Tuesday, May 28, 2013

TV Ratings For The Indianapolis 500 The Lowest Ever

Well this is disappointing. Despite putting on one of its greatest racing shows in many years, TV ratings for the 97th running of the Indianapolis 500 were lower than ever. ABC's live coverage of the race drew a 3.8 rating. From the Star:
The Indianapolis 500 drew a 3.8 overnight rating on ABC Sunday afternoon, it’s lowest since the race began airing live in 1986, according to a story on sportsmediawatch.com.
The number represents a seven percent drop from 2012 (4.1) and is down 12 percent from 2011 (4.3). The previous low was a 4.0 in 2010 and this is the fifth consecutive year the event has earned less than a 4.5 rating.
Pre-race coverage earned a 2.0 overnight on ABC, up from 1.9 last year.
The website used ratings numbers from ESPN.
The race is not broadcast live in the Indianapolis market; however, a rebroadcast that aired during prime time on WRTV last night drew a 9.3 rating. That compares to the 17.3 rating the NBA playoff game between the Pacers and the Heat drew on TNT and the 7.7 rating NASCAR's Coca-Cola 600 pulled on WXIN-TV in the Indianapolis market last night.

UPDATE: Ticket prices for nearly 2/3 of the seats at next year's race will increase 15%. This is the first increase in nearly a decade. On top of the ticket price increase, a new admissions tax will be collected for the first time ranging from 2% to 6% depending on the price of the ticket.


Unigov said...

TV ratings, attendance, and sponsor levels all point to Indy Car being a lower-tier attraction.

But why ? Multiple reasons:

1) Just about anybody can drive 200 mph in an Indy car around a big oval. This near-elderly journalist went 205 with a small amount of training: http://tinyurl.com/8duhmon

2) In comparison, driving an F1 car is bloody difficult. Very few Indy drivers could make an F1 team.

3) The "split" between CART and Indy not only ticked off fans, but it divided up the schedule. That schedule has been on the wane ever since, in fact...

4) The Indy Car schedule is just 16 events spread out over 8 months. NASCAR has 41 events. Indy Car has too few events to hold fan interest.

5) Increasing speeds used to bring out fans, but the speeds at Indy peaked in 1996 when Arie ran 237.

6) Any sport on a downward path - such as Indy Car since the 1990's - will struggle to attract sponsors. Hence the rinky-dink sponsors in recent years. Fewer sponsors means fewer events and less TV coverage, which just reinforces the downward path.

Back in the 1970's and 80's, tennis was huge. Jimmy Connors, Chris Evert, McEnroe, etc. But the casual fan's interest in tennis today is zilch. But pro tennis rolls on because (a) enough people play the sport to make up a fan base and (b) overhead costs are low, like golf.

So how does a sport maintain enough interest to hang in there ?

1) By being BIG. Indy differs from NASCAR by having 40% as many events, and 1% of the marketing skill. Similar to what MMA has done to boxing.

2) By featuring the best contestants. F1, NFL, NBA, MLB have the best talent on earth. Indy Car is on par with Triple-A baseball. Even with NHL, fans know they're watching great talent.

3) With low overhead cost. Golf and tennis players have $10,000 in equipment, and play at facilities that would exist anyway.

I'm reminded of a recent article that stated the company Living Social would soon go out of business, because people only need one such company, and Groupon is king. Indy Car is like Living Social, to the casual fan these days it's the odd man out.

Gary R. Welsh said...

How long is it before Purdue provides the series with the technology to drive the cars remotely or provide intuitive controls so they don't even need a real professional driver to operate the car? That's probably not too far away from being the case now. Have you noticed that a race car driver doesn't stand a chance of getting a ride with any of the top racing teams unless he or she is photogenic? The old-time famous race car drivers wouldn't have a chance in today's racing world.

CircleCityScribe said...

Smaller attendance, fewer seats, lower TV ratings....is a sale of IMS in the planning?

Now, consider what the owners of IMS have done: Changed the race from a month of fun times, parties, and family-affordable opportunities into an event for The Elite. Now, look around the track at those expensive suites (they are similar to the suites we paid for so that The Colts owner can make money renting them) Instead of 2 weekends of qualifying, and fun times for The Month of May, it's a quick qualification weekend and race.

Many events appear geared toward the wealthy & elite instead of the family.

Notice what's happening? -The elite pay more, so they don't need the families and "common folk" to make the money. Now with the TV ratings decreasing, that could be a problem when it comes to TV advertising dollars....

Gary R. Welsh said...

I think some of those suites go unused. I agree that the investments made over the past 15 years have been geared towards accommodating the elite attendees at the expense of the masses. The biggest drawback to attending the race in person is the difficulty in following what's happening. The video boards are virtually useless other than to show where the cars stand in the field. I learn more about what happened at the race by watching the awards ceremony following the race than I do spending several hours watching it live at the track. If you really are a true race fan, you can't beat the televised coverage to follow the race as closely as you want.

Pete Boggs said...

CCS makes good points about the diminished, once monthly schedule; which had the effect of introducing more young or new fans to the event.

GW: Critical tensions between engineers & drivers or pilots are normal. Remember "The Right Stuff," which chronicles those challenges between engineers & pilots for control of the aircraft.

Pilots & drivers don't want to be relegated to rider status, while engineers would like to fly or drive remotely or wirelessly with GPS guidance; preferring instead to see "how much" the human passenger can handle (g forces, etc.) , just short of passing out.

In a year when indicators are pointing in the wrong direction, the Indiana legislature unfortunately doubles DOWN, on public funding for the IMS, and the party of small government fades ever farther from view (read relevance).

Cost layering is a wrong direction 'solution" for the IMS.

Unigov said...

I've heard two people recently say they were "OK" with the state giving money to IMS because IMS had gone so long without state aid. This concept was implanted into the public consciousness by the Star and other large media. And it worked.

Another concept the public has been forced to swallow is slow entrance to the race. Something about Gate 5 taking an hour to get through. I saw on tv a crowd of several thousand still trying to get thru one of the gates, at 1140 am. I understand there might be more security searches BUT it looks like IMS mishandled this by not warning people sufficiently, and by not having enough resources to move people thru. I dunno. But on 1070 Monday, JMV (?) was going on about how we live in a different world, and people should expect slow lines to enter the track. Never mind that media get in free, and don't have to stand in line with the common folk. 1070 is the home of the race broadcast, so I think JMV is doing his corporate duty by downplaying the Speedway's cock-up.

(Security to get into the Kentucky Derby in 2006 was inSANE. Pat-downs for everyone. Searches of EVERYthing. No suntan lotion bottles. It was nuts - and it was all about keeping out booze, not looking for weapons or bombs)