Monaco Grand Prix dips year-on-year

The Monaco Grand Prix struggled over the Bank Holiday weekend in the United Kingdom, overnight viewing figures show.

Race
Live coverage of the race itself, broadcast on Channel 4 from 12:00 to 15:10, averaged 1.96m (23.8%), peaking with 2.68m (30.6%) at 14:30. Channel 4 have not lucked in with their choice of live races so far this season, with their last two choices (Russia and Monaco) turning into poor races, and Baku likely to throw up the same next month.

Sky Sports chose to simulcast their coverage across Sky Sports 1 and Mix, to an average audience of 591k (7.2%) from 12:00 to 15:30. Their audience was split 425k versus 167k in Sky Sports F1’s favour. Sky’s coverage peaked with 861k (9.8%) at 14:35 as Vettel claimed victory.

It was the first live free-to-air broadcast for the Monaco round of the championship since 2012. Nevertheless, a combined average audience of 2.55 million viewers is still lower than last year’s audience of 2.78 million viewers when Channel 4 aired highlights, and the lowest on record for this Grand Prix. Viewing figures were down 39.8 percent on the combined average in 2015 of 4.23 million viewers.

The combined peak audience came at 14:35, as 3.53 million viewers (40.2%) watched across Channel 4 and Sky, the lowest since 2006. At the time of the peak, 76 percent of viewers were watching on Channel 4, with a quarter watching across Sky F1 and Mix. The shares across the board are slightly higher than usual, with warm weather having an effect across the country – a 40 percent share is still impressive irrespective of circumstances.

Qualifying
Live coverage of qualifying, broadcast on Channel 4 from 11:55 to 14:30, averaged 1.14m (15.5%), peaking with 1.75m (21.7%) at 13:35 as Lewis Hamilton was eliminated from qualifying. The third session of qualifying rated lower than the second phase, which is unusual, given that qualifying typically builds up to a crescendo.

Sky Sports F1’s broadcast, which aired from 12:00 to 14:40, averaged 277k (3.8%), peaking at the end of the session with 491k (5.9%). The combined average audience of 1.42 million viewers and combined peak audience of 2.23 million viewers (27.6%) are both down on last year’s figures of 1.65 million and 2.34 million respectively.

Next up, the Formula 1 heads to Montreal for the Canadian Grand Prix. With Channel 4 airing highlights of the race for the second year in a below, expect a very low average – potentially under two million viewers. Furthermore, Sky’s live coverage clashes with a competitive international football weekend, which will only deplete audiences further.

The 2016 Monaco Grand Prix ratings report can be found here.

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How the Indy 500 and Monaco Grand Prix performed around the world

Whilst this site traditionally focusses on the United Kingdom viewing figures picture, yesterday’s Indianapolis 500 unsurprisingly made a significant splash in Spain.

According to FormulaTV, live coverage of the Indianapolis 500 in Spain averaged 443k (3.6%) from 17:59 to 22:06 on #0 and Movistar Sports. #0 is Movistar+’s main subscription channel in Spain, hence why the Indianapolis 500 was featured on there.

As a result, the IndyCar action beat the Monaco Grand Prix, which averaged 212k (2.0%) on Movistar’s dedicated Formula 1 channel from 14:03 to 15:48. Last year’s action from Monaco averaged 302k (2.8%), so F1 lost just under a third of the viewers year-on-year. In Spain, Formula 1 used to air on the free-to-air station Antena 3, a deal which ended in 2015, with viewing figures in their millions.

Whilst IndyCar ratings are unknown in Germany and Italy, the Monaco Grand Prix performed well in both markets, thanks to Sebastian Vettel and Ferrari in strong form. In Germany, the race aired live on free-to-air station RTL, to an audience of 5.23m (34.5%) according to Quotenmeter.

In Italy, an audience of 5.80m (35.5%) watched Vettel’s victory on free-to-air channel Rai 1, figures compiled by TVBlog show. Both Germany and Italy’s figures appear to exclude Sky Deutschland and Sky Italia respectively, which will increase their respective audiences slightly.

Meanwhile in America, live coverage of the Indianapolis 500 averaged 5.46 million viewers on ABC, a drop on last year’s audience of 6.01 million viewers. This shouldn’t be considered surprising though as last year’s race had the local ABC blackout lifted to commemorate with the 100th running.

The Monaco Grand Prix aired over on NBC and averaged a strong 1.44 million viewers, up slightly on last year’s number of 1.32 million viewers. It’s a good number and, according to NBC themselves, the most watched live F1 race on record.

UK – Alonso’s Indy 500 exploit peaks with 203,000 viewers

The 2017 Indianapolis 500, highlighted by Fernando Alonso’s one-off move from Formula 1, peaked with over 200,000 viewers in the United Kingdom, overnight viewing figures show.

Race Analysis
BT Sport/ESPN aired the race exclusively live from 16:30 to 21:30. The complete broadcast, including studio build-up and post-race reaction, averaged 129k (0.91%) across the five-hour time slot.

The show started with 31k (0.35%) at 16:30, increasing slightly to 54k (0.57%) at 16:55. Quickly audiences jumped over the 100k mark, hitting a high of 133k (1.31%) at 17:25 as the race started, before dipping back towards 100k. For the best part of an hour, audiences hovered around 110k until 18:45.

Viewing figures picked up at 18:45 as the caution period for Conor Daly’s accident started, numbers moving from 120k (0.86%) at 18:45 to 165k (1.16%) at 18:55. Audiences remained around 170k through the 19:00 clock hour, eventually hitting 201k (1.18%) at 20:10.

