F1 jumps to highest peak audience in nearly three years; beats The X Factor head-to-head

Kimi Raikkonen was the man with the X Factor in Austin on Sunday evening, helping Formula 1 climb to its highest peak audience in nearly three years, overnight UK viewing figures show.

Race
As in Japan two weeks ago, live coverage of the race aired across Channel 4 and three of Sky’s outlets. A slight difference year-on-year is that the race started an hour earlier compared with 2017, but this does not make a material difference to audience figures.

Channel 4’s broadcast, encompassing the build-up segment and the race itself, averaged 2.55m (11.9%) from 18:00 to 21:15, a decrease of 8.4 percent on their average audience last year of 2.78m (12.8%) across a time slot of the same length.

Last year, Sky’s coverage aired on the dedicated F1 channel and Sky Sports Main Event, whereas this year Sky 1 also joined the party, boosting their total audience. An audience of 915k (4.2%) watched their output from 18:00 to 21:30, an increase of 184,000 viewers on last year’s Sky audience of 730k (3.5%).

The F1 channel averaged 533k (2.5%), with Main Event and Sky 1 adding 266k (1.2%) and 154k (0.7%) respectively. Main Event’s broadcast was shorter in length, joining the other two channels at 18:30, hence why the Sky total audience is slightly different compared to the three numbers added together.

The audience breakdown tells a fascinating story about F1’s demographics, as the Grand Prix faced multiple top-hitters on Sunday evening. The race itself started with 4.79m (22.0%) at 19:15, reaching 4.96m (22.4%) fifteen minutes later.

However, BBC One’s Strictly Come Dancing sliced nearly 700,000 viewers off Formula 1’s audience from 19:45 onwards, with the race dropping to a low of 4.25m (17.8%) at 20:10. The Grand Prix then gained 706,000 viewers in one five-minute segment as the dancing competition finished, jumping to 5.20m (23.6%) at 20:30.

Despite denting both Strictly and Doctor Who, Formula 1 was some way behind both shows. However, the Grand Prix did defeat ITV’s The X Factor head-to-head, averaging 4.62m (20.3%) in the 20:00 hour, whilst the singing competition averaged 4.02m (17.6%).

The race peaked with 5.54m (25.6%) at 20:40 as Raikkonen claimed victory for the first time since Australia 2013, denying Lewis Hamilton his fifth championship for the moment. At the time of the peak, 4.14m (19.1%) were watching Channel 4’s broadcast, a record high F1 peak for them, with 1.40m (6.4%) watching Sky’s three channels, a split of 75:25 in Channel 4’s favour.

Sky’s peak audience is their highest ever peak for races that they have shared with a free-to-air broadcaster, a remarkable statistic. Whether you are completely comparing apples with apples is up for debate, given that they have had to air the race across three of their outlets to achieve that, but it is an interesting stat nevertheless.

The combined average audience of 3.46 million viewers is the highest of 2018 so far, but marginally down on last year’s average audience of 3.51 million viewers.

The reason for this is that, a portion of the race aired against Strictly, and the race had a lower audience following the chequered flag than last year (no post-race shenanigans this time around), meaning that the average audience suffered.

However, the combined peak audience of 5.54 million viewers is considerably higher than last year’s peak audience of 5.19 million viewers, and the highest peak audience for a Grand Prix in nearly three years. The last race to record a peak of more than 5.5 million viewers was the 2015 Brazilian Grand Prix, which peaked with around 5.7 million viewers.

Qualifying
Channel 4’s extended build-up to qualifying performed solidly on Saturday evening, overnight audience figures show. Their live coverage, which aired from 20:25 to 23:30 averaged 1.35m (8.5%), an increase on last year’s figure of 1.18m (7.0%) across a shorter time slot.

Meanwhile, an audience of 396k (2.8%) watched Sky’s coverage across the F1 channel, Main Event and Sky 1 from 21:00 to 23:30, an increase on last year’s total of 315k (1.9%). 250k (1.7%) watched via the F1 channel, with 76k (0.6%) and 70k (0.5%) watching via Main Event and Sky 1 respectively.

