Insight Richard CraillRichard Craill November 3, 2021 (Comments off) (60)

The ‘Race that stops a nation’ is yet to happen this year

THERE is a very real chance that this years’ Repco Bathurst 1000 could draw a larger TV audience than the supposed ‘race that stops a nation’, the Melbourne Cup.

Australia’s largest and most famous thoroughbred affair, the Cup dominates the sporting landscape each year – especially in Melbourne – and is ranked up there with the AFL and NRL Grand Finals, the Australian Open final and the first day of the Boxing Day test as Australia’s largest sporting events on TV.

And yet the remarkable collapse of the race’s TV ratings in recent years indicate that the nation could be falling out of love with the race.

Just 1,210,000 people watched the 2021 running on Channel 10 Tuesday afternoon (in Metro areas) and while that number was more than enough for the network to grab a rare daily ratings victory over their rivals at Seven and Nine, it also represents the smallest audience for the Cup – ever.

The race has shred more than 900,000 viewers in just 8 years, having drawn more than 2.1 million in 2013, with each year bar one since then being lower than the last.

The Bathurst 1000, meanwhile, has been a bastion of TV ratings consistency for more than a decade, emphasising why it is such a valuable get for networks and clearly the largest Motorsport event in Australia.

The Race Torque has collated 14 years of Bathurst 1000 ratings data and in that period the race has averaged a metro audience of 1.233 million people.

The highest was in 2007 (1.357m) and the lowest in that range was in 2010, when the fast-running (and early finishing) race drew 1.038m.

In that 14 year period, split between periods on Channel 7 exclusively and the split Channel 10 – Fox Sports arrangement that concluded last year, the race has drawn an average metro audience of 1.3m or more on three occasions and more than 1.2m eight times.

That’s a remarkably consistent audience for a major sporting event over such a long period.

Channel 7’s Supercars numbers are up more than 35% on Channel 10’s to the same point of the season last year, while Fox Sports’ numbers are almost identical year-on-year so the combined audience should, in theory, only rise this year which means there is a very good chance that Bathurst’s grand finale’ will be larger than the Melbourne Cup.

It’s also worth noting that the ratings system produces their numbers on the average audience for the ‘coded’ slot for any given show.

So the Melbourne Cup’s 1.21m on Tuesday was the average audience for about a half-hour window before, during and after the race itself.

Bathurst’s audience is drawn over the entire period of the race, which at the time of publishing has never been less than six hours – and is usually closer to six and a half.

While the footy Grand Final audiences are larger, only test match cricket has the same kind of audience pulling power for such a sustained period throughout a day as the Great Race.

As such we’d suggest it could be time for a change in Aussie sporting vernacular: The Melbourne Cup is the race that ‘pauses’ the nation, but it’s clear that the Mountain classic actually stops it for longer.

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