Formula E season opener peaks with 329,000 viewers

The Formula E season started in Hong Kong last weekend, with the UK television audience peaking with 329,000 viewers, overnight viewing figures show.

Live coverage of both races aired exclusively on Eurosport across the weekend. Race one aired in an extended time slot from 06:45 to 08:45 due to the red flag on lap 1, and averaged 14k (0.40%). Eurosport’s broadcast peaked with 24k (0.72%) as the race restarted at 07:40. It is the lowest audience for a Formula E race that has broadcast live on television, just behind the 20,000 viewers who watched BT Sport Europe’s coverage of the 2016 Mexico City ePrix.

As anticipated, Channel 5’s as-live coverage comfortably outstripped Eurosport’s audience. Their programme, also extended from 09:00 to 11:10, averaged 176k (2.5%). The audience is Channel 5’s second lowest for a Formula E race, only ahead of the second Montreal ePrix race from July which aired live on Spike and in highlights form on Channel 5. The free-to-air broadcaster’s coverage peaked with 207k (3.1%) before the race coverage started.

Viewing figures perked up for Sunday’s action. Eurosport’s coverage of race two aired from 06:45 to 08:10 on Sunday morning, averaging 17k (0.61%). A peak audience of 33k (1.19%) watched their coverage at 07:30 as Daniel Abt headed to victory prior to his post-race disqualification.

Channel 5’s highlights programme aired from 08:55 to 10:40, averaging 228k (3.4%), beating ITV in the time slot. Their coverage dipped before the race started to under 200,000 viewers but encouragingly climbed to a peak of 297k (4.2%), both metrics marginally higher than their live Hong Kong programme last year.

The combined Formula E audiences across the weekend of 190,000 viewers on Saturday and 245,000 viewers on Sunday paints an interesting picture. Sunday’s combined audience is up year-on-year on the 2016 Hong Kong race, which also took place on a Sunday.

There is a fair difference between the Saturday peak of 231,000 viewers and the Sunday figure of 329,000 viewers, suggesting that Sunday’s race may have attracted extra viewers to Channel 5 who were not aware that the Formula E season was starting last weekend.

Saturday’s numbers are poor, but Sunday is a vast improvement. If Channel 5 make the effort for the remainder of the year scheduling wise, with the on-site effort that they showed in Hong Kong, the viewers will hopefully come.

Elsewhere, Sunday afternoon hosted Sky Sports’ and Channel 4’s Formula 1 season reviews. Sky’s show played out at 12:00 and attracted an audience of 12k (0.2%), with 439k (5.4%) tuning into Channel 4’s review an hour later.


F1 2017 swan song peaks with 3.5 million viewers

A peak audience of 3.47 million viewers watched the 2017 Formula One season finish on a whimper in the UK, overnight viewing figures show.

With both championships decided prior to Abu Dhabi, audiences were down across all metrics on Channel 4 and Sky Sports over the weekend.

Live coverage of Channel 4’s full programme, on air from 12:00 to 16:30, averaged 1.53m (15.1%), down on last year’s equivalent full-slot average of 2.25m (19.1%). The race itself from 12:00 to 15:10 averaged 1.86m (18.7%).

Sky’s average audience was down by 28 percent year-on-year. Their programming in 2017 averaged 454k (4.6%) on Sky Sports F1, with a further 97k (1.0%) watching on Sky Sports Mix. However, Sky should take solace in the fact that their audience is up on the 2015 average audience of 399k (3.0%), which occurred in similar circumstances.

The combined average audience of 2.41 million viewers is the lowest for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on record. Compared with 2015, the average audience is down by around 200,000 viewers. In the context of the season, 2.41 million is slightly below the average, but up on Mexico and Brazil, neither of which were live on free-to-air television.

The race started with started with 2.90m (29.5%) at 13:00, hovering around 3.1 million viewers for the duration, climbing slightly after 14:00 to reach a combined peak audience of 3.47 million viewers (30.8%) at 14:35 as Valtteri Bottas won the final race of the season.

