MotoGP’s UK viewing figures halve year on year

Halfway through the 2014 MotoGP season, and the move to pay TV for live coverage is having a profound effect on the UK ratings, unofficial overnight viewing figures show.

> Half a million viewers across BT and ITV
> BT Sport “expect numbers to grow with time”
> ITV decline to comment

For the best part of fifteen years, BBC had screened every race live, with further more extensive coverage on British Eurosport. With an average of one million viewers every race, BBC’s coverage was motorcycling’s gateway to a new generation of fans, should a British rider rise to the top. In May 2013, it was announced that BT Sport would be taking over exclusive coverage of the championship from 2014 onwards, unsurprisingly provoking a backlash from fans. The exclusivity aspect failed to make it to the first race, just two weeks before the start of the 2014 season, it was announced that ITV4 would be screening highlights of the championship, a move aimed at appeasing a larger portion of the MotoGP fan base. And the viewing figures, in my opinion, back that up.

All the viewing figures below exclude BBC iPlayer for 2013, and similarly BT Sport’s app and ITV Player for this season. So far in 2014, BT Sport’s live race day coverage for the MotoGP portion of proceedings – from 12:30 to approximately 14:00 – have averaged 155k, peaking at just over 200k the majority of the time. ITV4’s highlights programming on Monday evenings have averaged 366k, this number including their +1 timeshift channel. The combined audience of 521k is significantly down on figures in previous years, when MotoGP was live on terrestrial television.

In comparison, BBC Two’s MotoGP coverage for the first half of the 2013 season, excluding Austin and Assen, which were not covered live by the channel, averaged exactly 1.00m, regularly peaking around 1.3m. In addition to that, an additional audience in the region of 150k watched on British Eurosport an hour later, bringing the combined audience is 1.15m. Traditionally, UK’s audiences have remained around that level for many years, with slight fluctuations about 100k either way depending on that season’s circumstances and other sporting competition in that calendar year. As mentioned above, audiences this year have more than halved in comparison to last year.

Looking into the figures, I maintain that ITV were brought on board to save face. BT Sport exclusivity would have been a catastrophic disaster for all concerned. Yes, they may be providing more in-depth coverage than BBC (albeit, with the use of a studio at every race weekend), but that in my opinion is meaningless if audiences are 10 percent of what BBC were getting. BT Sport’s coverage is not going to bring in new fans. If it does, it’ll be tens of thousands rather than hundreds of thousands as BBC’s coverage could have done if the likes of Bradley Smith get to the front of the field in the years to come.

I would be surprised if Dorna are happy with BT’s viewing figures, however it was them that made the decision to go with BT Sport’s money rather than BBC’s viewers. Whether ITV4’s highlights programming was a nice compromise, the jury is out. In any case, I’m not at all surprised about the drop. There is a valid point about the dominance of Marc Marquez having a detrimental effect on viewing figures. From BT’s perspective, viewing figures have stayed consistent (in fact, their Qatar programme only peaked with 230k), whilst ITV4’s highlights have dropped to around the 350k mark. Because of the football in the past month, there is no direct yes or no answer where the Marquez theory is concerned.

A BT Sport spokesperson said: “BT Sport is a brand new channel and less than a year old and MotoGP launched on the channel in March of this year. BT Sport show some of the most extensive coverage of MotoGP seen in the UK across Friday, Saturday and Sunday on a race weekend. We are pleased with the number of people watching MotoGP as well as MotoGP Tonight so far and feedback on our coverage has also been extremely positive. We expect numbers to grow with time.” ITV declined to comment.

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17 thoughts on “MotoGP’s UK viewing figures halve year on year

  1. what about moto 2 and moto 3 figures,practise and quali for moto gp? its crazy last year i became a avid follower of moto gp,moto2 and 3 and this year due it not being live on fta i have zero interest now which is a shame. and also didnt 2million what the final round of last season

  2. i dont have bt and i have watch one hightlight program on itv and that was the end of it as far as i am concerned . maybe if it was full race a day after the main race i would wtach it again but currently no thanks.

  3. Dorna’s Ecclestonian greed has reduced MotoGP to a marginalised sport & it will remain that way until free-to-air broadcasts return, which may be too late anyway. When will the sponsors realise that they’re expending huge budgets to advertise themselves to no one? They’re the only power which MIGHT convince Dorna’s short-sighted boss to act in the sport’s best interests, not his own.
    The same thing has happened in France, too, with a similar switch to pay TV.
    Meanwhile, if ITV4 extended its highlights programme to allow some coverage of qualifying, plus the entire race, they’d have a chance of capturing some of the lost audience.

  4. The greed shown by Dorna is just a sad reflection of western society today. These people have no intention of sustaining the sport in the long term. It will be driven to ground and trashed… Not much sense in this world anymore..

