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.

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