The peak audience though came at 20:30 as Alonso’s Andretti Autosport car retired from the race, with 203k (1.15%) watching. An audience of 191k (1.04%) watched Takuma Sato’s victory at 20:55, so encouragingly the extra viewers stuck around for the conclusion of the race.

Historical Comparisons
Last year’s Indianapolis 500 averaged just 12k (0.09%) on BT Sport 1, peaking with 31k (0.16%). In percentage terms, that is a year on year increase of 975 percent based on the average, and an increase of 555 percent based on the peak figure! Which is extra-ordinary, really. It highlights how shockingly the Indianapolis 500 has rated historically with very little attention on it from UK broadcasters and writers.

Yesterday’s IndyCar audience was the highest for the championship since records began in 2006. It is probably the highest for American open-wheel racing since the Eurosport days with CART in the early 2000s, although it is difficult to say exactly when.

I think IndyCar may experience a small boost in the UK for next weekend’s races in Detroit, but I do not foresee any medium to long-term boost for the series over here. From an IndyCar perspective, it is a great number, but from a wider motor sport perspective, it is no greater than other numbers for UK races.

As an example, the British Touring Car Championship on ITV4 regularly equals or betters the Indy 500 number recorded; whilst BT’s MotoGP coverage peaks with between 250k and 300k for each race. It is likely that the Indy 500 would have done better had a free-to-air channel, such as Channel 5 or Quest, picked the race up to broadcast live. We will never know whether a free-to-air broadcaster expressed genuine interest.

By airing the race live on BT Sport/ESPN (as part of the normal IndyCar deal) it severely limited the potential for the race; and meant that audiences may have resorted to ‘other methods’ of watching, such as streaming online via non-BT sources. Not many people realised it was on BT Sport, as extremely high traffic to this site yesterday appeared to indicate.

If a Formula 1 star does attempt IndyCar again next year, organisers may want to consider offering it to international broadcasters ‘standalone’ instead of rigidly sticking to existing commitments, in the same way that the 24 Hours of Le Mans is packaged differently worldwide. But, next year, the aura around such an appearance will be less.

Do not get me wrong, for IndyCar the Indianapolis 500 numbers were fantastic and frankly huge for the championship. In the grand scheme of things, was money left on the table by series organisers?

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Alonso effect helps IndyCar’s UK audience soar to six-year high

The Indianapolis 500 started in fine fashion last weekend, with the IndyCar Series recording its highest UK audiences in nearly six years, overnight viewing figures show.

Indy qualifying impresses
Live coverage of the first day of qualifying, broadcast on Saturday evening from 21:00 to 00:00 on BT Sport/ESPN, averaged 44k (0.31%). The scheduled slot from 21:00 to 23:00 averaged 45k (0.27%), meaning that the audience stayed very stable during the overrun.

Coverage started relatively low, with an audience of 14k (0.06%) watching at 21:10. This quickly built up though, hitting 30k at 21:25, 40k at 21:50 and then peaking with an excellent 68k (0.41%) at 22:05. Audiences stayed above 50k until 22:55, partly attributed to Sebastian Bourdais’ horrific crash, which stopped the session for around 40 minutes.

The audience for day one is the highest ever for the IndyCar series on BT Sport, and the highest since Sky Sports’ broadcast of the 2011 Indianapolis 500. Viewing figures dropped for day two of qualifying. An average audience of 29k (0.17%) watched qualifying on BT Sport/ESPN from 21:00 to 23:00 on Sunday evening, peaking with 43k (0.26%), again during the segment when Fernando Alonso was on circuit.

Although there is a larger audience around on Sunday evenings, coverage of on-track action was sporadic: Saturday had action without commercials from 21:00 until Bourdais’ crash at around 22:30, giving a chance for the audience to build. On the other hand, Sunday’s qualifying programme had twenty minutes with no on-track action from 21:40 to 22:00, which would have depleted viewing figures.

Next Sunday’s Indianapolis 500 is likely to be the biggest figure for an American domestic motor race in a generation in the UK, with more than 100,000 viewers expected. It is difficult to be more specific than that at this stage as warm weather is likely to knock audiences.

Formula E jumps to second highest figure of season
It was a good weekend as well for the electric Formula E championship. Round six of the season took place last Saturday in Paris. The race, which aired live on Channel 5 from 14:30 to 16:20, averaged 381k (4.4%), peaking with 468k. Last year’s action from Paris, which aired on ITV4, peaked with 187k (2.1%) in a similar time slot.

It is the highest share of the season for Formula E and the second highest audience of the season, behind Buenos Aires. It is also comfortably the highest non-London race ever for the championship (also beating part one of last year’s London ePrix which aired on ITV).

Whilst it is too early to say whether the championship is drawing in new viewers as this is just one race in isolation, the audience figure for Paris is an encouraging sign for the series. Formula E should be able to maintain some momentum going forward, with no elongated gaps between now and the end of the season.

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Sky Sports F1 to broadcast Porsche Supercup live this year

Sky Sports F1 is to broadcast the Porsche Supercup series live for the remainder of this season, I can confirm.

The channel from the Monaco Grand Prix weekend onwards will broadcast live coverage of every Porsche Supercup race.

Sky’s deal does not affect Eurosport’s current Porsche Supercup contract. Eurosport currently broadcast every race in either live or highlights form, and have done for many years; Sky having never aired the series live.

Live coverage of the series did initially appear in Sky’s draft Spanish Grand Prix schedules, before its removal. This time, I understand that the deal is definite, starting with this weekend.

BBC’s current 5 Live Formula 1 commentator and part-time Formula E commentator Jack Nicholls has been hired by Sky to commentate on the remaining Porsche Supercup races this season.