The IRL’s ratings have been mostly static since entering the deal with ABC/ESPN in 2004. In 2006, the average viewer rating for 14 races, including the 500, was 0.97, according to New York-based Nielsen Media Co. Last year, the average was 0.94 for 17 races. A 1.0 rating equals about 1 million households nationwide.
Ratings for the Indianapolis 500 have hovered around 5 the last five years. It was 4.5 this year, and 4.3 last year when rain delayed the race. The series’ TV ratings, which so far this year are down a bit, don’t give the series much leverage in its extension negotiations.
“I don’t think it’s any secret that the [IRL] is a money-losing deal for ABC and ESPN,” said Jeffrey Cokin, a former NBC executive who now heads his own broadcast consulting firm, Connecticutbased Cokin Communications. “You can bet they’ll be trying to negotiate that price down.”