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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7 thoughts on “UK – Alonso’s Indy 500 exploit peaks with 203,000 viewers

  1. Unable to find any means of viewing in the UK other than a rather exorbitant month’s cost, so went to the Indycar website, and listened to the online commentary. Regular updates on Twitter with really short video of any special “happenings” helped to put pictures to the events. Definitely a new way of following sport for me, but I would gladly have paid for a one-off event viewing, as with the Sky Day Pass, so think BT Sport missed a trick.

  2. As a viewer with Sky, but no BT broadband or BT Sport channels, I contacted BT to find out if a pay per view offering was going to be available, but was told that the only option was to sign up for a 1 month subscription via my Sky box at £23 with a so called “connection fee” of £35 (rip off, they just need to type the sky viewing card number into the computer and press a button to switch it on!), totalling £58 as the minimum price to watch the race legitimately. I would easily have paid BT £10 just to watch the race in HD on pay per view, or maybe even the £23 for a 1 month subscription, but in the end £58 was too much and I resorted to the “other means” that you mentioned to view a dodgy live stream of the race.

    C4 should have done a one off deal for Indy to keep the F1 viewers tuned in after Monaco GP finished!

  3. I can only echo the above – £58 to watch with BT legally was just far too much for a race that I don’t truly care about. Frankly, it would be too much for a race I did truly care about, considering it’s literally double the price an Indianapolis local would pay to go and actually attend the track…

    So I didn’t watch the race legally (although of course I’d never watch illegally. Honest, your honour). But needless to say that a vaguely sensible broadcaster could have made probably £10-20 off me, but instead nobody made anything.

  4. As I said before the race, UK FTA broadcasters missed a trick there. They knew for ages that Alonso was going to be in the Indy 500. Good point made by PhilR, Ch 4 really missed a trick there and should have aired it live, especially as they are the official terrestrial broadcaster of F1 in the UK! I genuinely believe Alonso will be pumped for it next year, and we should all lobby the CEO of IndyCar and the UK FTA broadcasters to show it as a one-off. Considering the viewing figures this year, I think it’ll be a good investment as a one-off. Do people agree?

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