Exclusivity paying off for NBC and IndyCar as audiences up on 2018
NBC Sports Group, the Comcast-owned US sports broadcaster, is averaging viewing figures of 397,000 for the first four races of motor racing's 2019 IndyCar Series, the first year it has shown the series exclusively.
The figure is a 21 per cent rise on the 327,000 average audience recorded for the equivalent first four races of 2018, according to figures released by Nielsen, the global sports analytics firm.
The most recent race this year, the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach, California, averaged 442,000 viewers on NBC Sports Network, the cable channel, making it the most-watched Long Beach Grand Prix in seven years. The 2018 figure for the same race was 376,000.
In all, three of the four races to-date have had an increase in the average number of viewers compared with their 2018 equivalent.
NBC holds exclusive, multi-platform rights to show all IndyCar Series races, including the Indy500, as well as the qualifying and practice sessions before each race, in a three-year deal to 2021.
Before this season, rival national network ABC had covered the showpiece Indianapolis 500 (and had done so since 1965), one of the most-watched motor races in USA, along with four other races, with the remaining rounds shown on NBC cable and satellite channels, in an expenses and revenue sharing agreement.
IndyCar officials will hope the positive audience story so far is replicated at Indy 500 on 26 May. Viewing figures for the iconic race slumped 10 per cent year-on-year to 4.9 million in 2018.
The main NBC channel is showing eight races this year, including the Indy 500, while the others are being shown on NBCSN. The first race to feature on NBC itself will be the Grand Prix of Indianapolis on 11 May.
Coverage of IndyCar is also available on NBC Sports Gold, the network's over-the-top streaming service, the NBCSports.com website and the NBC Sports app.
The IndyCar Series started on 10 March, with the season's first race in Florida, and runs until 22 September, when Laguna Seca in California hosts the final race of the series.
The season is being shown in around 100 nations, through media rights deal negotiated by IndyCar Media, the series' in-house media rights global distribution arm.