ABC-TV's telecast of the Indianapolis 500 on Sunday earned a 3.7 rating nationwide, one of the race's worst ratings performances in recent history.
The race, culminating in the first Indy 500 win by fan favorite Tony Kanaan, averaged about 5.7 million viewers during its televised run, according to Nielsen ratings provided by ESPN Communications. ESPN produces the telecast in conjunction with sister network ABC.
The ratings were the lowest since 2010, when the race earned a 3.6 rating, its worst performance since live telecasts started in 1986. The telecast improved to a 4.0 in 2011, and 4.3 in 2012, representing a four-year high of nearly 6.9 million viewers.
The ratings include viewership for the evening tape-delayed broadcast of the race in the Indianapolis area, according to Andy Hall, associate director of ESPN Communications.
This year's ratings surely are a disappointment to both ABC/ESPN and the IndyCar series. Broadcast executives were confident about building on the bump from 2012. Rich Feinberg, ESPN's vice president in charge of motorsports production, told reporters last week that several compelling storylines would "give us a great opportunity to put on a terrific show for our viewers."
Attention grabbers included two three-time winners in Helio Castroneves and Dario Franchitti, several dynamic rookies, four women drivers, and Indianapolis native Ed Carpenter in the pole position. "Those are all pieces we can drive," Feinberg said, "but at the end of the day, viewers decide."