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.

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.

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.



Russian Grand Prix struggles to bring in the viewers

Lewis Hamilton’s victory at the Russian Grand Prix struggled compared to the first two-thirds of the 2018 season so far, overnight viewing figures suggest.

Comparisons with previous years should be taken at face value and in the context of the slot the race was in. In 2014 and 2015, the race occurred in October, before moving to an April slot for the 2016 running. Now, the Grand Prix moves back to late-September.

In addition, last year’s race aired live on Channel 4, whereas this year the broadcaster aired highlights, as they did in 2016.

Sky Sports F1’s live coverage of the Grand Prix averaged 490k (6.0%) from 11:00 to 14:30, their highest average for Russia since 2015. An average of 490,000 viewers in isolation looks low compared to other races this season, but is a reasonable number for Russia.

Nevertheless, it is Sky’s third lowest average of 2018, only ahead of Australia and Austria. In 2016, Sky’s coverage from Sochi averaged 470k (4.9%), with last year’s shared coverage bringing in 447k (4.5%).

For whatever reason, the Sochi race has never traditionally brought the punters in, whether it is because viewers know the race track is poor, or whether it has been simply unlucky with other competition.

One reason Russia may be unusually low is because of its start time, which caught viewers out again this year, as Sky’s audience increased throughout the race. The race started at 12:15 with 778k (10.3%), climbing past 800k at 12:35 and peaking with 918k (10.2%) at 13:35.

The peak audience of 918k is Sky’s second highest ever for Russia, only behind 2014 which peaked with 985k (8.2%) when BBC One also aired live coverage. This year, the competition was the bi-annual Ryder Cup golf tournament, which will have taken some viewers away from the Grand Prix.

Strictly Come Dancing and The X Factor left Channel 4’s highlights programme picking up the scraps on Sunday evening. An audience of just 1.82m (9.1%) tuned into their show from 18:45 to 21:00, the broadcaster’s lowest F1 race day number since Austria in July.

Channel 4’s broadcast peaked with 2.32m (12.1%) at 19:15, just before the dancing started on BBC One. There might be an argument here that Channel 4 should have scheduled the F1 from 16:45 to 19:30, which the current contract allows them the privilege of doing so. Saying that, the qualifying number throws this train of thought into the river…

The combined average audience of 2.31 million viewers is the lowest for Russia on record, down 4.1 percent and 2.4 percent on 2016 and 2017’s average audiences. Whilst not a good number, the audience figure is not abnormal for Russia, either. The combined peak audience of 3.24 million viewers is also a low for Russia, a decrease of 0.2 percent and 5.8 percent on 2016 and 2017 respectively.

In a year where viewing figures have continued to decline on the whole for qualifying, the pattern continued in Russia.

Live coverage of qualifying on Sky Sports F1 averaged 232k (3.6%) from 12:00 to 14:35, an increase on last year’s figure of 197k (2.6%) when Channel 4 also aired the action live, but down on their 2016 audience of 275k (3.6%).

Channel 4’s highlights programme from 16:30 to 18:30 averaged a low 867k (7.5%), one of their lowest ever audiences for qualifying. Sporting competition was tough for them last Saturday, facing both the Ryder Cup on Sky Sports F1 and coverage of Chelsea versus Liverpool on BT Sport.

Sky’s programme peaked with 472k (6.8%) as Valtteri Bottas clinched pole, with Channel 4’s show peaking with 1.35m (10.7%) later in the afternoon.

The combined audience of 1.10 million viewers is the lowest ever for Russia, and the lowest for qualifying since the Canadian Grand Prix in June.

Formula 1 was lucky to have a close championship race, throughout the Summer months, keeping audiences engaged during the latter stages of the World Cup and through into Belgium and Italy.

Now, as Hamilton drives off into the distance, the wheels appear to be falling off the wagon, and not for the first time either. Time will tell as to whether viewing figures can recover for the final hurdle towards Abu Dhabi.

