Dramatic Formula E decider peaks with 1.2 million

The final two races of the Formula E season performed solidly on both ITV and ITV4 across this past weekend, overnight viewing figures show.

Saturday
Live coverage of round ten was broadcast live on ITV4 on Saturday. Qualifying, which aired from 11:30 to 13:15, averaged 146k (1.5%), peaking with 184k (3.1%) at 12:35. Up until that point, it was the most watched qualifying programme for the sessions that ITV4 had covered live. In fact, the peak number for London’s Saturday qualifying session was higher than the peak number recorded for the Moscow race three weeks earlier, showing that it was a strong number in isolation.

ITV4’s live race coverage aired from 15:00 to 17:30. The programme averaged 274k (3.7%), peaking with 460k (5.7%). The peak, up until that point again, was the strongest since Beijing which peaked with 477k (6.8%). Against a backdrop of mediocre ratings over the past few months, this was a much needed strong figure. I also think this underlines how well the previous European races could have done had they not clashed with Formula 1.

The highlights programme on ITV, which aired from 22:55 to 23:55, averaged 387k (3.6%). You could argue that it is higher than the ITV4 race programme, therefore it is a better figure, however in reality, that figure is very poor for ITV, a picture which is unfortunately the same for Sunday’s highlights programme.

Sunday
Due to the British Touring Car Championship on ITV4, and presumably also ITV wanting to give Formula E a bit of extra coverage, programming was switched to ITV for Sunday’s qualifying and race, which formed the final round of the season. Live coverage of the race, airing on ITV from 15:00 to 17:45, averaged 700k (6.7%). The race peaked with 1.18m (10.7%) at 16:50 as Nelson Piquet Jnr won the championship.

Live coverage of the race began with 406k (4.6%) at 15:00, growing to 811k (8.3%) as the race started at 16:00. It crossed the million barrier at 16:25, remaining above a million until the race concluded. The programme itself did not win the slot, but this was due to the long pre and post-race analysis rather than the race itself under-performing. Live coverage of qualifying on ITV from 11:30 to 13:15 averaged 395k (4.9%), peaking with 503k (5.9%). Not great. Repeats of The Jeremy Kyle Show on the channel generated a higher audience in the equivalent timeslot on Saturday. However, purely because of the ‘ITV factor’, qualifying and the race will stand as record high numbers for the series.

Sunday’s highlights programme, which aired from 22:20 to 23:20, averaged 454k (3.3%). Again, it is not a great audience for the channel. Over on ITV4, live coverage of the British Touring Car Championship averaged 263k (2.8%) from 11:00 to 18:15, peaking with 460k.

Analysis
For Formula E, the numbers are brilliant, in that they are significantly higher than previous rounds, and further cement the case for the championship to be shown on ITV’s main channel. Of course, that works on the assumption that Formula E want to keep working with ITV. Given that the top headline currently on Formula E’s website surrounds yesterday’s viewing figures in the UK, one has to assume that Formula E do not plan to take he championship off free-to-air television. The two questions surround the nature of the deal from a scheduling perspective, but also whether ITV are willing to pay any cash for it. Do ITV see more value in the series after season one, and are they therefore willing to hand over money as a result. I don’t think Formula E has everything their own way, yet.

From a slot average perspective, the numbers on ITV’s main channel did not exceed the slot average. Does that make the live numbers disappointing? No. Yeah, they’re solid for ITV, no more, no less. I doubt it made ITV’s executives go “wow” when they saw the overnights this morning. However, I would argue that if Formula E can peak with 1.2 million viewers for a championship decider at the end of its inaugural season, then what can do it do in a year’s time, with perhaps more airtime and advertising on ITV’s main channel? Interest is only going to grow over time. That 1.2 million peak could be 2 million twelve months from now.

This requires commitment from both sides. I think logical progression from both sides would be to retain the current deal, but air the opening race of the 2015-16 season on ITV, along with two or three other races (the calendar hasn’t yet been released, so it is impossible to say which ones), with ITV committing to an on-site presence for those races. I think having every race live on ITV’s main channel could do more harm than good. I’ll elaborate on the above in a future post, but let’s keep things moving naturally rather than committing to anything too big, too soon.

But, first and foremost, we need an announcement about season two’s rights. So ITV and Formula E. What are you waiting for?

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