Post Type:post VIAlytics: Summertime NASCAR Racing Revs Cable Ratings | Viamedia


The “NASCAR Sprint Cup Series” (named for its present sponsor, Sprint) is THE stock car racing event of the year, running from February to November and encompassing a total of 36 races, culminating in the “Sprint Cup Championship” which was won last season by Jimmie Johnson.

Between all of the practice runs, qualifying races and individual race events, there is a tremendous amount of programming content, including numerous telecasts over the entire 3rd quarter. And, while our primary focus is on the near-dozen races that will air on ESPN and TNT in July, August and September, it should be noted that ad-supported cable is THE television source for NASCAR programming all summer long.

Last summer, for example, ad-supported cable television aired 96% of all summer NASCAR Sprint Cup minutes, according to Rentrak, That’s an average of 60 hours a month of cable programming dedicated to NASCAR racing! 


NASCAR Races Rev Cable Ratings

The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series is a flat out ratings winner for ad-supported cable. It’s that simple. Below is a sampling of last summer’s races that appeared on cable, capturing either the highest or second highest U.S. HH rating in its time slot: 

NASCAR Event

Network

Air Date

Start Time

Duration

U.S. HH Rating

Ratings Rank

U.S. HH Share

New Hampshire 300

TNT

7/14/2013

1:00pm

225 Mins.

3.24

#1

5.87

Samuel Deeds 400

ESPN

7/28/2013

1:00pm

240 Mins.

3.90

#1

7.01

GoBowling.com 400

ESPN

8/4/2013

1:00pm

240 Mins.

3.66

#2

6.83

Cheez-It       355

ESPN

8/11/2013

1:00pm

180 Mins.

3.20

#2

5.94

Pure Michigan 400

ESPN

8/18/2013

1:00pm

210 Mins.

3.75

#1

6.94

Source: Viamedia analysis of Rentrak data for specific time slots in which NASCAR Event aired. 

In addition to outright ratings domination, ad-supported cable viewership has been remarkably consistent. Below is a 2-year track of 20 different NASCAR Sprint Cup races that have aired on TNT or ESPN over the past two summers. During the summer months of 2012, U.S. household ratings never dropped below a 2.0, with shares ranging from 3.7 to 6.5. The summer of 2013 was equally consistent:

Source: Viamedia analysis of Rentrak data for the following NASCAR Sprint Cup races: 2012: 7/7 Coke Zero 400; 7/15 Lenox Industrial Tools 301; 7/29 Brickyard 400; 8/5 Pennsylvania 400; 8/12 Watkins Glen; 8/19 Pure Michigan 400; 9/2 AdvoCare 500; 9/16 Geico 400; 9/23 Sylvania 300; 9/30 AAA 400. 2013 Cup Races: 7/6 Coke Zero 400; 7/14 New Hampshire 300; 7/28 Samuel Deeds 400; 8/4 GoBowling.com 400; 8/11 Cheez-It 355; 8/18 Pure Michigan 400; 9/1 AdvoCare 500; 9/15 Geico 400; 9/22 Sylvania 300; 9/29 AAA 400.

Along with consistent summer NASCAR viewership, we are also seeing a significant increase in ratings and shares from one year to the next, which augers well for the upcoming summer races airing in 2014:

Source: Viamedia analysis of Rentrak data for the following NASCAR Sprint Cup races: 2012: 7/7 Coke Zero 400; 7/15 Lenox Industrial Tools 301; 7/29 Brickyard 400; 8/5 Pennsylvania 400; 8/12 Watkins Glen; 8/19 Pure Michigan 400; 9/2 AdvoCare 500; 9/16 Geico 400; 9/23 Sylvania 300; 9/30 AAA 400. 2013 Cup Races: 7/6 Coke Zero 400; 7/14 New Hampshire 300; 7/28 Samuel Deeds 400; 8/4 GoBowling.com 400; 8/11 Cheez-It 355; 8/18 Pure Michigan 400; 9/1 AdvoCare 500; 9/15 Geico 400; 9/22 Sylvania 300; 9/29 AAA 400.

