Sponsors have close eye on IndyCar TV ratings

March 22, 2010
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The Honda Grand Prix at St. Petersburg is a big test for the Izod IndyCar Series. And I’m not talking about driver standings.

The race airs this Sunday on ABC, with the green flag dropping at 3:30 p.m. It’s prime time to earn a solid TV rating. A mark below 1.0 would be a big blow.

The season opener in Brazil earned a .4 rating, according to New York-based Nielsen Media Research. That equates to 440,000 TV households across the U.S. Not terrible for the open-wheel series. In fact, it’s the third highest rated race ever on Versus, which is starting its second year of a 10-year deal with the series.

It’s certainly better than the series finale last year.

The 2009 Homestead-Miami race Oct. 10 scored a .15 national rating, meaning 171,000 TV households tuned in nationwide, according to Nielsen.

That kind of rating will no longer suffice for sponsors, who this year are demanding more. The magic number (at least for a starting point) is 1.0. Sponsors I’ve talked to this year said 1 million U.S. TV households (not viewers, TV households) is a must if they’re to justify their investment.

That’s especially true if the race is on network television, as is the case Sunday.

“Sponsors are willing to be patient, especially given the relatively new deal with Versus,” said Zak Brown, president of locally based Just Marketing International, which represents sponsors in NASCAR, Formula One and the IndyCar Series. “But that patience isn’t unlimited.”

Sponsors are keenly aware Versus’ average viewership for last year’s race coverage (315,000 per race for 12 races) dropped 59.5 percent from what ESPN and ESPN2 delivered (778,000) in 2008.

ABC, in 2009, also saw viewership drop 3 percent (2.64 million viewer per race for five races) from 2008, when it averaged 2.73 million viewers over seven races.

For the 17 races on Versus and ABC, average viewership per race in 2009 was 1.16 million, a 28 percent decrease from 2008’s 1.62 million average over 18 races.

IndyCar sponsors are not in the mood to stomach another season of such ratings. They’ve told me they’ll be a bit more patient with Versus, but they expect bigger numbers now on ABC telecasts.

It’s difficult to tell what IndyCar officials are doing to pump up marketing for this Sunday’s event, but ESPN and ABC began on-air ads well in advance of the event. And Izod is doing its part to promote IndyCar.

Unfortunately for series officials, the timing of this race isn’t the greatest. Gaining a large TV audience Sunday may have as much to do with the quality of the NCAA basketball tournament game airing as whether the likes of Graham Rahal and Danica Patrick are running well.

A March Madness nail-biter could torpedo IndyCar TV ratings. At least the DirecTV fiasco has been ironed out.

In any event, sponsors are tired of excuses. It’s time, they’re telling me, for performance.

  • What is the plan
    What is the plan if the 'league' fails horrendously yet again? And why any sponsor would think throwing money at this disaster is a good idea is astonishing.

    Ropin' Randy didn't come across as the brightest bulb last night, even with Robin Miller lobbing softballs at him.

    code = h2rg8
  • So, I guess Direct TV doesn't matter after all
    Will wonders ever cease? .4 for a foreign strret race with only 2 or 3 americans?? And Direct TV missing in action? I guess the IRL is on a roll! Could it be Americans only wanted foreigner ride buyers in the first place, all along these past 15 years?

    High ratings for Brazil are more a part of "watching a train wreck" than fans seeking out the sport. Haters crowed about the dangers and ineptness of the temp circuit in Sao Paulo. Curiosity drove the "dust bowl" ratings high I'm sure.

    Good for them.... IRL is poised for a ratings WIN-WIN here because St. pete last year was on Versus and this year it's on ABC/ESPN.

    How can you lose either way? They win from season opening race perspective as Brazil crushed St. Pete '09. They win from the St. Pete '09 vs. St. Pete '10 direct comparison as well because they are guaranteed higher ratings on an OTA network. Everythings coming up ROSES I thells ya!
  • ratings will be up
    I am predicting a 1.5 rating for St. Pete. Will it be enough to satisfy sponsors? That's another question. The early season Izod ads have helped the early success. But I'm not certain the series has enough juice to sustain its forward momentum.
  • A 1.5 for St.Pete? No way
    If St.Pete gets a 1.5 rating on ABC this weekend opposite of the tournament I'd be shocked.

    In fact, the last time Indycar got a rating of 1.5 or better for a non-Indy 500 race was in 2007 when the Mid-Ohio race drew a 1.7, but that was following the British Open.

    I'm looking at a 0.8 or 0.9 for St.Pete, but it won't be for a lack of effort though as I've seen two different Indycar for St.Pete promos throughout today on ESPN and ESPN2.

