After a promising start to the year, Formula 1 ratings in the UK have hit the rocks, with the Spanish Grand Prix falling to its lowest number since 2008, according to unofficial overnight viewing figures.
Live coverage of the race, which was broadcast exclusively live on Sky Sports F1, averaged 674k (7.0%) from 12:00 to 15:30. The exclusivity aspect is interesting, given that BBC covered the Spanish Grand Prix live in 2012, 2013 and 2014. This is the first year since they acquired the rights from ITV that BBC have not covered Spain live. However, Sky’s numbers were boosted very little. Last year’s coverage from 12:00 to 15:30 averaged 642k (5.5%) in comparison. The share may be up 27 percent, but the raw number is up only 5 percent, implying that there could be external weather factors associated in Sky’s increase not being as big as expected. It is, however, Sky’s second lowest ever number for an exclusive European-based round, only in front of the 2013 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix which averaged 667k.
BBC’s highlights coverage did not make up any ground as a result of Sky’s lower than expected numbers. Highlights, which aired on BBC One from 17:05 to 18:30, averaged 2.90m (19.7%). In comparison, last year’s live coverage averaged 3.44m (28.7%). For a BBC highlights programme, that is a poor number, although the share stands out for me more, under 20 percent share of the available audience is unusual. The combined audience of 3.57m is the lowest since 2008 for the Spanish round. Australia, Malaysia and Bahrain were up year-on-year, whilst China was stable, so the drop in viewers for Spain is unexpected and surprising. As always with viewing figures, it remains to be seen if this number is just a blip and nothing more, or whether it is part of a trend.
Qualifying too strong for Formula E
The Formula E series moved to Europe with the Monaco ePrix attracting a peak audience of 239k (2.5%) on Saturday afternoon. Live coverage of the race on ITV4 averaged 151k (1.6%) from 14:00 to 16:35, with the peak coming as the race concluded at 15:45. The coverage thrashed the GP2 Series on Sky Sports F1, which averaged 32k (0.3%) from 14:35 to 16:05, although it wasn’t enough to beat Formula 1 qualifying itself. Live coverage of F1 Qualifying on Sky Sports F1 averaged 336k (3.9%). Bear in mind that ITV4 is available to a lot more people than Sky Sports F1, and you start to see the scale of the task ahead for the electric series.
In my opinion, Formula E has been brilliant so far in its inaugural season, but the viewing figures are not moving a muscle on ITV4. ITV’s advertising seems to have stopped, which is preventing viewing figures from improving. They need to get the message out in my opinion about the series, but are failing to do so. The scheduling hasn’t been great, but it looks like season two will be better in that regard. You could argue that they have lost faith in the series already, but ITV did air Formula E qualifying live on ITV4 for the first time this past weekend to an audience of 42k (0.6%). When you look at the audiences though, I think that Formula E needs ITV more than ITV needs Formula E. The moment Formula E goes to BT Sport live is the moment you kill the series in this country. And that wouldn’t be good for anyone involved.
Elsewhere, Formula 1 qualifying highlights on BBC One averaged 2.25m (16.8%).
The 2014 Spanish Grand Prix ratings report can be found here.