viewership was up for nine of 11 races, delivering an average 2.4 million viewers (up 7 percent) and a 1.7 Nielsen rating (up 6 percent).