Indy 500 TV ratings decline nationally, locally | 2017-05-30 | Indianapolis Business Journal

Overnight television ratings for the 2017 Indianapolis 500 dropped to their lowest point since Nielsen Media Research began tabulating overnight ratings in 2003.

It’s anticipated that this year’s Indy 500 could be among the lowest-rated since ABC began start-to-finish coverage of the race in 1986. The final Nielsen rating will be out later this week.

Sunday’s race, which aired on ABC in conjunction with ESPN, scored a 3.6 overnight rating, a 12 percent drop from last year’s 4.1 overnight rating, according to New York-based Nielsen.

This year’s overnight rating ties the previous low over the last 15 years, according to Nielsen.

Perhaps even more troubling is that the three lowest rated races have come in the last eight years. The 2010 race scored a 3.6 rating and the 2013 race earned a 3.7 rating, according to Nielsen.

This year’s race continues a concerning trend for the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and IndyCar Series as 2016’s rating was a decline from the 4.3 rating in 2015, despite all the extra publicity surrounding last year’s 100th running of the race

This year’s poor rating comes at a bad time as IMS and IndyCar Series officials open negotiations for their TV contract. ABC’s current contract to air the Indianapolis 500 runs through next year, and some broadcast and sports media experts have suggested other broadcast and Internet properties could be interested in pursuing rights to air the race. 

As the IndyCar’s biggest race, by far, the Indy 500 is a bargaining chip for the series to use to land an attractive TV package for the rest of its races.

Under Hulman & Co. CEO Mark Miles, the series has made progress in TV ratings.

In 2016, the IndyCar Series’ 16 races averaged 1.28 million viewers nationwide, according to Nielsen. That’s the highest TV viewership the series has achieved since 2011 and marks a 35-plus percent increase in viewership since Miles took over as CEO of IndyCar and IMS parent…

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