  5. To me it is still quite simple, watched F1 live for 28 years getting up a 4 in morning and usually watched with 2-3 friends round, but when it went behind paywall I started to lose intrest as could not get same feel of race when tried watching highlights, this year I have basically not watched 98% instead I moved onto BTCC. The shame is that it has also affected the next generation as my son and daughter (who watched with me occasionally lost intrest with me). I really think Bernie should be in prison for tax evasion…

  6. I’ve always loved MotoGP. Now I love moto2 and 3 as well. The coverage, not commentary, is great. Everything is covered. Interviews at the end of the race. The race isn’t showed later in the day because darts is on at the same time. I get that people want it for free but I feel I get so much more because its moved to BT. BBC never gave it the love that it should have. I know Dorna wanted the money but I think they also wanted it to have the F1 level of coverage and love from the broadcaster. Just my thoughts on it. Go Redding!

  7. Used to watch it for years on Eurosport, brilliant coverage and gave the fans of the sport enjoyment from the commentators , including Randy Mamola. BBC blew it when they didn’t screen it live on main channels and the boring commentators. Shall never forget race at Hockenheim 1991 between Rainey, schwantz , Gardener, doohan and lawson.

  8. I am so annoyed with Dorna, they have ruined coverage of the best sport in the world, I have not seen a single wheel turned in Moto2 or Moto3 this year, not even some bad coverage on youtube,, nothing! And now I have only monday night GP highlights on ITV (thankyou ITV). With the govt. making it harder for young riders to pass the test and this depleted coverage our beloved sport is dieing.. And Dorna did this to us just for money!!??!! Stuff you Dorna I cannot afford your 100 euro fee for online coverage and there are many like me… as you are now finding out!! I actually refuse to pay on principal!

    BT Sport think it will ‘grow with time’.. Ha ha what a joke.. The fans are already there and desperate to watch but they can’t afford/don’t want to pay your monthly broadband fees.. Stick to football, rugby and cricket.. They already have a massive fanbase, use it.

    Sure the BBC coverage wasn’t great but at least got to watch all the races which is the only important thing.

    Dorna.. unless you want MotoGP to become an ‘also-ran’ sport in the UK, dump BTsport and get this championship back onto terrestrial TV.

    The figures speak for themselves and I promise you.. they won’t be ‘growing with time’!!

    Save yourself Ezpeleta!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • I agree with you completely … & it’s not just the UK audience Dorna has lost. We visited friends who live in France this summer, & their Moto coverage has gone to the CANAL+ pay channel. They refuse to pay the exorbitant charges, so they get to watch NO bikes, not even a halfassed ITV highlights show.
      Dorna’s business model is FOM, Ecclestone’s F1 money grabber. They only care about money, not about sport.
      All we can do is write to the sponsors & the bike manufacturers, in hopes that they’ll use the clout they have to reverse this disastrous trend for our sport.
      Maybe before it’s too late …

  9. BT Sports Moto GP coverage is fantastic. I’m a viewer who likes to watch practice, qualifying and all of the races. For £15 a month I get as much Moto GP as possible. On the downside, It’s the only sport I watch on the channel so don’t really get any benefit from the other broadcasts. Nothing worse than joining the BBC on the warm up lap then leaving it as the riders entered parc ferme and I couldn’t wait until a Monday night to watch it on ITV4.M

  10. use to watch motogp now i don’t. very simple. (highlight program is awful)

    F1 interest hanging by a thread. stupid rules and sky are killing it

    btcc just so artificial and have little interest

    fia gt stuff on you tube great and cars all look different.

    le mans car even better. seem to still have magic which f1 has lost

  11. What a travesty MotoGP has become in the UK now, the commentators constantly licking each others bums gets right on my nerves, Toseland looks and talks like he fell on ten years supply of botox, we have a hieght challenged, speech challenged anchor who before she got the job didn’t have a clue what MotoGP was. Yep BT, well done on hiring the worst you could find to make even the most hardened fans watch it with the sound off, oh and if you miss the qualifying you cant watch it on demand later on. what a complete F£%£ UP.

  12. […] As well as Formula One, MotoGP also faces competition from other sports in attracting the viewing figures that are essential for the teams competing in the series to attract the sponsorship from companies around the World that fund the involvement of the teams in the series. This drive for viewing figures however is far from an easy task for the series, particularly in Great Britain, where MotoGP is no longer available on free to air television, after the rights moved two years ago from live coverage free to air on BBC and British Eurosport (with coverage of the practice and qualifying session and the support races live with the main GP on an hour delay), to exclusive live coverage of all sessions and races on BT Sport, at a cost of £5 a month for people with BT broadband and a price of £19.99 for those without BT broadband. This increase in the cost of viewing MotoGP has consequentially had a significant impact on those all-important viewing figures for the series in Great Britain. According to the Motorsport Broadcasting Blog, “F1Broadcasting” which is commonly used as a reference for a number of Motorsport based news websites, this year’s 2015 coverage hit a peak audience of 433,000 during the season finale in Valencia, which is still less than half of the average viewing figures (an average of exactly one million) for the series on the free to air BB… […]

  13. It’s dire,over a decade of superb coverage ruined overnight by bt.Even subscribing to this farce was no garauntee that you could see it,and then you have the chuckle brothers commentary to deal with.What a bag of crap,another example of ignorant management thinking that they know how to run the show.

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