Channel 4 and Sky confirm 2017 scheduling details

Channel 4 and Sky Sports have today confirmed their 2017 Formula One calendar picks. The picks are as follows:

2017 Schedule Details
March 27th – Australia (Melbourne) – Sky
April 9th – China (Shanghai) – Sky
April 16th – Bahrain (Sakhir) – Channel 4 and Sky
April 30th – Russia (Sochi) – Channel 4 and Sky
May 14th – Spain (Barcelona) – Sky
May 28th – Monaco (Monaco) – Channel 4 and Sky
June 11th – Canada (Montreal) – Sky
June 25th – Europe (Baku) – Channel 4 and Sky
July 9th – Austria (Red Bull Ring) – Sky
July 16th – Britain (Silverstone) – Channel 4 and Sky
July 30th – Hungary (Budapest) – Sky
August 27th – Belgium (Spa) – Channel 4 and Sky
September 3rd – Italy (Monza) – Sky
September 17th – Singapore (Marina Bay) – Channel 4 and Sky
October 1st – Malaysia (Sepang) – Channel 4 and Sky
October 8th – Japan (Suzuka) – Sky
October 22nd – USA (Circuit of the Americas) – Channel 4 and Sky
October 29th – Mexico (Mexico City) – Sky
November 12th – Brazil (Interlagos) – Sky
November 26th – Abu Dhabi (Yas Marina) – Channel 4 and Sky 

Other than the picks themselves, the main piece of news to come out of the press releases is that Channel 4’s live races will continue to air uninterrupted from lights out to chequered flag, which is great news for fans. Neither press release mentions personnel details, I would expect any changes to be announced closer to the start of the season.

Sky’s press release is the usual format, the corporation touting heavily the launch of Formula 1 in ultra high-definition. The press release also mentions some of their usual supplementary programming such as GP2, GP3 and The F1 Report (which has essentially now replaced The F1 Show).

Channel 4’s Head of F1 Stephen Lyle said: “Following a thrilling first year covering Formula One, we’re delighted to reveal our schedule for the 2017 season. Once again our team will bring extensive coverage of every race with The Monaco Grand Prix, Great Britain and the finale in Abu Dhabi among our ten Live race weekends. It’s a particular delight to welcome Monaco back to terrestrial television Live, for the first time in five years.”

Sky’s Head of F1 Martin Turner said: “With UHD it’s Formula 1 like you’ve never seen it before. It will be the hardest, fastest, loudest season in years with new rules, new cars, new engines and new, massive tyres. From the opening Grand Prix of the year to the season’s home-stretch, Sky Sports F1 remains the definitive place for fans to see every twist and turn of the season.”

Compared to my predictions post, I managed to get 12 out of the 20 picks correct, which is not bad, a bit less than last year mind! My prediction was that Channel 4 would pick Canada after Britain and Abu Dhabi. Instead, it looks like that either USA or Monaco as their third pick, with the other being their fourth pick. The picks are a big change compared to the past few years. It is the first time Monaco has been live on free-to-air television since 2012, and the first for Singapore since 2013. It’s also the first time the US Grand Prix is airing live on free-to-air television since it returned to the calendar, which is really good news in my view.

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Looking ahead to 2017

I can’t promise that 2017 in the motor racing broadcasting world will be as interesting as 2016 has been now that the dust has settled on the next round of Formula 1’s television rights in the United Kingdom. However, there is still enough to intrigue as 2017 kicks into life.

The yearly Channel 4 and Sky television picks for the upcoming season should be revealed in the first half of January, as we find out which races Channel 4 will be screening live and which ones they will be airing in highlights form. Alongside that, there is also the question of whether we will see any changes to either team. This is a bigger question than most years given that three high-profile drivers retired at the end of 2016. Will Jenson Button, Nico Rosberg or Felipe Massa be lured towards either Channel 4, Sky or the BBC’s radio coverage?

