The overnight TV ratings from Sunday's Sprint Cup race at Kansas Speedway are in and once again, they're down from last year.
The overnight rating for Sunday's race was a 2.1, down from a 2.6 in 2009, and it means that all three Chase races have had lower ratings than they did in 2009. Both Dover and New Hampshire also scored 2.1 overnight ratings this season, but New Hampshire's was a 2.5 in 2009 and Dover's was a 2.7.
So what's the deal? Is it the earlier start times? The standardized start times were seen as a welcome change in many circles, but it also means that races in the Central and Eastern time zones are starting just after 10 a.m. in the West. Plus, now that the NFL is in season, races are starting approximately 20 minutes after the first Sunday NFL games kick off.
Some may also feel that the change from ABC to ESPN is a factor because fewer homes have ESPN. However, ESPN Vice President for Programming and Acquisitions Julie Sobieski says that the change in networks doesn't have anything to do with the ratings drop.
“It’s concerning to us,” Sobieski said in a phone interview Friday. “We’re looking at every single factor that we can possibly look at. There’s so many things that are potentially at play.
“The rating declines that we’ve seen are not from broadcast-only homes. We know it’s not from the drop of broadcast to cable. Last year, ESPN outdelivered ABC. We don’t think it’s attributed to that.”
And if it's Jimmie-fatigue, wouldn't it stand to reason that Dover ratings would be up, given Johnson's finish at New Hampshire? As we all know, there was no reason to write Vader off after his 25th place finish, but wouldn't it reason that a casual viewer would immediately think that Johnson was vulnerable?
The length of the races shouldn't be a contributor either. Sure, there have been some marathons at Darlington and Phoenix, but only four races since July have been more than three hours long, and two of those races, Daytona and Dover, were three and two minutes over, respectively. (The second Pocono race took over 3 hours and 40 minutes and the second Atlanta race took 3 hours and 52 minutes)
So what's the deal, folks? As we've said before, it's not the racing nor the television coverage. (You wouldn't avoid your favorite football team's game because you disliked the announcers, would you?) So what is it? Does anyone know for sure?