Formula E’s fourth season struggles to pick up traction

The fourth season of the electric Formula E championship struggled to gain viewers in the United Kingdom, overnight audience figures suggest.

For the first time, Eurosport aired live coverage of the series in the UK, with every race covered besides the Paris E-Prix, which aired on tape delay.

Channel 5 provided free-to-air coverage for the second season running. However, the championship received less than optimal coverage from the broadcaster, with some races demoted to 5Spike, and others not aired live.

Race Date Live Highlights
Hong Kong (R1) 02/12/2017 n/a Channel 5 (tape-delay)
Hong Kong (R2) 03/12/2017 n/a Channel 5 (tape-delay)
Marrakesh 13/01/2018 Channel 5 n/a
Santiago 03/02/2018 5Spike n/a
Mexico City 03/03/2018 5Spike Channel 5
Punta del Este 17/03/2018 Channel 5 n/a
Rome 14/04/2018 5Spike Channel 5
Paris 28/04/2018 5Spike Channel 5
Berlin 19/05/2018 Channel 5 n/a
Zurich 10/06/2018 Channel 5 n/a
New York (R1) 14/07/2018 5Spike n/a
New York (R2) 15/07/2018 5Spike Channel 5

Of the twelve races in total, four aired live on Channel 5, six aired live on 5Spike, whilst the season opening Hong Kong E-Prix double header aired in tape-delay form on Channel 5. When races aired live on 5Spike, Channel 5 committed to airing a 60-minute programme the following day. The exceptions were Santiago and the first race of the New York weekend, the latter failed to make the air following a technical error.

The Rome and Paris rounds of the championship clashed with live coverage of the Aviva Premiership Rugby, where Channel 5 have a contract to air five live games per season. Considering Formula E announced their calendar months in advance, and the final set of rugby games was announced in March, Channel 5 could, and should have, avoided Formula E weekends.

Having four Saturday’s of sporting action is better than two Saturday’s where they are competing against themselves for the same demographic. If anything, it demonstrates a serious level of incompetence from Channel 5. With inconsistent scheduling, channel switches, and large gaps between some rounds, it is little wonder that Formula E has struggled to gain traction this season.

Where Channel 5’s main channel did not air coverage live, this site has accounted for 5Spike’s live coverage, combined with the Channel 5 highlights programme that aired on most occasions. Eurosport used Formula E’s World Feed output as the basis for their coverage. Instead of taking the World Feed commentary led by Jack Nicholls, Eurosport opted to use their own in-house team off-tube, usually led by Tom Gaymor and Mike Conway.

Fans cannot watch the race itself live via Formula E’s social media channels, including YouTube, as the existing broadcasting rights restrict this.

The 2017-18 story
The season started with an average audience of 217,000 viewers watching both Hong Kong races across Eurosport and Channel 5, a marginal increase on last year’s figure of 206,000 viewers on Channel 5.

Whilst the tape-delay situation was frustrating at the time, you can see Channel 5’s logic in it: a new presentation setup combined with the time zone difference meaning that a 09:00 time slot is significantly better than a 06:45 time slot.

Viewing figures took a downward turn with Marrakech, which averaged 198,000 viewers on January 13th, a poor figure for an afternoon round. With no highlights programme on Channel 5, Santiago bottomed out at 118,000 viewers across 5Spike and Eurosport.

Highlights of the Mexico City E-Prix on Channel 5’s main channel helped push its combined audience of 290,000 viewers above last year’s figure of 238,000 viewers, with Punta del Este two weeks later (live on Channel 5) also in a similar ballpark.

But channel hunting for Paris and Berlin meant that Formula E never hit 300,000 viewers until the Zurich E-Prix, which averaged 301,000 viewers. The combined peak audience of 412,000 viewers was also the highest of season five.

The season ended badly in New York, with a combined audience of just 69,000 viewers watching Jean-Eric Vergne winning the championship in race one, due to Channel 5’s highlights programme failing to make the air. The second race of the weekend picked up only 146,000 viewers.

Combined average and final thoughts
An average audience of 18k (0.20%) watched Eurosport’s coverage across the whole season, covering 15-minutes of build-up and some post-race reaction. The highlight for Eurosport was the Santiago E-Prix in February, which averaged 32k (0.17%), peaking with 65k (0.35%).