Impressively, apart from the first five-minute segment, Channel 4’s build-up to qualifying remained steady, keeping north of one million viewers. The combined audience of 1.74 million viewers is the highest for USA since 2015 and the second highest of 2018 so far.

The qualifying broadcast peaked with 2.40m (18.7%) at 22:55 as the session ended, the highest for USA since 2012.

At the time of the peak, 1.67m (13.1%) were watching Channel 4, with a further 724k (5.7%) watching Sky’s broadcast. Channel 4’s show peaked earlier in the hour, with 1.76m (10.9%) at 22:15, likely because Match of the Day started on BBC One at 22:30.

This weekend, Formula 1 heads to Mexico, and with free-to-air highlights not airing until 23:00, expect the cumulative audience figures to be significantly lower as a result.

The 2017 United States Grand Prix ratings report can be found here.

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Scheduling: The 2018 Mexican Grand Prix

From Austin, the Formula 1 paddock heads south to Mexico City for round 19 of the 2018 Formula One season. Austin turned out to not be the weekend that Lewis Hamilton claimed his fifth Drivers’ Championship, the race continuing onto Mexico, with the stakes for him almost identical compared to 2017.

Sky are running a slightly longer show on Sunday, with Paddock Live extended until 22:30, possibly to cover any title celebrations that may emerge following the Grand Prix.

The bad news for fans without access to Sky Sports F1 is that Channel 4’s race day highlights slot is extremely late on the Sunday evening, their broadcast not starting until 23:00 due to the conditions stipulated in their contract.

In the unlikely event that the race goes up to the two-hour time limit, the race would not finish until 21:10, meaning that the earliest the Channel 4 highlights edit can begin is 23:10. In this situation, the programme is unlikely to begin at 22:30 without a long build-up, whereas last year it was possible with the edit starting bang on 23:00.

Elsewhere, with the premier class title already wrapped up, MotoGP heads down under to Australia as Philip Island plays host to the second part of their triple-header flyaway leg.

NOTE: Clocks go back one hour on Sunday 28th October, with the change from British Summer Time to Greenwich Mean Time. The times listed are for BST on Saturday and before; GMT for Sunday and afterwards…

Channel 4 F1
Sessions
27/10 – 22:00 to 23:35 – Qualifying Highlights
28/10 – 23:00 to 01:15 – Race Highlights

Sky Sports F1
Sessions
26/10 – 15:45 to 17:50 – Practice 1 (also Sky Sports Main Event)
26/10 – 19:45 to 21:50 – Practice 2
27/10 – 15:45 to 17:15 – Practice 3
27/10 – 18:00 to 20:30 – Qualifying
=> 18:00 – Pre-Show
=> 18:55 – Qualifying
28/10 – 17:30 to 22:30 – Race
=> 17:30 – Pit Lane Live
=> 18:30 – On the Grid (also Sky Sports Main Event)
=> 19:05 – Race (also Sky Sports Main Event)
=> 21:30 – Paddock Live

Supplementary Programming
25/10 – 17:00 to 17:30 – Driver Press Conference
25/10 – 22:00 to 22:30 – Welcome to the Weekend
27/10 – 20:30 to 21:00 – The F1 Show
31/10 – 19:00 to 21:00 – F1 eSports Pro Series

BBC Radio F1
25/10 – 21:30 to 22:00 – Preview (BBC Radio 5 Live)
26/10 – 15:55 to 17:35 – Practice 1 (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
26/10 – 19:55 to 21:35 – Practice 2 (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
27/10 – 15:55 to 17:05 – Practice 3 (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
27/10 – 18:55 to 20:05 – Qualifying (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
28/10 – 18:30 to 21:00 – Race (BBC Radio 5 Live)

MotoGP – Australia (BT Sport 2)
26/10 – 23:45 (Thursday night) to 07:15 – Practice 1 and 2
27/10 – 00:00 to 07:15
=> 00:00 – Practice 3
=> 03:00 – Qualifying
28/10 – 00:30 (BST) to 07:15 (GMT)
=> 00:30 (BST) – Warm Ups
=> 02:15 (BST) – Moto3
=> 03:00 (GMT) – Moto2
=> 04:30 (GMT) – MotoGP

