IMSA President Scott Atherton says its new-for-2019 partnership with NBC Sports is delivering “significant growth” in TV ratings, with total viewership already on par from last year despite key network broadcasts still to come.
Six events into its new six-year deal with NBC, which took over from FOX Sports, the multi-platform coverage has delivered more than 50 hours of airtime for the WeatherTech Championship alone across NBCSN, CNBC and the NBC Sports App.
With its first live NBC network broadcast set for this weekend at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park, followed by an end-of-season run on the ‘Peacock’ that concludes with three hours of live network coverage at Motul Petit Le Mans, Atherton is bullish on TV ratings for the second half of the season.
“I think we’re in a very good position knowing we’re at parity now with last year’s numbers, with all of the opportunity still to come with our network windows,” Atherton told Sportscar365.
“It’s different in that last year our network content was front-loaded and this year our network content is back-loaded.
“Our first network example [is this weekend] and then to be able to finish our season, coming out of WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca and then right into Motul Petit Le Mans, both on network TV, could not be a stronger finish to the year.”
While not having yet released 2019 numbers, IMSA reported 8.5 million unique television viewers last year, which was largely on FOX Sports properties.
Atherton said the growth with NBC has not just been tied to TV ratings, but its expanded coverage of IMSA’s Challenge and single-make series, some of which had previously limited or no mainstream television coverage at all.
Both IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge and IMSA Prototype Challenge, which previously were aired in FS1 or FS2, are now featured alongside Lamborghini Super Trofeo North America and Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA by Yokohama races to a considerably wider audience on NBCSN.
“The broadcast quality and production values, everything they have done, has just made those broadcasts that much more entertaining and attractive,” Atherton said.
IMSA in “Good Place” for Summer 2020 Amid Olympic Coverage
Atherton said they’ve worked closely with NBC to align race dates and start times to alleviate potential hurdles with TV coverage around the 2020 Summer Olympic Games, which will be on NBC.
Set to run from July 24 – Aug. 9, the Tokyo Olympics are only expected to potentially impact the Road America event, which is typically held on the first weekend of August.
“When we made the commitment to go to NBC and they made the commitment to go with us, it was with eyes wide open of what the challenge would be as  being an Olympic year,” Atherton said.
“We’ve collaborated very closely with them on race dates and race times and lead-in content, in being able to optimize across the board.
“It’s challenging no matter what, because of all the demands on their limited airtime.
“When you add an Olympic year to it, it just makes it that more challenging. But I think we’re in a good place just because we planned accordingly.”