Indy Racing League TV viewership down 28 percent

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The results for the first year of the Indy Racing League’s 10-year television deal with cable channel Versus are in.

To start, the season finale at Homestead-Miami Oct. 10 scored a .15 national rating, meaning 171,000 TV households tuned in nationwide, according to New York-based Nielsen Media Research.

In Indianapolis, the Oct. 10 race garnered at .23, meaning 3,000 TV households in central Indiana tuned in, according to Nielsen.

Versus officials said they met contractual promises made to the IRL about delivering more viewers across more programming, pre-race, post-race and during the races than last year.

Versus CEO Jamie Davis said Versus attracted 29.5 Million viewers for all IRL programming aired this year. The number of viewers is not to be confused with the number of TV households, a number more commonly used by media buyers and advertisers to determine ad prices.

Davis points out that Versus’ total number of viewers across all IRL shows on the cable channel this year, outpaced the total (25.9 million) ESPN and ESPN2 garnered for its IRL coverage in 2008. Of course, that only means there were a lot more lower rated shows this year than last. Those ratings, Davis insists, will improve.

A closer look at the numbers shows Versus’ average viewership for race coverage (315,000 per race for 12 races) dropped 59.5 percent from what ESPN and ESPN2 delivered (778,000) in 2008.

IRL officials said they expect it to take a couple years to build viewership on Versus and are encouraged by the increased coverage.

ABC 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 this year was 1.16 million, a 28 percent decrease from last year’s 1.62 million average over 18 races.

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