2017 will see Formula 1 air in ultra HD for the first time. In many parts of the world, standard high-definition (HD) is still not the norm and I still watch Formula 1’s races on Sky Sports in standard definition (SD). So, whether Formula 1 is aired in ultra HD or not, doesn’t make much difference to me. However, the ongoing technological advancements as Liberty Media come on-board should be closely followed.

We are expecting an upgraded Formula 1 app in 2017, with live on-board footage present for the first time. I expect this to be geo-blocked in the UK and elsewhere, but for those countries that can receive it (assuming plans come to fruition), this will be a great addition to the product. Elsewhere, we might hear news about BT Sport’s MotoGP rights deal which is due to expire at the end of 2018. All of the above, and the usual pieces of news, viewing figures and scheduling information (and who knows what more) coming up on this site in 2017.

Channel 4’s output: The 2016 Verdict

So, you have your permanent team of five on-air personnel consisting of one presenter, two commentators and two pit lane reporters to take you around the world with other people diving in and out at regular intervals.

But that is only half the story. The other half is to actually make good Formula 1 television. From the VT’s to the air-time, how well did Channel 4 and Whisper Films perform in this space during 2016?

Practice
For their live races, every practice session was aired in full live on Channel 4 or More4 with Lee McKenzie presenting alongside Karun Chandhok. Ben Edwards was lead commentator alongside either Chandhok or Tony Dodgins. The commentary was the usual story of informed discussion commenting on various news pieces along with analysis from pit lane. The style was identical to what the BBC provided, which makes sense given that the audience for practice is small. Trying to change it up to cater for another audience wouldn’t go down well (as Sky found out within 15 minutes of starting their coverage in 2012).

One change Channel 4 did make compared to their predecessors for their live European races was to extend their practice three show. Their Saturday morning schedules typically consisted of:

09:55 – F1: Practice 3 Live
11:25 – F1: Documentary Special
11:55 – F1: Qualifying

Not only is this a great example of how to schedule properly, but it also gave McKenzie and Chandhok some flexibility after Saturday practice had ended. We were treated to paddock walks after the session, which was nice to see (even if it did result in an on-air interview with Flavio Briatore at one point). Chandhok’s knowledge meant that he can easily ad-lib without any issues and quickly change from one conversation to another when new guests arrive in shot. I’m hopeful Channel 4 will use more of Chandhok in 2017, with this format continuing.

Special Programming
In 2016, Channel 4 aired several specials surrounding Formula 1. The first was with Guy Martin as he put the F1 car in a series of tests against his Tyco BMW Superbike. Alongside that, there have been three ‘F1 Conversation’ programmes. This is similar to Sky’s F1 Legends programming with one of Channel 4’s presenters interviewing the stars. During 2016, Murray Walker interviewed Jenson Button, David Coulthard met Christian Horner and Lee McKenzie spoke to Mark Webber. It was nice to see some supplementary material appear.

The programmes were enjoyable to watch with Channel 4 producing more content than Sky in this space, the latter airing no new episodes of F1 Legends this year. The thing also with Channel 4’s documentaries is that a lot of editing work clearly went into the package, containing contextual archive footage whereas Sky’s documentaries this year of a similar nature (most recently The Brabham Boys) were difficult to follow as there were no obvious breathing points.

What Channel 4 didn’t do, besides the Guy Martin special was promote Formula 1 in any of their other programming. There are fewer opportunities for Channel 4 admittedly compared to the BBC’s opportunities across TV, radio and online. Nevertheless, it was disappointing to see no more buildup than usual to the British Grand Prix, for example with an on-location Sunday Brunch.

I can give the benefit of the doubt to Channel 4 here because of how quickly things came together at the start of the year, but the channel, Whisper and North One Television need to work out a strategy for tapping into Channel 4’s core 16 to 34 demographic more. Motor racing and sport does not traditionally skew young, which is problematical for the channel.

