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How NHRA Drag Racing Has Thrived with Fox Sports and What’s Ahead for the Sport in 2018

Originally posted at Awful Announcing

Since Fox Sports’ acquisition of NHRA drag racing in 2016, the sport has experienced a rise in viewership from the years of its previous broadcast partner ESPN. They averaged at least 600,000 total viewers for each of the past two years — up double-digit percentages from 2015.

With a new NHRA season beginning on Feb. 8 in Pomona, Calif. with the Lucas Oil Winternationals, I recently spoke with Ken Adelson, the Chief Content Officer, Vice President of Broadcasting/Digital and Executive Producer for the NHRA to reflect on a successful 2017 as well as what’s upcoming for the sport in 2018 and beyond.

Could you offer a summary/recap of the past year within the NHRA and your partnership with Fox in general?

Adelson: With Fox, it has been an incredible partnership and growth for the NHRA over the last two years. The numbers speak for themselves in many ways, but way beyond the numbers is the relationship we’ve developed with Fox. We feel like we are a part of the Fox family — we promote other Fox programs, they promote us in a number of ways, including, promotions on the NASCAR shows, which is terrific, based on the large audience that they have. We discuss everything on the programming side, on the content side and it’s led to a lot of this success.

The most notable event on the TV side where those NHRA Summernationals in New Jersey that drew 1.6 million viewers. And you saw a similar spike last year in Atlanta, resulting in 1.4 million viewers. Then, each of the subsequent races after New Jersey this past June got over a million viewers. What were the discussions behind-the-scenes as a result of those high marks — races that were on tape-delay but got a tremendous amount of eyeballs to watch them?

We really feel like we have a great product and have a great sport. This is a great beginning for bringing its awareness because having the advantage of following the NASCAR races is definitely a big plus for us. And we feel like that audience can then get exposed to the NHRA. We’ve done a good job of keeping a lot of those people. And that’s been, that’s been a great part of the overall success of the relationship.

But the programming goes past that in the sense of trying to look for spots to wrap the Fox Sports 1 calendar that can maximize the kind of how many people we can reach. I think that we’ve also proven the product will be something that people that will enjoy and that will be great for Fox Sports 1 as well because it’s bringing in new fans into an already very passionate fan base. It’s the complete year package that we do and we look at opportunities based on the programming.

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