Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Bristol TV Ratings Get NASCAR's Attention


It had the shortest laps, the most excitement and was live in East Coast prime-time. It featured the top stars in the sport and came when the scramble for Chase spots was in full-swing. ESPN had all their TV stars on-hand and covered the racing action from start-to-finish. In the end, that wasn't enough.

National TV ratings for Saturday night's Sprint Cup Series race from Bristol were down. The numbers show viewership fell from 5.7 million to just under 5 million homes. A 3.5 rating this year as opposed to a 4.1 last season.

Numbers aside, the final night of Olympic event coverage certainly played a role in these results. So did the growing availability of alternatives to the ESPN coverage. DirecTV's Hot Pass, NASCAR.com's Sprint Race View and live radio coverage all use other pathways to deliver the same racing content that ESPN is producing.

The transition of Bristol from a gladiator-style crash-fest into a two-groove racetrack had to play a role as well. Even though ESPN promoted the race as a "slugfest" and "full contact NASCAR action," nothing could be further from the truth. Accidents happened because of spotter error, blown tires and the limited visibility in the new COT.

After watching the racing action for so many years from this tiny oval, it seems ironic that one or two bumps at the end among the leaders would cause such a stir. ESPN has a tough challenge on its hands to try and bump-up the ratings, but at least they are secure in the knowledge that this will be the final Fontana race in the heat of the summer on a Labor Day weekend.

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38 comments:

Gomez the Speed Freak said...

I dunno, TV ratings are highly suspect at the best of times ... maybe the (very) few numbskulls who fill out those surveys were otherwise too busy to bother filing them out ... maybe they were bbq'ing smores ... nipping on some Wild Turkey ... or playing Bridge .. or betting the farm in online poker ...

That being said, and all kidding aside, think about it seriously for a moment: they way the TV industry goes about figuring out ratings is neanderthalic at best, morontic at worst.

I mean, come one, JD, imagine if someone asked YOU how many visitors you had today to this website. You'd have the statistics at your disposal in real time on an hour by hour basis. Or at least you could if you wanted them

But TV and radio and, for that matter, newspaper viewers/listeners/readers is pur hocus-pocus.

Or more succinctly: bullsh*it.

GtSF

GtSF said...

Cripes, sorry for all the typos, I'm frikin embarrassed ...

GtSF

SallyB said...

I have been attending the night race at Bristol since 2002. Over the past several years, I have watched the 'excitetment meter' dropping during the race. It started before the tracks was repaved, and since the Busch series manages to keep the intensity level pretty high, I don't think that has much to do with it. Since the manufacturing of 'the chase', the racing at Bristol has gotten more and more polite. The COT hasn't added to the intensity, either. I was yawning by lap 150. To me, 30 'exciting laps' isn't what people expect at Bristol. I'm not saying the racing is bad, per se, but these days it's a lot more like watching a race at MIS, only with lapped traffic. It may be good racing, but it isn't the Bristol that fans have come to expect. You don't have to have wrecks every 10 laps to have intense racing. Bristol seems to have misplaced that over the past 3 or 4 years. I find it interesting that the TV audience wasn't rapt, either.

There are very few unique tracks left in Nascar these days, races being awarded to tracks because of demographics, market desirability, or amenities. It's sad to see one of the few left being homogenized into a track that drivers love and fans find, well, boring.

Newracefan said...

Perhaps it was rebound from the disaster of NW and the race the week before, add a little Olympics... game over.

Vince said...

Just a personal observation, but for this viewer Bristol turned into a snooze fest about the same time Dale Sr. passed away.

Richard in N.C. said...

I find it intriguing that you virtually never see any real criticism of the TV broadcasts (in particular TNT & ESPN) except on Internet sites. At most you might see some brief reference to some "fan dissatisfaction" in newpapers, magazines, and the largest websites. I can understand why ratings are down, but apparently the major media people are either unaware or unconcerned - or are more concerned with not angering the broadcast entities. Makes one wonder about the credibility of most of the media.

darbar said...