Formula E for Eurosport, in the United Kingdom at least, is filler and nothing more, part of a wider pan-European deal. If anything, Eurosport’s audience figures show that Formula E needs a free-to-air deal in this country otherwise the series will sink without trace.

Collectively, Channel 5’s coverage attracted a weighted average of 177k (1.8%) across the 12 rounds, a significant decrease on season three’s audience of 280k (2.6%), following the same trajectory that ITV’s coverage faced between their first two seasons, although it should be noted that ITV did not mess with the scheduling in the same way that Channel 5.

When Formula E airs live on 5Spike, the championship loses three-quarters of its audience. The races that Channel 5 aired live, including Hong Kong’s tape-delayed coverage, averaged 220k (2.2%), whilst 5Spike’s live races attracted 61k (0.46%). It is also worth pointing out that Formula E consistently rated below both Channel 5’s and 5Spike’s respective slot averages.

A combined audience of 196,000 viewers watched Channel 5’s and Eurosport’s season four coverage of Formula E, a hefty decrease of 30 percent on the 2016-17 average audience of 280,000 viewers. The audience is an increase on season two’s average audience of 138,000 viewers when the championship aired live on ITV4, but down on season one’s average of 216,000 viewers.

When factoring in ITV’s highlights programming, season four is likely to be the lowest on record for Formula E in the UK. Where could live free-to-air coverage of Formula E be heading next in the UK? Head over here to find out…

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F1 soars to highest lunch time peak audience on Sky Sports in six years

The Hungarian Grand Prix was quite the weekend for Sky Sports in the UK, as it recorded some of its highest Formula 1 audience figures in years, overnight viewing figures show.

Race
Live coverage of the race aired on Sky Sports F1 and Main Event from 13:00 to 16:30 to an audience of 1.02m (10.5%), an excellent figure. The audience is Sky’s highest for Formula 1 since the 2017 Mexican Grand Prix, which averaged 1.09m (4.8%).

A fairer comparison would be with Sky’s viewing figures for their other European races, which is where last weekend’s race stands out. Hungary was Sky’s highest for a European round since the 2014 Monaco Grand Prix, when an audience of 1.10m (11.9%) watched Sky’s coverage.

An audience of 669k (6.8%) watched via the F1 channel, with the remaining 353k (3.6%) choosing to watch via Sky Sports Main Event.

Sky’s coverage peaked with 1.55m (14.5%) at 15:45, their third highest peak figure for a European race, only behind the 2012 German and Bahrain rounds! The Germany race from six years ago is top of the tree is because Sky made the race available to Freeview customers as a one-off experiment.

Races in America, Mexico and Canada have peaked at a similar level since, but again is an unfair comparison with Hungary due to the time zone differences, with more viewers available to watch in the evening.

At the time of the peak, 1.06m (9.9%) were watching on Sky Sports F1, whilst 492k (4.6%) tuned into the Main Event simulcast. Both Sky’s average and peak audience figures rose by around 45 percent year-on-year.

> Analysis: Formula 1 shines as UK TV viewing figures increase at half way stage of 2018

Later in the day, Channel 4’s highlights programme from 18:45 to 21:00 averaged 2.08m (11.6%), an increase on last year’s audience figure of 1.96m (13.8%). Considering the German Grand Prix highlights show averaged 2.26m (13.8%) one week earlier, Channel 4’s figure looks low in the context of both that, and Sky’s strong numbers.

A peak of 2.76m (14.2%) watched Channel 4’s broadcast, the peak occurring at 20:25. The poor weather, combined with very little sporting opposition, may well have worked in Sky Sports F1’s favour on Sunday, denting Channel 4’s highlights slightly.

Thanks to Sky’s viewing figures, the combined audience of 3.10 million viewers is the highest for a European round since the 2016 German Grand Prix, and the highest for Hungary since 2015 when the race averaged 4.61 million viewers.

