Dale Earnhardt Jr. Tackles Uncomfortable Topic of Declining NASCAR TV Ratings
Each week during the NASCAR season, Dale Earnhardt Jr. gets behind a microphone as the host of his popular podcast and asks his guests questions about the sport. The Hall of Famer recently had the tables turned as he was a guest with Kenny Wallace on his YouTube channel.
The pair discussed a wide variety of topics, including the state of NASCAR today. That’s when the two-time Daytona 500 winner brought up the decline in television ratings and what he thought about it.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. discusses NASCAR TV ratings
Dale Earnhardt Jr. concluded the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series season in Phoenix from a familiar spot, working in the NBC broadcast booth for his sixth season. He saw his postseason prediction of Ryan Blaney winning the championship come true.
Days after the title race, Junior appeared as a guest on Kenny Wallace’s YouTube Channel and his Kenny Conversation. He was asked by the show host what he thought about the current state of the sport.
“I think NASCAR today is moving in the right direction,” Earnhardt said. “There’s some things that I can’t explain away that aren’t great. The TV numbers confuse the hell out of me because I was very entertained in the playoffs. I thought that the championship race itself was very entertaining. I don’t know where the numbers are. I don’t know why our numbers aren’t better.”
Phoenix and overall season numbers decline
The numbers Earnhardt speaks of aren’t good.
According to Sports Media Watch, the season finale championship race recorded 2.92 million viewers on NBC (3.03 million including streaming data measured by Adobe Analytics). This was the least-watched Cup finale on record and the least-watched fall Phoenix race since 2019 (2.57 million).
The broadcast peaked at 3.8 million viewers but overall declined 9% in viewership from 2022 (3.21 million).
Unfortunately, the dropping numbers for the final race were indicative of the year as a whole. The 2023 Cup season averaged 2.86 million viewers across FOX, FS1, NBC, and USA Network. This was a drop of 5% from last season (3.03 million) and the least-watched season on record. The previous low was 3.00 million for the 2021 season.
Twelve of the final 13 Cup races declined from 2022.
Fox drags down 2023 NASCAR TV ratings
Interestingly, despite the decline in those races during the back half of the schedule, NBC’s portion of the season, which started at Nashville in June, experienced a slight bump in viewing audience. Races on the parent network and USA Network averaged 2.47 million, an increase from 2.45 million a year earlier.
Fox, which had the most-watched race of the year, the Daytona 500, with 8.17 million viewers, averaged 3.32 million viewers for the season on Fox and FS1, a 10% decline from 2022 and 3.69 million.
That disparity aligns with how fans have viewed the overall production from both networks. Denny Hamlin discussed it recently on his Actions Detrimental podcast when talking about Kevin Harvick’s retirement and his move to the Fox broadcast booth in 2024.
“Just want to say happy retirement,” Hamlin said. “He’s still going to give back to the sport by being part of the TV. I tell you, he could really improve that Fox booth a ton. I think he will push them to be better.
“From what we’ve seen, NBC to Fox, the big variation in production that the two have and how much one is really into the nuts and bolts and explaining everything where the other is just kind of talking about some stuff. There’s a lot to be gained there in the Fox booth, and I think that Kevin will push everyone to do that and be better. I’m excited to see how that turns out for sure.”
If Harvick adds to the Fox broadcast the way Earnhardt has to NBC’s coverage since 2018, the declining numbers in the first half of the season just might turn around.
Time will tell.