The first race of the 2017 Monster Energy Cup Series was held last Sunday. The season opener saw the victory of 2004 NASCAR series champion Kurt Busch. More than 23 million viewers tuned in for all or part of the event. While Fox TV's viewership was flat, the broadcast network's online streaming platform, Fox Sports GO, delivered impressive numbers.
According to Nielsen, Fox TV averaged 11.9 million total viewers, which is up five percent from 2016 but is 11 percent lower from 2015's 13.4 million. The race's 6.6 household rating was the second-lowest rating since the Daytona 500's debut in 1979.
Data from Sports Media Watch show that last Sunday's audience was the third-smallest for the Great American Race since 1995. Kurt Busch's win did not boost viewership of the fast-nationals. It only peaked with 14 million viewers from 6:15 to 6:30 PM ET. However, the opener recorded positive gains across key male and adult demographics.
Last Sunday's race garnered more viewership from a streaming platform, Fox Sports GO, than in 2016. Nearly 107,000 unique streamers glued in on their digital devices to watch the NASCAR event, up 59 percent from last year. The 247,403 total streams generated are a whopping 88% improvement from a year ago.
ESPN reported that NASCAR's core markets include Greensboro, North Carolina, Greenville, South Carolina, Indianapolis, Indiana, Knoxville, Tennessee, and Jackson, Florida. Markets that experienced the largest year-over-year increases were Austin, Texas, San Diego, California, Oklahoma City, and Norfolk, Virginia. The U.S.' biggest markets such as Chicago, Philadelphia, Washington, District of Columbia., and Atlanta also posted significant gains.
In a nutshell, the audience for the Daytona 500 failed to garner double-digit television ratings which it used to enjoy a decade ago. Changing viewership consumption habits is one of the reasons for the decline of the number of people tuning in to watch the annual motorsports event.