Yesterday, AUTOSPORT published an article noting that BBC’s iPlayer figures for Formula 1 have increased 33 percent, whilst their Radio 5 Live figures have increased 53 percent. The paragraph concludes by noting that “there is a growing view that the way people consume F1 is changing dramatically”. Whilst I agree that habits are changing, I’m not entirely convinced by the validity of that sentence.
Let’s come back to that later, and instead look at some other statistics. Compared with the first six races last year, BBC’s Formula 1 coverage has dropped by 12 percent, whilst Sky Sports F1’s live race coverage has increased by 11 percent according to unofficial overnight viewing figures from Overnights.tv. If you knew absolutely nothing about viewing figures, you might be led to believe that Sky’s ratings are beginning to move mountains and are taking viewers off BBC hand over fist. Well…. not quite.
In fact, whilst BBC’s figures have dropped 426k for a variety of factors already covered in detail on this blog, Sky’s viewing figures have increased only 79k. See how things now look different? Because Sky Sports F1’s viewing figures are coming from a low base, it means that any increase it makes will seem massive percentage wise. The combined figures for the UK are down 8 percent or 350k. The point I’m making is that percentages do not always tell the full story, and they certainly don’t here.
All the percentages we have are listed below:
+ 53 percent = BBC Radio
+ 33 percent = BBC iPlayer
+ 11 percent = Sky TV (+79k)
– 8 percent = BBC TV + Sky TV (-350k)
– 12 percent = BBC TV (-426k)
Thanks to BBC’s monthly iPlayer reports, we have some Formula 1 figures dating back a few years, which are as follows:
– 484k – Australia highlights
– 521k – Bahrain highlights
From a percentage point of view, 33 percent seems like a huge increase. It’s worth noting that AUTOSPORT probably would not have been given the raw figures from BBC’s Media Centre team, I imagine that the only figures they were given were percentage increases. But what about from a raw figures perspective? The 33 percent increase is about 100k, which definitely does not cover the entirety of BBC TV’s drop this season, nor does it account for 350k drop overall. Or, for that matter, why Formula 1’s UK viewing figures have dropped over half a million viewers between 2011 and 2014. And if BBC iPlayer is ‘only’ averaging 500k for Formula 1, one assumes the Sky Go/On Demand effect is negligible. I’d also argue that the reason Bahrain is showing above is because of the TV timeslot it was in – had that race been broadcast live on free-to-air television, it definitely would not have had 521k via iPlayer.
Whilst there is changing viewing habits, you cannot escape the fact that there are fans no longer watching the sport and are not being replaced by new fans at the same rate, whether it is due to the on-track action changing (DRS, Pirelli’s, turbo’s), those in charge of the sport running into a power-trip with no direction thanks to rules nobody wishes to see (double points), fans feeling distant from the sport (expensive ticket prices) or because Formula 1 is moving to a pay TV model, thus pricing people out of the sport – MotoGP fans know what that feels like. I’ll let you decide…