The NFL isn’t the only American sport experiencing a ratings decline in recent years. NASCAR isn’t dealing with anthem protests, CTE concerns, or criticism from the president, but a decrease in TV ratings has still become an issue.
The 2018 season will be a transitional year for NASCAR in terms of losing some of its stars. It will be the first season since 1978 without Dale Earnhardt Sr., or Dale Jr. who was voted the sport’s most popular driver for 14 consecutive seasons. Matt Kenseth and Danica Patrick also announced they would be leaving NASCAR, a sport that dealt with retiring stars Tony Stewart and Jeff Gordon in recent years.
Heading into the 2017 season, the Wall Street Journal reported NASCAR’s TV ratings dropped 45% since 2005 and continued on the same downward trend this year. NASCAR would have expected a ratings boost this past Sunday considering it was the sport’s most popular athlete’s final race. Sunday’s championship race did a 2.7, down from a 3.3 last year and a 4.4 in 2015, a 40% decrease in two years.
“There are things out of our control: how millennials and other fans of ours are consuming not only our sport but all the sports,” said NASCAR chairman and CEO, Brian France, during a championship weekend media session. “That’s obviously a challenge for everybody. Attention times, the platforms they want to view and consume, they’re changing. TV always will be critically important, but other things now will give us a great opportunity, and we’re positioned well there.”
The average NASCAR viewer is 58 years old, up from 49 in 2006. A nine year increase in 11 years shows a failure for NASCAR to attract new fans. NBC and FOX who broadcast the sport, have expressed a desire for NASCAR to make changes such as breaking races up into stages and having less race-days that compete with the NFL.