Qualifying and Pre-Race
Anyone who was familiar with the BBC’s scheduling of Formula 1 in recent years will have been pleased when they saw Channel 4’s Bahrain Grand Prix schedule and beyond. Channel 4’s live qualifying shows in 2016 was usually around two and a half hours long, with their race broadcast around three and a half hours long. The exceptions were Mexico (three hours in length) and Abu Dhabi (four hours and 40 minutes long).

The main difference from the outset were commercial breaks. With Channel 4 choosing to broadcast the race advert free, it meant that the qualifying and race broadcasts were littered with adverts during the pre and post-session segments. Personally, I don’t think this resulted in a disjointed format, because Channel 4 utilised the breaks to their advantage. They did not play a long promo into or out of ad-breaks. They utilised their air time in the best way possible. Every minute counted.

Steve Jones fronted the qualifying and race broadcasts, and as noted previously he did a good job in his debut season covering the sport. The build-ups were mainly of high quality, although the quality did dip in the second half of the season. For me, there were no real memorable features. That doesn’t mean that I didn’t enjoy the programming, it just means that there was no immediate ‘wow’ factor.

In previous years, the BBC produced some amazing features (such as Lee McKenzie with the Verstappen’s last season), but I didn’t quite get that feeling with Channel 4 this season. The BBC encountered issues in their first season of Formula 1 where the best features were front loaded at the start of the season, resulting in some lower key broadcasts at the back-end of the year which Channel 4 also had this year.

Whilst Jones was the lead presenter, it didn’t mean that he anchored every segment in the show. Channel 4 used David Coulthard or Mark Webber to anchor some parts of the build-up as the team split off into two parts. Most of the team, Jones would be alongside Susie Wolff or Eddie Jordan in pit lane with Coulthard and Webber interviewing someone in the paddock. The format worked well, because it meant that everyone was used adequately during the build-up.

The graphics complimented the pre-race conversation perfectly with some nice supplementary infographics alongside the usual championship standings. I loved the overall vibe of the programming, and I felt the graphics reflected Channel 4’s target audience more than anything else: it wasn’t the usual ‘safe’ bumpers that you would come to expect from a sporting broadcast but instead something designed for the new media generation. The #TitleDeciders break bumpers used throughout the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix weekend were cleverly done, I felt.

Post-Race
Sometimes ten months of brilliant work can be undone with one mistake. Whilst Channel 4 had a great first season, the scheduling for the Mexican Grand Prix was a huge own goal. When the schedules for the Mexican Grand Prix came out, I was surprised to see that there was no overrun scheduled for More4. With Channel 4’s new drama Humans starting, it meant that Formula 1 had to get off the air quickly. As it turned out, the 2015 Mexican Grand Prix was a tepid affair, and Channel 4 presumably expected the same in 2016.

Unfortunately, the last lap and the post-race podium antics were some of the most dramatic in recent memory. What Channel 4 did was something that I would associate from ITV back in the mid 2000s, quickly coming off the air and not following it up with overtime on More4 or E4. Considering how much post-race reaction the channel have dedicated to other races, it was a frankly bizarre decision not to schedule extra post-race coverage on More4. This is the only blot on their copy book, it is a major blot for me given that Mexico did not end in any normal way.

The other races saw the best part of an hour’s worth of reaction and analysis on Channel 4, partly to compensate for no F1 Forum, as Channel 4 doesn’t have a Red Button service. Overall, I enjoyed Channel 4’s post-race offering this season, the channel making the best use of the voices available. Because the structure was different, there was no viewer interaction through the likes of Twitter, in the same way Sky has #AskCrofty. But I didn’t feel like I missed that either, it wasn’t something I was clamouring for. The format was relaxed and what I would expect out of a post-race broadcast.