We've been saying for a long time that Nascar is slowly going down the tubes, and it appears no one cares---not the networks, not the big wigs of Nascar and possibly not the drivers. The COT is boring---who wants to watch identical cars, that don't handle well, racing at boring cookie-cutter tracks? The Chase is the worst idea since I don't know when. There's no real racing for the first 26 races---these guys are only points racing enough to get into the Chase. Jr said as much in a few interviews this season. He said that he only wants to secure his spot in the Chase and won't do anything to hurt that chance. It's obvious these guys are only driving around the tracks, adding up their points and making sure they don't race too hard so they won't crash and end up 43rd. Most fans don't want to see crashes, but only want good, hard, wheel to wheel racing with all 43 guys trying hard to WIN and not just race for points.

Then of course, you have these idiots changing things like the Bud Shootout, that will only alienate fans more, after finding out that fan favorites Tony Stewart and Ryan Newman won't be allowed in the race. And then to find out this morning on Nascar on Sirius that it was the car manufacturers who demanded this change to the Shootout, and not Nascar at all, will cause a whole lot of hard feelings from fans. When Nascar rah rah man, David Poole, finds fault, you know there's a problem.

Attendance and viewership will continue to fall for Nascar, especially in light of the horrible coverage provided by the likes of TNT and ESPN.

Please, Nascar, wake up and turn the sport back to what it was, viewer friendly, highly competitive with professional TV coverage. Oh, I'm sorry. That means probably making a few million dollars less, and we all know that idea won't fly with Brian, lets grab the dough, France.

Sophia said...

DARBAR

I had NOT IDEA the car manf changed the shoot out rules.

Either way that STINKS and angers me.

NO TONY and NO RYAN???????????

Another reason to skip more races..and many of us are.


WHO CARES?? TPTB of NASCAR DO NOT.

Richard in N.C. said...

I need to go back and read again, but I thought the Shootout had to be changed anyway and the decision was made to change it in a way that would be appreciated by the manufacturers. Since Coors now sponsors the pole awards and Bud the Shootout, there was no longer a real incentive to use pole winners as the entre to the Shootout.

darbar said...

Richard, the gentleman on Sirius this morning distinctly said, upon questioning by David Poole, that this change in the format was at the behest of the car manufacturers. He said that they wanted to see manufacturer against manufacturer for the early part of the race and then a no-holds-barred race for the last 10 laps. He said they want to see the Chevy guys working together against the Toyota guys and the Dodge and Ford teams all working against the other three manufacturers. Poole asked if they were planning on making an exception for past Champions, so that Stewart and any other shut outs could get into the race, and Poole was told no, but "maybe" for 2010. Poole asked if they were going to award a trophy to the winning manufacturer and the guys said, yes, that's the plan. So, what that says to me is, they are turning the Shootout into a manufacturer's king of the hill, rather than a driver's race. In the end, this will not attract the viewers at home or in the stands.

Gymmie said...

That's how I understood it as well Richard.

Yup Sophia...Smoke & Ryan won't be in it because unless some weird miracle happens the cars they'll be in at SHR won't be one of the top 6 Chevys :(.

I'm upset over it because people like Patrick who looked forward to being in it won't be :(. Unless my counting is off, as it stands now Patrick is 2 away but I still don't think he could move up high enough :(.

Richard in N.C. said...

David Poole is not real specific in his article in Tuesday's Charlotte paper, except that Coors' becoming sponsor of the pole award "signaled an end to having Cup teams earn Shootout spots based on" poles won. I don't disagree, except that Bud had a reason to change the basis for Shootout spots in order to avoid any tie in with the Coors pole awards.

Anonymous said...

The highest rated Olympics ever probably packed more of a punch to the NASCAR ratings that anyone here is willing to give them credit.

Sophia said...

I can believe anything about the Olympics. Everywhere I read were how much the ratings helped NBC..though I watched less than an hour. Total.

kbaskins said...