The combined peak audience of 4.31 million viewers is 10,000 viewers higher than one week ago, but still 31,000 viewers below that of the 2016 German Grand Prix! Last week’s highlights show on Channel 4 had stronger growth throughout the broadcast, which explains why there is a closer differential between the average and peak for Hungary compared with Germany.

Qualifying and Analysis
Coverage of a wet qualifying session performed excellently, with the highest audience for qualifying since 2015, and Channel 4’s highest on record.

Live coverage of qualifying aired across Sky Sports F1 and Main Event to an audience of 429k (5.7%) from 13:00 to 15:30, their highest ever audience for a Hungarian qualifying session. Sky’s audience was split 361k (4.8%) to 68k (0.9%) in the F1 channel’s favour. A peak audience of 779k (9.7%) watched the battle for pole position unfold at 14:55.

Later in the day, Channel 4’s highlights programme averaged 1.62m (12.9%) from 17:30 to 19:00, the broadcasters’ highest ever audience for a qualifying programme. Their show peaked with 2.12m (15.8%) at 18:40 as Lewis Hamilton splashed his way to pole position.

The combined audience of 2.05 million viewers is the highest for qualifying since the 2015 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. It really was a weekend of highs, in just about every element where F1 and UK viewing figures are concerned.

Twitter trends are not the most reliable indicator, but I did find it interesting how F1 dominated the UK trends on Sunday afternoon, something that I have not said for an exclusive pay-TV race in years.

Overall, F1 is in an excellent position ready for the second half of the championship. Anecdotally, it feels like F1 is clawing back ground it has lost in recent years on both free-to-air and pay-TV. After the Summer break, F1 moves to Belgium where the battle between Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel continues…

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

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Formula 1 shines as UK TV viewing figures increase at half way stage of 2018

Formula 1’s viewing figures have increased in the United Kingdom at the half way stage of the season, with Channel 4 contributing most to the increase, analysis conducted by this site suggests.

> Increases across the board for Channel 4
> Fewer people tuning into Sky’s wrap-around coverage
> Sensational Silverstone top dog so far

Audience figures for Formula 1 have generally been decreasing since 2012, when the BBC opted to share Formula 1 with Sky Sports, although the first half of both 2013 and 2015 did buck the trend.

Channel 4 took control of the BBC’s free-to-air element starting in 2016, after the corporation exited their contract at the end of 2015. The change exacerbated Formula 1’s audience decline due to Channel 4’s lower audience reach, and less cross-promotion opportunities available. How do viewing figures look for the first half of 2018?

All viewing figures presented in this piece, and across this site, are overnight audience figures supplied by Overnights.tv, known in the industry as live + VOSDAL (video on same day as live). They include anyone who watched the programme on the same day, up until the 02:00 cut-off point.

To outline two phrases referenced frequently in this piece:

  • The average audience is an average of viewers for every minute of the programme from start to finish
    • To keep calculations equal compared with yesteryear, this means using specific ‘chunks’ of Channel 4’s and Sky’s programming, more information below
  • The peak audience is the five-minute segment of the programme which attracted the most viewers
    • For a Formula 1 race, this can be either the start of a boring race, or the final phase of an exciting Grand Prix

What this post does not include is audience figures from on-demand systems such as Now TV, Sky Go or All 4, nor does include radio figures for BBC’s Formula 1 coverage on Radio 5 Live. All of them will make a difference to the overall reach of Formula 1.

Overnight audience figures only tell part of the story, but are still important in an ever-changing world, especially as broadcasters’ clamour for sports programming, which fans traditionally watch live and by harder to reach demographics.

The figures exclude the Hungarian Grand Prix, an important note because it appears Sky recorded some of their biggest figures for F1 in a long time last Sunday (more to come on that in a separate piece), and Formula 1’s largest audience of the season so far.

Sky’s 2018 story
As usual, Sky’s coverage in 2018 has aired live on their dedicated Formula 1 channel. In a change to previous seasons, simulcasts have taken place beyond the Sky Sports network, with Sky’s general entertainment channel Sky One getting in on the action. Sky’s figures exclude those who watched via Sky Go or Now TV.