The BBC’s early forum programmes were a sit down and chat affair, whereas Channel 4 this season walked around the paddock for the majority of their post-race coverage. I do think there needs to be some kind of differential between them and Sky because there is nothing immediately obvious that separates their offering from Sky’s post-race offering. Sky largely copied the BBC’s 2011 format and have stuck with it since. Given Channel 4’s target audience, I do wonder if a sit-down style post-race paddock show is worth experimenting with in 2017 for one or two races. You can only find so many people walking around, whilst sitting in the paddock allows you to soak in the atmosphere and review the key moments at the same time.

One element that does need to be captured more is the post-race pit lane celebrations – a staple of early BBC years but have disappeared in the past few seasons.

Highlights
Channel 4’s live races were broadcast advert free for the duration of the race. This wasn’t the case for the highlights programming, which was broadcast with adverts every ten to fifteen minutes. As a result, some races had an extended highlights programme. Australia’s highlights programme was two and a half hours long, which allowed for ample pre and post-race build-up. The other races had two-hour highlights, which is good, until you account for the adverts.

All of a sudden a two-hour highlights programme is 95 minutes long without adverts. With a 50 to 60 minute highlights edit, this leaves you with around 15 minutes of build-up and around 15 minutes of post-race reaction, if you’re lucky. A two-hour slot was perfect for the BBC’s programming. On Channel 4, I’m not so sure. The pre-race section is fine, and had a few good features throughout the season, such as Lee McKenzie’s interview at home with Felipe Massa during their Brazilian Grand Prix coverage.

But their post-race coverage for their highlights show left a lot to be desired. The tricky business of fitting in adverts within a certain time frame meant that the post-race segment I felt was often left neglected. Again with the BBC, this wasn’t a problem as you have more air time to play around with, but with Channel 4, this was an issue and meant that viewers were short-changed by not getting all the post-race interviews and analysis. The highlights shows suffer without a proper wrap-up. A further 20-minute analysis segment on the website would suffice (the BBC notably tried this in 2012, but only tried it once).

Overall, the message for Channel 4 in 2017 is simple: evolution, not revolution. There is a lot in 2016 that worked. Undoubtedly a lot of what they did in 2016 followed the BBC mould. It is in 2017 where we should really start to see Channel 4’s new ideas breathe further life into their programming as Formula 1 heads towards a new era.

Channel 4 F1 vs Sky Sports F1: Your 2016 Verdict Revealed

2016 saw a wave of change in the Formula 1 broadcasting world, with the BBC announcing its television exit at the end of 2015 and Channel 4 stepping into the fray. As usual, this site has had feedback on the coverage of both Channel 4 and Sky during 2016, and positives can be picked out from both sides.

The popular opinion amongst readers is that Channel 4’s Formula 1 coverage has started off brightly, with some wishing that Channel 4 and Whisper are able to continue covering Formula 1 in some form beyond 2018.

Channel 4’s coverage has been excellent, I would love them to continue after 2019. – Tom

Given the relatively short amount of time C4 had to prepare, I think they have little to be disappointed about, which makes it all the more frustrating that from 2019, no live coverage. – davidd93

In particular, the revolving punditry received praise from the likes of James Hurrell and Naz, with multiple commenters noting how the mix of pundits from Susie Wolff to Eddie Jordan was right for the programming. Steve Jones was liked by the majority of readers. TMD_NASCAR noted that Jones settled in well whilst others added that the relationship on-screen between Jones and David Coulthard is excellent.

Channel 4’s coverage on the other hand has been like a breath of fresh air, with Steve Jones’s role and his banter with DC, key to the whole tone of their presentation. They don’t give Karun Chandhok enough airtime, but he still manages to always fill it with key points and predictions and his knowledge is incredible. – Golly

Channel 4’s graphics were largely praised by rosswilliamquinn and TMD_NASCAR, although steven felt that they would have suited 2006 more than 2016. One element that received criticism from multiple people was the ‘missing pundits’ as davidd93 correctly pointed out.

I do need to raise one point – missing presenters from the announcement.

