It started early this year. Various self-appointed Internet television executives that squat on IndyCar-centric sites all day have nearly unanimously pronounced the 0.6 12+ overnight for IndyCar’s St. Pete event on ABC a certain sign of failure, and in many of their challenged noggins utter doom for IndyCar. Naturally none of those opining on 12+ overnight estimates know the first thing about what the actual numbers really mean or how they translate into revenue. They just know that the 1.1 12+ overnight estimate on ABC from two seasons ago is higher, therefore we have concrete evidence of failure. It remains a hearty source of amusement watching most blather in so utterly clueless ways.
Ratings IndyCar gets are closer to the norm for sports on television. As usual, mainstream stick and ball sports garner much higher 12+ overnight estimates just as they always have. In reality a 0.6 directly opposite NASCAR and Elite Eight college basketball is relatively good.
Do lower numbers guarantee failure? No. Last year the following MLB teams and their host networks showed pronounced declines:
-New York Yankees: DOWN 32.4%
-Florida Marlins: DOWN 35.1%
-Philadelphia Phillies: DOWN 39.4%
-Chicago White Sox: DOWN 45.2%
-Houston Astros: DOWN 59.6%
Are any of these ball clubs in danger of failing? No. In any given week the WNBA averaged around 230,000 viewers on network. MLS averaged around 220,000. On NBCSN, an IndyCar partner network, Premier League Soccer and the millions that cost generates about 110,000 viewers per. Oddly, none of the doom pontificating ITEs (Internet television experts) have pronounced any of those sports failures.
A big ‘get’ for Fox Sports 1 (the former Speed) was Big East basketball. They launched out of the gate with more subscribers than NBCSN. 48 of 85 national games were broadcast on FS1. 41 of them had NO rating. 0.0. Five of them garnered a 0.1, and two had 0.2. Oddly, no screeching from any ITE.
What about NASCAR? Their ratings trend line is pointed south, and is getting steeper. No real consternation from ITEs there, either. Formula 1 on NBCSN? That partner scheduled the Malaysian replay directly opposite IndyCar on ABC. Result for F-1? 0.0. No hissy fitting from any ITE.
Perhaps one day I will offer cliff-note tutorials for ITEs. Based on tripe they post they could use it, although for most it would have to be dumbed down to fourth grade level. Perhaps time will avail itself, and the season is just beginning.
Or perhaps we should all remain comforted by actual facts. Verizon is consistently in the top five spenders for sports television advertising, and that part of the business is usually more than $10 BILLION annually. About 40% of that number is spent on cable networks. Verizon remains enthusiastic about their growing involvement with IndyCar and is putting their money where their mouths are.
The real key is not fretting about significant rises to 12+ overnights. The only way that happens these days is either plot lines that involve soft core porn with full frontal female nudity or a lowest-common-denominator reality approach that attracts more booger flicking, self-absorbed Americans (the majority) than other similarly insipid offerings.
If the desire is to use the product to attract a bigger audience their work is cut out for them. Homogenized spec racing obviously does not work. Walker’s propensity to mimic Euro-style non-oval racing is also a proven failure historically. If trying to be an American F-1 is the direction (and there seems little doubt these days) then they also must embrace a WWE-style (or similar) presentation to actually get a casual fan to sample the product.
Big picture: A 0.6 overnight is only good for pointing and cackling by the mentally/emotionally challenged. Here is a better approach for ITEs: Tell us when the failure will occur and what you would do to make failure not possible? That might require thought, however.