So far, it looks like things are not going overly well.
As we talked about two weeks ago, the ratings for the Florida Derby on the NBC Sports Network were mediocre at best, with just over 160,000 viewers. This, fresh off the Road to the Kentucky Derby preview show which only had 19,000 viewers. Two weeks ago the Wood Memorial garnered about the same number of viewers as the Florida Derby.
On the main NBC network, the Blue Grass received a 0.7 rating, which put it near the ratings for the Speed Golf Championships and a monster truck show the same day. In 2002, this same telecast (also against the Masters, with Woods in contention) drew a 1.3 rating for the race itself. In addition, just three years ago, on USA, Derby preps like the Lane's End were earning a 0.3 rating, or 420,000 viewers.
No matter what the network - USA, ESPN, NBCSN or the main networks - racing seems to be losing some momentum (this despite the Kentucky Derby ratings usually being pretty solid.)
Other than reading a few marketing books, and discussing things with some people who know a bit about it, television marketing is by no means my marketing genre.However, what I wrote a couple of years ago about television ad spend still stands, as my opinion, to the best of my ability.
- Until we figure out our unique market and its place in the world, spending scarce funds on the conduit of television, in my opinion, is putting the cart before the horse. We need to find a way to present racing that sticks with new viewers, and gets them to participate in the racing conversation, in some way, with us.
What can racing do to make these events more watched and deliver more return on ad spend? What strategy can be used to up viewership and get people excited to watch racing as a live event? The answer to that is above my pay grade, but I hope they experiment with something new next year, because what they've been doing doesn't seem to be building an audience.
Related: Follow-up post, with some comments from twitter.