The first Indianapolis 500 to be run in August figured to have the cards stacked against it for television audience, given the head-to-head competition with NASCAR as well as NBA playoff games. Sure enough, the TV rating for last Sunday’s 104th Running was a historic low for the race, although the numbers still provided things to cheer for in a troubled year.
NBC’s live Indy 500 telecast averaged a 2.29 national Nielsen rating, representing 3.67 million household viewers. That’s the first rating under 3 rating for the race on Memorial Day weekend and down from a 3.44/5.4 million for last year’s race (the first to air on NBC). It still wound up a close second overall as the most-watched sporting event of the weekend, though, edged out by the LA Lakers/Portland NBA game (2.29/3.8m on ABC Saturday night). It also was NBC Sports’ second-most watched sporting event since an NFL Divisional Playoff game on Jan. 11.
The rating this year was actually bolstered more than normally by the local Indianapolis market, which had its usual blackout lifted for this non-spectator event and led the list of top 10 markets for the race, with a massive 24.9 rating (last year’s delayed telecast had an 11.1 in Indy). The rest of the top 10 markets were as follows:
t2 Cincinnati, 4.1
t2 Columbus, Ohio, 4.1
t2 Las Vegas, 4.1
5 Nashville, 3.8
6 Hartford-New Haven, 3.7
t7 Milwaukee, 3.6
t7 West Palm Beach, 3.6
t9 Sacramento-Stockton, 3.3
t9 Tampa-St. Petersburg, 3.3
NBC noted that an average of 17,800 viewers streamed this year’s race live (down from last year’s 45,000), bringing the overall average up to 3.74m, while the TV-only audience peaked at 4.641 million viewers for the race’s conclusion (5:30-5:45 p.m. ET).
NASCAR’s Cup Series held its own despite the direct competition from Indy for the second half of its doubleheader at Dover. The NBCSN telecast averaged a 1.19 and 1.95m viewers – a big drop from last week’s 2.04/3.2m for the Daytona road race on NBC, admittedly, but a fairer comparison is the previous week at Michigan, also a doubleheader with both rounds on cable. The Sunday race at Michigan averaged 1.43/2.4m.
Saturday’s Cup race at Dover was lower, at 1.11/1.8m, as had been the case at MIS (1.01/1.7m.)
The NASCAR Xfinity Series also doubled up at Dover, with Sunday’s round overlapping with the start of the Indy 500. Unlike Cup, its Saturday race outscored Sunday’s with the former averaging 0.55/827,000 viewers and the latter 0.52/807K.
NASCAR Trucks at Dover on Friday evening averaged 0.20/312,000 viewers on FS1.
The GT-only IMSA WeatherTech Sportscar Championship round at VIR got some good news in having a last-minute same-day telecast on NBCSN following NASCAR Saturday night. However, the late schedule change may have cost it some viewers. It averaged just 0.17/290,000.
NBC also carried AMA Lucas Oil Pro Motocross from Hurricane Mills on Saturday afternoon, which averaged 0.36/470,000.