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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3 thoughts on “Alonso effect helps IndyCar’s UK audience soar to six-year high

  1. Do you think the one week gap between Monaco and Paris helped here? Casual viewers must have thought “Oh that Formula E from last week is on again, I’ll watch that” rather than watching one race and forgetting it’s on.

    • Absolutely. Having races frequently (i.e. no ridiculous one month+ gaps) will only help the audience over time. It’s insane that the first half of the season occurred over 7 months, yet the second half will occur over 2 and a bit months!

  2. The figures may be good for BT, but imaging what the numbers would look like if Indy was shown on a more widely available channel. IndyCar/BT has missed a trick by not negotiating to sub licence the race to a free to air channel. If Alonso brought half the F1 audience with him they would easily get a million viewers.

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