Alonso effect helps IndyCar’s UK audience soar to six-year high

The Indianapolis 500 started in fine fashion last weekend, with the IndyCar Series recording its highest UK audiences in nearly six years, overnight viewing figures show.

Indy qualifying impresses
Live coverage of the first day of qualifying, broadcast on Saturday evening from 21:00 to 00:00 on BT Sport/ESPN, averaged 44k (0.31%). The scheduled slot from 21:00 to 23:00 averaged 45k (0.27%), meaning that the audience stayed very stable during the overrun.

Coverage started relatively low, with an audience of 14k (0.06%) watching at 21:10. This quickly built up though, hitting 30k at 21:25, 40k at 21:50 and then peaking with an excellent 68k (0.41%) at 22:05. Audiences stayed above 50k until 22:55, partly attributed to Sebastian Bourdais’ horrific crash, which stopped the session for around 40 minutes.

The audience for day one is the highest ever for the IndyCar series on BT Sport, and the highest since Sky Sports’ broadcast of the 2011 Indianapolis 500. Viewing figures dropped for day two of qualifying. An average audience of 29k (0.17%) watched qualifying on BT Sport/ESPN from 21:00 to 23:00 on Sunday evening, peaking with 43k (0.26%), again during the segment when Fernando Alonso was on circuit.

Although there is a larger audience around on Sunday evenings, coverage of on-track action was sporadic: Saturday had action without commercials from 21:00 until Bourdais’ crash at around 22:30, giving a chance for the audience to build. On the other hand, Sunday’s qualifying programme had twenty minutes with no on-track action from 21:40 to 22:00, which would have depleted viewing figures.

Next Sunday’s Indianapolis 500 is likely to be the biggest figure for an American domestic motor race in a generation in the UK, with more than 100,000 viewers expected. It is difficult to be more specific than that at this stage as warm weather is likely to knock audiences.

Formula E jumps to second highest figure of season
It was a good weekend as well for the electric Formula E championship. Round six of the season took place last Saturday in Paris. The race, which aired live on Channel 5 from 14:30 to 16:20, averaged 381k (4.4%), peaking with 468k. Last year’s action from Paris, which aired on ITV4, peaked with 187k (2.1%) in a similar time slot.

It is the highest share of the season for Formula E and the second highest audience of the season, behind Buenos Aires. It is also comfortably the highest non-London race ever for the championship (also beating part one of last year’s London ePrix which aired on ITV).

Whilst it is too early to say whether the championship is drawing in new viewers as this is just one race in isolation, the audience figure for Paris is an encouraging sign for the series. Formula E should be able to maintain some momentum going forward, with no elongated gaps between now and the end of the season.

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Scheduling: The 2017 Spanish Grand Prix / Monaco ePrix

The Formula 1 paddock moves into Europe for round five of the 2017 Formula One season, the Spanish Grand Prix. The weekend’s action will be broadcast exclusively live on Sky Sports F1, with highlights airing each evening on Channel 4.

Anthony Davidson will be back with Sky Sports for the Spanish round of the season. As announced pre-season, Davidson will be with the team for five races this year. Elsewhere, the Formula E championship returns with round five from Monaco. Martin Haven will be back in the commentary box as Jack Nicholls will be covering the Formula 1 action for BBC Radio 5 Live. Haven will be alongside Bob Varsha and Mike Conway as Dario Franchitti is stateside for the Indianapolis 500 build-up. The electric championship speeds up now with eight races taking place in the next two and a half months!

Also in action, next weekend is IndyCar action from the Indianapolis road course, whilst the World Superbike riders will be at Imola.

Channel 4 F1
Sessions
13/05 – 17:30 to 19:00 – Qualifying Highlights
14/05 – 18:45 to 21:00 – Race Highlights

Sky Sports F1
Sessions
12/05 – 08:45 to 11:00 – Practice 1
12/05 – 12:45 to 14:50 – Practice 2
13/05 – 09:45 to 11:15 – Practice 3
13/05 – 12:00 to 14:35 – Qualifying
14/05 – 11:30 to 16:15 – Race
=> 11:30 – Track Parade
=> 12:00 – Pit Lane Live
=> 12:30 – Race
=> 15:30 – Paddock Live

Supplementary Programming
10/05 – 20:30 to 21:00 – F1 Report: Preview
11/05 – 14:00 to 15:00 – Driver Press Conference
12/05 – 01:30 to 01:45 – Paddock Uncut
12/05 – 17:35 to 18:15 – Team Press Conference – to be confirmed
12/05 – 18:15 to 18:45 – The F1 Show – to be confirmed
17/05 – 20:30 to 21:00 – F1 Report: Review

BBC Radio F1
11/05 – 21:00 to 22:00 – Preview (BBC Radio 5 Live)
12/05 – 08:55 to 10:35 – Practice 1 (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
13/05 – 09:55 to 11:05 – Practice 3 (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
13/05 – 12:55 to 14:05 – Qualifying (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
14/05 – 12:30 to 15:00 – Race (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)

