Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series championship race, won by Ryan Blaney, had about 300,000 fewer viewers than the same race a season ago.
According to Nielsen data via Sports TV RatingsOn average, just over 2.9 million people watched Blaney win his first Cup Series title against Kyle Larson, William Byron and Christopher Bell. Last season’s championship race, won by Blaney’s teammate Joey Logano, averaged 3.213 million viewers.
The decline is due to two seasons of stable viewership for the Cup Series finals. Last season’s race had essentially the same viewership as the 2021 finale (3.214 million) and around 150,000 more viewers than the 2020 finale (3.063 million).
The lower viewership for Sunday’s race is slightly above the average decline in overall NASCAR viewership in 2023. NASCAR President Steve Phelps said Friday that the series was pleased with the overall modest declines after significant viewership losses early in the season.
“NBC came back powerfully,” Phelps said. “These metrics have increased. Considering we were down 15% in March, we are now down mid-single digits and we are happy with that.”
However, the average Sunday crowd is less than half of what it was in the 2016 season finale. Over 6 million people watched Jimmie Johnson win his seventh and final title this season.
NASCAR only has one year left on its current Cup Series television deal with Fox and NBC, and you can bet both networks are taking viewership trends into account at the negotiating table with NASCAR. Both networks are expected to continue their relationships with the stock car racing series after the current contract expires.
The broadcast negotiations also come as Cup Series teams want a larger share of the money from the television rights fees that NASCAR receives. Cup teams are in talks with NASCAR about renewing the charter agreement, which guarantees 36 cars to compete in each race and a larger share of prize money available at the end of the season.
“We realized that we want to change the paradigm for our race teams and we need to make sure our race teams are profitable and competing on the racetracks,” Phelps said. “We are interested in seeing their shareholder value increase, as I said.”
“No timeline, but as we determine our media rights, we are talking about other parts of our charter that are non-financial.”