Comcast-owned network scores 16 percent jump in IndyCar ratings from '09
While ratings for the IZOD IndyCar Series on Versus remain low, they're starting to show some improvement.
Word came out this week that Versus' 12 races netted an average of 366,000 viewers, a jump of 16 percent from last year. In addition, the season-finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway posted a 34 percent increase in ratings from 2009.
No doubt some of that increase comes from the successful conclusion of the DirecTV-Versus standoff that knocked the latter off the DTV airwaves and caused IndyCar fans with the satellite service to miss the final events of 2009 and this year's season opener from Sao Paulo, Brazil. Versus got back onto DTV the day after that event.
But even though they're going up, the ratings can't be where team sponsors want them to be as far as getting a solid return on their investment goes. Versus continues to provide better coverage than their counterparts at ESPN, but its reduced cable reach is too big of an obstacle to overcome.
Of course, the big hope is that the Comcast-NBC Universal marriage will eventually lead to an increased presence and bigger numbers for Versus. IndyCar CEO Randy Bernard is standing by the network, but in a recent radio show chat with IMS Radio Network announcer Mike King, he mused about what might happen when the "Peacock Pact" begins.
"Regardless of when [it's going to happen], it's definitely going to affect IndyCar in some capacity," said Bernard on the Sept. 27 edition of "IndyCar Weekly." "The rumor's very strong that they'll make [Versus] the 'NBC Sports Channel.' In my opinion, this would be a brilliant move. We're in a universe of about 74 million homes right now and NBC and Comcast both know that they need to get that universe up to 100 million to be competitive and to have the major sports. I think you'll see a very aggressive plan on how to do that."
Of course, any possibility of IndyCar hitting the NBC airwaves will have to wait for a while as ESPN/ABC has two years left on its current contract with the series. But NBC Sports can definitely overhaul Versus in that time frame. The Comcast-NBCU marriage may also open up the possibility of pushing IndyCar on the former's system of 'Comcast SportsNet' regional sports networks.
We'll see where this all leads...