While the total audience who saw at least some part of the Daytona 500 grew to 29.8 million from 26.2 million in 2009, average viewing dropped to 13.3 million viewers from last year's 15.95 million according to preliminary Nielsen data and was the smallest average audience since 2000's 12.9 million.
Yesterday's race was impacted by lengthy delays totaling nearly 2.5 hours. The delays themselves are factored out of the viewing averages, but the delays still wind up significantly impacting the ratings.
VIEWERS TUNE IN TO EPIC DAYTONA 500 ON FOX
Total Audience Up +14% Over 2009
New York – Almost 30 million people saw at least some part of FOX Sports’ coverage of the dramatic 2010 DAYTONA 500 yesterday, a race that lasted more than six hours and included 52 lead changes, a Daytona-record 21 different drivers taking the lead and a spectacular finish as Jamie McMurray held off Dale Earnhardt Jr’s charge in the final lap to claim his first Daytona 500 win.
Nielsen Media Research estimates that 29.8 million Americans watched at least some part of this year’s Daytona 500, a +14% gain over last year’s 26.2 million.
Two unprecedented delays to repair asphalt damage on the track totaled almost two and half hours and had a sizable impact on the rating. The race portion of the 2010 DAYTONA 500 broadcast earned a fast national rating of 7.7/16 (13.3 million viewers), compared to last year's 9.2/19. The delays were excluded from the rating as Nielsen Media Research treats them as they would a rain delay during an MLB game.
In the 31-year history of flag-to-flag television coverage of the Daytona 500, there have been two previous races that were delayed and re-started and both suffered sizable ratings decreases. The 1995 running was delayed over two hours by rain and the result was a -19% decline versus prior year (7.8 vs. 9.6). The 2003 race on FOX was also delayed by rain and not run to the full 500 miles. That race rated -10% lower than the 2002 running on NBC (9.8 vs. 10.9).
Despite the delays, there were substantial ratings gains in key NASCAR markets including Atlanta (+11%; 11.0 vs. 9.9), Charlotte (+8%, 16.8 vs. 15.6), Norfolk (+7%, 12.2 vs. 11.4) and Ft. Myers (+12%, 10.0 vs. 8.9). Greensboro (NC) led all local markets with a 16.9/28. Charlotte 16.8/30; Greenville (SC), 16.6/27; Indianapolis, 16.0/28; Orlando, 15.4/29; Louisville, 13.3/22; Nashville, 13.1/21; Knoxville, 13.0, 19; Jacksonville, 12.8/22 and Dayton, 12.7/23 round out the top 10 metered markets.