519,000 viewers watch Le Mans climax

The 24 Hours of Le Mans performed well in the United Kingdom over the weekend despite hot weather depleting the total available audience, overnight viewing figures show.

Live coverage of the race aired across Eurosport, Quest TV and ITV4. Eurosport and Quest TV had the same arrangements as 2015 and 2016, with Eurosport airing the whole race live. ITV4 joined the fray this year, airing the last four and a half hours live. The viewing figures in this piece exclude those who watched via the Eurosport Player, FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) App or via other online means.

The race from 13:45 on Saturday to 14:15 on Sunday averaged 98k (1.6%), when taking into account the various outlets, an increase on last year’s number of 73k (0.9%) and in-line with 2015‘s average audience of 98k (1.5%). To be level with 2015’s number, despite a live presence from ITV4 could appear disappointing, but television over the weekend took a hit due to the weather.

Eurosport’s coverage of the complete race averaged 58k (0.99%) from 13:45 on Saturday, peaking with 166k (2.52%) as the race ended at 14:00 on Sunday. Their 2016 average is in-line with last year’s number of 60k (0.79%), although the audience share is significantly up. Both metrics are down on 2015, which averaged 70k (1.1%).

For the second year in a row, Quest TV’s coverage struggled compared to 2015, with all their shows recording under 100,000 viewers. An audience of 89k (1.59%) watched the race start on Quest from 13:30 to 15:30 on Saturday, whilst 98k (0.66%) watched their evening update.

Quest TV’s Sunday programming struggled badly, suggesting a significantly overlap between their demographic and ITV4’s core audience. Quest’s Sunday update at 10:00 averaged just 14k (0.25%), with the race conclusion from 13:00 to 14:30 averaging 39k (0.62%). Certainly, the evidence would suggest that live coverage should air on Quest or ITV4, but not both at the same time.

ITV4’s live programme on Sunday aired from 09:30 to 14:30 and averaged 146k (2.4%). Considering that the broadcasters’ coverage was relatively unadvertised, with little promotion from series organisers, this is a solid number. ITV4’s coverage grew to a peak of 284k (4.3%) at 14:00.

The combined peak audience of 519k (7.9%) came on Sunday at 14:00 as the race ended, with 284k watching on ITV4, 166k on Eurosport and a further 69k on Quest TV. It is the highest Le Mans peak in the UK for many years, with an excellent combined share as well across the three networks.

However, whilst it is great to see Le Mans broadcast on three networks, there is evidence to suggest that one network with full live coverage and another free-to-air network broadcasting some action live. Assuming there are no clashes, I think the free-to-air network in question should be ITV4 given that the network reaches more viewers than Quest.

Most of the talent working on Quest’s coverage had either or currently do work on ITV4’s motor sport portfolio, so it would make sense to rationalise the output with emphasis on promoting ITV4’s live coverage as well. To the contrary though, Quest is part of the Discovery family (which Eurosport is a part of), so they get Le Mans as a ‘freebie’ to promote Eurosport’s programming which Discovery would probably be keen to keep.

The 2016 24 Hours of Le Mans ratings report can be found here.

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Canadian Grand Prix dips below two million viewers

The Canadian Grand Prix averaged under two million viewers in the United Kingdom this past Sunday, overnight viewing figures show.

Race
Live coverage of the race, simulcast across Sky Sports F1 and Sky Sports 2, averaged 962k (5.2%) from 18:00 to 21:30, representing Sky’s highest audience of the season. The audience was split 704k (3.8%) versus 259k (1.4%) across the two channels. The combined audience is up on last year’s average audience of 853k (4.0%). Sky simulcast last year’s programme across the dedicated F1 channel and Sky Sports 1, so the year-on-year comparison is like for like.

Sky’s coverage peaked with 1.47m (7.0%) at 20:30, representing a slight increase on the peak audience in 2016 of 1.41m (6.3%). It is Sky’s highest average audience for the Montreal round of the championship since they started covering the sport in 2012, so they should be relatively happy with audience numbers (although the peak is down 300k on 2012).

Channel 4 aired their highlights from 22:30 to 00:35, to an average audience of just 970k (11.6%), down 25.3 percent on 2016’s average of 1.30m (15.3%), which aired in a slightly later slot. Yesterday’s scheduling was poor, with a 15-minute filler repeat of Gogglebox preceding the highlights and averaging just 549k (3.3%). It is Channel 4’s second lowest highlights audience yet, only ahead of last years’ United States Grand Prix.