  • Where was Nic Hamilton?
  • Where was Bruno Senna? (I only remember seeing him during the opening sequence of Brazil)
  • Where was Alain Prost (I only remember seeing him during one race weekend, but I can’t remember which one)
  • I’m not including Alex Zanardi since even before the first race, he basically denied any involvement, despite C4’s announcement.

As they were part of the C4 announcement, I was expecting more from all of the above as part of the rotational basis, but I was disappointed that that never materialised.

The second point of criticism concerned the lack of ‘in-depth analysis’ according to James Hurrell, with simonhullf going as far to as calling Channel 4’s output ‘dumbed down’.

Over on Sky, one of the main people praised was Simon Lazenby. Lazenby annoyed ThomasJPitts less in 2016, with simonhullf comparing him to a familiar name…

I think Simon Lazenby has really grown on me – he’s the modern day Jim Rosenthal – very solid, and most often asking the right questions. The much improved chemistry between Lazenby, Herbert and Hill has really helped.

A few readers noted that whilst Sky’s line-up has been around for a while, and opinions differ on whether this is a good thing.

I’ve been a hardcore viewer of Sky’s F1 coverage since the very beginning and have to say on the whole I’ve been very impressed with their coverage this season. I would agree that Sky’s lineup is becoming stale, but without a doubt Ted Kravitz, Martin Brundle and Anthony Davidson are the gems. – simonhullf

The rest of the team are their usual high quality, even if it does feel a bit stale now, 5 (?) seasons in. – ThomasJPitts

In terms of Sky, I’m bored of Lazenby, Herbert and Hill. Too stale and far too matey in the way they interact. – stevvy

The commentary line-up of David Croft and Martin Brundle received widespread praise with readers noting that Brundle is still the best commentator out there. Sky did receive the (now usual) criticism about their content outside of the weekend decreasing along with overhyping features, this being noted by stevvy, simonhullf and Rob Bortkiewicz.

Elsewhere, the BBC’s radio coverage received compliments from blog readers, in particular theirb podcast.

Five Live coverage has been good (although hidden away from the radio itself too often) – the dynamic between Tom Clarkson and Jack Nicholls is good in the absence of Allan McNish and it makes for an entertaining listen. – DC

As a group they actually seem to be having the most fun and have the most passion and aren’t afraid to argue their points with each other. Their post race review show/podcast is a staple of my Monday mornings providing a little more insight on the event and any fallout from long after C4 and Sky have packed up and gone. – James Hurrell

There is a lot more opinions on the post itself, including some 2017 suggestions for Sky and Channel 4 (most include the word ‘Jenson’) which is worth a read, as always the above is just a taster of feedback on the site.

Formula 1’s UK viewing figures drop significantly year-on-year

The move of Formula 1 from the BBC to Channel 4, along with a familiar story at the front of the field, resulted in viewing figures dropping significantly between 2015 and 2016, overnight numbers show.

> Channel 4’s audience down 1.25 million compared with BBC’s coverage
> Sky increases year-on-year
> Combined audience likely lowest since 2006

The viewing figures in this article are overnight average audiences supplied by Overnights.tv for Channel 4’s and Sky Sports’ broadcasts, including Sky Sports 1, 2 and Mix where applicable. Sky’s numbers are for their three and a half hour broadcast covering ‘Pit Lane Live’ and the race itself from 12:00 to 15:30, or applicable.

Overnight viewing figures, otherwise known as Live + VOSDAL (Viewing On Same Day As Live) include anyone who watched the programming before 02:00 the next morning. For example, if you recorded the live race broadcast, but watched it at 18:00 on Sunday evening, you would be counted in the overnight viewing figures.

This article excludes on demand methods of viewing, such as All 4 and Sky Go. However, on demand viewing is expected to be down by some margin year on year, as a result of Formula 1’s move to Channel 4, and therefore away from BBC iPlayer.