To calculate the average audience on race day, we use Sky’s three-and-a-half-hour portion, from 70 minutes before lights out to around 40 minutes after the race. Typically, this takes us from 13:00 to 16:30, or equivalent. The average for 2018 encompasses the final half of Pit Lane Live, On the Grid and then the race itself. Sky’s Paddock Live show is not included.

Analysis conducted by this site indicate that fewer people are watching Sky’s wrap-around programming but are still tuning in for the race. The average audience tuning in to Sky’s programming from start to finish has decreased year-on-year, but the peak audience compared with 2017 has remained static.

The simulcasts have failed to stop Sky’s average audience at the half way point of the season from declining for the fourth season in a row. Sky’s coverage on race day have averaged 577,000 viewers from 13:00 to 16:30, or equivalent. During the first half of 2014, 746,000 viewers watched the action on Sky.

This figure has consistently dropped year-on-year: from 657,000 viewers in 2015, to 617,000 viewers in 2016 and 598,000 viewers last season. Now, another 21,000 viewers on average have stopped watching Sky’s race day broadcasts, at least via the television set.

Sky have aired six races exclusively live so far in 2018 to an average audience of 585,000 viewers. The five races Sky shared with Channel 4 averaged 568,000 viewers, a small difference between the two figures.

For the nine races this season where we can make year-on-year comparisons (France and Germany the exceptions), five races dropped compared with 2017, with four gaining ground. The Spanish and Monaco weekends are the stand-out this year for Sky, both recording year-on-year increases of nearly 25 percent, with China and Britain increasing by around 2.5 percent.

However, all five races which decreased year-on-year dropped by double-digit percentage figures. Europe (down 31.7 percent) and Austria (down 27.9 percent, shared with Channel 4 for the first time) were the main casualties for the pay-TV broadcaster, the latter also due to the World Cup. Canada struggled (down 18.3 percent), facing sporting opposition from ITV’s Soccer Aid.

A peak audience of 954,000 viewers watched Sky’s race day coverage of Formula 1 so far this season, identical to last year’s peak figure. Fewer people are watching Sky’s race build-up and post-session analysis than in previous years but are still tuning in for the race itself. The percentage difference between Sky’s average and peak audience figures is the largest it has ever been at this point at 65.3 percent (compared with 59.6 percent last year).

Structurally, Sky have changed the format of their pre-race programming, meaning that from a recording perspective, there is no longer a jump-on point at the top of the hour, in the hour before the race, which may have caused their overall reach to decrease.

Three races have increased their peak audience on Sky this year: Monaco (up 19.0 percent) and Spain (up 14.0 percent) the highlights. The peak audiences for Australia, Canada, Europe, and Austria all decreased by over ten percent year-on-year.

When you look at the increase for Channel 4’s audience figures below, Sky’s figures may be somewhat concerning, considering what may lie ahead in 2019 if the mooted Channel 4 highlights deal collapses.

Channel 4’s 2018 story
Two components make-up Channel 4’s race day figures: their six highlight shows, combined with their five live race day broadcasts. To calculate the average audience, we use Channel 4’s build-up, plus their race block as billed in the EPG, but not their post-race reaction segment. Channel 4’s figures exclude those who may have watched via their on demand All 4 platform.

So far in 2018, Channel 4’s race day programming has averaged 1.90 million viewers, an increase on 2017’s average audience figure of 1.86 million viewers. Channel 4’s mid-year figure for 2018 includes one additional highlights programme compared with 2017. Without this highlights programme, Channel 4’s average will be slightly higher.

Channel 4’s live programming so far in 2018 have averaged 2.16 million viewers, an increase on last year’s figure of 2.11 million viewers. Their highlight shows have averaged 1.68 million viewers, compared with 1.60 million at the same stage last season.

The first half of 2018 has been excellent for Channel 4. For the nine races where we can make year-on-year comparisons, seven increased their audience volume. The first five races of the season all recorded an increased audience for the free-to-air broadcaster.

China (up 23.8 percent) and Spain (up 10.0 percent) were the highlights for Channel 4, both literally and figuratively. Canada (down 11.7 percent) and Austria (down 13.2 percent) struggled for Channel 4, although both have explanations: Canada was a late-night programme for the third year running, whilst Austria clashed with the World Cup.

