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MADISON, IL – AUGUST 25: An IndyCar logo is displayed on the turn two wall during the Verizon IndyCar Series Bommarito Automotive Group 500 presented by Valvoline & Axalta on August 25, 2018, at Gateway Motorsports Park in Madison, Illinois. (Photo by Michael Allio/Icon Sportswire)
IndyCar claimed the checkered flag on the biggest day in racing, but Formula 1 was was the only series to see ratings growth.
Last Sunday’s IndyCar Series Indianapolis 500 averaged a 2.7 rating and 4.62 million viewers on NBC, topping only the months-delayed edition two years ago (2.3, 3.67M) as the lowest rated and least-watched edition of the race. Ratings fell 15% and viewership 18% from last year’s race, the most-watched 500 since 2016 (3.15, 5.63M).
Including additional streaming data not tracked by Nielsen — 219,000 viewers across Peacock and NBC Sports’ website and app, up 534% from last year — the race averaged 4.8 million. That still ranks as the lowest on record outside of two years ago.
Indianapolis led all markets with just a 5.7 rating for a primetime replay, sharply lower than last year’s 21.3. Dayton, Ohio, and Ft. Myers, Fla., were the top market for live coverage at a 5.6.
As has become the norm, the Indy 500 easily won its annual Memorial Day weekend matchup with NASCAR’s Coca-Cola 600. The NASCAR race averaged a 2.2 and 3.87 million, down 4% in ratings and 6% in viewership from last year (2.3, 4.1M) and its smallest audience since moving to FOX 21 years ago. Keep in mind the NASCAR race faced unusually tough competition from Game 7 of the NBA’s Eastern Conference Finals on ESPN (4.6, 9.88M).
The Formula 1 Monaco Grand Prix was no match for the IndyCar or NASCAR races, but it was the only one of the three to buck the trend of declining ratings. Excluding rain-delay coverage, the race averaged a 0.9 and 1.61 million on ESPN — the fourth-largest F1 audience ever on U.S. television and second-largest ever on cable. Including the rain-delay portion (1.2M), the full telecast averaged 1.4 million.
Figures do not include a mid-afternoon encore presentation on ABC that averaged 762,000.
F1 is now averaging 1.4 million viewers on ESPN/ABC, up 45% from the comparable point last year (948K). That compares to an average of 1.98 million for IndyCar (including additional streaming data not tracked by Nielsen), up 2% from last year (1.95M). A season-to-date average for NASCAR was not immediately available.
[Nielsen estimates from ShowBuzz Daily 6.1, league/network PR]
Dr. Jon Lewis (aka Paulsen) has been covering the sports media industry on a daily basis since 2006 as the founder and sole writer of Sports Media Watch. You can contact him here or on the Sports Media Watch Twitter page.
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