MotoGP – Australia (Channel 5)
30/10 – 19:00 to 20:00 – Highlights

Porsche Supercup – Mexico
27/10 – Race 1
=> 20:45 to 21:45 (Eurosport 2)
=> 21:00 to 21:40 (Sky Sports F1)
28/10 – Race 2
=> 16:00 to 17:00 (Sky Sports F1)
=> 16:00 to 17:00 (Eurosport 2)

World Rally Championship – Spain
Every stage live via WRCPlus.com
26/10 – 11:00 to 12:00 – Stage 1 (BT Sport 2)
26/10 – 22:00 to 22:30 – Day 1 Highlights (BT Sport 1)
27/10 – 09:00 to 10:00 – Stage 10 (BT Sport 1)
27/10 – 14:00 to 15:00 – Stage 13 (BT Sport/ESPN)
27/10 – 22:30 to 23:00 – Day 2 Highlights (BT Sport 1)
28/10 – 07:30 to 08:30 – Stage 16 (BT Sport 1)
28/10 – 11:00 to 12:30 – Stage 19 [Power Stage] (BT Sport 1)
28/10 – 22:30 to 23:00 – Day 3 Highlights (BT Sport 1)
31/10 – 19:00 to 20:00 – Event Highlights (Channel 5)

World Superbikes – Qatar
26/10 – 14:00 to 18:15 – Qualifying and Race 1 (Eurosport 2)
27/10 – 15:00 to 18:30 – Support and Race 2 (Eurosport 2)
01/11 – 20:00 to 21:00 – Highlights (ITV4)

World Touring Car Cup – Japan (Eurosport)
27/10 – 05:45 to 07:05 – Race 1
28/10 – 01:00 to 04:15
=> 01:00 – Qualifying
=> 01:45 – Race 2
=> 03:00 – Race 3

The schedule above will be updated if anything changes.

How All Live is changing the face of rallying: foundations

Whilst many motor racing publications tend to focus on Formula 1 or MotoGP’s broadcasting exploits, elsewhere in the motor sport spectrum, a quiet revolution has been taking place that deserves far more attention than what it has received.

To discover more, this writer took a trip up to Deeside to see what the fuss was about for a three-part series…

Unless you know your geography very well, Deeside probably does not register on the Richter scale. But, for one week each year, the world of rallying descends onto Deeside’s Industrial Estate, as it plays host to the service park for the Wales Rally GB. This year, the event signals round 11 of the 2018 World Rally Championship.

So why rallying, and why now? In January, organisers of the championship announced that they would be launching a new over-the-top platform, airing every stage of every rally live via said platform. It is easy to see why such a move could be a revolution for a sport that usually aired as highlights in a late evening time slot.

2018 is not the first time WRC’s promoter has attempted to broadcast every stage live to fans. Back in 2011, then promoter North One Sport experimented with an ‘all live’ approach, but the experiment lasted just one season.

Now with the commercial rights in the hands of WRC Promoter GmbH (a collaboration between Red Bull Media House and sportradar), 2018 marks take two at trying to transform rallying.

“We did have a little go at it in 2011, but the resources and technology were not ready for ‘it’,” Kevin Piper tells me. Piper is currently Editor in Chief for WRC’s television output, and has worked on the championship for the past decade. “Everything has come together now; the promoter has taken a calculated gamble and hopefully it is paying off.”

Marko Viitanen, who is WRC’s television director, was involved in the 2011 test and could see the potential from the outset. “At that point I kind of knew as a director ‘this is the way’ to do rallying live, but it took some time. I must say that the promoter today had a really good vision.”

Up until 2018, rally fans had access to selected stages live, along with the traditional 26- and 52- minute highlight programmes. Arguably, in a 21st century media age where fans are viewing live sport on a variety of devices, rallying was some way behind the curve.

2018 Wales Rally GB - Service Park.jpg
M-Sport Ford mechanics repair Sebastien Ogier’s car following the first stages on Friday morning during the Wales Rally GB.

In his previous role, Piper worked on the 52-minute highlights package, a task that became trickier as time progressed. “Sport is best delivered live, whatever the sport, especially in this day and age when the technology is there to enable you to do that,” Piper says.