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


Singapore Grand Prix loses over 250,000 viewers year-on-year

Lewis Hamilton’s victory in the Singapore Grand Prix struggled compared with his victory in 2017, overnight viewing figures in the UK show, in what was a poor weekend for Formula 1 overall.

Like last year, both Sky Sports F1 and Channel 4 aired the Grand Prix live over the weekend. However, Sky opted not to simulcast their coverage on Sky Sports Mix, whereas last year the race also aired on Mix.

Channel 4’s coverage, encompassing both the build-up and the race itself, averaged 2.04m (22.1%) from 12:00 to 15:35, their lowest live audience since the Austrian Grand Prix in July. Last year’s programme averaged 2.29m (22.1%) across a slightly shorter time slot.

Meanwhile, live coverage of the race on Sky Sports F1 averaged 661k (7.0%) from 12:00 to 15:30, down on last year’s average across F1 and Mix of 723k (7.0%) across a longer time slot to account for heavy rain during the race. It is Sky’s lowest number for Singapore since 2012, which averaged 566k (4.2%) when the race also aired live on BBC One.

The viewing shares year-on-year are solid, but the raw total audience dipped, showing that there were fewer viewers yesterday compared with 2017. However, analysis of audience figures conducted by this site suggests that some viewers were unaware that the race started earlier than expected, which might explain the total audience differential.

In previous years, Singapore started at the same time as all European races, at 13:00 UK time. Before the 2018 season started, Liberty Media opted to move all races by 10 minutes (so they start at ten past the hour), and move most European rounds one-hour later. There are several exceptions, and one of them is Singapore.

If you live in the UK and want to watch a European-based race live (which Singapore for all intents and purposes is), you assume the race starts at 14:10 UK time. Bad news: Singapore’s formation lap started at 13:10…

Yesterday’s race started with 3.39m (36.9%) at 14:15, a decrease of 527,000 viewers on last year’s opening act of 3.91m (38.5%) at 13:05. Year-on-year, the first 45 minutes of the Grand Prix averaged 3.46m (36.3%), compared with 3.78m (36.7%) last year.

At 14:15, which is when European races have started this season, the audience climbed to 3.66m (37.2%), reaching 3.73m (38.0%) ten minutes later before dipping back off to 3.5 million viewers.

An audience of 3.75m (35.8%) watched Hamilton claim victory at 15:00, with a split of 75:25 between Channel 4 and Sky. At that time, Channel 4’s coverage attracted 2.81m (26.8%), with 944k (9.0%) watching on Sky, although Sky’s own coverage peaked with 991k (10.4%) at 13:25. For both broadcasters, it is their lowest peak audience since Austria.

The combined average audience of 2.70 million viewers is down 10.2 percent on last year’s average of 3.01 million viewers, going against the grain of the past few races. The average however is up on the 2016 figure of 2.38 million viewers.

Compared with 2017, the trajectory looks even worse when accounting for the Premier League opposition on Sky. This year’s race clashed with Wolves versus Burnley, neither big audience draws, whereas last year’s encounter faced Chelsea versus Arsenal.

The peak audience dropped 5 percent year-on-year: 3.75 million last Sunday compared with 3.97 million viewers last year. Again, all metrics are the lowest since Austria. Time will tell if this is the beginning of viewer fatigue for F1 this season as Hamilton stretches his legs at the head of the field.

It is possible that some viewers were unaware that the race started one-hour earlier than other European rounds, hence the low audience at the start of the race. Arguably, the viewing figures for Singapore are the first concrete evidence all season of the new start times negatively impacting audience figures, somewhat ironic given that Singapore’s start time has changed very little year-on-year.

Qualifying and BTCC
Live coverage of qualifying suffered on Saturday, drawing a combined average audience of 1.29 million viewers, down on last year’s audience of 1.45 million viewers.

