How NASCAR Drove NBCSN to Network’s Best Ratings Year Ever

Calendar year 2015 is expected to close as best-ever since 2002 launch, when cable channel was OLN


Who needs the Olympics?

NBC Sports Network is on pace for the cable channel’s top calendar year ever, since it launched as OLN in 2003. This, despite 2014 being goosed by its live Sochi Winter Olympics coverage.

That claim is thanks in very large part to NBCSN’s acquisition of NASCAR programming, which this year has given the NBCUniversal channel its Top 4 non-Olympic telecasts ever, and five of its top seven.

Beyond the closed-wheel racing, NBCSN got its most-watched year out of the NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Premiere League season, the IndyCar season and the Formula One season. Plus, it even ran its first Notre Dame Football game.

The aforementioned championship hockey coverage handed NBCSN two more of its top 10 ever non-Olympic airings.

NBCSN is averaging 151,000 viewers through the first 50 weeks of the year, per Nielsen’s total day measurement (6 a.m. – 6 a.m.). That’s up six percent over last year’s 143,000 viewers, an average inclusive of 16 days of live Sochi Winter Olympics coverage.

Additionally, the cable channel is on pace for its best-ever year in primetime, up 24 percent from last year (366,000 versus 296,000). In the key 18-49 demographic NBCSN is up 6 percent (148,000) to its best number since 2009.

And it stands to reason that 2016 will be its biggest still. Next year, NBCSN will have the 2016 Rio Olympic Games in August; NHL All-Star Game on Jan. 31; Premier League soccer; NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs; including two NHL Stanley Cup Final games; NASCAR beginning July 1; horse racing leading up to NBC’s exclusive Triple Crown and Breeders’ Cup coverage; IndyCar and Formula One racing; the Tour de France; Premier Boxing Champions; and World Series of Fighting.

Though now we’re just getting ahead of ourselves. For now, NBCSN is enjoying a look-back at the year that was.

Here are NBCSN’s Top 10 non-Olympic telecasts to date, with 2015’s airings in bold:

July 26, 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup: Indianapolis — 4.70 million

Aug. 16, 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup: Michigan — 4.29 million
Aug. 2, 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup: Pocono — 4.26 million
Oct. 25, 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup: Talladega — 4.24 million
June 1, 2014 NHL Conf. Final (LA-Chi, Game 7) — 4.14 million
June 17, 2013 NHL Stanley Cup Final (Chi-Bos, Game 3) — 4.00 million
Aug. 9, 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup: Watkins Glen — 3.98 million
June 15, 2013 NHL Stanley Cup Final (Chi-Bos, Game 2) — 3.96 million
June 10, 2015 NHL Stanley Cup Final (TB-Chi, Game 4) — 3.91 million
June 8, 2015 NHL Stanley Cup Final (TB-Chi, Game 3) — 3.90 million