Sour Mash & Hot Wheels

Many years ago, I used to visit an older brother, who lived in the Raleigh-Durham area. He often mentioned two elderly gentlemen, who were long-ago former business associates and practically inseparable in their golden years. They fished together; hunted together; talked politics together; even took their wives to hoe-downs together.

One day, my brother jokingly referred to them as “Sour Mash” and “Hot Wheels”, but being a rather naive 20-year old at the time (and maybe not the brightest one either), I didn’t have a clue as to whom (or what) he was referring to.

I do now.

Turns out that “Mr. Sour Mash” held a closely guarded family recipe that his ancestors had brought over to America sometime in the 1700s — one that he utilized to some advantage in the first part of the 20th Century. And as for “Mr. Hot Wheels”… well, he was in the “distribution business”, and to say he knew how to squeeze extra horsepower out of a Flathead V-8 engine would be an understatement.

So, that in essence was my introduction to a smidgen of history that ultimately morphed into the National Association for Stock Car Racing (better known by its acronym, “NASCAR”) — and its deep roots in the Southern Appalachian region.

Today, the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series has a regional following that borders on the reverential and is reflected in the super-charged ratings that accrue to several southern television markets, including Charlotte, Greensboro-High Point, Tri-Cities, Chattanooga and Knoxville to name just a few. Last summer, all of these markets attained ratings well above double the national average across all 10 NASCAR Sprint Cup races on TNT and ESPN.

Take, for example, the upcoming “Camping World RV Sales 301” race that returns on July 13th to the New Hampshire Motor Speedway for the 22nd consecutive year. In an upset last July, Brian Vickers surprised the field with his first win in four years, pulling down mega, box-car ratings in several southern markets even though the track is located in Loudon, NH – way north of the Mason-Dixon Line:

Source: Viamedia analysis of Rentrak data (National Telecast Detail / TV Market.) 

Beyond the Southern Fan Base

Clearly, the fan base for NASCAR racing is rooted in the south, but it would be a mistake to assume that the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series is popular only within markets that adjoin the Appalachian Mountain range. Indeed, there are spikes in race car viewing in areas in which NASCAR tracks can be found and where there exists a rich tradition in local race car driving.

To cite just a few examples, the “Cheez-It 355” from Watkins-Glenn, NY is just about 20 miles due north of the Elmira TV market. Last August 11th, Elmira pulled down a 12.6 rating for the race—that’s 4-times the national average and far and away the highest TV rating across 200+ DMAs. And the Utica, NY market isn’t that far away to the northeast – 6.0 rating (nearly double the national average). 

The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series made its annual sojourn to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway last July 28th for the “Brickyard 400” – an event staged there since 1994. In a race that “should have been” won by Jimmie Johnson had it not been for a broken lug nut on his last stop, Ryan Newman took his first chequered flag of the year – logging the fourth fastest time ever for the event. Not surprisingly, the Indiana DMAs of Lafayette (13.6 rating) and Indianapolis (11.9 rating) finished “1-2” in the country with viewing levels more than three times the national average! Terre Haute, IN finished 4th (with a 10.3 rating), with South Bend, IN not far behind (8.6 rating).

And one last example — the July 6th, 2013 “Coke Zero 400”. In a NASCAR event that has been held at the world-famous Daytona International Speedway since 1959, Jimmie Johnson dominated the competition and became the first driver since Bobbie Allison (in 1982) to win both the Coke Zero 400 and the Daytona 500 in the same season. And not surprisingly, the Orlando-Daytona Beach-Melbourne DMA registered an 8.4 rating – way more than double the national average of 3.8. And straight up the coast from Daytona Beach, the Jacksonville DMA attained a 7.5 rating.

In closing, there are many other high viewing NASCAR TV markets that are neither southern nor tied to a particular race track venue. Several of them are Viamedia markets, including Cincinnati, Columbia-Jefferson City, Evansville, Ft. Wayne, Harrisburg-Lancaster, Johnstown-Altoona, Salisbury, MD, Sioux Falls, SD and Wilkes-Barre.

But whatever market you happen to find yourself in this summer, the NASCAR Sprint Cup races on cable are bound to be exciting. So, buckle your seat belts, lock the doors and – if you’re of a mind to do so – put on a helmet.

And enjoy the ride!

– Written by Jonathan Sims, VP Media Research, Viamedia