As we mentioned numerous times in 2010, the season of Jimmie Johnson's fifth title wasn't very good for NASCAR on the television ratings front. Of the 31 comparable events from 2009, 26 races suffered ratings declines in 2010. Yes, 26.
Three of those races in which ratings increased were on Fox — Phoenix, Talladega and Darlington — one was on TNT (Daytona) and one was on ABC (Bristol). However, except for the summer Daytona race on TNT, which had a ratings increase of 16%, every increase was 6% or lower.
Sixteen of the 26 races that had ratings declines in 2010 suffered double-digit drops. Fox's broadcast of the Las Vegas race had the poorest showing compared to 2009, falling 32%. Overall, 11 of the 16 races with double-digit drops were on ESPN, three were on TNT and two were on Fox. (Fox's other double-digit drop was the pothole-discombobulated Daytona 500 which was down 16%.)
Nine of those 11 ESPN double-digit drops were for races that were moved from ABC in 2009 to ESPN in 2010. We've already debunked the theory that cable impacts television ratings significantly, but ESPN's New Year's Day BCS ratings just may give credence to the possibility that, for whatever reason, people just don't watch sports on cable as much as they do on broadcast television.
The Rose Bowl, moved to ESPN for the first time on Sunday, generated the lowest overnight rating since 2003. The Fiesta Bowl, which was on Fox last year, got a 6.7 rating, its lowest overnight rating in the history of the BCS.
What does that mean for NASCAR? Well, that remains to be seen. CNBC's Darren Rovell tweeted last week that NASCAR had the oldest median age of viewers when compared to the big four professional sports leagues. And the loss of the under-49 demographic has nothing to do with which channel races were broadcast on, as during 2010, Fox's David Hill noted the sharp decrease his network saw in younger viewers.
If you've got any ideas on how NASCAR can attract younger viewers, let us know in the comments. And no, making the series more like Mario-Kart isn't the answer. The IndyCar Series is already doing that with the magic mushroom push-to-pass button.