I can give another reason for the ratings being down on Saturday night: the Nationwide race on Friday.

Did anyone else, like me, seriously give some thought to skipping the Cup race after the debacle on Friday? If it wasn't for the fact that I work Sundays and have very few chances to watch a Cup race, I wouldn't have bothered.

Granted, ESPN made an excellent recovery on Saturday, but if I had an opportunity to watch all the races instead of about a quarter of them, I would not have gone out of my way to make time for NASCAR.

--KarenB

Dot said...

Sophia,
Ditto regarding the Olympics. The most I saw was just over an hour, only because it was on at my nail shop. Did not watch any at home.

If the ratings were down at Bristol, what's CAs ratings going to look like? I wouldn't watch the race either, but the only radio station I found in LV is sandwiched between two Mexico radio stations so I can't even get it. Note too, if they have alot of tight track shots so they don't show the empty stands.
I read elsewhere that you can even get free tickets. It's sad they get two races a year.

JD, I know some mentioned the Shoot Out's new rules. Are you going to post that subject? My fingers are ready.

SallyB said...

Suppodedly the motivation behind the creation of the crapshoot was to keep viewer interest high as football season approached. doesn't apper to be working, does it? Now, the Bud shootout is a manufacturer's trophy? I guess they needed something to pretend the COT pays more than lip service to each manufacturer.

Anonymous said...

For the first time in it's history ,the sponsors run NASCAR . Think back to the days of Bill France ( Sr.and Jr. ) and try to visualize the AT&T vs Nextel fiasco happening on their watch . Does anyone think that Bill Jr. would have ever allowed NASCAR to be put in the position of having to change the rules just to satisfy sponsors . The answer is no . He easv always willing to work with sponsors on various programs , but it was always very clear who had the final say . Bill Jr. and Bill Sr. always made sure that the racing was the most important facet of NASCAR . The bowing down to every sponsors' whim is killing the sport of stock car racing , and it's no coincidence that the drop in attendance and tv ratings coincide with the arrival of the current " leadership " or lack thereof . NASCAR .

Anonymous said...

If...if...the ratings were down at Bristol, then why...why would anyone, other than the lame management at Fontana schedule a Nationwide race to start AFTER 10:00 PM EDT, given the line of thinking that if no one is in the stands, which could happen, then there should be no one watching on television. This does wonders for the ratings not to say what it does for the image of "that track on the left coast." Or as someone told me, Fontana is a "weed" between two roses....they just have the misfortune of racing in between Bristol & Richmond...how fortunate for the fans, we get to see highlights on SportsCenter the next morning for the Nationwide & the Cup race because the races will have ended after midnight EDT.

Bill B said...

The sad part is that no matter what they do the Shootout we all will still watch because it's the first "race" of the season and we will all be hungry.
With that said, I think it sucks to have it revolve around manufacturers instead of results. Sorry but to let Tony Stewart (6th in points) sit out while Michael Waltrip (fighting for 35th in points) races is just wrong.
I hope that I have something so important to do on that weekend that I can't watch the race.

ri88girl said...

I have always been a proponent of the idea that if Bill Jr and Dale Sr were still in charge we would a)not have the COT, b)not have 4 dominent teams and almost no independents and c) be racing at darlington on labor day. But would we? Or is Brian like the drivers and sponsors and networks a product of this new age? I would venture to say that the complaints we have about these things could be expanded to encumpas larger themes in todays America we find distructive and disfunctional.

GinaV24 said...

So Bristol's ratings were down -- not terribly surprised, the racing isn't as good since the chase made the drivers have to be "careful", the track now has, according to the drivers, 2 grooves so they can race without the pushing and shoving that made it fun -- wrecks weren't necessary, but the pushing and shoving was fun to watch and the incredibly ugly and boring cinderblock on tires to boot. I saw a race there before the chase, before the repaving and before the ugly car and I'm really glad I did because that was the last great race at Bristol.

