BT Sport launches tomorrow

It is a big day for BT tomorrow (August 1st) as they launch their two sports channels in an attempt to take on BSkyB’s supremacy in the market. The launch, which will be fronted by former BBC F1 presenter Jake Humphrey from Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, takes place at 18:00 and will be live on both BT Sport channels. For those ordering the channel, today is your last opportunity to order BT Sport with high definition at no added cost for a year. The cost there after is an additional £3.00 to watch BT Sport in HD. More details about the cost can be found here.

In terms of motor sport, BT Sport will be providing live coverage of the IndyCar Series from this Sunday onwards, whilst they will also be providing NASCAR coverage and exclusive Moto3, Moto2 and MotoGP coverage from 2014. A lot of people may be judgemental about BT Sport early on, but as I noted two weeks ago, it is not the first month that matters, instead it is more so about the first half a year where trends may emerge.

BT Sport 1 and 2 can be found on channels 58 and 59 on BT Vision, 507 and 508 on YouView and channels 413 and 414 on the Sky platform. ESPN UK’s channel number will be remaining the same, but as a result of the transaction, ESPN America and ESPN Classic will cease broadcasting today. As of writing however, no carriage deal has been announced with Virgin Media. I will update this blog if that changes.

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Motor sport ratings (week ending 21st July, 2013)

The second and final week of the first Formula 1 mid-season break meant that MotoGP shined again on BBC Two. This time, the series was in primetime on BBC Two, airing from 22:00 to 23:00 live on Laguna Seca. The programme averaged 1.30 million viewers, which is a 28 percent increase from the Sachensring rating on July 14th. Although up on 2012, it is down on 2009 and 2011.

MotoGP – Laguna Seca ratings
2009 – 1.53 million
2010 – 1.45 million or below
2011 – 1.49 million
2012 – 1.13 million
2013 – 1.30 million

Over on ITV4, the Tour de France came to a conclusion in primetime also on the Sunday. The final stage recorded an average of 1.17 million viewers and peaked with over 2 million viewers as Chris Froome won the tour. The peak was higher than the MotoGP peak. Highlights through the week averaged between 561,000 and 751,000 viewers. The F1 Show Special on Sky Sports F1 failed to bring in any extra viewers than usual with an average of 74,000 viewers. As always, promotion is the issue here – it was never destined to do better than usual because the promotion was level outside of the ‘Sky F1 Twitter bubble’. Nevertheless, 63 percent of those polled on this blog want to see it again, although there are several comments which are definitely worth food for thought should this be done again.

Several repeats of the Goodwood Festival of Speed also made Sky Sports 4 and F1’s top ten ranging from 12,000 to 27,000 viewers. Across four airings, the total was 81,000 viewers. Lastly for the channel, the 1986 Hungarian Grand Prix highlights made the top ten with 12,000 viewers on Saturday evening. ESPN’s motor sport contribution to this post comes via Indy Lights highlights which averaged 17,000 viewers on Wednesday 17th July at 21:45. DTM, in the preceding hour, brought 13,000 viewers to the channel.

Hungarian Grand Prix increases year-on-year

Coverage of yesterday’s Hungarian Grand Prix increased marginally year-on-year, overnight ratings show. It is one of the few races recently where the ratings have remained in line with 2012 with the last three races seeing significant jumps.

Highlights of the race, screened on BBC One at 17:05 averaged 3.64 million viewers (24% share). There is nothing unusual about the number, except that it is identical to 2012’s highlights rating in the overnights! The share is different though, the 2012 showing averaging 20.3% throughout the broadcast. Sky Sports F1’s live coverage from 11:30 to 16:30 brought an average of 741,000 viewers (8.% share), which is up on the 658,000 viewers (5% share) in 2012. As I said last week, traditionally the Hungarian round performs above expectations due to the British good fortune at the race:

Hungarian Grand Prix – Official Ratings
2002 – 2.77 million
2003 – 2.73 million
2004 – 2.11 million
2005 – 2.79 million
2006 – 2.57 million
2007 – 3.37 million
2008 – 3.88 million
2009 – 4.83 million
2010 – 4.55 million
2011 – 4.76 million
2012 – 4.42 million / 4.67 million (using ‘35 percent theory‘)
– overnight figures were 4.30 million / 4.55 million
2013 – 4.38 million / 4.64 million (overnight rating)

