Ratings for Sunday’s TV broadcast of the Indianapolis 500—the first ever shown on NBC—were up from a year ago, network and IndyCar officials announced Monday.
The 103rd running of the race delivered a 3.43 household rating for the network, a rise of 11% from last year’s broadcast on ABC (3.35), with an average viewership of 5.45 million people across NBC’s platforms. It was the race’s best television performance since the 100th running delivered a 4.1 rating in 2016, when the blackout was lifted because the race was considered a sellout.
The figure was lower than the overnight estimated rating of about 3.86, but still stopped a recent decline in viewership for the race, which last year had one of its lowest all-time ratings.
NBC is in the first year of a multi-year broadcasting contract, and significantly bolstered advertising for the Indy 500 compared to ABC’s handling of the race in recent years.
About 161,000 people tuned in to the race on NBCSports.com or the NBC Sports app, NBC said.
The network put the equivalent of millions of dollars into dozens of cross-promotions throughout the NBC family of channels, several television spots and social media advertising.
The strategy seems to have helped, with the race producing the network’s best Sunday afternoon sports event viewership since the Jan. 6 NFL Wild Card game delivered a 22.9 rating.
NBC said the broadcast’s rating peaked at 4.56 in the race’s last quarter-hour, as with 6.7 million viewers watching as Simon Pagenaud won his first Indy 500 after a back-and-forth battle with Alexander Rossi.
In Indianapolis, an evening replay of the race (the live broadcast was blacked out) garnered a household rating of 10.98. The largest live TV audience came from Dayton, Ohio with a rating of 9.77.
The network has exclusive rights to all IndyCar races, and network officials said NBC will continue heavy advertising for the series throughout the rest of the season.