The British Grand Prix performed solidly on Sunday afternoon for Channel 4 and Sky Sports against a difficult backdrop of both the Wimbledon finals and the final of Euro 2016, overnight viewing figures show.
Live coverage of the race, broadcast on Channel 4 from 12:00 to 15:55, averaged 2.36m (17.9%). Across their usual three-and-a-half-hour slot from 12:00 to 15:30, the coverage averaged 2.54m, so not a major gulf between the two numbers.
Channel 4’s coverage hit a 5-minute peak audience of 3.89m (24.5%) at 14:30 as Lewis Hamilton claimed victory. What is noticeable is that Channel 4’s coverage lost 1.2 million viewers as soon as they went to their first post-race commercial break. Their audience dropped from 3.3 million viewers to 2.1 million. Some of that is natural decline, some of it is self-inflicted, with the break ‘inviting’ the audience to turn over to other channels.
Both Channel 4’s average and peak audiences are season high numbers for them, by a wide margin too. It is good news for the broadcaster, and their strategy of airing more live races in the middle to latter stages of the season may well be paying off, based on the trajectory the season is currently heading in.
Sky’s live coverage from 12:00 to 15:30 averaged 736k (5.8%), this being split 552k vs 184k in the dedicated channel’s favour. Interestingly, their coverage peaked with 1.12m (9.3%) at 13:15, which I believe is their highest peak number for shared coverage in a while. Year-on-year, Sky’s average is up 14 percent, with the peak metric up 21 percent.
Overall, the combined audience of 3.10 million is the second highest of 2016 (slightly behind Austria, thanks to Channel 4’s extended broadcast) but down 27 percent on 2015’s average audience of 4.28 million. This is the lowest audience for the British Grand Prix since 2006, but that should not be any surprise to anyone reading this considering the Wimbledon clash. Compared with 2014, which also clashed with an Andy Murray Wimbledon final, the average audience is down only 6.9 percent.
The Wimbledon build-up on BBC One from 13:00 to 13:55 averaged 2.28m (18.6%), enough to put a dent into the British Grand Prix numbers. The combined peak audience of 4.99m (31.5%) is down 14.6 percent on last year’s peak audience of 5.85m (50.4%), but up 2.4 percent on 2014’s peak audience of 4.88m (32.7%).
Live coverage of qualifying on Channel 4 from 12:00 to 14:30 averaged 1.43m (16.2%), peaking with 2.07m (21.1%) at 13:55. Sky’s coverage of qualifying across Sky Sports 1 and F1 added a further 421k (4.7%). The combined audience of 1.85m is the lowest since 2007 for Silverstone.
For the second weekend running, there are a lot of positives to take from the viewing figures. The average audience was severely weakened by the post-race segment dropping like a stone (as referenced above). The other metrics performed well, which suggests that the Formula 1 could have performed better than what it actually did had the Wimbledon final not been on.
I said at the start of the season that the viewing figures would live or die on the competitiveness of the championship. A runaway four races at the start of the year saw some very low numbers for Sky and Channel 4. The story has since swung around, and ratings have started to improve, both sides are reaping the rewards. Hungary will be an acid test as to whether viewers are going to stay around, or whether we will drop back to pre-Austria levels.
The 2015 British Grand Prix ratings report can be found here.