Channel 4’s peak audience was lower than Sky’s, hitting a high of 1.33m, down around 387k year-on-year. The numbers recorded by the free-to-air broadcaster are poor, one of the many reasons why races such as Canada, USA and Mexico should air live on free-to-air television to reach the highest possible audience – not just in the UK but all over Europe. F1 going out in the graveyard slot does not do the sport any good in the long-term.

The combined audience of 1.93 million viewers is down on last year’s audience of 2.15 million viewers; with the combined peak audience of 2.80 million viewers representing a similar drop year-on-year, down from 3.13 million viewers. Both represent record lows for Canada.

Qualifying
The pattern for qualifying was identical to that described above: Sky Sports increasing, Channel 4 decreasing, although on this occasion Channel 4 aired their highlights programme later than in 2016.

Live coverage of qualifying on Sky Sports F1 averaged 342k (2.2%) from 17:00 to 19:40, an increase on last year’s average audience of 285k (1.8%). The competition year-on-year was broadly similar with tough international football action in both years. Last year saw the opening weekend of Euro 2016, whilst qualifying this year clashed with England vs Scotland.

A later time slot affected highlights on Channel 4. Airing from 22:30 to 23:55, their highlights averaged 879k (7.6%), a drop on last year’s audience of 1.22m (8.0%) which aired half an hour earlier.

The combined average audience of 1.22 million viewers is down 19 percent on last year’s audience of 1.51 million viewers.

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

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Monaco Grand Prix dips year-on-year

The Monaco Grand Prix struggled over the Bank Holiday weekend in the United Kingdom, overnight viewing figures show.

Race
Live coverage of the race itself, broadcast on Channel 4 from 12:00 to 15:10, averaged 1.96m (23.8%), peaking with 2.68m (30.6%) at 14:30. Channel 4 have not lucked in with their choice of live races so far this season, with their last two choices (Russia and Monaco) turning into poor races, and Baku likely to throw up the same next month.

Sky Sports chose to simulcast their coverage across Sky Sports 1 and Mix, to an average audience of 591k (7.2%) from 12:00 to 15:30. Their audience was split 425k versus 167k in Sky Sports F1’s favour. Sky’s coverage peaked with 861k (9.8%) at 14:35 as Vettel claimed victory.

It was the first live free-to-air broadcast for the Monaco round of the championship since 2012. Nevertheless, a combined average audience of 2.55 million viewers is still lower than last year’s audience of 2.78 million viewers when Channel 4 aired highlights, and the lowest on record for this Grand Prix. Viewing figures were down 39.8 percent on the combined average in 2015 of 4.23 million viewers.

The combined peak audience came at 14:35, as 3.53 million viewers (40.2%) watched across Channel 4 and Sky, the lowest since 2006. At the time of the peak, 76 percent of viewers were watching on Channel 4, with a quarter watching across Sky F1 and Mix. The shares across the board are slightly higher than usual, with warm weather having an effect across the country – a 40 percent share is still impressive irrespective of circumstances.

Qualifying
Live coverage of qualifying, broadcast on Channel 4 from 11:55 to 14:30, averaged 1.14m (15.5%), peaking with 1.75m (21.7%) at 13:35 as Lewis Hamilton was eliminated from qualifying. The third session of qualifying rated lower than the second phase, which is unusual, given that qualifying typically builds up to a crescendo.

Sky Sports F1’s broadcast, which aired from 12:00 to 14:40, averaged 277k (3.8%), peaking at the end of the session with 491k (5.9%). The combined average audience of 1.42 million viewers and combined peak audience of 2.23 million viewers (27.6%) are both down on last year’s figures of 1.65 million and 2.34 million respectively.

Next up, the Formula 1 heads to Montreal for the Canadian Grand Prix. With Channel 4 airing highlights of the race for the second year in a below, expect a very low average – potentially under two million viewers. Furthermore, Sky’s live coverage clashes with a competitive international football weekend, which will only deplete audiences further.

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

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How the Indy 500 and Monaco Grand Prix performed around the world

Whilst this site traditionally focusses on the United Kingdom viewing figures picture, yesterday’s Indianapolis 500 unsurprisingly made a significant splash in Spain.

According to FormulaTV, live coverage of the Indianapolis 500 in Spain averaged 443k (3.6%) from 17:59 to 22:06 on #0 and Movistar Sports. #0 is Movistar+’s main subscription channel in Spain, hence why the Indianapolis 500 was featured on there.

As a result, the IndyCar action beat the Monaco Grand Prix, which averaged 212k (2.0%) on Movistar’s dedicated Formula 1 channel from 14:03 to 15:48. Last year’s action from Monaco averaged 302k (2.8%), so F1 lost just under a third of the viewers year-on-year. In Spain, Formula 1 used to air on the free-to-air station Antena 3, a deal which ended in 2015, with viewing figures in their millions.