“Everyone knew what had happened already, so we always had that battle of ‘what should the editorial slant be’ on the highlights, when it’s going out a few days after the event had finished.”

“We were forever reinventing that programme, to not lose too much of the credibility and respect for the sport and the fact that there was an event at a world championship level that had happened, but this holy grail of trying to appeal to a wider audience, that proves to be really difficult.”

Monte Miracle
After a successful internal test in Portugal last year, series organisers ploughed ahead with the new product, dubbed ‘All Live‘ ready for launch in 2018, starting with the traditional curtain raiser, the Monte Carlo rally. At just £7.97 per month, the pricing is a steal for hardcore and casual rallying fans alike.

The first stages from Monte Carlo take place on a Thursday night, up in the mountains at the service park in Gap in less than ideal conditions. Series bosses wanted to launch All Live on the Thursday night, which they followed through successfully on, but Piper expressed some early reservations.

“I would think very carefully about Thursday nights in Monte Carlo, which will probably go down as one of the most testing, challenging productions I’ve been involved with ever. We knew that Thursday night, up there among the mountains, would be challenging to say the least, hell, it’s a big enough challenge as it is when the landscape is on your side!”

“But that night, to launch this All Live product, I said ‘don’t do it.’ Play safe, launch on Friday morning, okay you’ve still got the terrain to contend with, but the conditions will be a lot more user friendly,” Piper says. “The decision was taken and, to be fair from a logical point of view, we’ve called it All Live therefore it has to do what it says on the tin and cover all the stages.”

“People were understandably frustrated and criticised us on the night as there were technical problems, but they could have also quite rightly criticised us for not living up to the billing and not being on the start-line on Thursday night.”

“Producing a rally across four days is a major logistical and technical challenge that is difficult to put into words, on a much larger geographical scale than many other motor racing events. Bearing that in mind, the idea of a ‘All Live’ offering is beyond anything that has happened before.” – reviewing All Live post Monte Carlo

Viitanen was under no illusions about the challenges that lay ahead. “People in our crew come from circuit racing, and they’re stunned about the fact how difficult rallying is. Rallying, All Live, is probably the most difficult production from a technical perspective. The tech setup spreads wide.”

“You can imagine Monte Carlo, the distance between Gap and the last stage is 170km in birds eye view, and then you have obstacles like mountains to contend with.”

Nevertheless, Viitanen was extremely happy with the work that his team put in that weekend under testing circumstances. “To be that good in Monte, we were not even close to perfect there, we did pull out a miracle,” he tells me.

Beyond the stage
Whilst the main attraction of All Live is having every stage live, the cherry on top of the cake comes in the form of action between the stages, as All Live gives fans access to the rally from dusk to dawn.

Helped by a dynamic on-air team, All Live features studio interviews from stars past and present, including the rich and famous. Nicky Grist (formerly Colin McRae’s co-driver), Sami Hyypia (football manager and player) and Gary Mitchell (led the team involved in the Thailand cave rescue) were some of the names to pop by the studio for a chat during the Wales weekend.

Grist also joined All Live’s lead commentator Becs Williams in the commentary box on Friday morning in Wales to chat through the action.

2018 Wales Rally GB - production truck
Inside the World Rally Championship production truck at their Deeside base during the Wales Rally GB, with Kevin Piper and Marko Viitanen (centre left and centre right respectively) in full flow.

Elsewhere, the platform focuses on the service park part of the rally, with roving reporters on stand-by, which has for many been one of the revelations this season. “For me, and I knew this right from the word go, what really brings a lot of added value to All Live is the insight you get from when the cars are not running, when they are in service, when there is a roadside repair,” says Piper.

Speaking to me on the Friday in Wales, Piper continued “Today was a great example in the service park, a battle against the clock to get a full gearbox change done on [Sebastien] Ogier’s car. You could have logged in, wherever you are in the world, just as that started, I defy anybody to turn that off.”

Piper hopes that, by exposing previously unseen parts of rallying via All Live, rallying can attract a new demographic of fans moving forward. “There are so many facets to this sport, different terrain, different drivers, different characters, different elements on any one given day.”

