Defender of IndyCar

Indy Car Ratings and The Latest Attempt To Make 12+ Seem Important

AndySome number crunching NASCAR enthusiast named Andrew Maness trotted out what looks like some sort of A+ school project on a website called ‘NASCARnomics’ and subsequently on trackforum that conclusively demonstrated IndyCar 12+ ratings have declined since 1996.

Big shocker there.

Mike Condre
Mike Condre

Allow me to say that it would be nice if people who went to Internet forums to type things put even half as much thought and effort into their analysis as this Andrew has. The Internet would be a far better place for discourse than it is now.  I am unsure how the gallery inside NASCAR forums interact when presented with such quality work because I never visit NASCAR forums. I simply do not care. Andrew goes by ASM on trackforum, and predictably he has been greeted in many cases by barely literate, often nonsense taunting that gets lost among the few intelligent comments allowed in. If authentic, knowledgeable IndyCar fans were allowed to post there (the schoolmarm hypocrisy of that particular failed potential site precludes it at the present time) an intelligent discussion might actually break out from time to time.

My only real questions might be why Sao Paulo and the Indianapolis 500 were excluded from the analysis. I understand excluding events interrupted by weather. I understand Motegi. It runs in the middle of the American night, although a case could be made for including the numbers for re-airs, even for delayed events. Does similar NASCAR analysis exclude the Daytona 500? Why 1996? Why not 2000? Or 1990? Or 1980? Or 2008?

As always, my biggest issue remains consistent. The only thing for which ANY analysis based on 12+ numbers is good is, essentially, waving genitalia around regardless of the degree of detail or presentation. It has no meaningful value in the world of television advertising sales, which the real reason ratings exist. I remain intrigued by the level of mostly subjective detail Andrew compiled. If I am to be impressed Andrew would have to give me the following:

-Analysis based on numbers agency buyers actually use to place ad deals. What he has offered is not that.Sliding Scale

-Consider the same demographic targets agency buyers do. 12+ is not that.

-Compare IndyCar numbers over his selected period or any other, say, five year period, with the vast majority of similarly positioned sports or entertainment entities with similar cable network/occasional OTA contracts.

-Analysis from the perspective of a buyer, who actually does base all buying decisions on multiple combinations of raw numbers. Just not the numbers trotted out on the Internet. One would have to consider things like daypart mix, CPP, HUTs, PUTs, etc. Again, Andrew’s analysis is not that.

It is easy to see a lot of what seems like backed into affirmation of things we already knew. Danica Patrick is kind of popular. Ovals are more popular than road courses. Cable networks with fewer household subscriptions or awkward provider channel positions draw fewer viewers than ESPN. Although there are points, they are based on numbers that do not mean anything in the actual commerce at which they hint.

Better try than most, though.

7 replies to “Indy Car Ratings and The Latest Attempt To Make 12+ Seem Important

  1. Interesting that ratings stabilized from 2004 until 2008 after they had dropped in the early years of the IRL era. However, ratings again plummeted following reunification in 2008. Putting Humpty Dumpty back together again might not have been such a good idea, at least in hindsight.

    The IndyCar audience had already been fractured. One faction liked Racing Type A and Sanctioning Body A; the other faction liked Racing Type B and Sanctioning Body B. It seems that very few are willing to accept the combination of Racing Type A and Sanctioning Body B.

    In fairness, ratings for most television programming has declined over the same period, so a fair analysis would separate the Alpha and Beta in order to demonstrate how much of IndyCar’s decline is firm-specific. But it’s probably a lot.

    The analysis is good, but it doesn’t help unless IndyCar leadership understands the ramifications – IndyCar racing is worth approximately 25% of what it was in 1996. Costs should be reduced accordingly so that value and price are in sync. Sponsors would line up to fund IndyCar teams if the cost of running a full season were about $1M… because that’s what an IndyCar season is worth. They’re not going to pay more unless they get value somewhere else – shelf space at Target or a vendor contract with Penske, for example. There aren’t enough opportunities like those to fund an entire series.

    Good stuff. Thanks for sharing.

    1. I don’t see how it could have possibly had anything to do with reunification since it wasn’t a steady decline starting in 2008. It was a sharp decline in 2009, the year IndyCar switched its cable coverage from ESPN to VS. and then it has remained steady since then. I also don’t think it has anything to do with racing types and sanctioning bodies. If traditional IRL fans were annoyed by the addition of road and street courses, you would expect the ratings to go down from 2005-2008, wouldn’t you? And you would expect them to continue to decline in the following years as the share of road/street courses continued to increase? Basically, there are people who will always turn ESPN on regardless of what is on since it is one of the major cable channels (same deal with CNN, MTV, USA, TNT, Nickelodeon, whatever…) but there aren’t many casual sports fans who will turn on NBC Sports. That seems to be all this is. You’d also have to figure SOME CCWS fans who weren’t watching IRL started watching the merged IndyCar as well, right? The main issue is clearly NBC Sports. The big question is whether NASCAR will help raise the viability of the channel and allow IndyCar to piggyback off its success somewhat as the channel becomes more of a destination for racing fans in general.