At the time of the peak, 2.66m (23.6%) were watching on Channel 4, with 811k (7.2%) watching via Sky Sports F1 and Mix, a split of 77:23. Last year’s coverage peaked with 4.99m (38.3%), a drop of 30 percent year-on-year, arguably less than expected given that there was little to fight for in the final race of the season.

Channel 4’s live coverage of qualifying aired from 11:55 to 14:45, and averaged 945k (11.7%). Sky Sports F1’s programme added a further 319k (3.9%) from 12:00 to 14:35, resulting in a combined audience of 1.26 million viewers. The peak audience of 2.01 million viewers (22.2%) came at the end of qualifying, down around 14 percent on last year’s peak audience of 2.34 million viewers.

As in previous years, this site will in forthcoming weeks analyse the 2017 Formula One viewing figures picture from a UK audience perspective: increases, decreases, the peaks and the troughs, and what lies ahead for 2018.

The 2016 Abu Dhabi ratings report can be found here.

Sky reap the rewards as Channel 4’s highlights struggle in late-night slot

With little to play for, the viewing figures for the Brazilian Grand Prix were on the low side last weekend, overnight numbers show.

Live coverage of the race, broadcast exclusively on Sky Sports F1, averaged 1.00m (7.1%) from 15:00 to 18:30. Sky’s number is in-line with 2014, whilst marginally down on last year’s figure of 1.13m (6.7%) over an extended time slot. On one hand, you could argue that viewing figures should be higher with no competition from Premier League football, but on the other hand, both championships have been finalised, so F1 is lucky that numbers were not significantly lower than that.

Sky’s coverage peaked with 1.60m (9.8%) at 17:30, only slightly down on last year’s peak audience of 1.75m (8.1%). The race was re-markedly stable, remaining between 1.49 million and the 1.60 million viewers between 16:15 and 17:35.

Channel 4’s highlights aired in a later slot compared with last year, and suffered badly as a result. Their programme averaged just 968k (13.0%) from 22:35 to 00:45 on Sunday evening, a decrease of 453,000 viewers on last year’s number of 1.42m (10.6%) and their second lowest rating for a race highlights programme. Channel 4’s coverage peaked with 1.38m (13.1%) at 23:00.

It is the second race in a row where Sky have beaten Channel 4, and the third time this season, all in similar circumstances where Channel 4’s programme have aired in a late-night slot. Channel 4 should overhaul the deficit to Sky in the consolidated audience figures, with viewers watching their programme later in the week.

The combined average of 1.97 million viewers is the second lowest audience of the season, only just ahead of June’s Canadian Grand Prix which averaged 1.93 million viewers. To be below two million viewers for Brazil under any circumstances is pitiful. The likes of Sky Go and Now TV will push the audience up by a few hundred thousand viewers, but it is still a dreadfully low number.

For the fourth time this season, Formula 1 recorded a peak audience of below three million viewers, with a combined peak of 2.98 million viewers, down 19 percent year-on-year. For a race that can easily average above four million viewers in the right circumstances, the figures for Brazil last weekend were comfortably the lowest of the modern era for Interlagos.

Due to its earlier time slot, Channel 4’s qualifying highlights programme unusually performed better than their race day show. Highlights of qualifying averaged 1.14m (5.4%) from 19:30 to 21:00, however it was below Channel 4’s slot average. Their show peaked with 1.49m (7.2%) at 20:20, the peak coming just after BBC One’s Strictly Come Dancing concluded.

Live coverage of qualifying on Sky Sports F1 averaged 436k (3.7%) from 15:00 to 17:45, comfortably their largest ever figure for a Brazilian qualifying session. An audience of 743k (5.5%) were watching as Valtteri Bottas claimed pole position.

The combined average audience of 1.58 million viewers is down by around 80,000 viewers year-on-year, and the lowest for Brazil since 2008.

The 2016 Brazilian Grand Prix ratings report can be found here.

Mexican Grand Prix loses 40 percent of TV audience with no live FTA presence

The Mexican Grand Prix dropped around 40 percent year-on-year, with live coverage exclusively on Sky Sports, overnight viewing figures show.

Live coverage of Lewis Hamilton’s championship winning race attracted a weighted average of 1.09m (4.8%) from 18:00 to 21:30 across Sky Sports F1 and their Main Event channel. The weighted average represents an increase of 23 percent on Sky’s 2015 average audience for Mexico of 885k (4.0%).

