Opinion: Why The Indy 500 TV Ratings Aren’t A Huge Deal To Me And Why I Think They’re On Solid Ground Still

INDIANAPOLIS – You may have seen the overnight ratings for the Indianapolis 500 and think, oh my, what happened? Yes, the overnight ratings were a 3.4. Yes, that’s the lowest for the prestigous race since it began airing flag-to-flag action in 1986. But, I’m not worried about those numbers. Here’s why.

The 3.4 rating is still leaps and bounds above any other race that the Verizon IndyCar Series hosts on an annual basis. Plus, the 3.4 rating is the second highest rated race in any series around the world for North America. The only race that tops that, is the Daytona 500 which drew a 5.3 rating back in February. But, that race only has around 110k spectators in attendance, the Indy 500 has well north of 300k. That makes the Indy 500 still as the largest single day spectator sporting event in the entire world.

No other INDYCAR, NASCAR or F1 race other than the Daytona 500 beat the Indy 500’s 3.4 rating. 

No other race in the world has more spectators than the Indy 500. Scratch that, no other sporting event, the Masters, the Super Bowl, the World Cup, the Olympics, the Final Four, all seven games of an NBA Finals, all seven games of a World Series, nothing brings more fans to their sport than the Indy 500.

There’s some positives there right?

Sure. There’s also this, it’s not like the Indy 500 is the only race that’s slipping in the TV rating department. Take the Daytona 500 for example. The 5.3 rating this past year is the lowest for the Daytona 500 since live start-to-finish coverage began in 1979. The previous low was a 5.6 in 2014. The four lowest Daytona 500 ratings have come in the past five years. Sounds like they’re in the same boat as the Indy 500.

Also, factor in this, the biggest markets for the Verizon IndyCar Series as a whole are in the midwest. Indianapolis, Chicago, Detroit, Cincinnati, St. Louis, Louisville, Nashville, Columbus, etc, they’re all within a few hours drive of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Instead of those fans watching the race live on TV, they’re showing up to the gates at 16th and Georgetown and attending in person. Why do you think the attendance is rising to unprecedented heights while the TV ratings are going down? It’s because fans are actually going to watch the event in person.

Since when is that a bad thing?

The Indy 500 is centrally located to a bunch of major cities where the fan base is the largest. They are choosing to buy tickets and attend.

Why is every other INDYCAR race seeing rises in TV ratings year after year but the Indy 500 slipping? It’s because the track can hold over 300,000 spectators and the spectators are showing up. That’s why the 3.4 rating to me holds some merit. The rating would be significantly higher if the fans weren’t going to the race. Think about how many of those fans would be watching on TV if they were at home. Instead, they’re showing up. I’m okay with that.

That’s why in this day and age of TV ratings, where other avenues of streaming are available and not yet metered, that the 3.4 rating to me is strong, very strong. 2018 is much different than 2010. It’s way different than say 2005. Most people have cut the cord or look for other ways to watch TV. The way ratings are determined is now flawed in my mind.

Plus, this isn’t a knock at NASCAR, but when their ratings are dropping as much as they have and their attendance is slipping too, they have a problem. See, INDYCAR attendance is rising everywhere, so are their TV ratings. But, as we sit here today, NASCAR is still drawing in more fans on TV. That’s because their fan base is larger. The INDYCAR TV ratings are starting to level out a bit, but that’s because that’s what the fan base is right now. The numbers are are similar week to week because they have passionate fans that are tuning in by the week. They’re not skipping races per say. To add to that, they’re gaining more fans to that number. Other sports are dropping across all metrics. INDYCAR isn’t.

So, while this is just an opinion piece, it’s one that I can say that I’m fine with that 3.4 rating. That’s a very solid output in this day and age.

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