      1. No, the chart does not indicate steady decline from 2004 until 2008. It suggests that ratings had stabilized. The decline occurred from 1996 until 2004 and then resumed in 2008.

        I agree that the switch to VS/NBCSN did not help, but I also think IndyCar in each of its iterations has been much too quick to blame the television partner for its inability to find an audience. CART never managed to get a revenue-generating television deal. The IRL and ChampCar certainly never did. In each case, the Indianapolis 500 was the only race that was not a time buy.

        NASCAR built itself into a viable television product beginning in the early 1990s when it found an audience on 3rd tier cable channels such as TNN. It found a market and served it. That market is no longer growing, but it remains substantial, and it will follow NASCAR anywhere – ESPN, ABC, NBC, FOX, and, yes, NBCSN. No, that market will not turn on NBCSN to watch an IndyCar race. It does not like that type of racing.

        The notion of “racing fans” is outdated and irrelevant. It died when drivers could no longer be expected to race the Indy 500, Daytona 500, and Le Mans in the same year. How many F1 fans would bother to watch a NASCAR Cup race? How many sports car fans? These are separate markets with completely different star drivers and customer characteristics. Unfortunately, IndyCar in its current form seems to appeal to no market at all.

        IndyCar must establish its own audience. This is something that must be earned. If it’s going to appeal to road racing fans with big money, cutting edge technology, and a cosmopolitan, international vibe, then that’s fine. But it needs to scrap the spec cars and, perhaps, the ovals other than Indianapolis. I personally don’t like that type of thing, but I don’t discount the notion that it might work. I do suspect that there isn’t enough money to get the job done, but there is of course no way to know for certain.

  2. (Spicoli whining off topic about nonsense)
    Editor’s Note: Please refer to the newest blog thread entitled ‘The IndyCar Idiot Repository.’ Thanks.

  3. Okay, i will play your silly game, knowing full well you will spin and deflect on your reply.
    Editor’s Note: How could I possibly do that when you have completely and fully missed the entire point of the piece? Can’t spin or deflect someone else’s misinterpretation of a point.

    You say to compare Indycar numbers to any of the other (your words here) “similarly positioned sports or entertainment entities “? That means in today’s world, we are comparing Indycar to things like poker, and spelling bees, maybe rodeo events.
    Editor’s Note: Actually those comparisons are ludicrous. Thing smaller cable sports networks (than ESPN) and examine the programming. Lots of college sports, soccer, etc. I’m thinking more mainstream than you are.

    Where Indycar once was just on the outside of the big four sports…Baseball, Football, Hockey and Basketball, they have fallen mightily off of the pace. Look individually at each of these sports, as you constantly try to say all sports have suffered just as much as Indycar has.
    Your attempt to establish a straw man is noble but far-fetched. IndyCar was never even close to just outside the big four. Never even close. Ever. To believe that is pure fantasy. Relatively speaking it has always held the same position in the pecking order. NASCAR, on the other hand, did become a top 5 sport but they are also slipping.

    Baseball…pretty much every team is not only doing well, but most teams are now actually increasing there revenues with radio and television deals. Attendance is healthy at most MLB parks.
    Editor’s Note: Except for the teams that are lucky to get 3 or 4 thousand in their stands on most days. I went to three Yankees games this year and sat right behind home plate at all three, and had plenty of stretching room.

    Football…no issues here at all. Revenue streams are always rising, as are player contracts. Television ratings always trending in the right direction.
    Football has been the 800 pound gorilla for decades.

    Hockey…the sport has come along way from it’s first lockout years ago. They have just signed a massive deal in Canada with the giant Rogers corporation, ensuring all teams will now get even more exposure, and more money from the new contract. The sport is healthy, save for being in some markets they should not be in (Phoenix especially).
    Editor’s Note: Hang on…hockey is popular in Canada? Who’d have ever figured?

    Basketball…this is one sport that has dropped a little bit, but that is to be expected when guys with massive star and draw power, like Jordan, are now gone from the game. Having said that, the sport is still in good shape, with players seeing their contracts rising every year.
    Editor’s Note: It’s a shell of what it once was in terms of ratings. Like the vast majority of other sports and entertainment offerings.

    So…Indycar? Once healthy TV ratings now almost to non-existant levels. Blue-chip sponsors still around, but not the plethora there once was. Attendance down everywhere, even Indy. Tracks have simply booted the series out. Over half the grid, in terms of drivers, have to bring sponsorship, and some even have to pay their own way. There is no way to make excuses Disciple.
    Editor’s Note: Consistent readers of my blog understand I dish out criticism, constructive suggestions and praise where warranted. What we have are a group of self interested owners in a fox-in-a-henhouse environment and a series of ‘leaders’ forced to walk on eggshells that go through a revolving door at 16th and Georgetown faster than McDonalds employees.

