NBC Sports sees unique challenge with Nascar, IndyCar Double Header amid strong ratings year

The upcoming weekend at Indianapolis Motor Speedway presents a unique challenge for NBC Sports.

For the third year in a row, both Nascar and the NTT IndyCar Series will race at the Yard of Bricks on a given weekend, with events airing this Saturday and Sunday on NBC.

The challenge of putting on two major sporting events in one weekend is something that Sam Flood, executive producer and president of production at NBC Sports, relishes.

“It’s just continuous action, and the cross-pollination is the best part of it,” Flood said. “We have two competitive leagues together, sharing a facility and hopefully sharing an audience.”

The rare opportunity for America’s two most popular forms of motorsports to compete together on the same weekend at the same track began in 2020. The Covid-19 pandemic forced both series to be creative with their schedules and also opened opportunity to race together at Indianapolis owned by Roger Penske.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. will actually serve as an analyst for both events, and James Hinchcliffe will be in the Xfinity Series booth on Saturday.

“I think there’s so much respect going back and forth from open wheel to stock car over the decades,” said Earnhardt, a Nascar Hall of Famer. “There have been a lot of great circumstances and opportunities that drivers have driven in – IndyCar drivers have raced successfully in stock cars, and stock car drivers have also raced successfully in Indy in IndyCars.”

The dynamic duo of races this weekend provide NBC with a great opportunity to continue its momentum.

Nascar Cup Series viewership for the season opener on NBC/USA Network is up 4% over last season. Viewership is up from those comparable contests on NBCSN last year.

Sunday’s event at Pocono Raceway saw a 4 percent increase in viewership, and USA Network was the leading television network, including broadcast, during the race window with 2.590 million viewers. The Atlanta race on USA Network topped all 2021 races on NBCSN in viewership with 2.626 million viewers.

“Part of our job is to promote the sport and be at the racetrack. Rutledge Wood makes unique content at and around the races,” said Fludd. “It’s one of the things Nascar’s Jim France asked us to continue to show what’s happening on the track. Once you go to a race, you keep watching it on TV.”

Additionally, the NTT IndyCar Series is also off to its best start in five years on Comcast
CMCSA
platform. The open-wheel series averaged a total audience (TAD) of 1.721 million viewers across NBC Sports platforms (NBC, Peacock, USA Network) this season, making it the most-watched season opener through the first eight races of 2017 (1,760 million; ABC/NBCSN). The start of the 2022 season is also up 5% over last year’s comparable coverage (1.634 million; NBC/NBCSN). There was also one contest airing in Toronto only on the Peacock.

Flood attributes the ratings growth to both series’ dedication to finding innovative ways to attract new fans.

“The fact that fans are returning to the track in record numbers is what makes racing events great again,” Flood said. “It’s more than a race – it’s an event. You saw the crowd at Pocono last weekend and you saw the crowd for IndyCar.

“Both times it felt big and that’s a huge benefit because when it’s more than a race it engages the audience on a much higher level. I think it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy with more fans in the stands, which means more eyes watching the race.”

And NBC also promoted its motorsports programming with WWE.

Flood said: “We worked closely with WWE to drive audiences back and forth between Nascar, IndyCar and WWE. Superstars appear on the track, so we add publicity to all participants.”

The green flag for the IndyCar Series event will take place on Saturday, July 30, while the Cup Series race at Indianapolis will take the green flag on July 31, both on NBC.

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