For ease of confusion, some of you may be saying “the above shows 2012 above 2013, yet you’ve just said otherwise!”. When the 2013 official ratings come in, 2013 will end up marginally above 2012, as it is in the overnight ratings. A graphical version of the official ratings above can be found here in a post I wrote in June 2012 looking at the lowest Formula 1 ratings in the UK from the mid 2000’s. Qualifying had a combined BBC and Sky audience of 2.81 million viewers, making it comfortably the most watched Hungarian Qualifying session since records began (which means from 1996 onwards as that is when Qualifying for Hungary was consistently live). It also continues a trend where Qualifying is consistently bringing in between 2.6 million and 3.0 million viewers.

In a few weeks, I will be doing my mid-season ratings summary. Overall, ratings are up versus 2012. And, more impressively, they are up significantly more than you may think…

The 2012 Hungarian Grand Prix ratings report can be found here. Ratings are sourced from ITV Media.

Analysing viewing figures ‘by the month’

Over the past few years, it has become noticeable when the Formula 1 calendar is released that the calendar is somewhat ‘lop sided’. This has been most noticeable with this year’s calendar.

– The first nine races take place in a sixteen week period.
– The last nine races take place in a thirteen week period.

Now, it is only a three week difference, but it means that the first half of this season has been somewhat stop-start. Yes, I’ve enjoyed the season so far, but multiple three week breaks make the season less difficult to enjoy due to it being broken up into sections. It is difficult for the media to sustain stories through the season due to the way the calendar has been mapped out. I would honestly prefer it if one of the flyaway races at the end of the season (Korea) was moved to the beginning of the calendar after Malaysia. But I don’t think that is going to happen anytime soon. To visually space it out, this season has looked like this:

– March 17th – Australia (Melbourne)
– March 24th – Malaysia (Sepang)
– March 31st
– April 7th
– April 14st – China (Shanghai)
– April 21st – Bahrain (Sakhir)
– April 28th
– May 5th
– May 12th – Spain (Barcelona)
– May 19th
– May 26th – Monaco (Monte Carlo)
– June 2nd
– June 9th – Canada (Montreal)
– June 16th
– June 23rd
– June 30th – Britain (Silverstone)
– July 7th – Germany (Nurburgring)
– July 14th
– July 21st
– July 28th – Hungary (Hungaroring)
– August 4th
– August 11th
– August 18th
– August 25th – Belgium (Spa)
– September 1st
– September 8th – Italy (Monza)
– September 15th
– September 22nd – Singapore (Marina Bay)
– September 29th
– October 6th – Korea (Yeongam)
– October 13th – Japan (Suzuka)
– October 20th
– October 27th – India (Buddh International Circuit)
– November 3rd – Abu Dhabi (Yas Marina)
– November 10th
– November 17th – United States (Austin)
– November 24th – Brazil (Interlagos)

A team’s work from June through to the end of September can be undone if they have a pretty horrid October and November. From a cost point of view, it makes sense having double headers so that team personnel can just fly from Korea to Japan for example, instead of flying home for a few days only to head straight back up there. But looking at the above, and it feels like the calendar is badly laid out from the beginning.

Obviously looking at the above we can see that two months are being avoided: July and August. Again, it does make sense given that is the period of the Summer holidays which can deplete viewing figures. But does it? The F1 Broadcasting Blog has analysed all the viewing figures from 2008 to 2011 and worked out the average per month. The British Grand Prix is excluded from calculations as that is one of the highest rated races of the season, as are all the American based rounds for the same reason. Viewing figures show that traditionally, June and August are indeed the worst months for holding European or Asian based races in terms of viewing figures:

Monthly Formula 1 viewing figures
4.45 million – March across six races
4.34 million – April across nine races
4.03 million – May across ten races
3.77 million – June across five races
4.30 million – July across six races
3.85 million – August across seven races
4.02 million – September across nine races
4.14 million – October across eight races
5.14 million – November across three races

Every month has averaged over 4 million viewers, except two: June and August. The pattern throughout the year, apart from a few exceptions is largely as you would expect. The season typically starts off with strong ratings in Australia and Malaysia thanks to pre-publicity campaigns and hype before dipping off as we head more so towards the Summer. But July is the exception, as figures rebound back to the high figures seen at the beginning of the season. Why? The British Grand Prix has been removed, so that is not a factor. For the six races in July from 2008 through to 2011 only one had under 4 million viewers and that was the 2008 German Grand Prix.