Sky Sports F1’s coverage averaged 768k (3.5%), with Sky Sports Main Event bringing in 373k (1.6%) across a shorter three-hour time slot from 18:30. As always, audience figures presented here exclude viewers who watched via Sky’s online Now TV and Sky Go platforms.

Channel 4’s highlights programme aired from 22:30 to 00:45 to an audience of 1.05m (15.4%), slightly lower than Sky’s live programme average. Saying that, for the time slot, the audience share for Channel 4’s show is solid, even if the average audience is low by Formula 1’s standards.

The combined average audience of 2.13 million viewers is the lowest since the Canadian Grand Prix in June, which averaged 1.93 million viewers in similar circumstances. The audience for Mexico is the reverse of the previous round in Austin, with Austin live on free-to-air television.

Last year, the Mexican Grand Prix aired live on free-to-air television, and the year-to-year decline of 43 percent reflects that fact. An audience of 3.77 million viewers watched the race last year live on Sky and Channel 4. This year’s average audience number also ends the streak of five races on the bounce where F1’s audience has increased compared with 2016.

Compared with the 2015 United States Grand Prix, where Hamilton claimed his third World Drivers’ Championship, Sky’s audience is marginally lower this year, whilst Channel 4 as you would expect is significantly down on the BBC’s numbers from back then.

USA 2017 Mexico 2017 Difference
Channel 4 2.78 million
1.05 million (highlights) 1.73 million
Sky Sports 0.73 million 1.09 million 0.36 million
Total 3.51 million 2.13 million 1.38 million

A peak audience of 1.63m (6.5%) watched Max Verstappen win the Grand Prix live on Sky, with 1.05m (4.2%) watching via the dedicated F1 channel, and a further 572k (2.3%) watching via Main Event. Later, a peak of 1.55m (16.6%) watched Channel 4’s race edit begin at 23:00.

The combined peak audience of 3.17 million viewers is also the lowest since Canada in June, with a similar trajectory to the average. The peak figure is down 39 percent compared with the equivalent number of 5.13 million viewers recorded last year.

Qualifying and Analysis
Sky Sports aired coverage of qualifying across the F1 channel and Main Event to a weighted audience of 423k (2.1%). The F1 channel averaged 343k (1.7%) from 18:00 to 20:40, with Main Event averaging 129k (0.6%) from 19:00 onwards.

Highlights on Channel 4 averaged 873k (6.1%) from 22:00 to 23:35, resulting in a combined average of 1.30 million viewers, a drop of around 270,000 viewers compared with last year’s figure of 1.57 million viewers.

The fact of the matter is that Formula 1 suffers badly when race highlights air in a late-night time slot. Those of you that have followed this site historically will know that the free-to-air broadcaster cannot air the race until a specific number of hours after the race has ended. In the case of Mexico, Channel 4 will have been unable to air the race earlier, I dare say costing the broadcaster at least half a million viewers if not more.

So, where did the 1.38 million viewers ‘disappear’ to between USA and Mexico? Sky Go and Now TV will make up some of the gap. Both of those outlets would have recorded a higher audience than USA, with some Channel 4 floating viewers opting to buy a Now TV day pass for the race. Sky never release the numbers publicly, and in any event, the numbers are likely to be small in the context of the 1.38 million viewer gap.

Channel 4’s highlights programme will have a larger proportion of ‘catch-up’ viewing compared with usual, some recording their show to watch on Monday. Lastly, BBC’s Radio 5 Live programming will have benefited with no live free-to-air television coverage. Combined, those three factors will claw some of the gap back, but not all of it by any stretch of the imagination.

The harsh reality is that floating viewers will not chase down Formula 1 on Sky. When Formula 1 is not live on free-to-air, viewers choose other options. On Sunday evening, that may have been BBC One’s offering of Strictly Come Dancing and Blue Planet II, both of which attracted over ten million viewers.

I cannot emphasise just how much F1 loses out when prime time races air exclusively live behind a pay-wall. The sport is missing a vital opportunity to reach thousands of new motor racing fans. You cannot get that level of exposure anywhere else. Arguably, this element is by far the biggest failing of the 2012 to 2018 contract cycle, initiated by the BBC in July 2011.

