MotoGP jumps to highest audience since 2015

The 2017 MotoGP season started in fine fashion this past weekend according to unofficial overnight viewing figures, thanks to a strong number for Channel 5’s highlights programme.

BT Sport decreases…
As usual, BT Sport 2 aired live coverage of the MotoGP weekend. Their coverage overran by 45 minutes due to the delayed MotoGP race, running from 15:30 to 20:45. The whole programme averaged 120k (0.8%), down marginally in audience and share on 2016’s average of 132k (0.9%). It is BT Sport’s lowest audience for a season opener. Like Formula 1 earlier in the day, warm weather and Mother’s Day hit MotoGP’s viewing figures. In addition, a factor for MotoGP will have been the England football game, which aired on ITV from 16:25 to 19:30.

The MotoGP race itself, which aired from 18:30 to 20:45, averaged 175k (0.9%), down around 13 percent on the equivalent 2016 figure of 201k (1.2%). The red flag periods will not have helped the race segment; also, BT’s lowest for the first round of the year. There is some solace in the peak figure. BT’s coverage on Sunday peaked with 247k (1.3%) at 19:50, a marginal drop on 270k (1.5%) on 2016, down also on 2015 but up on the 2014 peak audience.

The slightly lower than expected numbers follow on from the trend that we saw with BT Sport’s coverage in the latter stages of 2016, but should not be seen as a major concern at this stage in proceedings.

…but Channel 5 benefits
In 2016, ITV4’s highlights programme on Monday evenings from 20:00 to 21:00 averaged 285k (1.4%) across the whole season. Channel 5’s Qatar programme averaged 486k (2.7%) in an earlier time slot from 19:00 to 20:00. Although slightly below Channel 5’s slot average, this is a good number for MotoGP on their return to the channel. Demographically, the championship lost viewers amongst the younger audience against Channel 5’s slot average, but this is a problem that all of motor racing has right now.

It is the highest highlights number since the 2014 Qatar MotoGP, ironic almost in some ways given that was when the pay TV deal started. The strong numbers at the beginning of the 2014 season came off the back of publicity surrounding the BT Sport deal. I think, even taking into account the relative profile of Channel 5 versus ITV4, Dorna will be pleased to see a good Channel 5 average. Channel 5’s audience built consistently throughout the hour, peaking with 645k (3.5%) at 19:50.

The combined audience of 662,000 viewers is the highest for MotoGP since the 2015 season finale and the highest for a season opener since 2014.

Top 5 – MotoGP audiences since the move to BT Sport (source: Overnights.tv)
01 – 679,000 – 2014 Qatar (BT Sport + ITV4)
02 – 676,000 – 2015 Valencia (BT Sport + ITV4)
03 – 662,000 – 2017 Qatar (BT Sport + Channel 5)
04 – 603,000 – 2015 Italy (BT Sport + ITV4)
05 – 601,000 – 2014 Italy (BT Sport + ITV4)

I am hopeful that Channel 5’s audience may improve from here, especially considering that the channel is starting to build up its motor racing portfolio. Some cross promotion with Formula E and the World Rally Championship will boost all three series and help increase the viewing figures further.

The 2016 Qatar MotoGP ratings report can be found here.

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