The 2023 NASCAR season is done, and NBC’s portion of the season is finished as well. How did NBC do throughout the season? What was all of the good, the bad, and the ugly of NBC’s 2023 NASCAR broadcast season? Let’s take a look at every aspect of NBC’s 2023 broadcasts
NBC earns high marks for the quality of commentary throughout the 2023 NASCAR season. There were highlights both in the booth and on pit road for NBC throughout the 2023 season. The chemistry between Steve Letarte, Rick Allen, Jeff Burton, and Dale Earnhardt Jr. is growing.
Earnahardt Jr. and Letarte will often go back and forth talking through what they would be thinking as a driver/crew chief combo at different moments throughout the race. Burton still finds a way to make his voice heard though, and sometimes he will give a different perspective on the topic. It is not hostile, rather, it is just Burton raising another way to think about a situation. Letarte and Earnhardt Jr. often do the same thing to Burton.
Letarte is also very knowledgeable about the Next-Gen car. This was highlighted during his explanation of the brake rotor failure for Christopher Bell in the Championship race.
Rick Allen also brings a lot of energy to the booth. He is very different from Mike Joy, and, while Joy’s more laid-back style has benefits, Allen’s more high-energy style works well with his partners. It also helps as the season goes on and the races become higher stakes.
The work of pit road reporters was highlighted after Pocono with a great interview of Kyle Larson by Kim Coon. Coon pressed Larson for the answer we were looking for, and she got it.
While, at times, the four-person booth can feel a bit crowded, it generally works really well. Everything ties together very smoothly, and it allows for an entertaining broadcast even if the race is not so exciting.
The clip above showing the analysis of the brake rotor failure is as much a credit to Letarte as it is to the production team. They had this element ready to go for this exact moment in the broadcast. That is a great moment.
On top of that, production decisions to finish Playoff elimination races were great as well. Near the end of the Martinsville race, NBC would use multiple viewing windows to keep track of every driver on the bubble on track. They would do the same thing when there were multiple battles to watch on track at one time, and it gave fans the ability to follow everything that was going on at one time.
NBC also decided to do something interesting at the beginning of the race by putting Dale Earnahardt Jr. and Jeff Burton on the grid before the race before heading up to the booth. This took some tinkering as in the first race at Nashville, they stayed down there for the start of the race, and no one could hear them. However, despite that small mistake, NBC rectified that by moving them to the booth right after a quick hit on the grid just before the cars rolled off the grid.
As far as commercials go, they are a necessary evil in every broadcast. However, NBC appeared to do a solid job of mixing in side-by-side commercials to keep them from interrupting the race flow. Just for comparison, according to Jayski, NBC had 22 minutes of traditional commercials and 16 minutes of side-by-side for the Championship race compared to Fox which had 49 minutes of commercials with 14 minutes of side-by-side during the Daytona 500.
Commercials are annoying to the viewer, but they do pay the bills. However, NBC implemented them with much more efficiency in the Championship broadcast than Fox’s biggest race, the Daytona 500. Overall, the production was very good once again for NBC.
If NBC had a weak spot, it would be their lack of pre-race coverage for some races. Most notably the first race of the season at Nashville, which NBC went on the air as the cars were on the grid. Now, that was mainly because NASCAR was forced to move up the start time of the race, but, that was still frustrating for viewers.
However, when NBC did have pre-race coverage, it was always on-site. It was the same story for post-race coverage as well. NBC gets major points for having their coverage on-site, and it allowed for the race track to feel like the “Place to Be”.
NBC also did the post-race winners interview on the track instead of in victory lane, which may frustrate some fans. However, they often had a solid amount of post-race coverage, even if it was sometimes moved to Peacock.
It was far from perfect, but, it was still very good. A few tweaks may get some positive reviews from fans, but, it’s not like it needs a complete overhaul.
As of right now, the TV ratings for the Championship race at Phoenix have not been released. However, the TV ratings for NBC’s portion of the season had plenty of peaks and valleys. They had a big win at the Chicago Street Race along with increases at Pocono and Nashville. However, NBC had 7 double-digit viewership percentage drops in 12 races from Indianapolis to last week’s race at Martinsville.
Now, the ratings are not totally the fault of NBC as Fox dealt with similar struggles. On top of that, NASCAR is not the only sport to deal with TV ratings struggles.
Could these ratings push NBC to put more races on Peacock in the future? Maybe it will, but, there has been no indication one way or the other. With NBC likely to re-up, the ratings, while not great, are not a reason to panic yet.
Will NBC make any major changes in 2024? How did you feel they did with their 2024 coverage?