The 2015 Formula One season ended with a whimper on Sunday afternoon, as 2.6 million tuned into the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in the UK, overnight viewing figures show.
Live coverage of the race, moved to BBC Two at the eleventh hour due to the conclusion of the Davis Cup, averaged 2.21m (16.9%) from 12:00 to 15:15, recording a five-minute peak of 3.08m (20.8%) as the race came to a conclusion. The race programme on Sky Sports F1 averaged 399k (3.0%) across the same timeslot. Sky’s coverage peaked with 632k (4.6%) in the five minutes from 14:00, which shouldn’t be too much of a surprise as this was in the gap between the first two Premier League games yesterday.
As alluded to above, the race faced competition from the Davis Cup on BBC One, which itself averaged 3.01m (22.9%) from 12:00 to 15:45. The decision to air the Davis Cup finale on BBC One was unsurprising, what was ridiculous however was that this was decided an hour before both shows were due to go on the air – certainly not something you expect when both events were known weeks in advance. I’m not convinced that number justified switching the two events at the last minute.
Comparisons with 2014 for the race are redundant given that last year was a championship decider and yesterday was not. Nevertheless, the combined average for Abu Dhabi of 2.60 million is comfortably the lowest ever recorded for that race. The previous low was 4.03 million from 2013, traditionally Abu Dhabi does well but for a variety of factors, viewers were not interested in Formula 1 yesterday. There are also these facts, based on the overnight viewing figures:
> lowest season finale since at least 2005
> lowest ‘European time zone’ race audience since the 2007 Bahrain Grand Prix
> lowest BBC F1 audience for a live race in the ‘European time zone’ since the corporation returned to the sport
> lowest Sky Sports F1 audience for a ‘European time zone’ race ever
The consolidated figures will make a few of the points above null and void, timeshift is larger in 2015 than in 2010, but I feel that the points still stand. For reference, ‘European time zone’ means any race that has aired live here during the lunch time hours, so anything from 11:00 through to around 14:00. There are multiple reasons for yesterday’s very low rating: increased competition, the switch from BBC One to BBC Two will have hurt the same-day timeshift figures and pure fatigue given that the championship race was over a long time ago.
However, Formula 1 has faced bigger competition before in recent years (Wimbledon finals and major games in football competitions) and has not dropped as low as Abu Dhabi did. Viewing patterns have changed as well, you cannot escape that fact. I will analyse the figures more in a post coming soon, but the picture, whichever way you want to paint it, is not promising.
Qualifying and Pointless
The final qualifying programme of the season averaged 2.05m (21.2%) from 12:10 to 14:05 on BBC One, with Sky Sports F1 adding a further 258k (2.7%) from 12:00 to 14:35. To end on a positive note, a Grand Prix themed edition of Pointless Celebrities averaged a massive 5.73m (29.2%) from 18:00 on BBC One on Saturday, one of its highest ever ratings.
The 2014 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix ratings report can be found here.