The broadcaster has also set some record numbers for their highlights programming:

  • The 2018 Spanish Grand Prix averaged 2.33 million viewers, the highest since BBC’s coverage of the 2015 Singapore Grand Prix [2.77 million]
  • The 2018 German Grand Prix peaked with 3.11 million viewers, the highest figure since BBC’s coverage of the 2015 Singapore Grand Prix [3.27 million]

Whilst the figures pale in comparison to what the BBC was attracting in 2015 and before, the audience figures show that viewers prefer watching Channel 4’s highlights programming, and (assuming F1 cannot return to BBC or ITV), F1 would be in a significantly worse position without Channel 4’s highlights in 2019.

A peak audience of 2.71 million viewers have watched Channel 4’s coverage this year, an increase of 4.1 percent on the equivalent 2017 figure of 2.60 million viewers. Eight out of the nine races where we can make comparisons have increased their peak audience, only Canada lets the side down with a 5.4 percent drop compared with 2017.

The gap between Channel 4’s peak audience for their live and highlights shows has remained around one million viewers. Channel 4’s live races have attracted a peak audience of 3.27 million viewers, an increase of 5.6 percent on last year’s figure of 3.10 million viewers; whilst a peak audience of 2.24 million viewers have watched their highlights programming, also an increase on 2017’s figure.

Their highest peak figure so far this year came with the Azerbaijan Grand Prix in April, which peaked with 3.66 million viewers, Channel 4’s highest peak figure for a lunchtime race since the 2016 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

Combined audience and final thoughts
At the half way stage of 2018, the UK combined television average audience stands at 2.48 million viewers, a slight increase on the equivalent figure in 2017 of 2.45 million viewers.

Where races aired live across Channel 4 and Sky, an audience of 2.73 million viewers watched, another small increase of 10,000 viewers on the first half of 2017. Channel 4’s increases and Sky’s decreases in this regard have cancelled each other out, resulting in negligible year-on-year change.

The numbers are more positive when looking at races that aired in highlights form on Channel 4. A combined audience of 2.27 million viewers watched on these occasions, an increase of 3.4 percent compared with 2017’s figure of 2.19 million viewers. Considering Canada and France brought in low audiences, this is an excellent figure suggesting Channel 4’s highlights are punching above their weight – a strong case you might argue for Channel 4 airing highlights in 2019. Three of the top five races this year aired live on free-to-air television:

01 – 3.06 million viewers – British Grand Prix (live)
02 – 2.99 million viewers – Spanish Grand Prix (highlights)
03 – 2.95 million viewers – German Grand Prix (highlights)
04 – 2.89 million viewers – Bahrain Grand Prix (live)
05 – 2.87 million viewers – Azerbaijan Grand Prix (live)

As referenced earlier in the article, the Hungarian Grand Prix has since usurped the British Grand Prix to the top of the tree for 2018, Hungary not part of the calculations in this post since it falls into the second half of the season.

What is notable is how the top five races all averaged above 2.85 million viewers. In the same table at the half-way stage last year, the fifth highest race averaged 2.55 million viewers! If anything, it demonstrates how three races this season (Canada, France, and Austria) have had a significant impact on the mid-year audience figures. Those three races averaged under two million viewers. We cannot ‘not’ count them, the races happened after all.

The sensational British, German, and Azerbaijani rounds all enter the top five, with Spain and Bahrain rounding out proceedings. The presence of the World Cup might have dented France and Austria significantly; however, it did not have a profound effect on the rounds that followed, with Formula 1 bouncing back immediately from its brief slump.

A combined peak audience of 3.65 million viewers have watched Formula 1 so far in 2018, an increase on last year’s figure of 3.54 million viewers. For races that aired in highlights form on free-to-air television, a combined peak of 3.23 million viewers watched, compared with 4.16 million viewers for live races. Both figures are up by around 150,000 viewers on the equivalent 2017 figures of 3.07 million viewers and 4.01 million viewers respectively.

Unpredictably is helping Formula 1 this year, with Ferrari, Mercedes, and Red Bull all capable of winning on a good day. An interesting question is whether Formula One Management’s decision to move races 70 minutes later than in previous years has helped UK viewing figures.