Channel 4’s overnight viewing figures
In 2016, Channel 4 aired ten races live, with the other eleven covered in highlights form. Their race day programming across 2016 averaged 1.96 million viewers. Their live races averaged 2.18 million viewers, with their highlight shows averaging 1.76 million viewers. Clearly it can be argued that the highlights programming in unfavourable time slots have dragged Channel 4’s average audiences down.

The season highlight for Channel 4 was live coverage of the Mexican Grand Prix which averaged 2.89m (12.6%) from 18:00 to 21:00 in October, with the low light an audience of just 841k for the US Grand Prix highlights programme a week before. Disappointingly for the channel, audiences failed to grow in the latter half of 2016. Considering the context of the championship, the Malaysian Grand Prix underperformed as did the season ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

“Our first year covering Formula 1 has been as exciting as the championship itself and the millions who have tuned in week in week out reflect that. It’s been gripping from start to finish and we can’t wait for the 2017 season to get under way.” – Stephen Lyle, Channel 4’s Commissioning Editor for Sport and Formula 1

Last year, the BBC’s coverage averaged 3.11 million viewers, meaning that Channel 4’s 2016 audience was down 36.8 percent. The drop is sharper than expected. Scheduling of the American fly away races did not help. There is a lot to be said for Channel 4’s promotion, or lack of, as the season progressed.

Across different demographics, the larger drops have been across the older audience, but nevertheless viewing has dropped across all demographics (although the 16-34 drop is smaller). It should be noted though that Channel 4’s Formula 1 programming thrashed slot averages across the year, and does show what Formula 1 can bring to a terrestrial television channel.

Channel 4’s programming recorded an average race day peak audience of 2.75 million viewers. Three races stood head and shoulders above the rest: Britain (3.89 million), Mexico (3.93 million) and Abu Dhabi (3.85 million). I think there will be disappointment that Channel 4’s Formula 1 programming did not break the 4 million peak barrier once. Nor did any other races get anywhere close to the peak figures mentioned above, the fourth highest peak was Bahrain (3.24 million).

Sky’s overnight viewing figures
Live coverage of the 21 races on Sky Sports in 2016 have averaged 669k from 12:00 to 15:30 or equivalent, up 4.9 percent on 2015. In a year of tough competition battling against the Olympics, Euro 2016 and the longest ever season, that is an impressive figure, showing tough resilience against the competition. Oddly, Sky’s coverage does rate better in the even-numbered years which is an interesting stat.

Since 2012, Sky’s coverage has averaged 709k, 640k, 790k, 638k and now 669k. So it has flip-flopped up and down. That’s probably not a good thing as there is no real trend other than stagnation. Sky has found their audience and simply halted there without being able to reach out further. Bear in mind too that 2016’s audience includes the various simulcasts on Sky Sports 1, 2 and Mix, whereas these simulcasts were not happening in 2012.

The highlight of Sky’s Formula 1 coverage in 2016 was a peak audience of 1.75 million viewers for the extended Brazilian Grand Prix, the second highest peak for a Formula 1 race on Sky only behind the 2014 United States Grand Prix. Strong numbers in the second half of 2016 helped Sky overcome its deficit that it faced year-on-year at the midway stage of the season where it looked like Sky was heading for a record low.

Overall, eight races increased their viewing figures for Sky year-on-year, whilst the remaining eleven races dropped (the other two were not on the calendar last year). You might be wondering how this results in an overall increase, but the title battle going down to the wire was significant for Sky: both Brazil and Abu Dhabi’s numbers doubled year-on-year which is very rare and shows how much broadcasters suffered when the championship race finishes early.

In my opinion, Sky’s figures are not good enough. If Sky are failing to increase their viewing figures now, will they be able to do so come 2019? Before we know it, 2019 will be here and Sky don’t look to be in a position where they can reach out to a breed of Formula 1 fans. That’s not good for the success of Formula 1 in this country.

