How large is Indy500?

Data shows Race Day radio audience is 1 out of every 3 in metro, but common sense says it’s even higher!

The Arbitron PPM Survey shows the exclusive Race Day coverage simulcast on WIBC & 1070TheFan-WFNI as by far the largest single broadcast in the market, reaching one out of every three people in the market.  Yes, 1 out of every 3.

And yet that estimate number is probably too low.  Really, it is.

Race Day Average Persons. Source: Abritron PPM Spring 2011 A12+

That’s because the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race day coverage is only available on radio, and it is a community event filled with history & tradition, enjoyed in the company of others.  Radio ratings aren’t measured that way because that’s different than how radio is consumed the majority of the time.

Traditional radio listening is mostly consumed in a 1-to-1 capacity.  Such instances happen when driving solo in a car while commuting to work or on errands, and when doing chores around the house & yard.  Mostly during these occurrences a single listener is tuned to each radio, and that broadcast acts as a companion for a person otherwise alone with their thoughts &/or activities.

Radio sports play-by-play is often consumed the same way because typically radio is the ultimate medium for busy people.  You might desire to sit and watch an entire multi-hour sporting contest on TV; but more often life interrupts you in the form of raking leaves, buying groceries, or shuttling kids to their activities and sports’ mobile audio does not slow you down.  And when on-the-go, listening is often done by yourself.

However, it is different when the sporting contests are a tournament or championship.  When a game, race or match only happens once a year – or even when competition reaches an “elimination” phase – then it becomes an EVENT, and that usually means a group watching it on TV.  Rarely do you take in sporting events solo because they have almost a holiday-like gathering quality to them.

Think of it this way:  it may not be unusual for you to eat a handful of weekly meals – like a breakfast, or a quick work day lunch refueling, or a late dinner of left overs – by yourself.  But very rare is the time you eat alone during events like your Birthday, Thanksgiving, the 4th of July or Christmas.  Ditto for big sporting events like the Super Bowl, March Madness, the Olympics and the Indianapolis 500.

But because the majority of Indy500 ticket buyers are from Central Indiana, the event remains blacked out on local TV affiliates due to concern local fans wouldn’t and attend if it were available to watch “the Greatest Spectacle In Racing” on live television.  So the Race – the center piece for Memorial Day grill outs and other gatherings of family & friends – is only on radio in in this market!  And those barbeques & backyard parties have lots of people gathered around a single radio at a time.

But radio audience measurement happens through PPM survey panels, which is a 1-to-1 measuring system.  As discussed earlier, that makes sense for the majority of ordinary radio consumption.  But the Indianapolis 500 in this market is not ordinary… it’s a radio only event but in many cases not consumed alone but together in large groups.  The ratings systems doesn’t account for that.

So the audience size is MINIMALLY 1 out of 3 residents on Race Day, but likely a lot more.

It is the greatest spectacle in broadcasting!