For the second race running, Formula 1 found itself losing a ratings battle against the Rugby World Cup, as the Japanese Grand Prix slumped to its lowest rating since at least 2005, overnight viewing figures show.
Before analysing the figures, it needs to be stated that historical comparisons are difficult for Japan. In the UK in recent years, Japan has started at 05:30, 06:00, 06:30 and 07:00, probably more start times that I can count. From 2010 to 2014, the race started at 07:00 UK time. Prior to that, the race started at 06:00 UK time, although the two events from Fuji in 2007 and 2008 began at 05:30 UK time. You would hope the repeat airing balances things out, but it is worth noting. Due to the events of last year, which affected the viewing figures, no comparisons will be made with 2014 in this post.
Live coverage of the race, broadcast live on BBC One from 05:00 to 09:00 averaged 925k (35.2%). It was billed as an extended race day show with the forum from around 08:30 onwards. The coverage from 05:00 to 08:00 averaged 954k (41.9%), a big difference in share, but no major difference in the raw figure. Sky Sports F1’s coverage from 05:00 to 08:30 averaged 255k (10.2%), with Sky Sports 1 adding a further 21k (0.8%). All of the live numbers are down on 2013, however this is not a surprise given the earlier start time.
BBC One’s repeat struggled against the Rugby World Cup on ITV, averaging only 1.44m (17.0%). The Rugby World Cup match between Scotland vs USA, which kicked off at 14:00, averaged 2.13m (23.0%) on ITV, comfortably beating the Grand Prix highlights. The peak audience for the Formula 1 live airing came at 07:30, as 2.00m (48.2%) watched Lewis Hamilton take victory. The peak share was a massive 1.60m (70.3%) at 06:10, down to a lot of viewers no doubt timeshifting the action to watch later in the day.
Overall, the combined audience of 2.65 million is the lowest on record (since 2005) for the Japanese Grand Prix. The 2009 race from Suzuka averaged 3.61 million. The live airing did fine, it is the BBC repeat that has dragged the numbers down significantly. The drastic drops for Singapore and Japan have had a major effect on the season average, and the numbers need to pick back up, and fast, otherwise the final average at the end of the year will not look pretty. The Russian Grand Prix clashes with Argentina vs Namibia, but I don’t expect that to be troubling the F1.
Rugby World Cup hits BTCC too
Formula 1 was not the only sporting contest kicked into touch yesterday. Live coverage of the British Touring Car Championship from Silverstone, which aired on ITV4 from 10:00 to 18:30, averaged 112k (1.2%). The action peaked with 231k (3.4%) at 12:00. BTCC does not seem to have recovered much of the lost ground compared with 2014. I’m not sure what is happening, but the audience has shifted away from the series in the past year or two, or are consuming less of it compared to previously.
The 2014 Japanese Grand Prix ratings report can be found here.