Sebastian Vettel’s victory in the Bahrain Grand Prix peaked with nearly 4.5 million viewers, the highest peak figure for the Bahrain round of the championship in three years, overnight viewing figures show.
Live coverage the weekend’s action aired across Channel 4 and Sky Sports. Channel 4’s broadcast, encompassing the build-up and the race itself from 15:00 to 18:10, averaged 2.37m (18.9%), a slight increase on last year’s figure of 2.23m (15.2%). For the purposes of the combined average below, the Channel 4 figure used will be the figure above, the same methodology as last year.
Channel 4’s average audience has changed very little over the past three years for Bahrain. Using the 15:00 to 18:30 time slot as the metric, we can see that the 210-minute slot averaged 2.30m (16.2%) in 2016, compared with 2.21m (15.0%) in 2017, and now 2.25m (16.0%) in 2018, a remarkably stable trajectory with very little to separate the three years.
Meanwhile, Sky Sports F1’s coverage from 15:00 to 18:30 averaged 524k (3.7%), a decrease on last year’s audience figure of 597k (4.1%). The average audience is Sky’s lowest for Bahrain since they started covering the sport in 2012.
The combined average audience of 2.89 million viewers is marginally up on both 2016 and 2017, by 50,000 viewers and 70,000 viewers respectively. The margins here are incredibly tight, although the gap may widen once you consider other methods of viewing, such as All 4, Sky Go and Now TV.
It is important to note that the Premier League opposition for the F1 was tougher last year (Chelsea versus Manchester United) compared with this year (Chelsea versus West Ham United), which will have affected audience figures.
An audience of 3.79m (28.2%) watched lights out at 16:15, slightly lower than 2016 and 2017, settling around the 3.9 million mark, once the Premier League game started from 16:30 onwards. As Chelsea gained the lead in the football, viewing figures jumped for the Grand Prix on both channels to a combined figure of 4.23m (28.4%) at 17:10.
The audience jump coincided with the pit lane incident involving Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen, which, combined with the on-track battle between Vettel and Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas, helped figures remain above four million until the chequered flag.
A peak audience of 4.45m (27.2%) watched Sebastian Vettel win the Grand Prix at 17:40. At the time of the peak, 3.62m (22.1%) were watching Channel 4’s output, with a further 830k (5.1%) watching Sky’s coverage, a split of 81:19 in Channel 4’s favour.
Sky’s programme peaked earlier in the race at 16:25 with 884k (6.4%), this being the last five-minute segment before the second Premier League game of the day began on Sky Sports Main Event and their dedicated Premier League channel. Compared with 2017, Channel 4’s peak audience increased by 6.1 percent, whilst Sky’s peak dropped by 8.0 percent.
The combined peak audience of 4.45 million viewers is an increase of 111,000 viewers on last year’s peak figure of 4.34m (25.9%), and an increase of nearly half a million viewers on the 2016 peak of 4.01m (30.2%). However, audience figures remain a far cry from 2015 and before when F1 aired in some form on the BBC: 2015’s race peaked with 6.26m (36.3%).
Qualifying and Analysis
Live coverage of qualifying did not fare as well as the race, with viewing figures decreasing compared with 2016 and 2017. Live coverage of qualifying on Channel 4 from 15:00 to 17:45 averaged 1.08m (9.8%), down on last year’s average of 1.23m (12.7%).
Unusually, Channel 4 was third in its slot during qualifying, behind both BBC and ITV. At the same time, BBC were screening highlights of the Commonwealth Games along with Final Score, whilst ITV aired repeats of Tipping Point and The Chase.
Sky’s programming, simulcast across F1 and Mix, suffered the same fate as Channel 4, with an average of 273k (2.5%) comparing unfavourably with last year’s number of 349k (3.5%). Across the two channels, 246k (2.2%) watched via the F1 channel, and a further 27k (0.2%) watched via Mix.
The combined average of 1.36 million viewers is down 14 percent on last year’s average audience of 1.58 million viewers, the lowest average for Bahrain since 2007. The peak audience of 2.30m (18.5%) came at 17:05, a decrease of 9 percent compared with last year’s peak of 2.54m (22.6%)
Two races into the 2018 season, and overall, minus a few dips for qualifying, it is fair to say that Formula 1’s viewing figures year-on-year so far, are steady. It may be too early to state this as fact, but certainly the indications are that the Halo cockpit protection system has not had any significant bearing on the UK audience figures.
I am happy to hold my hands up and say ‘I was wrong’ where this was concerned given some of the predictions I made at the back-end of last year. Whilst the Halo is not the prettiest thing ever, I have become used to it quicker than I imagined, and it appears I am not alone in that regard.
The 2017 Bahrain Grand Prix ratings report can be found here.