Although the early Nielsen rating numbers for last weekend’s Rolex 24 at Daytona on FOX and its cable channels were less than complementary, the final numbers, which take longer to arrive, paint a more positive picture of IMSA’s WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season opener.
New numbers for the live streaming of the race on the FOX Sports GO platform also speak to notable year-to-year gains. In addition to the 24-hour live stream, the race was also broadcast in its entirety on a shared basis between the FOX network, FOX Sports 1, and FOX Sports 2.
“It’s always tough to do an apples-to-apples comparison for the Rolex 24 at Daytona, as it plays across multiple platforms that rarely remain the same year to year,” said Erik Arneson, FOX Sports VP Media Relations. “That said, in addition to major increases with our streaming audiences, we are very happy with the number of hours we were able to move to FS1 this year … and despite some viewership erosion in a few of the time slots, overall television viewership of the Rolex was up by more than 20 percent.”
Comparing 2018 to 2017, the Rolex 24 generated an average of 254,000 viewers, up from 206,000 last year, which is a 23-percent gain, according to Nielsen Media Research.
As Arneson noted, moving more of the Rolex 24 from its FS2 outlet to FS1 was responsible for improved viewership numbers during those hours. For the 11 p.m. to 1 a.m. stretch on FS1, the 2018 race saw a 76-percent increase over 2017 (from 63,000 on FS2 to 111,000 on FS1).
A shift from full FS2 in 2017 to a blended combo of FS1/FS2 in 2018 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. delivered a 46-percent increase (from 163,000 to 238,000).
And there were also some declines for the network and cable broadcasts.
The opening segment on FOX from 2-5 p.m. was down 15 percent (606,000 compared to the 714,000 that watched in 2017). Despite the viewership number change being rather small, FS2 also produced an eight-percent year-to-year decrease from 5-10 p.m. (121,000 vs. 131,000) and 17 percent from 8-10 a.m. (93,000 vs. 112,000).
Of all the results to come from Daytona, FOX and IMSA made the biggest strides in online delivery of the Rolex 24. Comparing 2018 to 2017, a 28-percent gain was made in the number of total streams (193,608 to 247,901), in unique streams, which was up 34 percent (57,913 to 77,434), and in minutes streamed, which rose 18 percent (8,574,643 to 10,117,800).
The most encouraging trend can be found in streaming growth over a two-year span. Looking at the 2016 to 2018 growth, the total number of Rolex 24 streams has shot to a 289-percent increase (63,711 to 247,901), the unique streams have risen 203 percent (25,563 to 77,434), and the number of minutes streamed has leapt from 2,135,420 in 2016 to 10,117,800 this year, which represents a 374-percent improvement.