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The Talladega 500 may have been one of the best NASCAR races of the season, certainly of the chase, but TV viewers are again off a whopping 25 percent

  Four-wide, from the wall down to the yellow line, even five-wide at times, Sunday's Talladega 500 was a great one.....so where were the TV viewers? (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

   By Mike Mulhern



   A turning point?
   Well, things are better, but TV bosses still have little to boast about with the latest NASCAR ratings.
   ESPN's coverage of Sunday's Talladega 500, won by Clint Bowyer in a photo finish with teammate Kevin Harvick, earned the highest TV ratings so far in the 10-race Sprint Cup championship playoffs, a 3.1. That means 5,176,663 viewers for Race Seven of the chase.
   However last year's race, which was carried by ABC, pulled a 4.1 rating.

That means this year's broadcast was down nearly 25 percent from the 2009 broadcast, which continues the trend through this fall's playoffs of NASCAR ratings off from 25 to 30 percent each race day.
   To put it in some perspective:
   -- The San Francisco-Texas World Series, over five games, averaged an 8.4 TV rating, and Game Five drew 15 million viewers. That 8.4 average was down 28 percent from last season's New York-Philadelphia series.
   -- Monday Night Football, the Colts and the Texans, drew about 12 million TV viewers.
   -- The April Talladega 500, on Fox, pulled a 5.2 TV rating, with about 8.4 million viewers.
   -- NBC's highest rated fall Talladega race was in 2005, with a 5.2 rating. That spring Fox' Talladega race pulled a 7.2 rating. (In 2003 NBC's Talladega fall race pulled a 5.5.)

First off, an proper analysis

First off, an proper analysis is required to determine why ratings are down. This has yet to be done; it's all been guess work.

Once the analysis is complete, only then can anything be done to counter the dwindling attendance and ratings.

i agree. so what's your

i agree. so what's your analysis? we've been throwing out various ideas to consider as to what's going on here. but two months into this latest downward trend, espn execs have yet to weigh in themselves...and you'd think they'd have the best insight. thanks....

My analysis without having

My analysis without having any of the data is empty. My best guess is that it's a combination of a lot of little things.

While it may seem extreme, send out competent surveys from a central source using past ticket purchasing information from all tracks. Competently collate and ascertain the trends. My guess is people who no longer go to races are not watching them either. I think we'll find a myriad of reasons, but there will definitely be a group of top answers.

Not all gripes will have an easy remedy, and in some case won't have any remedy. The governing body will have to address what they can. In cases of perceived lack of competition, there's nothing to be done. The competition is at it's highest level since I can remember.

In the end, I think we'll find that NASCAR was ultimately a fad, or a generational phenomena, if you will. The people responsible for the explosive growth have moved on to "better" things.

One thing I would highly recommend is dropping FOX. There is nothing more annoying than their productions. They've dumbed down the production in an arcane attempt to lure new viewers that the seasoned viewers have no desire to put up with the unadulterated drivel. Unfortunately, other networks have tried to duplicate their mess. I am glad to see ESPN starting to rediscover their roots on coverage.

Lastly, the sport has been oversaturated with coverage. There is no need to have different networks attempt to have a daily show.

I Agree, Fox is an idiotic

I Agree, Fox is an idiotic production! I hear people complaining about the COT, however I believe the racing has GREATLY improved with the COT.....More cars on the lead lap, closer finishes more "different" winners each year. Look back just a few year before the COT. driver were winning 10 and 12 races a year, and there may only be 8 cars on the lead lap! So saying the COT is problem is a statement I disagree with!

Look at all the empties in

Look at all the empties in the grandstand. I think it's funny how TV seems to go out of its way to not show the sparse crowds, as you'll rarely see a shot for more than a few seconds that shows the lack of a crowd. NASCAR has taken a distant back seat to the NFL in the fall. Even if NASCAR repairs all of their integrity issues and makes the Chase schedule full of tracks that produce good racing, they aren't likely to come close to the NFL's ratings. Those two things need to happen regardless, but NASCAR does not seem interested in doing either.

Analysis is simple - NASCAR

Analysis is simple - NASCAR is on a downward spiral. The many reasons have been noted before. The main issue is "the product".

I have only seen it mentioned

I have only seen it mentioned a few times. In NC ESPN is not an available channel with basic cable, you have to pay extra. My parents still watch the old networks, NBC, ABC or CBS. While they are big Nascar fans they do not pay for extra cable channels just so they can watch races. There is a least two less viewers in the TV count.

ESPN seems to want to blame

ESPN seems to want to blame it on changing the starting time of the races back to somewhere around 1 p.m. local time (except for the night races). That's a crock since most of the fans that I know, especially ones who are attending races, are happy with the earlier start time.

