Do Pocono ratings show IndyCar needs more oval races?

July 22, 2013
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When it comes to the television ratings of the IndyCar Series, it’s difficult to compare apples to apples. Having some races on network broadcasts and other on cable makes it pretty tricky to compare one race to another.

That hasn’t stopped old-school open-wheel fans from crowing that the ratings of the Pocono race mean that the series needs more ovals. On some levels, I suppose that makes a lot of sense.

This year, the series has 13 road and street races and six oval races.

The 0.9 rating (about 1.3 million TV viewers nationwide) for the July 7 race at Pocono is the third highest rated broadcast of the season behind the Indianapolis 500 (3.68) on May  26 and the Firestone 550 (.96) at Texas Motor Speedway on June 8. The fourth highest rated IndyCar race this year is the Iowa Corn Indy 250, which aired on June 23. It earned a .68 rating.

That means the four highest rated races this year have been run on ovals, and that has given the oval-loving IndyCar fans something to holler about.

But remember, all those races aired on ABC. Many of the underperforming IndyCar street and road races have aired on NBC Sports Network, a relatively new cable channel still trying to find its legs. And many viewers are still trying to find NBCSN on the dial.

Oval races airing on NBC Sports Network haven’t done too well either. For example, the Milwaukee IndyFest run on the much-loved Milwaukee Mile scored a paltry .22 rating on June 15.

Oval fans are quick to point to the Chevrolet Indy Dual in Detroit, IndyCar races which aired June 1 and 2. Both were serpentine (non-oval) races and both were on ABC. The June 1 race scored a .61 rating and the Sunday race scored a .67.

The IndyCar Series’ early season road and street races on NBC Sports Network scored .38, .26, .4 and .22. Not exactly stellar numbers.

Again, it’s difficult to compare apples to apples. Ratings depend on marketing, what network an event is on and what other events are scheduled at the same time.

But a quick glance at the IndyCar ratings does seem to create an interesting dilemma for the open-wheel series’ decision makers.

While the ovals seem to at least hold their own in terms of TV ratings, and there would certainly be an argument that they draw more eyeballs, some of the road and street courses—with their festival atmospheres—draw bigger live crowds. In the case of Long Beach and a very short list of others, they draw much bigger crowds. But as popular as Long Beach is as a live event, this year’s race on April 21 only earned a .4 rating on NBC Sports Network.

On the other hand, many of the ovals, as well as they’ve done on TV, have struggled to maintain a vibrant live audience base. A simple solution to increasing TV ratings for all its races is to move more races to network TV. But with the series’ current contract with NBCSN that may be easier said than done.

What is new Hulman & Co. CEO Mark Miles and his new management team going to do about this? Your guess is as good as mine.