“I love my football and I love my Formula 1, but you kind of know what you’re going to get with that. Here, from one hour to the next, the storylines and characters can change, different drivers enjoying different fortunes, car rebuilds,” Piper added.

“I’ve always thought of All Live as not only for the core fans but it’s actually for the younger generation, bringing the sport to the people and WRC to their mobile devices,” Viitanen adds. “€89.99 for the whole year, it is a treat for that price. I’m really happy with the way that people have taken to the product. I was talking to some of the drivers the other day, and I think this is the best thing media wise that has happened since TV came to WRC. This has great potential.”

WRC officials tell me that they are “very happy” with the take-up of All Live worldwide, outperforming expectations in a variety of territories, which bodes well for the future of the product, as they look to evolve All Live heading into 2019.

For Viitanen, 2018 is a mix of the old and the new. “This first year is a hybrid one for us, every event is a learning curve. We’ve brought in a lot of new developments during the year, both technically and on the content front,” comments Viitanen, who is also the managing director of production company NEP Finland.

“We’ve come a hell of a long way since Monte,” Piper adds. “What the technology guys here have done is quite extraordinary, and no one at home ever sees that. We never stop learning and reinventing the wheel.”

Saturday in Turkey
Roaming around the service park in Deeside, three words cropped up repeatedly: Saturday in Turkey. Labelled as one of the most dramatic rallying days in years, title contenders Thierry Neuville and Sebastien Ogier retired from the Turkish rally, with difficulties also for Andreas Mikkelsen and Craig Breen, decimating the running order.

Toyota Yaris driver Ott Tanak took full advantage of the problems that befell the others, heading to the top of the leader board. All of that in the space of a few hours. And, for the first time, broadcast live for rally fans to watch as it unfolded in front of their very eyes, showing the capability that All Live brings to the table. No longer did rally fans have to wait until the evening highlights package to witness the action.

“If you enjoy motor sport, I defy anybody to tune into All Live for five or ten minutes and not think ‘wow, this is great, I’m part of the journey, I’m in there now!'” Piper tells me. “And that’s just the actual stages.”

Although All Live is a live product, the benefits of it stretches far beyond All Live and into the highlights output. “When I worked on the ITV’s F1 coverage, the highlights basically cut themselves, there were no surprises,” says Piper.

“Whereas here, before All Live, because of the incredible footprint of WRC, if a car had gone off 100km from here, it’s not until we get it back and see the on-board, you realise ‘jeez, what happened there!’ That then becomes an important part of that day’s highlights. Now we see pretty much all of it and more.”

For the team working on the 26- and 52- minute highlights programming, the difference between 2017 and 2018 is night and day. James Parnis is the producer for the 52-minute highlights programme.

“Right now, as we sit here, we’re watching it all unfold!” says Parnis, talking to me during the Wales Rally GB weekend. “We know the shots already that we want to use, and we’re able to keep across the story much better than before.”

“In Turkey, when Neuville had his incident and limped into service, we had live shots of him standing there watching Ogier’s roadside problems! In terms of how All Live and the highlights work, they work very much in tandem.”

Inevitably there is a resourcing challenge with All Live – a similar budget and level of expertise compared to previous years, but a much bigger operation, meaning that everyone both on and off-air has had to rise to the challenge presented.

“It is more challenging with the long hours,” Viitanen says. “It feels like work when you’ve sat there 25 hours in front of the screen, but on the other hand, it’s fascinating. You’re telling the story for the whole weekend, and in the end, TV is about telling stories to millions of fans worldwide.”

Coming up in part two, we take a deep-dive into the World Rally Championship production area, looking at the effort that goes into the planning phase, including the pre-event recce.

Scheduling: The 2018 United States Grand Prix / Japanese MotoGP

“And Lewis Hamilton is a five-time Formula 1 champion!”

Well, nearly. Just 56 laps on Sunday stand in the way between him and potentially his fifth Formula 1 championship. The United States Grand Prix airs live across Channel 4 and Sky Sports F1, with Sky One and Sky Sports Main Event also getting involved in the fun.

