Toyota’s first Le Mans victory, with Sebastien Buemi, Kazuki Nakajima and debutant Fernando Alonso at the helm, peaked with 343,000 viewers on Sunday afternoon in the UK, overnight viewing figures show.
Le Mans down on 2017, but solid against World Cup competition
2018 was always going to be a tough year for Le Mans thanks to reduced competition in the flagship LMP1 class, as well as the football World Cup competition getting underway, but the famous race fared solidly.
Live coverage of the race aired in its entirety on Eurosport, with three portions airing on free-to-air channel Quest TV. ITV4’s coverage, which was present last year, did not return for 2018 which should be factored into year-on-year comparisons. However, the level of coverage was like that provided in 2015 and 2016.
The audience figures in this piece exclude those who watched via the Eurosport Player, FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) App or via other online means.
Across all UK television outlets, the whole race averaged 84k (1.3%) from 13:45 on Saturday through to 14:15 on Sunday, which is in the same ballpark as previous years. The audience is lower than 2015 and 2017, when the race averaged 98k (1.5%) and 98k (1.7%) respectively. In both years there was no major football tournament to contend with.
Le Mans was up on the 2016 race average of 73k (0.9%), which should be considered a success, considering 2016 clashed with the Euro 2016 tournament (the weekend also clashed with Formula 1’s European Grand Prix).
Eurosport’s coverage averaged 53k (0.9%) from 13:45 on Saturday, a slight decrease on last year’s audience of 59k (1.0%). It is Eurosport’s worst average audience for the race since 2012, although the margins are tight between the different years. Their coverage peaked with 146k (2.4%) at 10:50 on Sunday, down around 20,000 viewers on the 2017 peak audience of 166k (2.5%).
Unlike in previous years, Eurosport’s coverage did not build its audience in the final few hours, slipping back under 100k at 12:05, and only jumping back above that mark at 13:20. At 13:50, 135k (1.5%) were watching Eurosport’s coverage.
Three separate shows aired on Quest TV. The start of the race averaged 62k (0.7%) from 13:30 to 15:00, down on last year’s audience of 89k (1.6%). Saturday’s evening update at 22:00 averaged 102k (0.8%), an increase of 4,000 viewers on last year’s figure of 98k (0.7%).
The highlight for Quest was Sunday’s live coverage, which averaged 130k (1.8%), peaking with 209k (2.3%) at 13:50, their highest Le Mans peak since 2015.
The combined peak audience of 343k (3.8%) came at 13:55 on Sunday, with the audience split 134k vs 202k in Quest’s favour. The peak audience is down 176,000 viewers year-on-year, some of that a result of ITV4 no longer airing coverage, some of it due to the World Cup.
Even-stevens between BTCC and Formula E
The weekend prior to Le Mans, as well as Formula 1’s excursion to Canada, there was British Touring Car Championship action from Oulton Park and Formula E racing from Zurich, both airing live on free-to-air television on Sunday 10th June.
The touring car action aired on ITV4 from 11:15 to 18:10, to an average audience of 219k (3.0%). Race 1 started at 12:20, averaging 221k (3.7%), with race 2 following on with an audience of 285k (4.0%) at 14:50.
An opening lap accident halted race 3, resulting in a 25-minute delay. 329k (3.2%) watched the delayed race from 17:30 to 17:55, with the peak audience of the day coming at 17:45 as 347k (3.4%) watched the closing laps.
Further up the channel order, Channel 5’s coverage of the Zurich E-Prix averaged 290k (3.0%) from 16:30 to 18:15. The race itself from 17:00 to 17:55 averaged 331k (3.4%), peaking with 396k (4.0%) at 17:25. Eurosport 2’s coverage of Formula E is unlikely to make a substantial difference to audience figures.
It is interesting to note that 70,000 viewers switched from Formula E to the BTCC as race 3 restarted, with ITV4 overtaking Channel 5 at this point. Channel 5 dropped from 396k (4.0%) to 304k (3.0%) between 17:25 and 17:40, whilst ITV4 increased from 275k (2.8%) to 338k (3.3%) in the same period.