Channel 4’s programme averaged 1.00m (13.3%) from 12:55 to 15:45, a decrease of 158,000 viewers on last year’s audience of 1.16m (13.8%). An audience of 292k (3.8%) watched Sky’s show from 13:00 to 15:40, in-line with last year’s figure of 294k (3.5%).

The session peaked with 2.06m (25.8%) at 14:55, compared with 2.20m (24.8%) last year. At its peak, 1.54m (19.3%) were watching Channel 4’s show at 14:50, a drop of 195,000 viewers year-on-year. Sky’s programme fared better, peaking with 542k (6.8%), an increase of 73,000 viewers and 1.5 percentage share points year-on-year.

Elsewhere on Sunday, live coverage of the penultimate British Touring Car Championship race day of 2018 on ITV4 averaged 144k (1.5%) from 11:15 to 18:30. The audience ebbed and flowed throughout the day before and after the F1 race.

The first race from Silverstone, won by Sam Tordoff, peaked with 234k (3.2%) at 12:35. During the F1, BTCC’s audience dropped to a low of 40k (0.4%), but rebounded to 144k (1.5%) as the second BTCC race started.

Aiden Moffat’s victory in the third and final race was comfortably the most watched BTCC race of the day, averaging 313k (2.5%) from 17:25 to 17:55, peaking with 344k (2.8%) as the race started.

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


Channel 4 benefits from thrilling Italian Grand Prix

Channel 4 benefited from a thrilling Italian Grand Prix last Sunday, with the Whisper Films-produced highlights programme delivering their second biggest Formula 1 highlights audience on record, overnight viewing figures show.

What do these figures cover?
For newer readers of the regular viewing figures articles on this site, it is worth a reminder of what we are comparing. From the outset, all the numbers presented are overnight viewing figures, known in the industry as live plus VOSDAL (Video on Same Day as Live), supplied by Overnights.tv and exclude on demand outlets such as Sky Go and Now TV.

To ensure we paint a consistent picture across different seasons, this site typically uses a three-and-a-half-hour time slot for Sky’s Formula 1 coverage. As a general guideline, for European races, the slot is from 13:00 to 16:30, or 12:00 to 15:30 from 2012 to 2017.

The 210-minute block currently covers the final half of Sky’s ‘Pit Lane Live’ programme, ‘On the Grid’, and their billed ‘Race’ programme. There may be slight deviations to the time slot if the race ran shorter or longer than anticipated. Using just the ‘Race’ block paints an inaccurate picture as Sky have shortened the length of their ‘Race’ billing over the years.

For Channel 4, this site uses their complete highlights programme, and their ‘Build-Up’ and ‘Race’ segments for their live programming, the reasoning again to present a fair and accurate picture when comparing audience figures to previous years.

Historically, the early season football international break has coincided with the Italian Grand Prix, which allows Formula 1 to hoover up casual sports viewers who may otherwise be engaged in football. This past weekend was the first time since 2011 that the race did not fall during the football international break period, and the UK audience figures echo that.

Live coverage of the race, which aired exclusively on Sky Sports F1, averaged 626k (7.6%) from 13:00 to 16:30, a decrease of 26.9 percent on last year’s average audience figure of 857k (9.5%) across a slightly shorter 200-minute time slot. Last year, Sky aired the race across their F1 channel, and Sky Sports Main Event, as well as going to their post-race show ten-minutes early, which the number published on this site reflected.

The race started with 1.09m (13.5%) at 14:15, quickly reaching a peak of 1.13m (14.0%) five-minutes later at 14:20 as the race restarted following the initial Safety Car period. Viewing figures hovered around one million viewers for the duration of the race, with 1.04m (11.9%) watching Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton overtake Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen at 15:15.

Sky’s peak audience dropped compared to last year’s peak figure of 1.38m (15.0%) across the F1 channel and Main Event. Without any context, a decrease in audience figures considering the quality of the race yesterday is poor. However, the competition on Sky, such as Cardiff versus Arsenal and the conclusion of the cricket test match between England versus India, meant that F1 lost potential viewers yesterday.

