By admin | April 10, 2012
By Richard Allen
It’s not exactly breaking news to report that television ratings for NASCAR Sprint Cup races are not as high as they were when the sport reached its zenith of popularity in the early to mid 2000s. There have been many reasons, excuses and other thoughts thrown out there to explain why the drop in viewers has occurred. One of those theories is that the sport’s most popular driver has not won a race since 2008 and that has discouraged some fans from watching.
In 2012, ratings are again slightly lower in the year-over-year comparisons against last season. According to the chart dedicated to television ratings on the popular Jayski.com site, the numbers are down by 5% compared to the first six races of last year.
So would a win by Dale Earnhardt, Jr. help ratings recover? Of course, there is no way to know the answer to that question until it actually happens. However, it would seem reasonable to guess that there would be at least some degree of pop to come from a win by the driver with more fans than any other.
For the sake of comparison, a recent golf tournament might offer an example. In March, Tiger Woods won a PGA Tour event in Florida to end a 30 month winless drought that had encompassed his previous 26 tournaments.
In terms of television ratings, the results of the Woods’ victory was an increase of 129% over the previous year for the same event.
In some ways, golf is somewhat like racing in that it is a sport in which each individual(or team) is pitted against an entire field of competitors unlike basketball or football in which only two teams go against each other. So, the importance of one individual performing well in terms of providing a ratings boost cannot be dismissed.
However, in the Woods case there are a couple of striking differences. Because a golf tournament lasts for four days, people had advanced notice that Tiger was in contention and knew to tune in. Also, there are likely as many people who watch golf in hopes of seeing Woods fail as there are those who watch to see him win. Although Junior has his detractors, that would likely not be as big of a factor regarding Earnhardt.
So back to the question. Would a win by Dale Earnhardt, Jr. have a Tiger Woods like effect on television ratings. In all likelihood, the answer is no. The event which he won probably wouldn’t see a significant boost because there wouldn’t be three days of build up with him leading round by round like a golf tournament. However, the next week would probably see a small bump in the number of viewers, but an increase of 129% would be unattainable.
There were two reasons for writing this piece. First, Junior has been running much better this season and the possibility of a win by him is more likely than it has been in quite some time. But also, it is important to point out that no one individual is the reason for NASCAR’s TV downfall. It will take more than a win by one driver to get viewers to come back.
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