    I wish nothing but good things for the series, but i also do not sit there with my rose-colored glasses, ignoring the obvious and pretending everything is ok, like you do. Yes, the series manages to continue, but they are closer now to going out of business, than they are to becoming a thriving sport. How long will the series be able to sustain itself without outside money (sponsors) coming in? When Penske and Ganassi are gone, which gets more realistic every passing year with their advancing age, then what? They really are the only teams that give any relevancy to the series, and can attract sponsors, save for Andretti.
    Editors Note: Those of us who have actively followed the sport since the late 1950s have seen several iterations of management entities. If history holds true, some other entity will replace what we have, and the cycle will probably repeat. Given IndyCar’s biggest flaw is not living up to its potential the kind of panic characteristic of the hysterical seems utterly foolish.

    Keep ignoring the facts Disciple, and one day they will jump up and bite you in your fat ass.
    Editor’s Note: True colors. Shoulda quit while you were ahead. Seriously, your commentary would be much more relevant if you could grasp the context of my point. It sailed completely over your head, and the resultant laundry list of crapper yelping points above proves it.

    1. Ok, being new to this site, I had to go back and look in the archives. I came across (among many others)this gem: ” I went to three Yankees games this year and sat right behind home plate at all three, and had plenty of stretching room.” This as a statement validating your contention tha all sports are experiencing attendance issues, not just Indycar. 1. Congratulations. Either you A: have waaaay more money to spend on seats than you have sense. B. You were “comped” those seats, or C: A combination of A & B.
      Editor’s Note: First, thanks for reading the blog. Second, the tickets to the Yankees (and other events) are comped as a direct result of my profession. Third, attendance and television ratings are, in fact, down for the majority of sports and entertainment offerings that had higher attendance in decades past. This is the direct result of A) an explosion of available channels, B) an explosion of new delivery technology, and C) many more entertainment options. In other words, Indy Car is not unique in having lower ratings.

      Either way, your experience is in no way indicative or any general, systemic decline in attendance @ Yankees games. Since moving into the ‘new” Yankee stadium, attendance has been within ~ 200K (high to low) of an average of about 3.6 million per year. The seats behind home plate were originally priced @ $2500 PER GAME. When the city’s economic problems (particulary in the financial sector) were factored in, the Yankees had apparently far overestimated the volumes of businesses that were willing to shell out that kind of cash for those season seats. In the past, much of that “prime real estate” went to companies in and around NYC and were used as entertainment for corporate clients.

      The Yankees have since drastically reduced those seat prices, but they are still at several hundred a game. By now, the damage has been done. People (and companies) moved their seating to the less expensive levels, and they’re not moving back.

      And last year was the first season the Yankees were out of contention for a playoff spot in AGES, so the minor attendance dropoff was not unexpected.

      Makes me wonder about a lot of your other “facts”; this one was so easy to check, yet you apparently failed to do even the smallest bit of research on this topic before posting your opinion.
      Editor’s Note: You seem fixated on Yankees games. On the game days I attended the stadium was far less than half full. I have noticed this with a lot of different sports and entertainment offerings. Some entities fare better than others at reinventing themselves back into relevance for newer audiences. That is what IndyCar must still attempt to do well.

      1. I’m hardly “fixated” on Yankees games. I merely illustrated the fallacy of you using what you reported as evidience of poor attendance (a single game or two, as compared to the entirety of the whole season). The reality is that they (the Yankees) AVERAGED ~ 40,000 people a night for an 81 (home game) season.

        The worst MLB team averaged ~19,000 per game, and attendance figures for the NFL, the NHL and MLS all stayed either flat or showed modest increases (average per game attendance for the NHL stayed flat, despite its recent labor problems) and TV ratings stayed fairly even as well. The NBA showed a pretty steep decline in TV ratings several years ago, but have since stabilized, although not at previous levels.

        Based on your criteria that you applied to MLB attendance through your reported experience at a Yankee game, a spectator attending the Indycar finale in Fontana could easily conclude that the sport isn’t very healthy; and if that same person were to only have attended the Indy 500, they would (reasonably) conclude that the sport is wildly successful. Obviously, the truth is somewhere in between, but if you are the experienced media person you claim to be, then you (should) know better than to make claims based on horribly inaccurate or incomplete data. It only hurts your own credibility, which you seem to do pretty regularly, anyway.
        Editor’s Note: It’s an apples/oranges comparison. There are those obsessed with the Yankees on the Internet who believe the sport of baseball is dead and that the Yankees are leading the charge to oblivion simply because they do not sell out every game. We take that kind of stuff with a grain of salt. The elusive point that seems to get missed every time is that the vast majority of sports and entertainment offerings today have lower ratings and attendance than they did twenty years ago. That has more to do with the evolution of society than it does with the real or perceived popularity of a venue. IndyCar continues to do well enough to remain a viable, sustaining business entity and as a fan I am glad for that.

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