Controversy helps MotoGP sizzle

A spectacular MotoGP season hit the tipping point in Sepang this past Sunday, with BT Sport rewarded as a result, overnight numbers show.

Marquez vs Rossi – TV reaps the rewards
The battle off the track between Marc Marquez and Valentino Rossi soon became an on-track battle, the two colliding in sensational fashion in Sepang. A one-minute peak audience of 300k (8.2%) at 07:15 witnessed the drama come to a head on Sunday morning on BT Sport 2. Live coverage of the race, from 06:30 to 08:00 averaged 186k (5.0%), the 5-minute peak was 269k (7.5%) at 07:15. BT Sport opted to extend their post-race broadcast until 09:00, the extra hour bringing a solid 110k (1.6%). Their entire broadcast from 03:45 to 09:00 averaged 101k (4.4%), this number including the Moto2 and Moto3 broadcasts.

As documented on these pages, BT’s MotoGP ratings upswing comes at a time when TV ratings are heading downwards. Last year’s coverage from Sepang averaged 68k (1.9%) from 04:45 to 09:15, with a 5-minute peak of 179k. Again, 2015’s viewing figures are significantly up on 2014. I think BT have been incredibly lucky to have the season that they have had this year. Over on ITV4, highlights from 20:00 to 21:00 averaged a further 301k (1.3%), recording a 5-minute peak of 384k (1.7%), also up on last year’s figure of 257k (1.1%).

Combined, the two channels recorded an average of 443k, which compares with the BBC’s live and repeat combined average in 2013 of around 1.1 million for Malaysia. You would expect more of a drop off for the fly-away races than the European rounds, the key for BT Sport and ITV is to continue in the right direction for 2016 and not make 2015 a ‘one hit wonder’, as it were. I could say the scale of the drop off is poor versus 2013, and it is as I have mentioned before, but the signs from 2015 so far have been very, very positive for MotoGP. I’m intrigued to see how the Valencia programming performs. It should be BT Sport’s highest ever MotoGP ratings, but as we saw this past weekend with the US F1 Grand Prix, what we expect to happen and what actually materialises are two different things.

Is Formula E about to suffer second season syndrome?
Over in the electric world, the picture was less than rosy. After a strong finish to season one in Battersea Park, Formula E stumbled for the start of season two in Beijing. The ePrix, airing live on Saturday morning on ITV4 from 08:00 to 10:30, averaged just 88k (1.4%) – the third lowest for the series, only behind Putrajaya and Moscow from season one. The Beijing number is significantly lower than the average audience of 266k (4.0%) for the inaugural race in September 2014.

The 5-minute peak of 168k (2.4%) was also down on the equivalent peak figure from 2014 of 477k (6.8%). In my opinion, it is a disappointing figure. On one hand, you could say that the drop was because last year was the inaugural race and all the hype that surrounded that, but on the other hand, did Formula E not gain any new followers from Battersea Park airing on ITV’s main channel in June? The fact that the season started on the same weekend as both Formula 1 and MotoGP running will have dented the numbers though, it should be noted, the lowest three numbers have all been when the series has held a race on the same weekend as Formula 1.

Highlights on ITV’s main channel performed okay with an average of 244k (3.1%), peaking with 321k (4.2%) at 10:00, up on ITV4’s highlights number from one year ago. The number is below the slot average and was beaten by three of the other four terrestrial channels. The combined live and highlights average of 332k is down on last year’s inaugural number of 426k, or down nearly a quarter. Moving the highlights to ITV’s main channel has helped reduce the deficit.

Ratings and scheduling aside from the series as a whole, advertising of the series has been poor from ITV. I watched multiple hours of the Rugby World Cup the weekend before last, which attracts a core male audience, and I did not see one trailer for Formula E. A series cannot attract a wider demographic without advertising, ITV need to realise that for the series to draw bigger numbers. ITV did produce a trailer for the season opener. If this was F1, you would expect to see the ITV pre-season trailer multiple times across a week. I didn’t see Formula E’s trailer once (anecdotally, of course). The problem we have: ITV won’t advertise > ITV’s viewing figures stay low > ITV won’t pay Formula E any more money as a result > Formula E want more money > Formula E can’t go to pay-TV otherwise figures would be embarrassing. Of course, Formula E could take the series to pay-TV, but if you are only attracting 300k on free-to-air television, you are looking at below 50k on BT Sport or Eurosport.

Time will tell how this plays out, but for Formula E’s sake, numbers cannot settle at a lower level than last year, in my opinion.

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2 thoughts on “Controversy helps MotoGP sizzle

  1. I agree completely about Formula E, and they have shot themselves in the foot by making UK streaming coverage inaccessible. The healthy audience they built up over the past year or so will now dwindle almost certainly if it’s going to continue like this with poor advertising.

  2. The Beijing e-prix was a marked improvement on last seasons opener but I’m not surprised about the low viewing figures.

    With non-Sunday afternoon races (where most casual viewers will expect to see motor racing on TV ) promotion surely has to be key. I did not see one element of advertising for the FE on any of ITV’s channels in the run up to the race.

    The only promotion I did see was on the Twitter accounts of the studio presentation team.

    ITV must try better in the run up to the rest of the races this season.

    Most of the races have been great to watch (The Punta Del Este round being my favourite race of any category in 2014) so it would be a shame for it to fizzle away to paY TV

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