JD, your title says Bristol TV ratings gets NASCAR's attention. Did it really? I still don't think that the mgmt of NASCAR really does get it, that a lot of fans are turned off by what the sport has sunk to -- boring racing on cookie cutter tracks. I still see articles in the media including on Jayski about how wonderful the chase is and how exciting it is for the fans. I'm sure some people find it exciting, but to me it is just a made for tv deal and a bogus way to decide a champion. I'm never going to love it.

I wish something would get NASCAR's attention, but I'm not counting on it until no one shows up at the track or watches it on tv, maybe then, they'll be worried.

I'm very unhappy with the change in the Budweiser shootout race, too. I'm not sure I'll bother watching.

Anonymous said...

The last weekend of the highest rated olympics coverage ever VERSUS nascar. Enough said.

Anonymous said...

I am a huge NASCAR fan. Howeer, I am alos a huge fan of the Olympics. I am still sleep deprived from watching so much Olympic coverage.

On Saturday, I taped the Bristol race and watched the Olympic coverage. Then on Sunday, I watched the Bristol race.

Sharon said...

In Fontana we will see ESPN try to use the "excitment" of Bristol to infuse interest in the Cali race. I can hear Jerry Punch now....... The truth is there was no real race excitement, it was a post incident that got people's attention. That right there is sad.

Anonymous said...

"The sad part is that no matter what they do the Shootout we all will still watch because it's the first "race" of the season and we will all be hungry."

I will NOT be watching the Shootout. Who wants to see a race that amounts to the Big 4 car owners against the back markers. (there is a chance that the 6th Toyota team selected will not even be in the top 35).

I will opt instead to watch some real racing at my local track.

Anonymous said...

John, your headline states: Bristol TV Ratings Get NASCAR's Attention." Yet nowhere in your column do you say anything about what NASCAR is saying about the ratings. Have you talked with anyone at NASCAR about it? Are they upset? Or do you have an anonymous source inside NASCAR? Please clarify.

Daly Planet Editor said...

Anon 1:33PM,

It must be hard to time-and-time again ignore participating in an on-going discussion and instead try to shoot the messenger.

How about returning and telling us your opinion of why the Bristol ratings were down? Two-groove track? Olympics? No wrecks?

This is the first race of the season to take a ratings hit like this and this column is a discussion about the reason why.

If you have an issue with me, please drop me an email at editor@thedalyplanet.tv and we can clear the air.

JD

Nicho said...

I'm not sure if most people were like me, but I knew coming into Bristol that most guys were going to take it easy because of Points Racing (except Edwards and Kyle). Add to that the issues with the car, and a multi-groove track, and I expected to see exactly what I saw, a race that was decent but not the usual bumping and banging that makes (made) Bristol Bristol.

Did anybody catch Jeff Gordon after the race (or maybe it was on one of the Nascar shows, I don't remember now). He basically said that he could have challenged Denny Hamlin for third, but didn't because they couldn't afford to do something and end up with a bad finish going into the Chase.

I still watched anyway, but probably won't watch California, except maybe by fast-forward on the DVR.

Richard in N.C. said...

The new Shootout arrangement does add another set of races within the race. Besides the races to get into the top 12 and the top 35, now there will be the races to get into the manufacturers top 6. With a smaller field (24) and the first race of the year, I would expect there should be some sponsor pressure on teams to get into the Shootout.

darbar said...

Are advertisers watching the ratings? We all know that their beloved demographic of 18 to 49 is the Holy Grail to advertisers. Does anyone know where we could go to get a breakdown of the age demographics for the Bristol race?

If ratings continue to slide, and I think that's coming because we're getting to football season, baseball playoffs and all that, I wonder if advertisers will put the screws to ESPN and Nascar for some changes? They certainly aren't getting the best band for their buck. And, how much power do the advertisers hold over Nascar? Can they demand a sit down and tell them that unless changes are made, they will no longer sponsor races? Could something like that ever happen?

