NASCAR TV coverage gives sponsors some perks: Their logos can pop up in the middle of the action, and the sport's diehards are famously loyal to the brands that power their favorite drivers.
But NASCAR is losing eyeballs.
So far this season, NASCAR Nextel Cup Sunday races are averaging 4.6% of U.S. TV households, down 9% from last year — and down 20% from 2005 for the same 22 races. Over the past years, each network carrying Cup races has seen ratings declines. NASCAR's second-tier Busch Series Saturday races, which ESPN2 this season inherited from TNT and FX, are off 11% from last year.
One thing that might help: NASCAR's final 11 races, when it faces competition from football, are all on a broadcast network (ABC) — up from eight on a broadcast network (NBC) last year.
NASCAR's national ratings are far more telling than those for other sports. While NASCAR's Cup races are the only option for every NASCAR-seeking eyeballs, fans of Major League Baseball and the NBA can find TV games virtually every day of the week on local, regional and national channels — meaning those sports' national ratings represent just a slice of TV viewing, not the whole pie.