Given that races across the board, irrespective of whether the race has aired on free-to-air television in highlights form or aired live have increased year-on-year, looking at the figures, I feel that the time change has made very little difference to the overall numbers, if at all. Which is a good thing for Liberty Media.

It is also possible looking at the figures that Sky’s F1 audience is healthier compared to previous years when factoring in Sky Go and Now TV. They all could make up the difference, but we simply do not know as Sky do not release these figures publicly.

This site has reached out to the BBC, Channel 4, and Sky Sports for comment.

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UK broadcasters reap rewards of dramatic German Grand Prix

A peak audience of 4.3 million viewers watched the German Grand Prix across Channel 4 and Sky Sports yesterday, overnight viewing figures in the UK show.

Race
The race aired live on Sky Sports F1, with Channel 4 airing highlights later, both broadcasters reaping the rewards from a dramatic race. Sky Sports dropped its Paddock Live show after thunderstorms disrupted their post-race broadcast, the pay-TV broadcaster opting to head off air at 16:40 UK time.

Sky’s broadcast from 13:00 to 16:40 averaged 685k (7.7%), their third highest average of the season so far, only behind Monaco and Canada. Their coverage peaked with 1.19m (12.5%) at 15:20 as Sebastian Vettel crashed out of the Grand Prix. It is Sky’s highest peak for a European round since last season’s Italian Grand Prix, which peaked with 1.39m (15.0%).

Although the figures for Sky are good, both metrics are down by 20 percent when compared with the 2016 German Grand Prix. In 2016, the Hockenheim round averaged 932k (11.8%) across Sky Sports F1 and 1, with 1.48m (17.4%) watching Sky’s coverage at its peak, although it should be noted that those figures were very strong for Sky even at that time.

The difference between Sky’s 2016 and 2018 audience figures could suggest that more viewers are watching via Sky Go and Now TV, both of which are unaccounted for as Sky do not release these publicly. Sky’s core audience was likely split yesterday between the F1 and the Open Golf championship, so Sky are unlikely to be concerned by the drop in F1’s audience figure.

Following on from its Spanish Grand Prix success, Channel 4’s highlights programme recorded its highest ever peak figure yesterday. A peak audience of 3.11m (17.8%) watched Channel 4’s highlights broadcast at 20:15, the highest since the 2015 Singapore Grand Prix.

Channel 4’s average audience of 2.26m (13.8%) was slightly lower than Spain over a 135-minute time slot, but in-line with the 2016 average audience of 2.27m (14.1%). These figures come at a crucial time for Channel 4 as it looks to broadcast Formula 1 in highlights form from 2019. Certainly, audience figures indicate that would be the best course of action…

The combined average audience of 2.95 million viewers is the third highest of 2018, only behind Britain and Spain. Compared with the 2016 German round, the average audience is down by around 252,000 viewers, largely a result of Sky’s audience figures dropping.

A peak audience of 4.30 million viewers watched the race across Channel 4 and Sky, a split of 72:28 in Channel 4’s favour. The peak is in-line with 2016’s peak audience of 4.33 million, although the split on that day was 66:34 in Channel 4’s favour. In fact, the peak audience yesterday was the highest for a free-to-air highlights race since the 2016 Grand Prix!

Qualifying
Live coverage of qualifying averaged 335k (4.5%) across Sky’s F1 channel and their Main Event outlet. An audience of 260k (3.5%) watched via the F1 channel from 13:00 to 15:45, with 112k (1.5%) watching via Main Event from 13:55 onwards.

Later in the day, Channel 4’s highlights programme averaged 1.08m (9.6%) from 17:30 to 19:00, resulting in a combined average audience of 1.41 million viewers. Both broadcasters’ audience figures dropped by over 10 percent compared with 2016’s average of 1.69 million viewers.

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

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British Grand Prix helps F1 hit 2018 high

Despite England’s World Cup performance dominating headlines on Saturday, the British Grand Prix still attracted a healthy audience the following day, overnight viewing figures show.

Race
Live coverage of the race aired across Channel 4 and three of Sky’s television outlets, with the race starting at 14:10 UK time.