Some viewers may have streamed the Grand Prix off a second device, but not all. As a collective, over two million sports fans were watching Sky yesterday afternoon, an excellent number for them, but resulted in an isolated drop for their Formula 1 audience year-on-year. It is easy to go ‘that’s a huge drop’, but there are valid reasons why on this occasion.

Highlights of the race aired on Channel 4 from 18:45 to 21:00, to an audience of 2.33m (12.5%), an increase on last year’s number of 2.15m (11.6%). Against BBC One stalwart Countryfile and ITV’s The X Factor, Channel 4’s number is excellent. It is Channel 4’s second highest number ever for a highlights show, only behind Spain which averaged 4,000 more viewers!

Unlike last year’s highlights programme, which peaked with 2.72m (16.2%) at the start of the edit and lost viewers throughout, this year, the audience increased during the edit. The broadcast climbed to a peak of 3.02m (15.5%) at 20:00, showing how the quality of the racing can also impact the free-to-air highlights positively or negatively.

The combined average audience of 2.96 million viewers is marginally down on last year’s audience of 3.01 million viewers, but up on the 2016 figure of 2.57 million viewers. In contrast, the combined peak audience of 4.15 million viewers is the highest for Italy since 2015, an increase on the past two year’s peak audiences of 4.02 million viewers and 4.11 million viewers.

Coverage of Raikkonen grabbing pole position struggled across both Sky and Channel 4 on Saturday, with decreases in both audience and viewing share.

Live coverage of qualifying on Sky Sports F1 averaged 245k (3.6%) from 13:00 to 15:40. The average audience is down on last year’s number of 363k (5.0%), however this figure is over a much longer five-hour time slot due to the rain delays Formula 1 experienced last year.

The peak audience for Sky year-on-year is roughly identical: a peak of 539k (7.8%) at 14:55 last weekend compared with 543k (6.7%) last year. Nevertheless, Sky’s figures are their lowest ever for an Italian qualifying session.

Channel 4’s highlights programme brought in 1.03m (9.4%) from 17:00 to 18:30, a drop on last year’s figure of 1.39m (11.5%) in a later time slot. Their programme peaked with 1.46m (12.0%), also down on the peak audience in 2017 of 1.92m (14.0%). Certainly, the earlier time slot hurt both metrics for Channel 4.

The combined average audience of 1.27 million viewers is down by half a million viewers on the 2017 number of 1.75 million viewers; with the peak audience of 2.00 million viewers down by a similar margin.

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


Belgian Grand Prix records highest peak audience in five years

Formula 1 benefited from poor weather across the United Kingdom last Sunday, with excellent audience figures for the Belgian Grand Prix, overnight viewing figures show.

Live coverage of the race aired on Channel 4 from 13:00 to 16:30, with 2.15m (18.4%) watching, an increase of around half a million viewers on last year’s audience of 1.65m (19.6%) across a shorter 190-minute time slot. It is the highest Belgium figure for the free-to-air component of the audience since 2015, when BBC One’s broadcast averaged 2.44m (22.3%).

Sky simulcast their programming across their F1 channel and Sky 1 to a weighted total audience of 657k (5.6%). Sky Sports F1’s broadcast averaged 582k (5.0%) from 13:00 to 16:30, with Sky 1’s shorter show from 14:00 averaging 104k (0.9%). It is Sky’s highest audience for Spa on record, beating their previous highest of 617k (6.3%) in 2016.

For both broadcasters, the audience shares are slightly down on previous years, the dip representative of a higher viewing audience due to the poor weather conditions experienced across the United Kingdom. However, the dips are marginal rather than anything profound, showing that F1 grew almost in-line with the total audience increase.

The race started with 4.26m (36.1%) at 14:15 across Channel 4 and Sky. Apart from a ten-minute period from 14:40 to 14:50 where the audience level dropped below four million viewers due to British Touring Car Championship action on ITV4, viewing figures remained north of four million viewers. There was a brief surge to 4.23m (34.8%) as the top of the hour hit, before dipping back towards four million viewers.