Formula Two – Spain (Sky Sports F1)
12/05 – 11:00 to 11:45 – Practice
12/05 – 14:55 to 15:25 – Qualifying
13/05 – 14:35 to 15:45 – Race 1
14/05 – 09:30 to 10:25 – Race 2

Formula E – Monaco (online via Channel 5’s social media channels and YouTube)
13/05 – 06:55 to 07:55 – Practice 1
13/05 – 09:25 to 10:10 – Practice 2

Formula E – Monaco
13/05 – 10:45 to 12:10 – Qualifying (Spike)
13/05 – 14:30 to 16:15 – Race (Channel 5)

Formula V8 3.5 – Monza (BT Sport 3)
13/05 – 14:00 to 15:00 – Race 1
14/05 – 10:30 to 12:00 – Race 2

GP3 Series – Spain (Sky Sports F1)
13/05 – 08:45 to 09:20 – Qualifying
13/05 – 16:10 to 17:00 – Race 1
14/05 – 08:20 to 09:00 – Race 2

IndyCar Series  Grand Prix of Indianapolis (BT Sport 2)
14/05 – 20:30 to 23:00 – Race

Porsche Supercup  Spain
13/05 – 17:15 to 18:15 – Race 1 (Eurosport 2)
14/05 – 10:30 to 11:30 – Race 2 (Eurosport 1)

Speedway Grand Prix – Poland (BT Sport 3)
13/05 – 17:45 to 21:15 – Races

World Rallycross Championship – Belgium (Motorsport.tv)
14/05 – 13:00 to 14:55 – Race

World Superbikes – Imola
13/05 – 09:15 to 14:00 – Qualifying and Race 1 (Eurosport 2)
14/05 – 10:00 to 15:00 – Support and Race 2 (Eurosport 2)
16/05 – 20:00 to 21:00 – Highlights (ITV4)

As mentioned, once Sky’s schedules are in shape, I will update the above information.

Update on May 9th – I have had confirmation from Sky that their original schedules were incorrect. Sky will not be broadcasting the Porsche Supercup series and GP3 practice live, so exactly the same as previous years. I have also amended the Formula E commentary line-up – Dario Franchitti is in fact stateside and not covering the event.

Opening BTCC round peaks with 349k

The opening round of the British Touring Car Championship performed solidly on Sunday afternoon (April 2nd), overnight viewing figures show.

Mixed year-on-year picture for touring cars
Live coverage of the British Touring Car Championship from Brands Hatch averaged 189k (2.2%) from 10:15 to 18:15 on ITV4, an increase on 2016’s average audience of 169k (1.6%). It should be noted that the opening round in 2016 clashed with the Bahrain Grand Prix, as well as MotoGP action from Argentina.

As a result, whilst the average audience is higher than 2016, the peak audience is down slightly. Last year’s programme peaked with 360k (3.8%), compared with 349k (5.4%) from this past Sunday. The audience shares have increased across the board, with the total television audience declining year-on-year.

The second race of the season peaked with 301k (4.0%) at 14:25, whilst the third and final race of the day peaked with 260k (1.9%) at 17:35. The programme outperformed ITV4’s slot average in all demographics which shows that, despite diminishing returns year-on-year, the British Touring Car Championship is still a worthwhile commodity for ITV4. Their coverage across the day will have reached near to, or in excess of, one million viewers.

Formula E heads to Mexico
The 2016-17 Formula E championship headed to Mexico City for round four of its season. Live coverage of the race, broadcast on Channel 5 from 22:30 to 00:20 on Saturday evening, averaged 238k (2.2%), significantly below Channel 5’s slot average. The average audience for the past three races has settled around the 2.2 percent market share, despite the individual races airing in a variety of timeslots.

There are no valid year-on-year comparisons for this race, as the ePrix aired live on BT Sport Europe last year, with highlights following later on ITV4. Formula E haemorrhaged the lead in from Football on 5, with the first five-minute period from 22:30 averaging just 97k (0.6%). Nevertheless, the audience quickly built up to over 200k during the build-up.

At the start of the race, an audience of 323k (2.5%) was watching, briefly rising to 335k (2.8%) at 23:05. Audiences dipped towards the middle of the race, hitting a low of 258k (2.5%) at 23:25 but spiked briefly to 296k (3.3%) at 23:35. As with rounds two and three in Marrakech and Buenos Aires, no highlights of the race were aired on Spike TV.

With a third of the Formula E season now gone, an average audience of 288k (2.5%) have tuned into the first four races on Channel 5. The average is a significant increase on the equivalent ITV4 numbers from both seasons one and two of 197k (2.8%) and 87k (1.0%) respectively.

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Scheduling: The 2017 Mexico City ePrix

The 2017 motor racing season moves up a gear this weekend, with both the British Touring Car Championship (BTCC) and the British Superbikes starting their journey.

