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Nascar president claims TV ratings rise, teases new sponsors

Nascar president Steve Phelps (Credit: Getty Images)

Nascar president Steve Phelps has hailed the positive direction of the US stock car racing series, claiming that TV viewership is up four percent this year on domestic broadcast partners NBC and Fox.

Phelps, who is completing his first full season at the top of Nascar, was speaking at his state-of-the-sport news conference before the season-ending Cup race November 17 at Homestead-Miami Speedway, which was won by Kyle Busch. In front of Charlotte Hornets owner and NBA legend Michael Jordan, Busch won his second Nascar Cup Series championship, giving team owner Joe Gibbs his fifth title.

“The results from the competition side are working from a consumption standpoint. If you look at the fans, what the fans are doing, how they’re responding to it, if you look apples to apples, our ratings are up four percent this year. All of sports is down nine percent, we’re plus four percent,” Phelps said.

“Importantly our share is plus-nine, so there are fewer people watching television in all sports, obviously, but fewer people watching television overall. So when they were watching, not only did they watch more Nascar from a ratings standpoint, but when they were tuned in, they were watching more Nascar. We were taking share from someone else, which is important. That’s television,” he said.

Monster Energy is about to finish its final year as sponsor of Nascar’s premier series. Phelps said he anticipates announcements with respect to its new tiered sponsorship model when the industry celebrates Busch’s success in Nashville in early December.

Nascar is poised to have a significantly different schedule in 2021 when the vast majority of contracts with track operators finish. Phelps said Nascar hopes to announce the 2021 schedule by April 1, 2020.

Of the looming changes, he said: “We’re looking at three things when we’re looking at that race schedule. We’re looking at where we’re going to have the most competitive racing that we can have, where we’re going to have full grandstands, and what does that market look like, is it a new market that we can service.

“There are a lot of discussions that are going on both internally and then with other owners of racetracks. We need to obviously work with Speedway Motorsports, work with the three independent tracks that we have, then the tracks that we own as Nascar nowAgain, we’ll look through that same lens. I think it’s important to do that. This is the first time I’ll go back to the fans. It really is about the fans. We need to make sure we are putting on compelling racing and having full grandstands when we do that.”

Earlier in the week, Nascar stepped up its efforts in the direct-to-consumer streaming space by partnering with NBC Sports to launch TrackPass on subscription service NBC Sports Gold.

Read this: Nascar searching for new ways to return to relevance after decade of decline