An audience of 4.04m (33.0%) watched Sebastian Vettel take victory at 15:30. In a parallel universe, the peak could have been closer to 4.5 million viewers if the action on-track was closer, but it was not to be: the peak occurred at the start of the race.

At the time of the peak, an audience of 3.22m (27.2%) were watching Channel 4’s coverage, with a further 1.04m (8.8%) watching across Sky’s two channels, a split of 76:24. Sky’s peak came later in the afternoon, as 1.06m (8.8%) watched in the five-minute segment from 15:25. The F1 channel peaked with 921k (7.8%) at 14:15, with Sky 1 peaking with 180k (1.5%) at 15:30.

It is easily Sky’s highest peak for Belgium ever, beating their previous best of 969k (9.3%) in 2016. For Channel 4, the same fact is true: their peak audience was only 164,000 viewers lower than the BBC’s peak in 2015 of 3.38m (27.5%).

The combined average audience of 2.80 million viewers is comfortably the best for Belgium since 2015, when 2.91 million viewers watched across BBC One and Sky Sports. Last Sunday’s audience increased by 27.8 percent compared with last year’s average audience figure of 2.19 million viewers.

The peak audience of 4.26 million viewers is the highest for the Belgian Grand Prix since the 2013 running of the event when a peak audience of 4.52m (41.9%) watched, a fantastic number. The peak audience increased year-on-year by 22.2 percent, and compared with 2016 was up by 8.2 percent.

To have a peak audience higher than two BBC years (4.04 million in 2014 and 4.15 million in 2015) is highly unusual, and shows just how good Belgium’s audience figures are in the grand scheme of things. Of course, some of that is down to the weather conditions last Sunday, but increases compared to the past two years are now becoming par for the course for F1 in 2018.

Both Channel 4 and Sky Sports recorded slightly higher numbers for qualifying than twelve months ago.

Channel 4’s live broadcast of qualifying aired from 12:55 to 15:45, to an audience of 940k (12.3%), an increase – just – on last year’s figure of 937k (12.5%). The audience for Sky’s qualifying show followed the same trajectory, averaging 269k (2.5%) compared with 262k (2.5%) last year.

The combined audience of 1.21 million viewers is as a result up marginally on last year’s number of 1.20 million viewers.

The bigger difference comes with the peak figure. The qualifying session peaked with 2.09m (25.5%) at 14:55 across Channel 4 and Sky, an increase compared with last year’s figure of 2.01m (25.1%), and the highest for Belgium since 2015.

A peak of 1.62m (19.8%) watched Channel 4’s programme, an increase of 108,000 viewers compared with last year, but Sky’s peak figure of 468k (5.7%) is down 26,000 viewers.

BTCC performs well, but average for Speed with Guy Martin
Elsewhere, live coverage of the British Touring Car Championship from a rainy Knockhill averaged 216k (2.0%) from 11:00 to 18:15 on ITV4 on Sunday, a good number considering the competition. Race 1 averaged 277k (3.5%) from 11:50, peaking with 320k (3.9%).

The second race of the day clashed with the F1, but still fared well, averaging 220k (1.8%) from 14:25, peaking with 271k (2.2%) as the race was red flagged due to the poor weather conditions. Later, 392k (2.9%) watched Tom Chilton win the third and final race from 17:20, his victory peaking with 405k (2.8%) at 17:50.

Impressively, not once during the F1 did the touring car support programme drop below 100,000 viewers, showing how well the extended show works for ITV4 overall.

On Monday evening, a new episode of Speed with Guy Martin, averaged 1.54m (7.9%) on Channel 4 from 21:00 to 22:30, the lowest number so far for Martin’s F1 themed specials.

The show faced tough competition from BBC One’s new drama Bodyguard, as well as Monday Night Football action on Sky Sports between Tottenham and Manchester United.

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