If Hamilton wraps up the championship in America, it will almost certainly be the final time the F1 championship is finalised live on free-to-air television, until at least 2025 because of the new deal that comes into effect from 2019 onwards.

There are several points of note for Channel 4’s coverage this weekend. As in previous years where they have aired an American round live, Friday practice airs on More 4. In a decision from the sensible scheduling department, motor racing film Rush, which focuses on the rivalry between James Hunt and Niki Lauda airs following practice two on More 4.

Channel 4 is also transitioning from practice three on Saturday straight into their live qualifying show, with a 90-minute build-up currently scheduled. I should note that provisional schedules suggested that a Lewis Hamilton special would air from 20:30 to 21:00, but that has not materialised in the final schedule cut.

On the personnel front, Tom Clarkson is Lee McKenzie’s super-sub for this round, whilst Martin Brundle returns to the Sky Sports F1 commentary box after a two-race absence.

Over in Japan, Marc Marquez has the chance to become MotoGP champion for the third year in succession, with all the action airing exclusively live on BT Sport 2.

Channel 4 F1
Sessions
19/10 – 15:55 to 17:35 – Practice 1 (More4)
19/10 – 19:55 to 21:35 – Practice 2 (More4)
20/10 – 18:55 to 23:35
=> 18:55 – Practice 3
=> 20:30 – Qualifying
21/10 – 18:00 to 22:15 – Race
=> 18:00 – Build-Up
=> 18:40 – Race
=> 21:15 – Reaction

Supplementary Programming
19/10 – 21:35 to 00:00 – FILM: Rush (More4)

Sky Sports F1
Sessions
19/10 – 15:45 to 17:50 – Practice 1
19/10 – 19:45 to 21:50 – Practice 2
20/10 – 18:45 to 20:15 – Practice 3
20/10 – 21:00 to 23:30 – Qualifying (also Sky One and Sky Sports Main Event)
=> 21:00 – Pre-Show
=> 21:55 – Qualifying
21/10 – 17:30 to 22:10 – Race
=> 17:30 – Pit Lane Live (also Sky One)
=> 18:30 – On the Grid (also Sky One and Sky Sports Main Event)
=> 19:05 – Race (also Sky One and Sky Sports Main Event)
=> 21:30 – Paddock Live

Supplementary Programming
18/10 – 17:00 to 17:30 – Driver Press Conference
18/10 – 23:00 to 23:30 – Welcome to the Weekend (also Sky Sports Main Event)
20/10 – 23:30 to 00:00 – The F1 Show (also Sky One and Sky Sports Main Event)

BBC Radio F1
18/10 – 21:00 to 22:00 – Preview (BBC Radio 5 Live)
19/10 – 15:55 to 17:35 – Practice 1 (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
20/10 – 21:55 to 23:05 – Qualifying (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
21/10 – 19:00 to 21:00 – Race (BBC Radio 5 Live)

MotoGP – Japan (BT Sport 2)
19/10 – 00:45 to 08:15 – Practice 1 and 2
20/10 – 01:00 to 08:15
=> 01:00 – Practice 3
=> 04:00 – Qualifying
21/10 – 00:30 to 07:15
=> 00:30 – Warm Ups
=> 02:15 – Moto3
=> 04:00 – Moto2
=> 05:30 – MotoGP

MotoGP – Japan (Channel 5)
22/10 – 19:00 to 20:00 – Highlights

Asia Talent Cup – Motegi (BT Sport 2)
19/10 – 08:15 to 09:15 – Race 1
20/10 – 08:15 to 09:15 – Race 2

Euroformula – Barcelona
20/10 – 13:30 to 14:30 – Race 1 (BT Sport X2)
21/10 – 12:00 to 13:00 – Race 2 (BT Sport/ESPN)

Formula Renault Eurocup – Barcelona
20/10 – 11:30 to 12:45 – Race 1 (BT Sport 3)
21/10 – 15:45 to 17:00 – Race 2 (BT Sport X2)

International GT Open – Barcelona (BT Sport X2)
20/10 – 14:30 to 16:00 – Race 1
21/10 – 13:00 to 14:30 – Race 2

The schedule above will be updated if anything changes.

