Hey, here's some cheery news for your day: Fox's NASCAR ratings among one of its most important demographics are in free-fall!
A must-read article over at Scene Daily notes that Fox Sports recorded viewership of about 8.3 million in 2009, and projections put that total at about 8 million in 2010. However, in the key male 18-34 sector, ratings are down a staggering 29 percent. That's some scary stuff, folks -- so scary that we probably shouldn't take it at straight face value.
Now, as Mark Twain said, there are lies, damned lies, and statistics, so why not work these numbers over like a Swedish masseuse? For one thing, we've had two races run on Mondays -- you know, when most males in that demographic are working. For another, we're still dealing with the economy and Jimmie Fatigue.
So what to do? Shortening races is an obvious solution, though as Scene points out, shorter races mean less time for commercials and thus less time for networks to recoup their costs. The rules changes have helped, certainly, as certain races have shown year-over-year improvement. Beyond that, I have a very simple solution:
You're staring at it.
The computer! Use the freakin' computer, people! Stream races online! Both the NCAA and the PGA stream basketball and golf events online, and they do extremely well. Yes, NASCAR races are run on Sundays, and lots of folks don't want to get on a computer on Sundays, but that's a huge revenue stream that's virtually untapped. Run the race, in its entirety, with targeted ads surrounding the screen, and you're looking at an instant cash infusion. And yes, I know that broadcast rights make that a nightmare, but when there's money to be made, solutions tend to arise.
The thing about NASCAR fandom is that while you may lose a few to attrition, most are still out there waiting for a reason to come back. You don't outgrow wanting to see cars go fast. NASCAR just has to figure out how to appeal to this group on its level, not expect everyone to keep on with the same old ways.