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Decline of NASCAR

Via Yglesias, NASCAR viewership is in a downward spiral. Executives are trying to figure out what's going wrong.

(from Ray Horwath on Flickr)

From the article, it seems that they've formulated a few theories. One blames a switch from ABC to ESPN. Another speculates that moving the start of races to 1pm is to blame.

Maybe they're missing the obvious answer: it's just not that interesting.

Don't get me wrong, I've had plenty of people explain why NASCAR is popular. I'm not oblivious to the reasons that so many people tune in and attend races. Like any sport, there will be die-hard fans who tune in every week no matter what. But if you want to understand declining ratings, you need to forget about those people and look at the casual fan.

A few months ago, during the winter Olympics, the game that seemed to catch a lot of attention at sports bars (at least from my experience) was curling. Interesting, because almost no one in the U.S. plays or watches curling on any regularly basis. So why was it so popular? Because it's fun to watch, but only in very small doses. If it were on all the time, most Americans wouldn't care. But during those two weeks every four years, people like to tune in and see it.

Perhaps NASCAR is experiencing something similar. People were really into NASCAR for a while, and now some of them are bored. To maintain the ratings that NASCAR was pulling down, they needed to retain a lot of casual fans.

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