As far as the Manufacturers Race, formerly known as the Bud Shootout, what about yelling and screaming from the sponsors for the cars that are shut out? Is that fair to them? I know it's only one race, and a non-points race at that, but I would bet that some contracts for race teams were signed with the belief that their cars were going to be in EVERY race, and not be shut out for silly rules changes.

Adam T. Martin said...

It isn't the coverage that is the only culprit, it is the product.

Anonymous said...

Bristol's not the only Cup race that's dropped in the ratings this year ... Add in Watkins Glen, Chicago and Sonoma ...

NBC tape delaying the "big" competitions from the Olympics to basically showing them a day late is part of what gave them high ratings ... Unless you're lucky enough to live near the Canadian border and had access to CBC, you were a day late & a dollar short because of NBC ...

I watched a LOT of the Olympics on CBC, but also on the US channels ... And I skipped most of the daytime stuff on Friday because I slept through it ...


Factors that contributed to lower ratings for Bristol Cup race: Olympics - most definitely; COT - yup (It wasn't any better when it was there before); Variable banking - Can't always pass other cars; Kyle Busch - Ding Ding Ding

Last year, Hendrick dominated ... with Jimmie winning 10 races (but at least he spread it out across the whole season) ... This year, Kyle had already 8 Cup wins after 24 races ... Throw in the Nationwide & Truck win ... After a while, it just gets to the point where it seems like nobody but Kyle (& now Carl) has a snowball's chance of winning ...




Some of us on the West Coast actually enjoy the night races ... that are run on the West Coast ... People in the East Coast time zone need to remember that the world does NOT revolve around them ... I like Fontana and the racing was pretty good back in Feb ... The weather's not supposed to be as warm this weekend compared to last year ...



Maybe the changes to the Bud Shootout were brought about by the apparent purchase of InBev ... Though, IF the sale goes through (which I hope it doesn't), InBev will try to weasel out of a LOT of the advertising contracts as that's their corporate MO ...

Anonymous said...

You missed my point John. Your headline gives the impression you have spoken to NASCAR about the TV ratings. Obviously you haven't. I think the longer you are out there and somehow gaining more credibility, you need to watch every word that you publish. More eyes are dissecting your work and questioning what you say. I am not shooting the messenger, just holding you to a journalistic standard you are not accustomed to in the wild west of the internet blogs.

Anonymous said...

Anon at 7:00am

I'm sure that such a drastic drop in the ratings would get Nascar's attention. As JD has said repeatedly, he is in communication with a lot of people "in the know" and I would see no reason to not believe the headline.

Regardless, a ratings drop is a ratings drop, and when it happens it should be brought up. If it was the olympics, fine, state your opinion that it was. If you believe it's the car, fine, say so.

That's the purpose of this site. And JD stated his opinion and everyone else has given theirs.

Well, except for you I guess.

Anonymous said...

TV ratings? I think there is a very good chance that Edwards might show his Dark side again! (aka)Kenseth,before seasons end against Kyle in a very bad way..That may boost the ratings!!good luck Kyle...

Anonymous said...

Regardless, a ratings drop is a ratings drop, and when it happens it should be brought up.

Yes but why is it that when ratings are up no one gives a hoot? Ive noticed a trend the past couple of years. NASCAR "Fans" seem to love it when something negative happens to NASCAR. Its like they want NASCAR to fail and fold over. I think its really said to see the loyalty of fans go down the crapper whenever something doesnt go their way in NASCAR....

Anonymous said...

Regardless, a ratings drop is a ratings drop, and when it happens it should be brought up.

Yes but why is it that when ratings are up no one gives a hoot? Ive noticed a trend the past couple of years. NASCAR "Fans" seem to love it when something negative happens to NASCAR. Its like they want NASCAR to fail and fold over. I think its really said to see the loyalty of fans go down the crapper whenever something doesnt go their way in NASCAR....