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Double Digit Increase?


arlier this year, I shared with you a three-year comparison showing the overall decline in households watching the NHRA POWERade Show on ESPN. NHRA Drag Racing has a long way to go to gather back the 24 percent slide in household watching over that three-year period.

Unfortunately, the reduced percentage amounted to a loss of 11.5 million viewers. There’ll always be live events from the world of Women’s Softball, Log Rolling, Sheep Sheering, Goat Roping or the Soap Box Derby to postpone the start of drag racing, diverting attention from our precious sport. But remember the ESPN Show is usually tape-delayed.

So far this year’s numbers for the qualifying, final rounds and repeats of the TV show indicate a small positive step in the right direction that began with on-camera personnel changes and gaining a new Director in the off-season.

If you’re a drag racing fan, well you wouldn’t be reading this if you weren’t, this year you couldn’t help but hear the megaphones blaring, “television ratings are up double digits from a year ago,” as an Associated Press Report in June touted.

Was it John Force or Gary Scelzi who spoke in top end TV interviews of the 38 percent TV ratings growth? Sound familiar?

According to a source who attended Tom Compton’s U.S. Nationals meeting of professional owners and drivers, once again that mysterious “double digit increase” phrase was used by Compton to characterize 2005 TV Ratings.

That’s one of Tom’s jobs to spin the positive aspects of the NHRA, but when a phrase like “double digit increase” gets filtered through the ranks its becomes like the kid’s game Telephone, eventually the information becomes meaningless, but remembered as positive.

Glowing and optimistic information about our sport is what every rabid drag fan wants to hear, assuming it was based upon fact and not some incremental piece of audience demographics. If it were completely true we’d hear actual numbers and we in the drag racing media would all be yelling it from the nearest rooftop.

At this point in the season, through the Seattle event, the NHRA POWERade Drag Racing TV show is up slightly in the total Households watching select same events in comparison to the 2004 ESPN season schedule. Keep in mind the number of households has steadily dropped over the past three seasons, down 24 percent.

The Total Households for this season doesn’t look really bad, yes there are some increases, but the TV show has fallen so far from the high ratings of the 2002 numbers. Rather than listening to sanctioning bodies, most national advertisers and sponsors rely upon data gatherers like Street & Smith’s Sport Business Journal and Joyce Julius & Associates for the straight scoop without filters or spin.

None of the ratings drop is the racers fault, it’s not the sports fault, and the racetracks have done their jobs. While I feel the actual TV show has matured and is more entertaining with on-camera additions like pit reporter Gary Gerould, basically we see a weekly infomercial for NHRA POWERade drag racing paid for by NHRA.

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