There has been a notable decline in Nascar viewership numbers in recent years. Naturally, this has left many fans of this long-standing motorsport worried about the future of Nascar. However, are these declining numbers truly a cause for concern?
NASCAR TV viewers and attendances have declined, in part due viewing alternatives. In addition to broadcast and cable, NASCAR Races are now streamed online and rerun on YouTube. While NASCAR has lost fans, it is not dying and with additions like dirt racing, and new tracks there are signs it is regaining popularity.
From the decline in viewership to the methods Nascar is using to remedy this, we’re going to break down everything you want to know about the perceived decline of Nascar. Some of the reasons for this decline may surprise you!
Is Nascar A Dying Motorsport?
When you consider the history of Nascar, many fans agree that this motorsport peaked in 2006. This is true when you consider viewership numbers and attendance records, which have been in decline since then. In the 1980s, Nascar saw a rise in popularity due to cable sports channels becoming more accessible to consumers.
For instance, let’s consider one of the most popular Nascar races: the Daytona 500. In the 1980s, viewership numbers of this series ranged between 9 and 13 million. Throughout the 90s, these viewership numbers saw a steady increase. In 2006, the viewership numbers of the Daytona 500 peaked at 19.36 million viewers.
By 2014, a decade later, Nascar’s viewership of the Daytona 500 had declined to 9.3 million viewers. While these numbers would slightly increase between 2015 and 2017, they would decline once more. From 2018’s low of 9.29 million viewers to 2021’s 4.83 million, Nascar fans are rightfully concerned about the fate of this motorsport.
For any sport, these numbers would be a cause for concern. However, 2022 saw an increase to 8.7 million viewers, nearly doubling 2021’s viewership numbers. Furthermore, the 2022 Daytona 500 was sold out, with nearly 100,000 Nascar fans in the stands.
Ultimately, the incredible low of 2021 can be largely attributed to the global pandemic. In fact, in 2020, Nascar experienced a scheduling nightmare due to the pandemic. In 2020, viewership dropped to 7.3 million from the 9.2 million average the previous year.
Since 2021’s viewership low, Nascar’s viewership numbers have seemingly reentered the 9 million range. Compared to 4.83 million, this is a huge improvement. This is truly a testament to the longevity of this motorsport. In fact, Nascar has been actively making efforts to increase these numbers, which seem to be paying off.
However, this 9 million viewership range is still only half of the 18-19 million viewer peak seen in 2005-06. While Nascar doesn’t seem to be dying, do these viewership numbers mean that it has lost half of its fan base? To properly address this, we need to consider the different reasons for this decline in viewership.
Why Has Nascar Viewership Declined?
Above, we discussed the fact that Nascar’s viewership numbers have drastically declined in recent years. Naturally, this has left many people confused regarding this decline. You may be surprised by some of the reasons for this decline in viewership!
While the COVID pandemic can account for 2020-21’s record-low viewership numbers, it doesn’t account for the perceivable decline in viewership numbers since 2006. However, this isn’t an issue unique to Nascar, but one that is affecting television as a whole. In recent years, TV audiences have been rapidly shrinking.
A report from Moffet Nathanson, an independent research organization, perfectly highlights this decline in television viewership. Between 2011 and 2020, there was a 31.5% decrease in the number of time people spent watching broadcast television. Furthermore, the viewership of cable networks also dropped an estimated 29.3% during this time.
The reasons behind this decline won’t surprise you. Of course, during this time, smartphones and tablets become more widely accessible to consumers. Many people consider the launch of the first iPhone in 2007 as a core catalyst of the smartphone revolution. By 2012, smartphones had become the norm.
From Netflix to YouTube, these devices allowed people to stream content through smartphone apps. In 2013, Netflix began producing original content, with streaming becoming more popular with viewers in the following years. In fact, following the pandemic, many theatrical movies started being released on streaming platforms shortly afterward.
How do people watch NASCAR Racing today?
Now, fans of this motorsport might be wondering what this has to do with the decline of Nascar. Well, let’s consider the different ways you can watch a Nascar race today. For those who still enjoy watching a race on their television, the races are aired on Fox, Fox Sports 1 (FS1), NBC, and the USA Network.
However, it’s also possible to stream Nascar races now through streaming platforms. With a fuboTV account, Nascar fans can stream races and other live sports without the need for cable television. However, fans can even watch parts of races for free on YouTube through official Nascar channels.
In 2011, Nascar launched an official YouTube channel that now has more than 867,000 subscribers. The official Nascar On Fox YouTube channel has even more free content for Nascar fans to enjoy! Today, Nascar fans have many ways to tune into races. While television viewership has declined, fans of Nascar do not have to worry about the motorsport dying!
Why Has Nascar Lost Fans?
The above section mentioned that time spent watching television has decreased by roughly 30% since 2011. In that same period, Nascar’s viewership numbers have declined by more than 40%. Of course, some of this discrepancy is attributed to online streaming. However, Nascar teams have been using sponsors to try and bring back viewers.
This seems to suggest that Nascar has lost some fans along the way – but why? Many people believe this decline has to do with an increased focus on safety in the last two decades. Many fans agree that this safer version of Nascar lacks many of the thrills the fans were used to seeing.
Since its peak, Nascar has also lost some big names. Unfortunately, racers have to retire eventually. When Dale Earnhardt Jr. departed Nascar in 2017, many fans were shocked. After all, the name Earnhardt had been associated with Nascar for nearly seven decades.
Ultimately, when you combine these various factors, fans understand why Nascar has seen a decline in viewers. However, Nascar is working on remedying this. In recent interviews, insiders have stated that efforts are being made to capture the interest of the next generation of Nascar fans. Fans of this longstanding motorsport don’t have to worry about the wheels slowing down any time soon!
How to Improve NASCAR Viewer Numbers.
Now we certainly don’t claim to be marketing experts, and definitely not as good as who ever NASCAR has working for them, however as fans there are certainly some ideas we have and some we have researched.
We have three highlighted below, some of which may be unpopular.
- Drive to Succeed: Now this Formula one Documentary that provides a fly on the wall recap of the previous season is now its its fourth year and has absolutely ZERO to do with NASCAR. Wouldn’t it be great if NASCAR tried to make one in a similar format for the millions of NASCAR Fans. I’m sure NETFLIX would be up for it.
- Allow the drivers to be themselves: Personalities drive interest, even in a Car, history and team dominated sort like NASCAR. At the end of a race it would be better to actually interview drivers who were not contracted to say “The XXXX car sponsored by XXXX drove really well, it was a good day thansk to XXXX, and XXXX” Allow them to say what they feel and not do the carbon copy interviews out of the car that happen nowadays, and get the fans loving or hating them again.
- Keep trying new things and new places: Now the attention span of the average NASCAR fan is longer than that of a university student (20 mins) as the races are often 3 hours long, but that takes time to develop. Although races like the clash at the coliseum, and dirt racing at bristol have been fairly universally ( though not completely) met with derision by the True Blue NASCAR fan, they have been welcomed by the new fans coming through. try new things, it is ok to look at the past and even keep one foot there, but the sport has to keep moving forwards, even if there are a few stumbles along the way.
Although Nascar TV viewership has declined overall, there are now more ways than ever for fans to tune into races. Fans can now watch races online through streaming platforms, in addition to traditional broadcast and cable networks.
Nascar even has an official YouTube account for fans to watch content as well. Despite losing some fans and big names over the years, Nascar is still going strong, with a renewed focus on the next generation of fans.
As long as there is an eye on the future as well as the past NASCAR is not going to die out anytime soon, and it appears 9 plus million people agree with us.