Whilst IndyCar ratings are unknown in Germany and Italy, the Monaco Grand Prix performed well in both markets, thanks to Sebastian Vettel and Ferrari in strong form. In Germany, the race aired live on free-to-air station RTL, to an audience of 5.23m (34.5%) according to Quotenmeter.

In Italy, an audience of 5.80m (35.5%) watched Vettel’s victory on free-to-air channel Rai 1, figures compiled by TVBlog show. Both Germany and Italy’s figures appear to exclude Sky Deutschland and Sky Italia respectively, which will increase their respective audiences slightly.

Meanwhile in America, live coverage of the Indianapolis 500 averaged 5.46 million viewers on ABC, a drop on last year’s audience of 6.01 million viewers. This shouldn’t be considered surprising though as last year’s race had the local ABC blackout lifted to commemorate with the 100th running.

The Monaco Grand Prix aired over on NBC and averaged a strong 1.44 million viewers, up slightly on last year’s number of 1.32 million viewers. It’s a good number and, according to NBC themselves, the most watched live F1 race on record.

UK – Alonso’s Indy 500 exploit peaks with 203,000 viewers

The 2017 Indianapolis 500, highlighted by Fernando Alonso’s one-off move from Formula 1, peaked with over 200,000 viewers in the United Kingdom, overnight viewing figures show.

Race Analysis
BT Sport/ESPN aired the race exclusively live from 16:30 to 21:30. The complete broadcast, including studio build-up and post-race reaction, averaged 129k (0.91%) across the five-hour time slot.

The show started with 31k (0.35%) at 16:30, increasing slightly to 54k (0.57%) at 16:55. Quickly audiences jumped over the 100k mark, hitting a high of 133k (1.31%) at 17:25 as the race started, before dipping back towards 100k. For the best part of an hour, audiences hovered around 110k until 18:45.

Viewing figures picked up at 18:45 as the caution period for Conor Daly’s accident started, numbers moving from 120k (0.86%) at 18:45 to 165k (1.16%) at 18:55. Audiences remained around 170k through the 19:00 clock hour, eventually hitting 201k (1.18%) at 20:10.

The peak audience though came at 20:30 as Alonso’s Andretti Autosport car retired from the race, with 203k (1.15%) watching. An audience of 191k (1.04%) watched Takuma Sato’s victory at 20:55, so encouragingly the extra viewers stuck around for the conclusion of the race.

Historical Comparisons
Last year’s Indianapolis 500 averaged just 12k (0.09%) on BT Sport 1, peaking with 31k (0.16%). In percentage terms, that is a year on year increase of 975 percent based on the average, and an increase of 555 percent based on the peak figure! Which is extra-ordinary, really. It highlights how shockingly the Indianapolis 500 has rated historically with very little attention on it from UK broadcasters and writers.

Yesterday’s IndyCar audience was the highest for the championship since records began in 2006. It is probably the highest for American open-wheel racing since the Eurosport days with CART in the early 2000s, although it is difficult to say exactly when.

I think IndyCar may experience a small boost in the UK for next weekend’s races in Detroit, but I do not foresee any medium to long-term boost for the series over here. From an IndyCar perspective, it is a great number, but from a wider motor sport perspective, it is no greater than other numbers for UK races.

As an example, the British Touring Car Championship on ITV4 regularly equals or betters the Indy 500 number recorded; whilst BT’s MotoGP coverage peaks with between 250k and 300k for each race. It is likely that the Indy 500 would have done better had a free-to-air channel, such as Channel 5 or Quest, picked the race up to broadcast live. We will never know whether a free-to-air broadcaster expressed genuine interest.

By airing the race live on BT Sport/ESPN (as part of the normal IndyCar deal) it severely limited the potential for the race; and meant that audiences may have resorted to ‘other methods’ of watching, such as streaming online via non-BT sources. Not many people realised it was on BT Sport, as extremely high traffic to this site yesterday appeared to indicate.

If a Formula 1 star does attempt IndyCar again next year, organisers may want to consider offering it to international broadcasters ‘standalone’ instead of rigidly sticking to existing commitments, in the same way that the 24 Hours of Le Mans is packaged differently worldwide. But, next year, the aura around such an appearance will be less.

Do not get me wrong, for IndyCar the Indianapolis 500 numbers were fantastic and frankly huge for the championship. In the grand scheme of things, was money left on the table by series organisers?

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