The early returns for NBC’s new investment in IndyCar seem promising. In March 2018, NBC signed a deal to take over broadcasting all of the NTT IndyCar series, including the Indianapolis 500 (they’d previously been airing some of the series’ other races on NBCSN, even dating back to 2009 when that channel was still Versus), and they’ve since been adding new names to that inaugural broadcast, such as Danica Patrick and Dale Earnhardt Jr. But even ahead of this year’s Indy 500 (which will be on May 26), NBC’s already producing some notable ratings, with this past weekend’s IndyCar Grand Prix (at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, where the Indy 500 will be held shortly) drawing the best numbers in five years:
Saturday afternoon’s INDYCAR Grand Prix from Indianapolis Motor Speedway – the first-ever NTT IndyCar Series race to air on the NBC broadcast network – averaged a Total Audience Delivery (TAD) of 1.072 million viewers, making it the most-watched INDYCAR Grand Prix in five years, and up 37% vs. last year’s race on ABC, according to Nielsen and Adobe Analytics.
…The TAD of 1.072 million viewers for the sixth INDYCAR Grand Prix was the best since the inaugural race in 2014 (1.244 million viewers) and up 37% vs. last year (781,000). Viewership for the race peaked with a TV-only audience of 1.414 million viewers during the final laps of Pagneaud’s exciting victory (5:45-5:52 p.m. ET). Indianapolis led all markets with a 6.65 local rating.
Sports Business Journal‘s Adam Stern included the five-year trend and the top local markets in his tweet on this:
➖ Top five markets:
1) Indianapolis: 6.7
2) Ft. Myers-Naples: 1.9
3) Louisville: 1.6
3) Dayton: 1.6
3) San Diego: 1.6 pic.twitter.com/0XJ0yOCoGh
— Adam Stern (@A_S12) May 13, 2019
While that’s certainly a good number relative to the trend for this race, 1,072,000 viewers isn’t all that huge overall. For comparison, every network’s Saturday primetime programming slate outdrew that, from Fox’s Premier Boxing Champions card (1,074,000 for the first hour, 1,340,000 for the second hour) to CBS’ Million-Dollar Mile (1,658,000 viewers) to NBC’s NHL playoff coverage (peaking at 2,543,000 viewers from 9-10 p.m. Eastern). But that’s an okay number, and significantly better than this race had drawn on ABC (especially with the declining trend last year). And it bodes well for the further IndyCar programming NBC, NBCSN, and their premium streaming package have coming up.