Because of the championship battle ending in Mexico, Channel 4 have decided to air the Brazilian Grand Prix in the same time slot as Mexico, when they are contractually able to air it from 20:00 onwards (last year they chose 22:00). I suspect the rating for Brazil will be nasty…

The 2016 Mexican Grand Prix ratings report can be found here.

Formula 1 records highest peak audience since 2015

The United States Grand Prix performed well across Channel 4 and Sky Sports over the weekend, overnight viewing figures show.

For the first time since 2007, the race was broadcast live on free-to-air television, and the audience figures reflect that fact. Live coverage aired on Channel 4 from 19:00 to 22:15, with an audience of 2.78m (12.8%) tuning into their show. It is Channel 4’s second highest average audience, only behind last year’s Mexican Grand Prix, which averaged 2.89m (12.6%) over a slightly shorter slot.

Sky Sports’ coverage aired across their dedicated Formula 1 channel and Main Event, with 730k (3.5%) watching from 19:00 to 22:30. As this is the first time that Sky have shared coverage of the USA round of the championship with a free-to-air broadcaster, year-on-year comparisons are not possible. An audience of 499k (2.4%) watched via the F1 channel, with the remaining 231k (1.1%) watching via Main Event, a split of 68:32. In total, around a fifth of the F1 audience opted to watch Sky’s programming.

The combined average audience of 3.51 million viewers is the highest average audience of the year so far, and the highest since last year’s Mexican Grand Prix, when an average of 3.77 million viewers tuned into watch the broadcast. The first fact is unsurprising, the second part might be a little more surprising. The pre-race build-up was up against Strictly Come Dancing, which depleted the audience more than usual compared to if the race itself clashed with Strictly. Lastly, the drop off effect after the flag was greater due to the late finish.

An audience of 5.01m (21.8%) tuned in to the race start at 20:05, an excellent number for the start of the race. The audience trickled downwards during the 20:00 hour, hitting a low of 4.34m (18.3%) at 20:50, as The X Factor on ITV came to a conclusion. Arguably, Lewis Hamilton overtaking Sebastian Vettel as early as he did hurt the viewing figures further, meaning that more of The X Factor’s core audience switched back to the singing show instead of watching the F1.

Once The X Factor finished, the Grand Prix jumped back up above 4.5 million viewers, peaking with 5.19m (25.2%) at 21:30. The combined peak of 5.19 million viewers is the highest peak audience since the 2015 Brazilian Grand Prix! At the time of the peak, 4.13m (20.0%) were watching on Channel 4, with 1.06m (5.1%) watching via Sky, a split of 80:20 in Channel 4’s favour. In further good news, an average of 4.39m (21.4%) were watching the F1 during the 21:00 clock hour across Channel 4 and Sky, comfortably beating BBC One and ITV.

USA marks Formula 1’s fifth audience increase in a row, a brilliant streak. It is therefore unfortunate that next Sunday in Mexico, not only could Lewis Hamilton win the championship, but also UK’s F1 viewing figures could come crashing back down thanks to highlights of the race being aired in a graveyard time slot.

Live coverage of qualifying suffered due to its late time slot, resulting in a clash with the BBC’s Match of the Day highlights programme.

An audience of 1.18m (7.0%) watched Channel 4’s live broadcast from 21:00 to 23:30, with a further 315k (1.9%) watching via Sky Sports’ F1 and Mix channels. The combined average audience of 1.50 million viewers is marginally up on last year’s average of 1.31 million viewers. But even so, compared to the race day average, the qualifying number is nothing to shout about.

Evidence of the late slot affecting audiences comes with the qualifying peak, which occurred at the end of Q1, with a combined audience of 2.21m (13.0%) watching. You would normally expect the audience to further grow heading towards Q2 and Q3, but that did not happen here due to the late finish and the football clash as noted above. I suspect the timing, to persuade fans on-site to stay for a Justin Timberlake concert, hurt viewing figures worldwide for qualifying.

The 2016 United States Grand Prix ratings report can be found here.