The BTCC series continues on ITV4, with Steve Rider and Louise Goodman again fronting the eight-hour race day programme. As in previous years, David Addison will continue to lead the commentary line-up, with Tim Harvey, Richard John Neil, Paul O’Neil and Phil Glew supplementing ITV4’s touring car offering.

Sticking with free-to-air, Formula E returns this weekend for round four of its season that started last October. For the first time ever, Channel 4’s Formula 1 expert and former Formula 1 driver David Coulthard will be part of Channel 5’s Formula E offering this weekend. Coulthard will be alongside presenter Andy Jaye in Channel 5’s studio for qualifying and the race.

It is a huge coup for both Channel 5 and Formula E to bring Coulthard on-board for their coverage, given his wealth of motor racing and broadcasting experience. I suspect that this is currently a one-off commitment for Coulthard, with a view to a longer-term relationship going forward.

The World Rallycross Championship returns this weekend, and with it a change of broadcasting rights. Quest TV will no longer be broadcasting live coverage, nor will ITV4 be airing highlights. Instead, Motorsport.tv (aka Motors TV) will air live coverage on their TV network and over-the-top, with highlights airing on Sky Sports Mix. A separate press release from Motorsport Networks notes that Andrew Coley, Liam Doran and Andrew Jordan will provide commentary throughout the year.

Blancpain Sprint Series
01/04 – 19:15 to 21:00 – Qualifying Race (BT Sport X3)
02/04 – 10:45 to 12:45 – Championship Race (BT Sport//ESPN)

British Superbikes – Donington Park
01/04 – 15:45 to 18:00 – Qualifying (British Eurosport 2)
02/04 – 13:00 to 18:00 – Races (British Eurosport 2)
05/04 – 20:00 to 21:00 – Highlights (ITV4)

British Touring Car Championship – Brands Hatch (ITV4)
02/04 – 10:15 to 18:15 – Races

Formula E – Mexico City (online via Channel 5’s social media channels and YouTube)
01/04 – 14:55 to 15:55 – Practice 1
01/04 – 17:25 to 18:10 – Practice 2

Formula E – Mexico City
01/04 – 18:30 to 20:30 – Qualifying (Spike)
01/04 – 22:30 to 00:15 – Race (Channel 5)

TCR International Series – Georgia (Motorsport.tv)
02/04 – 15:50 to 17:20 – Race

World Rallycross Championship – Barcelona (Motorsport.tv)
02/04 – 13:00 to 15:05 – Race

World Superbikes – Aragon
01/04 – 09:15 to 14:00 – Qualifying and Race 1 (British Eurosport 2)
02/04 – 10:00 to 13:00 – Race 2 and Support Races (British Eurosport 2)
04/04 – 20:00 to 21:00 – Highlights (ITV4)

As always, if anything changes I will update the above schedule.

Update on April 1st – Looks like Karun Chandhok is now alongside Jaye this evening, so Coulthard is no longer part of Channel 5’s Formula E coverage. Also of note is that Bob Varsha will be joining Jack Nicholls and Dario Franchitti in the commentary box.

Formula E jumps to second highest number ever

The power of being live on free-to-air television in primetime showed yesterday, as Formula E recorded its highest number in the UK since the 2015 London ePrix, overnight viewing figures show.

Race
Live coverage of the Buenos Aires ePrix, which aired on Channel 5 from 18:30 to 20:15, averaged 426k (2.2%). This is one of Formula E’s highest ever numbers, only behind the second race of the 2015 London ePrix weekend, which averaged 700k (6.8%) on ITV. Yesterday’s number was higher than the 2016 season finale in London. That race averaged 411k (3.8%), albeit in a longer slot on ITV. Last year’s Buenos Aires ePrix on ITV4 averaged 132k (0.6%), peaking with 248k (1.2%).

Yesterday’s ePrix, won by Sebastien Buemi, hit a 5-minute peak of 604k (3.2%) at 19:05, the series’ second highest peak number ever, again behind London 2015 (1.18 million) and ahead of London 2016 (600,000). What might take the edge off yesterday’s numbers is that not all the viewers stuck with the race action, with audiences stabilising around 500,000 viewers.

The average audience was in-line with Channel 5’s slot average for 16 to 54 year olds, but significantly down on Channel 5’s usual audience in that slot amongst the older 55+ age group. The FA Cup game between Wolves and Chelsea on BT Sport 2 from 17:00 to 20:00 averaged 652k (4.0%), higher than Formula E’s free-to-air audience.

Qualifying and Analysis
Live coverage of qualifying on Spike from 14:45 to 16:20 averaged 60k (0.7%), peaking with 91k (1.0%) at 16:05.

There are certainly positives to take away from Formula E’s figures yesterday, the demographic breakdown being one of them. Recording an audience, which tripled last years’ number on ITV4, justifies Formula E’s decision to agree a deal with Channel 5. The main negative is that the audience share (2.2%) is low for a free-to-air broadcast on Channel 5, and lower than both the programme before it, and the programme after it.

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