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NASCAR Fans Are Changing The Way They Watch Races
 Nascar Series 
Posted by:  Buck on March 6, 2019 at 6:49am

Compared with the 9.17 million who watched the telecast of the Daytona 500 on Fox on Feb. 17, the average audience of 53,293 who watched Fox’s streaming coverage of the race on their laptops, tablets or phones seems downright puny. But there was an interesting and noteworthy upside.

The average number of streaming viewers for the 2018 race was 48,370, so the 2019 number represented a 10% boost. The average for a NASCAR Cup race at Atlanta on Feb. 24 was 27,031, up 28% from 21,112 in 2018.

The jump in unique streamers for both races was even more pronounced: to 172,432 in 2019 from 113,273 in 2018 for Daytona (a 52% jump); and to 84,757 in 2019 from 57,684 in 2018 for the race at Atlanta (a 48% jump).

NBC reported that 1.2 million unique devices streamed NASCAR coverage over the second half of the 2018 season, an 11% jump from 2017, and 150.9 million live minutes were streamed, a 14% increase. NBC’s streaming numbers have gone up in four straight years.

NASCAR probably won’t ever be the TV phenomenon it was in the last decade; the TV audience for the Daytona 500 in 2019 was an all-time low, a shade off the 9.297 million that watched in 2018. The TV audience for the 2006 Daytona 500 was a record 19.355 million.
(For their telecast of the 2019 Cup race at Atlanta, Fox had 5.067 million viewers, an 10% drop from the audience of 5.609 million viewers in 2018. But the 2018 race had a 15% drop in viewership than 2017.)


The 60th Folds of Honor Quik Trip 500 NASCAR Cup Series race at Atlanta Motor Speedway. (photo credit: Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)GETTY
As NASCAR traditions have come and gone, more people are watching sporting events on their laptops, tablets and phones than they used to, of course, but the hike for NASCAR, while still small, suggests that younger people — a critical target audience for NASCAR — are finding another way to get their stock-car fix during the emerging era of Netflix.

NASCAR fans are aging. For Daytona 500 race last month, for example, 2.316 million Fox viewers, or 25%, were between the ages of 18 and 49. For the same race in 2018, 2.671 million viewers between the ages of 18 and 49 made up almost 29% of the total audience.

The increase of nearly 5,000 in streaming viewers for Daytona last month does not make up for the telecast loss of 127,000 viewers, of course, but the number of streaming customers did rise by 10%, over a telecast loss of 1.3%. NASCAR can hang a hat on that.

The 2018 season was rough for NASCAR. Cup races drew an average of 3.3 million on Fox and NBC and their cable sports affiliates last year, a nearly 20% drop from a 4.1 million in 2017 and a nearly 27% drop from 4.5 million in 2016.


HAMPTON, GA - FEBRUARY 24: A fan watches during the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on February 24, 2019 in Hampton, Georgia.

In an ideal world, every NASCAR Cup race would be telecast by either Fox or NBC on regular old rabbit-ear TVs, but those days are gone. Fox is, however, carrying six of the first seven Cup races on broadcast TV (not cable), with NBC carrying six of the last 11 races on broadcast TV.

But there are other ways to watch stock-car racing, and streaming is a viable option. I don’t get how people could watch a NASCAR race — or any other sporting event, for that matter — on their cellphones, but the option is there if you want it, and fans are taking advantage.

It may still be too early in the season to declare that NASCAR’s slide has stopped, but it appears to be slowing, with the Daytona 500 selling out all 101,500 seats for a fourth straight year. This news won’t cause NASCAR to throw a party, but at least it is not more lousy news.

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