  • Non-compete clause?
    Doesn't ABC own the rights to the Indycar network broadcasts? Also, it seems they are only interested in showing five or six races and could care less about showing the whole season. I know alot of fans want NBC to be the anchor, but NBC didn't appear to want Indycar that bad because Randy Bernard signed that extension with ABC. I know he went to who paid the most. So what do they do to increase network coverage when ABC has their fill and don't want to increase committment and NBC had little previous interest, or at least not enough to compete with ABC. What's the answer? As a fan, I have no idea, I just hope Mark Miles is EXTREMELY smarter than me and can figure this out.
  • HaY, all you rocket scientists
    The Pocono timeslot was previously given to the Toronto years past the ABC Toronto race WAS the highest rated non-Indy 500 race on the schedule. AND, it was alway HIGHER than the 0.9 Pocono got. Does that mean strret courses are more popular than oval races? Huh? No, not necessarily. It just means that ABC didn't want two Toronto races in that timeslot (they already surrendered that to ABC Detroit bankrupt RatIsle 225's). So, in the infinite wisdom of the Speedway Toronto got bumped to the .2 NBCSN where it will rot with all the other rotten tomato races the Indycars puts there. Oh, and BTW, the Indy 500 was the 79th most watched event this year (so far for the 6 months). Not too shabby when you consider they were 10th overall in the combined Auto/Horse racing category. 10th...Ricky Bobby said it best, "If you ain't first, you're last". Hey Mark Miles, this TV contract is killing you guys, and I'm loving it!
  • Season is over
    The IndyCar season is over as far as we're concerned. Street courses are extremely boring so we don't watch them. If we happen to notice an oval IndyCar race on the schedule, we'll watch it.
  • Cannibalizing themselves
    I have to think that one of the issues with the ratings (of many) is that they keep scheduling races at the same time that NASCAR races are on. There are several (not all) viewers who are fans of both series, but can't watch two races at once. We end up flipping back and forth, which doesn't really work well. That scheduling issue, coupled with the races being split between networks and not publicized by each other (ABC doesn't promote races on NBCSN and vice versa), really shoots IndyCar in the foot. Many of the races this year have had great racing and exciting finishes, but people don't know where to find them or aren't watching when they're on (possibly because they don't know they're on!). It's sad that these teams and drivers are working so hard to produce a good product, yet no one knows about it. I, for one, totally agree there should be more ovals - at least an equal number of ovals to road and street courses.
  • More Ovaltine Please
    We'll have another chance to test the series on an oval at Fontana. I'll be there enjoying the action and watching the DVR later of the NBC Sports Network coverage.
  • Ovals wood be GRate
    If the the IRL hadn't got kicked out of 23 of them
  • As of Jan., 2013
    NBC Sports Network is currently in 77.9 million homes, with 112 million 500 thousand potential viewers, for anything other than the IRL obviously.
  • Indcar! try watching!
    I don't think you guys are watching the same races as me! There's tons of passing and the racing is way better than a 4hr nascar race
  • Competition
    The Sunday after a Saturday night NASCAR race is coveted by all tracks and networks, because IndyCar ratings are always hire when not competing against a NASCAR broadcast.
  • Pocono proves nothing
    Excellent point...why have the iZodcarz been kicked out of 23 PLUS ovals? And why is there only 4 ovhals on the sched now? Did CART die twice to have the schedule so lopsided in the direction of strret courses etc? Bwahahahaha, the Hulman's spent $900+ MILLIONS to secure the sport and they all they got is 0.18's and foreign road racing nancy boi's with strret courses! WoOOoT! Party on you visionaries!!!!! LOLz
  • Shut Up, Chief!
    There are SIX ovals on the IndyCar schedule (not nearly enough, IMO). I think part of the reason is that the tracks are asking for too much $$$ - or it could be that IndyCar was asking too much. In any event, positive movement toward more races at ovals (Chicagoland, Michigan) has been happening. I truly hope that there will be more ovals next season, and I would likely drive to Chicagoland to see IndyCar there. It's a nice track, easily-accessible and they do a GREAT job of promoting racing. I met the track president last year and he was a very cool guy. Your supposed reports of IndyCar's demise have become boorish. Let the new captains work on righting the ship before you start playing your funeral dirge.
  • Ovals More?
    The Milwaukee Race did poorly in the ratings because without much promo, it was snuck on a Saturday. And IndyCar doesn't need more ovals. It needs better promotion. It needs an internal rivalry that turns a bit ugly. It needs 500 mile SuperSpeedway races. Michigan, Fontana, Pocono, Indy. It needs Simona De Silvestro to do well and get on the podium! And the Indy commercials? The one with Andretti and the 2-seater? Give me a break! And it needs more than 8 cars competing in Indy Lights. And it needs another Danica. Ana Beatriz? Pippa Mann? And it needs more consistant start times and a consistant network. It's hard to follow when you are hunting for the race on TV.
  • Yes. Anthony, maybe your next question should be "Is Chief and his merry band of haters illiterate or just convinced constant use of poor grammar and spelling makes them look cool?" As a subset of that, you may want to look into their consistent misuse of numbers and complete avoidance of facts. A final report could be to look into the mental health of folks who are obsessed with trying to destroy a racing series because they did not get a personal apology for their own series committing suicide.
  • HAy CHief
    When was the last time you had a seat at the Hulman/George table where you got to make decisions that helped destroy a racing series?
  • Another Fishers Girl
    hollarin' out in her trailer park. How many times did the League get kicked out of Chicago?
  • Where is Tony?
    was he working with Chief to destroy a racing series? How happy are geico customers? Happier than Roger and Chip cruising on the speedway's dime.
  • HAy Chief
    You better lay low for a while or they might discover that you are the one who made the decision to let the Speedway go into disrepair
  • What numbers, Indyman?
    The 25% lower TV ratings for 2013? TRUE. $900+MILLIONS..TRUE. Toronto 2012 vs Pocono 2013 on ABC, TRUE. Dallara DW12 ghastly ugly, TRUE. 79th most watched sports programming in 2013 (so far), TRUE. "TURBO" uses CART engine sounds...TRUE. "Turbo" cost the SPeedway mega dinero...TRUE. Turbo is a failure at the box office. TRUE. IMS ripping seats out of IMS to save $$$, TRUE. Doug Boles hired to "SAve Our Track", yet the 3 sided ghetto surrounding the speedway is getting no $avior, TRUE. Indyman...what is it that you are babbling about? You want more "numbers"??? Babwahahhahhaha!
  • Less ovals Fishers Gal
    You know your ovals darling....what happened to: Pikes Peak, Charlotte, Atlanta, Dover, Kentucky, Chicagoland, New Hampshire (twice), Gateway, Michigan, Nazareth, Richmond, Nashville, Phoenix, Kansas, Walt Disney World, Las Vegas. Did I miss any? Feel free to tell me why the IRL/Indycars were not successful at these venues. I dare you, becuase that'll be why there are only 4 ovahls on the schedule. I mispelled on purpose to drive the place fans crazy. Bwahahhahah!
  • Add
    Monteggi and Hoestead
  • hey sport..."are"
    Indyman, You might want to check your grammar too. Your sentence should have been "Are Chief and his merry band..." And I don't know about facts per say, as they seem to be thin just about everywhere. But, if you are looking at the majority of posts on IBJ these days, they sure seem to depict a certain desperation. Everything seems to be based on would and could and save our track. I'd be a bit more concerned about the series than I would be about the damage a guy like Chief may wrought. Seems Anthony and the IBJ folks are concerned. I bet they have a little better feeling for this than you.
  • You Can Say That Again
    "But, if you are looking at the majority of posts on IBJ these days, they sure seem to depict a certain desperation." Like moths to a flame. Thanks for continuing to watch so religiously. LOL.
  • Indycar TV ratings down 25% in 2013
    The moths apparently can resist the Indycar series on TV. Why is that?

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