NASCAR on FOX's Big Potential Mistake

by Peter Carcia, (General Statistics Moderator)

6/28/2011

   Speed Network and NASCAR on FOX is the coverage station that is getting all the buzz lately in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series field of reporting. As the premier racing coverage station for NASCAR's first thirteen races, as well as practice and qualifying for the proceding six races, more people watch the races that are shown by FOX than any other station. In fact, the average viewership was roughly 1.5-2 million more than TNT, ESPN, and ABC, and that's when the Daytona 500 isn't factored in.

   So it caught my eye this week that there were rumors spreading around that FOX might consider showing the races only on Speed Network, the sister station that currently shows NASCAR Camping World Truck Series races and the qualifying and practice sessions of the top tier series. Judging from the rumored plan, this would likely be similar to what ABC did in the 2009-2010 offseason, bringing some of the Chase races that were originally airing on ABC and changing the airing schedule to have all but a few of the races on ESPN.

   Keep in mind what happened when those races were moved from a local station that everyone with a television is expected to have to a station that those with basic cable likely wouldn't be allowed. If you do the math with the viewership numbers reported on Jayski, the nine chase races (other than Charlotte, which is still shown on ABC) had an estimated viewership of 5.47 million people in 2009, their last hurrah on ABC. 2010 comes along, and that number is slashed to 4.84 million people. That's a 12% drop of viewers, and while some may argue that this was simply because of the same mysterious reason the attendance numbers have gone down, the numbers for the other stations didn't have decreaes this constant.

   Now, we are looking at an even greater change in the scenery. Speed Network isn't exactly the most prevalent channel on the market. Most television network providers have Speed in the low hundreds for their channel numbers, which means that there won't be a lot of people able to get the channel in the first place, never mind the affordability in this economy. And it shows; according to buildingspeed.com, the gap between those who have just Fox and those with both stand at at least 22 million. Plus, with the fact that only 2.5 million tune into the Sprint All-Star Race, which is currently the only liegitimate race shown solely by Speed, who knows how many of those 22 million are regular NASCAR fans.

   That sends a total ripple effect on the series. Since less people can afford to have the channel to watch Sprint Cup races, chances are the viewership will fall, and when that happens more advertisers get the realization that they might not benefit enough to profit in sponsoring NASCAR. Thus, more teams lose sponsorship, and more teams start & park and/or close operations.

   Yeah, the Michelle Bachman-like people will call me out for showing the worst case scenario, but it doesn't seem to make sense that the channel with all of the contemporary popularity in the sport would have the audacity to take away the thrill of racing to a lot of people. I'm pretty sure most would rather listen to Darrell, Larry and Mike than skip the first half of the year.