Despite July typically being a low viewing month, races in that month do exceptionally well. It helps that the Hungarian Grand Prix is a British/Australian hotspot in terms of wins, which definitely has a major influence in dictating the monthly average. July is therefore definitely an anomaly in the wider scheme of things, but worth noting. August dips back down under 4 million, and the Summer holiday effect is noticeable in that only 2010’s August average was above 4 million (although again Hungary was an influence there).

Heading into the latter end of the season, you can see why races are stacked up into September and October. Both of those monthly averages are above 4 million thanks to title fights coming to a head. 2011 aside though, October has been a low month, it is only thanks to a fantastic 2011 that the October average is above 4 million viewers. The fly aways can hurt viewing significantly (as we seen in 2012) thanks to the race results already being known before the daytime broadcast. Viewers are more likely to watch a re-run if a British driver won the race versus when a British driver did poorly.

Bottom five country averages
3.35 million – France (1 race)
3.60 million – Turkey (4 races)
3.61 million – Europe (4 races)
3.71 million – Japan (4 races)
3.74 million – Italy (4 races)

Coincidentally, the two lowest races there are no longer on the calendar. But again, France, Turkey and Europe were typical middle of the season races which as a result meant that they delivered lower viewing figures than the remainder. Overall though, you can see why on the whole races are not scheduled in August. There is little point scheduling a race during the European Summer holidays when your core audience is away and less likely to watch as a result. As much as I would love the calendar to become more balanced again, from a commercial perspective, the negatives outweigh the positives for going back to that approach.

2008 to 2011 viewing figures only. Official ratings used.

Motor sport ratings (week ending 14th July, 2013)

With Formula 1 going on its first of two Summer breaks, it meant it was time to shine for some other forms of motor sport, specifically two wheels. Live coverage of MotoGP from the Sachensring in Germany brought an average of 1.01 million viewers to BBC Two from 12:30 to 14:00 according to BARB. This is slightly down on its usual numbers, but not too surprising given the unusually warm British Summer weather as of late. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I dread to think what numbers MotoGP will deliver on BT Sport next year. In my opinion, they are not going to look pretty. Without going into a full blown debate in this post, numbers will more than likely end up below 500,000 viewers with MotoGP being pushed out of the public spotlight. Eurosport’s numbers are unavailable, as are the numbers for BBC’s Red Button service.

Also of interest to motor sport fans on BBC Two was the fantastic Hunt vs Lauda documentary, which acted as a ‘preview’ of Rush, out in cinemas in September. The documentary averaged 2.23 million viewers, slightly above the slot average and benefiting from a Top Gear lead-in of nearly 5 million viewers. Because of that documentary, a repeat airing of Grand Prix: The Killer Years fared brilliantly on BBC Four, averaging 799,000 viewers, making it the most watched programme on the station for the week.

Over on ITV4, the Tour de France again dominated the top ten, with the highlights shows averaging between 463,000 and 698,000 viewers. Live coverage at the weekend averaged 320,000 and 477,000 viewers respectively. Numbers are down on last year, presumably due to no Bradley Wiggins involvement, with highlights shows last year bringing between 650,000 and 850,000 viewers. Sky Sports F1’s highest rated show unsurprisingly was The F1 Show, which averaged 60,000 viewers. All other ratings were under 18,000 viewers as is typical during a non race week. It will be interesting to see if The F1 Show Special did any better than the usual editions. Due to the lack of promotion, I suspect not.

Highlights of the first IndyCar race from Toronto on ESPN averaged 18,000 viewers in the early hours of Sunday morning, whilst live DTM coverage later on at 12:15 brought 15,000 viewers both safely in ESPN’s top ten. I would be surprised if IndyCar’s move to BT Sport 2 for the next race in Mid Ohio changes its fortunes significantly, I imagine you’re looking at similar ratings to now, barring a miracle.