However, on to WHY the ratings are continuing to fall. My analysis based on my own changed viewing patterns is:

1. The COT made for some pretty lousy racing and the fans left.
2. The Chase. Its a failure -- was a dumb idea and has made a mockery out of being the NASCAR champion since its now a 10 race champion rather than a full season ... and the fans left.
3. TV broadcasts of the races have consistently gotten worse as far as actually SHOWING the race. Bad camera work, too much silliness in the booth and a lot less focus on the reason fans tuned in -- that would be for the race... and the fans left.

And to reinforce the point, I'll go with what Cale Yarborough said recently - “I think the national economy has a lot to do with it,” he said. Then, he added a statement no one would have believed not long ago: “Let’s face it; people have lost interest.”

Reasons for that malaise, in Yarborough’s opinion, start with the so-called Car of Tomorrow, the dominance of the mega-teams and the perception — whether real or imagined — that “races are not really races until the final laps and that can get boring. I know we raced from the first lap to the last, and I don’t see that now.”

How the heck can you call it

How the heck can you call it a good race when over half the field falls to the back and just rides around for most of it? Guess the coverage was okay but ratings continue to drop regardless of where they run or ride around.

Goofy .. that's what I

Goofy .. that's what I thought of the Talladega race.

It appeared that any two cars could pair up and outrun the field; so much for driver skill or team preparation. Similar to the caliber of competition you see in a three-legged race at the picnic. The fact that Harvick's beat up car was contending for the win tells you that pairing up and drafting is more important than wind tunnel finesse.

The high number of lead changes at the stripe says that any sad sack in just about any spec-meeting car can lead.

I believe that they've developed the V8 to the point where it's producing too much power for these cars and these tracks. Downsizing to a V6 would eliminate the restrictor plates and perhaps prevent scrubbing off the right front tires on the shorter tracks. I doubt spectators would visually notice the difference in speeds.

Of course, with multiple sponsors per car and the paint scheme changing week-to-week, I no longer recognize cars at a glance, especially when the broadcast won't focus on a particular shot for more than a few seconds, so if I can follow the action .. why bother!

Do you remember when Nascar

Do you remember when Nascar ran the V6 engine in the Busch Series? Not really that long ago. It ended in 1994. Even those cars with the plate still ran close to 195mph, faster than the cars run today.
So I don't think the size of the engine is the problem.

Exactly. This seems to be a

Exactly. This seems to be a complex problem. But maybe someone should start with asking the audience members NASCAR has lost, or is losing, the "why did you leave" question. Take me, my secretary and the guy in the office next to mine. We all used to have pools and select drivers to win each race, with separate driver drafts for season long scoring to determine which of us was the champ (based on cumulative season points of our selected drivers). We went to the races when they were here. We watched the others on TV almost religiously, kept up with Jayski, talked about everything, etc. These days we don't go to the races here (the track is 40 minutes from the office), we only watch selected races on TV (we all have satellite TV), and we rarely discuss NASCAR happenings. If NASCAR can lose us, it can lose anybody because we were pretty die hard and we had some peer pressure to keep us going. So what happened? We got bored with it, as in too much same-ness. The cars are all mechanically reliable these days. Pit crews are more similar in performance than ever. Engine horsepower and power bands similar. Handling characteristics of the cars are similar. Same guys are good on the same tracks every year. Too little ability of one team to separate itself from competitors, or for one team to get on a surprise roll of success (or failure). A "big one" at Talladega? Seen several. Hamlin or Johnson win Martinsville? Too familiar. Junior mired in a neverending slump? We can predict the story line(s) of any given race these days more accurately than ever.

Bring back suspense. Surprise me. "I aint never seen that happen before." Because once we've seen it all, there's no reason to waste our time watching more. This goes WAY beyond COTs, "cookie cutter" racetracks, the "Chase" and all the other quick/short answers to this question (although each of those may play a role).

Mike, no matter how ESPN/ABC

Mike, no matter how ESPN/ABC wants to downplay this, the culprit is the race was on ESPN not ABC. In these tight times, there are a lot of people dropping their cable and satellite subscriptions trying to make ends meet. I know several people on chat boards who say they would love to watch the races but they don't have access to ESPN. If you take into account ESPN is in approximately 20% fewer homes than ABC, well you lose at least that many fans who would love to watch.

NASCAR needs to step in and tell ESPN/ABC their contract is for the chase to be on network TV instead of cable. All you have to do is look at the ratings at Charlotte, Bristol and Richmond, All shown on ABC all have ratings the around the same or better than last season.

Sure the detractors will point to the Saturday night race, But there were major College Football games on and the race still did very well. Bottom line, put the races on ABC and see what the ratings are, To compare this year with last year, well it's not fair. It's not fair to NASCAR, it's loyal fans, or the race.

Any other excuse is just BS being slung around.

NASCAR has become an

NASCAR has become an infomercial. One product plug after another. The we have the cheerleaders in the booth. Compare a NASCAR broadcast to Monday night football or the World Series. Why would any of us bother watching NASCAR?


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