Overall audiences
During 2016, a combined average audience of 2.63 million viewers watched Formula 1’s 21 races across Channel 4 and Sky Sports, a drop of 29.7 percent on 2015’s average audience of 3.74 million viewers across the BBC and Sky. By the overnight audience metric, it is the lowest audience for a Formula 1 season since records began in 2006. However, once consolidated audiences are calculated, it is likely that 2016 will jump above 2006. Nevertheless, viewing figures are down on last season. This was to be expected. No one knew by how much, though. The size of the drop might surprise some.

Most races were down around 35 percent, but there were some exceptions. The five best races year-on-year were Mexico (up 32%), Abu Dhabi (up 16%), Belgium (down 11%), Austria (down 19%) and Japan (down 26%). By the peak metric, the five best races year-on-year were Mexico (up 36%), Abu Dhabi (up 35%), Belgium (down 5%), Austria (down 12%) and Britain (down 15%). Mexico was up considerably as it was shown live on free-to-air television, whilst Abu Dhabi was the championship decider, and arguably should have been a lot higher than the peak audience of 4.99 million viewers that it recorded.

As referenced above, the peak audiences for three races were considerably higher than the rest, which I don’t think is a good thing. It suggests that the audience is being ‘trained’ to pick and choose what races they want to watch instead of tuning in to watch the complete season. One reason: 21 races is too much and the casual fan simply cannot commit to watching all 21 races.

Why did the British Grand Prix peak with 4.99 million viewers but the Hungarian race two weeks later peak with 4.16 million viewers? Historically, Hungary has been a few hundred thousand behind Silverstone when looking at the peak viewing audiences, not nearly a million viewers behind. It is questions like this that Channel 4 should be asking to try to work out where best to advertise Formula 1. Channel 4’s bill boards and cross channel advertising disappeared after a few races. Next season, these need to continue or be more spread out across the whole season.

Austria, Britain and Belgium did not disgrace themselves year-on-year which gave hope that audiences would hold up in the second half of the season. What followed was a spectacular drop, where audiences dropped five times in a row from 2.60 million in Belgium to 1.83 million in USA. At the same time, Nico Rosberg’s stranglehold on the championship took shape, recording four out of six wins in this period. Arguably, Rosberg stopped the momentum (from a UK ratings perspective) that had built up before the Summer break and the viewing figures support this theory.

On demand viewing likely to be down and final thoughts
The switch from the BBC to Channel 4 has meant that Formula 1 content is no longer available on BBC iPlayer. Figures from BARB for the week ending 27th November show that BBC iPlayer had nearly seven times more live streaming requests that All 4, and five times more on-demand requests. This will have impacted Formula 1’s on demand reach year-on-year, and probably resulted in a downturn year-on-year. The likes of Sky Go and Now TV will have trended upwards I imagine, but are both unlikely to negate the loss of BBC iPlayer. As of writing, there is no word on how BBC’s radio coverage performed compared with 2015, but I will update this site if figures are revealed.

As I’ve always said, any drop is disappointing. But to expect Channel 4’s figures to match the BBC’s from the outset was plain unrealistic. A drop of 36 percent was higher than I anticipated across the year, but not an immediate shock when the first few races started to come in. Some of that might be down to Channel 4, some of that down to the quality of the racing and the championship fight. Announcing that live Formula 1 was leaving free-to-air television from 2019 onwards after Channel 4’s very first race might have done more harm than good for the sport this season.

The aim for 2017 has to be to hold onto the existing audience, and build on it for the next generation. Whether that is easier said than done depends on how the 2017 season unfolds. Funnily enough, the person who was partly responsible for the audience decline throughout the year has now retired. If that results in a new championship battle between Lewis Hamilton and another contender, audiences could increase. The problem in 2016 was that Rosberg did not have a large UK fan base. He wasn’t Sebastian Vettel, who increased audience figures back in 2011. There is a lot of work to do to hook viewers onto Formula 1 in 2017, and the direction Mercedes go with their second driver could dictate the direction viewing figures head…

Sky and the BBC declined to comment.

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