Hamilton’s Suzuka dominance peaks with three million viewers

A peak audience of three million viewers watched Lewis Hamilton continue his Formula 1 winning streak during last weekend’s Japanese Grand Prix, overnight viewing figures show.

As referenced in previous articles, overnight audience figures are known as ‘live and VOSDAL (video on same day as live)’, meaning that the figures account for anyone who watched the race before 02:00 the next morning. Figures exclude those who watched via on demand platforms such as All 4 and Sky Go.

Race
Channel 4’s live airing of the race from 05:00 to 08:35, covering the build-up and the race itself, averaged 617k (21.8%), peaking with 1.13m (26.2%). This is the first time Channel 4 have aired Japan live, meaning that the comparison is with BBC One’s coverage in 2015. Their average audience decreased by 33.3 percent, with the peak audience by 26.8 percent.

Of note, Channel 4’s build-up to the race struggled badly relatively speaking, averaging 163k (13.1%) from 05:00 to 06:00, compared with 432k (41.7%) for the equivalent BBC One slot in 2015, a consequence of Channel 4 opting to split their race day programme into three sections, which is larger than usual here.

Live coverage also aired across three of Sky’s outlets to a combined weighted audience of 412k (14.4%), an increase of nearly 150,000 viewers compared with their 2015 average across two channels of 276k (10.9%). Sky’s coverage peaked with 725k (15.9%) at 07:40 across Sky Sports F1, Main Event and Sky 1.

The dedicated F1 channel brought in 337k (12.0%) from 05:00 to 08:30, with Main Event adding a further 81k (2.5%), joining Sky Sports F1 on-air from 06:05. An audience of 21k (0.8%) watched Sky 1’s simulcast from 05:30 to 08:30.

A combined peak audience of 1.84m (40.4%) watched Channel 4 and Sky’s live airings as Hamilton won the Grand Prix, this figure including those that watched the live broadcast later in the day. At the time of the split, the audience was split 61:39 in Channel 4’s favour. In comparison, the live airing in 2015 across BBC and Sky peaked with 2.00m (48.8%), a decrease of 9.1 percent.

In an early afternoon time slot, 874k (10.7%) watched Channel 4’s highlights programme from 12:30 to 15:15, a decrease of 39.5 percent on the BBC’s highlights programme from 2015. Channel 4’s show peaked with 1.17m (13.4%) at 14:40.

Whilst Channel 4’s figures are not great compared to previous Japanese races, compared to their own slot averages, the live F1 broadcasts will have brought in four or five times their usual breakfast audience, so one may consider the figures a success based on those metrics.

The combined average audience of 1.90 million viewers is the lowest for Japan on record, and considerably down on last year’s average audience of 2.42 million viewers, and back in-line with 2016’s average of 1.97 million viewers. It is the lowest average audience since France, which averaged 1.60 million viewers.

Across both live and highlights, the Suzuka round peaked with 3.01 million viewers, a decrease on last year’s figure of 3.28 million viewers, but a comfortable increase on the 2016 peak audience of 2.79 million viewers, when the race aired exclusively live on Sky Sports.

Qualifying
Like the race, coverage of qualifying aired live across Channel 4 and three of Sky’s television outlets.

Channel 4’s live broadcast of qualifying averaged 439k (16.9%) from 06:00 to 08:35, with Sky’s coverage averaging 237k (8.6%) across a slightly shorter time slot. 199k (7.2%) watched their programme on Sky Sports F1, whilst both the Main Event and Sky One simulcasts averaged an identical 19k (0.7%).

Across both channels, a peak audience of 1.25m (25.8%) watched the live qualifying broadcast, the audience split 844k (17.5%) versus 403k (8.3%) in Channel 4’s favour as Hamilton grabbed pole.

Later in the morning, highlights on Channel 4 brought in 442k (7.0%) from 10:30 to 12:35, peaking with 655k (10.0%) at 11:55.

Compared to previous years, qualifying struggled, with a combined average audience of 1.12 million viewers, the lowest average for Japan in 2007. The combined peak audience of 1.90 million is down on last year’s peak figure, but an increase on the 2016 peak audience of 1.84 million viewers.

The 2017 Japanese Grand Prix ratings report can be found here.

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