An average audience of fewer than two million viewers watched the Japanese Grand Prix across Channel 4 and Sky Sports yesterday, overnight viewing figures show.
Comparisons with previous years are slightly more complex as Sky’s live coverage was shared with the BBC from 2013 to 2015, whilst the time slot has also varied over the years.
Live coverage of the race, broadcast across Sky Sports 1 and F1, averaged 316k (14.8%) from 05:00 to 08:30. The dedicated channel averaged 277k (13.0%) with Sky Sports 1 adding a further 39k (1.8%). Last year’s Sky programme averaged 276k (10.9%), so there is a slight jump year-on-year. Sky’s F1 channel peaked with 522k, with Sky Sports 1 peaking with 90k, resulting a combined peak audience of around 600k.
Highlights on Channel 4 averaged 1.65m (17.2%) from 13:30 to 15:30. According to Channel 4’s press office on Twitter, the programme peaked with 2.2m and won the slot in the key demographics. Given the lack of sporting competition yesterday afternoon, this is a disappointing number, there was an opportunity to sweep up a few extra viewers with no Premier League competition which didn’t materialise. It is Channel 4’s second lowest number of the year, only ahead of Canada.
The Japanese Grand Prix has traditionally recorded poor numbers, although there have been exceptions along the way, notably 2011 and 2014. When the early season viewing figures for Australia and China came in, I feared that we would see a combined average audience of less than two million viewers at some point. The Japanese Grand recorded a combined average audience of just 1.97 million viewers, down 25.6 percent on last year’s average of 2.65 million viewers. The 2006 Italian Grand Prix was the last Formula 1 race to average under two million viewers.
Qualifying and some Hamilton analysis
Live coverage of qualifying averaged 236k (7.4%) from 06:00 to 08:45 on Saturday morning across Sky Sports F1, 1 and Mix. Channel 4’s highlights programme averaged 1.01m (12.9%) from 12:30 to 14:00. The combined audience of 1.24 million viewers is the lowest of the season so far.
Whilst there were a few battles during the Grand Prix itself, the battle that dominated attention was off the track: billed as Lewis Hamilton versus the media. I covered this briefly on Friday, but it continued to be a talking point as the weekend progressed. The trajectory of the viewing figures in recent years makes the next sentence abundantly clear.
With Jenson Button taking a sabbatical at the end of this year, if Hamilton chose to do the same thing, then Formula 1 in this country will turn into a minority sport quicker than anyone thinks or anticipates. How long Hamilton chooses to stick around will dictate the future trajectory of viewing figures. Hamilton’s replacement is not waiting in the wings like he was ten years ago.
The 2015 Japanese Grand Prix ratings report can be found here.