After a few good weeks of TV ratings news, NASCAR came back to earth on Sunday at Phoenix.
The preliminary ratings show that Phoenix had 2.24 rating and 3.6 million viewers on NBC. That was down from last year’s version, which attracted a 2.41 rating and 4 million viewers.
The officials results will be out later this week.
NASCAR had been riding a bit of a rating winning streak. The chaos at Martinsville was good for rating, as NBC announced audience was up year over year.
NBC Sports, in two tweets, said its ratings and viewership were up this year compared to last. NBC said the preliminary numbers show ratings up 6 percent and viewership up 4 percent, to 2.79 million viewers.
Talladega was also successful, as SportsMediaWatch reported the race earned a 2.8 rating and 4.7 million viewers, up 27% and 32%, respectively, over last year. The numbers also beat 2015.
The big difference — this year’s race was on broadcast TV and the 2015 and 2016 races were on the NBCSN cable channel.
NASCAR fans have often complained that having the race on cable makes it harder to watch because not everyone has cable. The numbers, at least for this week, show the wisdom of keeping the race on broadcast TV.
Talladega was also the it was the top race since the Brickyard 400 on NBC. Those two races, along with the Bristol Night Race, are the only three races to post year-over-year gains.
All three were moved from NBCSN to NBC.
RATINGS THIS YEAR
NASCAR will take any good ratings news it can get because this season has been a disaster.
Charlotte was the lowest rated Cup Series race on broadcast television since at least 2000 and the least-watched in 15 years — since at least 2001, according to SportsMediaWatch.
How bad was it? Ratings were down 42% and viewership down 44% when compared to the 2014 race, which also ran during the day and was broadcast on ESPN.
Compared to last year, ratings were down 14% and viewership 11%. That’s significant because the race was delayed a day due to rain, and delayed races normally pull lower ratings.
This comes after the disastrous numbers ar the Apache 400 at Dover.
SportsMediaWatch reported that ratings were down 13 percent and viewership down 20 percent. The race was tied for the lowest rated NASCAR playoff race since 2004, and the second-lowest rated Cup Series race of any kind since at least 2000.
That came a week after the New Hampshire numbers were also down — a 1.3 rating was down from last year’s 1.6.
It’s the continuation of bad ratings news for NASCAR. The Turtles 400, for example, earned a 1.4 rating and 2.3 million viewers, down from last year’s 1.6 and 2.7, respectively.
SportsMediaWatch said that race was the “lowest rated and least-watched Cup Series race at Chicagoland (dates back to 2001) and the lowest rated and least-watched playoff race at any track (dates back to 2004).”
But that’s the end of it. Ratings for Chicagoland have declined each year since 2005, and 22 of 26(!) races have posted year-over-year declines in audience and viewership, SMW noted.
It’s quite possible the numbers were hurt by competition from other sports — pro and college football, and baseball has several exciting races as it heads into the final weeks of its season. It’s also possible running the races on cable is killing the sport.
But it’s a continuation of bad ratings news for NASCAR.
The Southern 500 attracted 3.10 million viewers on NBCSN, and the rest of the numbers were equally as terrible. Ratings were down 36%; viwership down 33% in viewership from last year, and it was even worse from 2015 — ratings were down 51% and viewership 48%.
Denny Hamlin’s win — which ended up being encumbered — was the lowest-rated Darlington race since at least 1998 and the least-watched since at least 1999.