Channel 4’s coverage averaged 2.39m (24.4%) from 13:00 to 16:30, a marginal increase on their 2016 and 2017 average audiences of 2.36m (17.9%) and 2.20m (20.4%) respectively. Of note is that the percentage shares for Formula 1 increased significantly compared with the past few years, reflecting the low television audience around yesterday.

Meanwhile, Sky’s programming across their dedicated F1 channel, Sky Sports Main Event and Sky 1 averaged 671k (6.9%). An audience of 384k (3.9%) watched via Sky Sports F1, with 180k (1.8%) watching via Main Event and a further 107k (1.1%) on Sky 1, a split of 57:27:16.

The total audience for Sky is up on last year’s combined figure of 652k (6.0%), but down on 2016’s figure of 736k (5.8%); in both years the race did not air on Sky 1 but did air on Sky Sports Main Event. Sky F1’s audience increased year-on-year, however Main Event’s audience dropped, reflecting the fact that Sky’s 2018 programme aired across Main Event and Sky 1.

The race itself started with 4.29m (42.7%) across Channel 4 and Sky, an excellent starting point for the Grand Prix considering Austria seven days earlier started with 3.25m (35.5%) in the same time slot. Admittedly, Austria had World Cup football to compete with, whereas the British Grand Prix had a free reign, on race day at least.

Fans remained hooked on the race throughout, audiences never dipping below 4.1 million viewers. Viewing figures climbed in the latter stages, reaching a peak of 4.55m (43.0%) at 15:30 as Sebastian Vettel claimed victory.

At the time of the peak, 3.50m (33.2%) were watching Channel 4’s broadcast, with 1.04m (9.9%) watching one of Sky’s outlets, a split of 77:23. Across Sky, the F1 channel peaked with 610k (5.8%) at 15:30, with Main Event peaking with 315k (3.1%) at the start of the race. Sky 1’s coverage peaked with 153k (1.5%) at 15:10.

The combined average audience of 3.06 million viewers is the highest of 2018 so far, and an increase of 7.1 percent on last year’s average of 2.86 million viewers. The 2018 average however is marginally down on the average audience recorded in 2016 of 3.10 million viewers.

The peak audience of 4.55 million viewers follows the same pattern as the average: an increase on 2017’s peak of 4.45 million viewers and a 2018 high, but down 9.0 percent on the 2016 peak audience of 4.99 million viewers. The shares at the time of the peak are considerably higher for 2018 (43.0%) than in the past two years (31.5% and 34.6%), again reflecting the low total audience.

Despite being the highest F1 peak of 2018, it is not Channel 4’s highest peak of 2018 as you might expect, suggesting a few more viewers sampled Sky’s coverage because of the simulcast on Sky 1.

Qualifying and Analysis
As widely anticipated, qualifying badly suffered at the hands of England versus Sweden, which clashed with the closing seconds of the session.

Live coverage of qualifying on Channel 4 averaged 1.06m (8.3%) from 12:55 to 15:50, a significant decrease of 319,000 viewers compared with 2017’s average audience of 1.38m (15.2%). Airing across four channels did not help Sky: their average audience for Silverstone qualifying dropped from 413k (4.5%) in 2017 to 277k (2.5%) this year.

Sky Sports F1’s programme averaged 198k (1.8%), with Sky 1, Main Event and Mix averaging 44k (0.42%), 30k (0.30%) and 5k (0.04%) respectively.

The combined average audience of 1.33 million viewers is unsurprisingly down 25 percent on last year’s average of 1.79 million viewers and the lowest for Britain since 2006. The qualifying session itself peaked with 1.92m (15.0%) at 14:40, compared with last year’s peak audience of 2.64m (27.3%).

In hindsight, and as stated beforehand, FOM should have moved qualifying earlier to prevent a clash, a clash which clearly dented viewing figures in the UK significantly. Thankfully, the Saturday clash did not harm Sunday’s numbers, with some excellent shares.

The raw audience is in-line with last year, a major achievement considering the heatwave that the UK is currently experiencing. If anything, this was an audience figure badly needed after the past three races: Canada and France did not air live on free-to-air television, whilst World Cup action overshadowed both the French and Austrian race days.

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

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