TV ratings have and always will be a large topic of conversation surrounding any sport, and for good reason. The TV contract is one of the largest sources of revenue for NASCAR, even more than fans in the stands, merchandise, and so on.
This year, the TV ratings have been looked at with significant scrutiny. Here is a look at the TV ratings NASCAR has had on FOX.
A General Look at Viewership
Shown below is a chart on the 2023 NASCAR viewership, represented by a blue line, compared with 2022 viewership, represented by a red line. Some obvious patterns seem to emerge.
The general peaks and valleys of NASCAR viewership remain pretty consistent. There is a spike at the Daytona 500, followed by a general drop-off and stagnation. The ratings drop some again once FS1 starts broadcasting the races, this year at Richmond, and Martinsville in 2022. There are a couple of spikes later in the season at big races on FOX Talladega and Charlotte.
The only differences in general TV viewership trends come from Richmond and Sonoma, which is explained by Sonoma and Richmond having their TV channels swapped. Sonoma was on FOX this year instead of FS1 like in 2022, while Richmond was on FS1 this year instead of FOX like in 2022.
Generally speaking, the same races are garnering the biggest audiences. Races such as the Daytona 500, Talladega, and the Coca-Cola 600 garner larger TV audiences than others in their portions of the season.
However, the major shift is that overall viewership in 2023 took a dip early in the season compared to 2022. That is no secret, and it is has been highly documented. It took until Martinsville for a race to surpass its 2022 race in viewership, and most races from then on out were either slightly above or stagnant.
Late in the season, the ratings dropped once again at North Wilkesboro, a rained out race at Charlotte, and a weather delayed race at Gateway. Sonoma was the only race to see a significant increase, but that was primarily because of the aforementioned channel change.
A More Detailed Look at Viewership.
Here is a spreadsheet of specific TV viewership from each race this season. It features viewer numbers in millions from each race, how it compares to last season, and a look at overall viewership in millions.
Now, looking at viewership more specifically, NASCAR on FOX overall was down 8.9% from the previous year. That was a total of 5.801 million (non-unique) viewers lower than in 2022.
Ratings were generally down early in the season, but the first race without Chase Elliott at Las Vegas saw viewership dips increase from the single digits into the double digits. A trend that suspiciously kept going from all the way until Elliott’s return at Martinsville.
From there, TV ratings were generally better for most of the races. Charlotte and Gateway saw decreases, but those races were both hampered by weather issues. The one race later in the season that saw a ratings drop with no asterisk is North Wilkesboro, which saw an 11.2% drop in viewership.
Sonoma was the race that saw the largest increase in ratings at 30.3% and Richmond saw the largest decrease in ratings at 41.8%, but, as was mentioned, both races were swapped between FS1 and FOX this season. Overall, outside factors did seem to play a role in these decreased TV ratings.
Did Chase Elliott’s absence play a factor in the TV ratings decrease? The data says he probably did, but that does not explain the same dip for the Clash, the Daytona 500, and Auto Club Speedway. That is probably the place where NASCAR and FOX are going to look for the biggest improvement next season, as those races tend to play a big role in how viewership is generally during the season.
North Wilkesboro is also going to be an interesting case. What changes will NASCAR look to to increase TV viewership and better the racing product there?
However, the increase in ratings particularly during the FS1 portion of the season is definitely a welcome sight. It highlights that if NASCAR has their stars, they can potentially hold their own in the ratings.
Overall, this was likely not the season that NASCAR and FOX were looking for in terms of TV viewership. Early season numbers took a dip, and Chase Elliott’s absence did not help. However, viewership saw a general increase later in the season before weather delays seemingly curtailed some of that.
It’s in the rear view mirror, and, with a new TV deal on the horizon, the 2024 season of NASCAR on FOX will be under pressure to perform in the TV viewership numbers.