  • Pete Will Be Neat
    I say St. Pete gets a 1.2-ish. The Gomers and Talkin' Terry and Ropin' Randy and Robin "The Creep" Miller will all gush and slobber and say the sport is back. Reality strikes back this May when the Indy 500 gets a sub 3 and subsequent events radar sub 1's all the rest of the way.

    You see the problem is this: Bertrand Mania ain't gonna be enough.

    Sport is dead in less than two years now.
  • Izod Indycar Series
    the hapless IRL has lost:

    the grass roots crowd

    the short track crowd

    the oval only crowd

    the no foreign street race crowd

    the no foreign street race drivers crowd

    the American only crowd

    and pretty much anyone that isn't an Indy place fan

    that leaves plenty of people to fuel its breakout season
  • terry angstadt is bikeman
    brazil rating was 0.36 or 0.37 410,000 viewer it was not 0.4 irl just use rough estimated make it look good and it was a very bad rating but it could have been much worst
  • Major Sponsor to Leave
    I sent this link to a friend of mine who's company entertained an IRL teams overtures for sponsorship. Here was hsi response: "Very interesting! We penciled a consistent 1.5 rating to determine if it would cost out over our more conventional advertising stream i.e. 30 sec. radio spots, Sunday newspaper flyer, and some industry quarter-page mag ads. 1.5 was a bare number and we'd really need a 2.0 to make up for the viewer who has no intention or need to purchase institutional product, which is at least 0.8of that 1.5 number, maybe higher. At a .4 they'll need to court South American sponsors and maybe that is where this sport ends up. It just doesn't pencil for audience captures stateside."
  • You guys are tools
    The comment section of this blog is possibly the most hilarious rogue's gallery of tools that I've ever come across on the internet.
  • You need to get around more
    This is TAME...but seriously, the IRL is the biggest comedy routine in recorded history. Who else would become the evil CART empire it once chose to differentiate itself from? Only in the IRL.

    But...you say we're TOOLS? Bwahahahaha! We didn't hire General LOONEY to facilitate a committee or Bronco Randy Bernard (who's never seen a race before) to run the organization or spend $644 MILLION to wind up with the sport in a shambles, did we? We didn't name our race team VISION or proclaim to know anything about "fluid dynamics thingy".

    We were fans of the sport before TONY GEORGE destroyed it all. Now, we keep watch....over the biggest farce in AOW, the IRL, as it shams it's way to oblivion. That my friend...is GOOD comedy!
  • What is good comedy is watching the haters who admit that cart killed itself try to blame everything wrong in open wheel on TG/IRL?IMS. If cart killed itself, then how is TG responsible for that?
  • iman's issues
    what's good comedy is watcching you still obsessing over something that died 10 years ago. Now that's good comedy. enjoy your 2 weeks of May.
  • cart worst thing to happen american open wheel
    cart fan are anti american and are f1 fan cart fan =terry angstadt hijack all irl message board

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  1. why oh why does this state continue to elect these people....do you wonder how much was graft out of the 3.8 billion?

  2. i too think this is a great idea. I think the vision and need is there as well. But also agree with Wendy that there may be better location in our city to fulfill this vision and help grow the sports of hockey and figure skating in Indy. Also to help further develop other parts of the city that seem often forgotten. Any of the other 6 townships out side of the three northernmost could benefit greatly from a facility and a vision like this. For a vision that sounds philanthropic, the location is appears more about the money. Would really like to see it elsewhere, but still wish the development the best of luck, as we can always use more ice in the city. As for the Ice growth when they return, if schedules can be coordinated with the Fuel, what could be better than to have high level hockey available to go see every weekend of the season? Good luck with the development and the return of the Ice.

  3. How many parking spaces do they have at Ironworks? Will residents have reserved spaces or will they have to troll for a space among the people that are there at Ruth Chris & Sangiovese?

  4. You do not get speeding ticket first time you speed and this is not first time Mr.Page has speed. One act should not define a man and this one act won't. He got off with a slap on the wrist. I agree with judge no person was injured by his actions. The state was robbed of money by paying too much rent for a building and that money could have been used for social services. The Page family maybe "generous" with their money but for most part all of it is dirty money that he obtained for sources that are not on the upright. Page is the kind of lawyer that gives lawyers a bad name. He paid off this judge like he has many other tine and walked away. Does he still have his license. I believe so. Hire him to get you confiscated drug money back. He will. It will cost you.

  5. I remain amazed at the level of expertise of the average Internet Television Executive. Obviously they have all the answers and know the business inside and out.