It seems we ran into a slight problem this past weekend. Rumor has it that the TV ratings for the Versus run St. Petes GP dropped off from last year, and when I say dropped, I mean like, Humpty Dumpty falling off a wall and shattering. Through Chris Estrada at Indy Racing Revolution, we have a report that the ratings for the St. Pete's GP dropped 60% in viewership from last year, and as the season opener, it dropped 79%. Mind you, he does say he isn't too sure about the source (An Autoracing1.com article, who is quite anti-IRL, or atleast pro-CCWS/CART, was posted on Trackforum) being quite true.
It seems everyone has had an opinion about the subject. Some argue that they were in tough with the season opener going up against the Texas Nascab race with two of the biggest names in the circus battling for the win.
However, the common denominator among any excuse is that Versus is only available in about 3/4 of the homes ESPN and ABC is. And just because it is available, doesn't mean that people get it. Mr. Iannucci claims both he and pressdog had to pay extra to subscribe for Versus in the states. I assume many americans couldn't be bothered to pay the extra dough to get Versus whether it's for the IRL or not. So let's say, of those 70-75 Million homes Versus is available in, only 40 to 50 million actually get the channel either through getting it as part of their current package, or through paying for the extra package. 50 to 60 percent drop in homes equals out to about the 60 percent drop in viewers for the St. Petes race.
So it isn't really that people didn't want to watch it, they just didn't want to watch it enough to spend the extra money on Versus. Unfortunately, it seems that unless something major happens, that won't change.
Maybe the IRL can take the money it is being paid for the TV rights and pay people every person 5 bucks to watch the race? It could be the new marketing campaign, encouraging people to film themselves watching the IRL race, and upload it to youtube, then they will be sent a crisp 5 dollar bill in the mail. Seems logical to get viewership up. In this tough economic time, some people wouldn't mind watching an IRL race, if they are getting paid for it anyways.
I have to agree with Defender of the IRL though, the sky is not falling. The IRL has a strong marketing strategy in place and I think we should give it some time for this strategy and Versus to figure it out and up the ratings a bit. However, the sky is not being held up by a whole lot right now unfortunately, and unless this picks up, the sky might just well tug on those strings and fall pretty fast.
And I'd love to know the numbers for the IRL's feed online. Since up here in the great white north, I don't get TSN2 (the IRL has to realize that Canada can be a strong ratings generator as well), I had to watch pieces of the race online. I'm not sure if I'm the only who had this issue, but the video feed was terribly late, 3 or 4 laps behind, it had no sound, and was terrible quality. If they intend for the webcast to be a quality option for people to watch if they don't have Versus, they need to improve this product quickly. I ended up clicking off the webcast and opened up the IMS radio feed which was my only and best option really. They do a good job, but I wish I could had watched the race properly.
Anyways, until I see the firm numbers from a reputable source, I won't make any of this stuff official, but I feel pretty strongly that AR1 is pretty spot on for this one.
20 hours ago