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.

Race
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.

Qualifying
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.

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Japanese Grand Prix continues positive ratings patch for Formula 1

The Japanese Grand Prix continued what is turning into a stronger than expected ratings period for Formula 1 in the UK, overnight viewing figures show.

Race
The race aired across Sky Sports F1 and Sky Sports Main Event on Sunday morning from 05:00 to 08:30 to an audience of 384k (20.0%), a strong increase on last year’s figure of 316k (14.8%). These figures include viewers who recorded Sky’s live broadcast and watched it before 02:00 on Monday morning (Live + Video on Same Day as Live [VOSDAL]).

It is Sky’s third highest number for the Japanese round of the championship, only behind 2012 and 2014, which aired an hour later than this year. An audience of 302k (15.9%) watched via the F1 channel, with 82k (4.1%) watching via Main Event.

Live coverage of the race itself started with 594k (40.3%), staying above 500,000 viewers for the duration. A peak audience of 672k (20.8%) watched as Lewis Hamilton won the Grand Prix, this figure split 517k (16.0%) and 162k (5.5%) across F1 and Main Event respectively.

Channel 4’s highlights programme also performed strongly, averaging 2.03m (17.7%) from 15:00 to 17:15. Of course, Formula 1 benefited from no Premier League football action on Sunday, but for Channel 4’s highlights number to be only 300,000 viewers behind the 2.36m (20.9%) who watched the BBC programme in 2012 is a real achievement.

A peak audience of 2.61m (20.4%) caught Channel 4’s highlights show at 16:45 as their edit concluded. Channel 4’s audience figures are comfortably up year-on-year, and higher than both Australia and China earlier this season.

The combined average audience of 2.42 million viewers is an increase of 23 percent on last year’s average of 1.97 million viewers. Japan has historically rated lower than the season average. To give two examples, in 2012, the average audience was 2.77 million viewers, whilst the average in 2015 was 2.64 million viewers. Certainly, Sunday’s average is promising for the rest of the season.

At its peak, 3.29 million viewers watched Channel 4’s and Sky’s programming on Sunday, an increase of around 18 percent year-on-year. Both metrics increased for the fourth race in succession, a rare trend for Formula 1 considering the channel switch from the BBC to Channel 4 at the end of 2015.

Qualifying
Live coverage of qualifying, broadcast across Sky Sports F1 and Sky Sports Main Event, averaged 240k (8.1%) from 06:00 to 08:40. The average is Sky’s highest ever for a Japanese qualifying broadcast, beating last year’s figure by 4,000 viewers.

Although it is Sky’s highest figure, it should be noted that from 2012 to 2014, qualifying started an hour earlier than what it currently does, so the comparison is not necessarily like-for-like. An average of 196k (6.6%) watched via the F1 channel, with the remaining 43k (1.5%) watching via Main Event.

Channel 4’s highlights programme averaged 1.16m (13.8%) from 13:00 to 14:30, an increase of 151,000 viewers compared with 2016. Both broadcasters posted solid numbers, resulting in a combined audience of 1.40 million viewers, an increase on last year’s audience of 1.24 million viewers, but still below the two million barrier numbers seen when F1 was on the BBC.

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

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Verstappen’s Malaysian victory peaks with 4.1 million viewers

A peak audience of 4.1 million viewers watched Max Verstappen claim a surprise victory in the final Malaysian Grand Prix, overnight UK viewing figures for the show.

Race
Live coverage of the race aired on Channel 4 from 07:00 to 10:40, and averaged 1.22m (18.7%), slightly down on last year’s programme average of 1.30m (21.1%) across the same time slot. The decrease in audience share is a result of the total TV audience building faster across the 09:00 and 10:00 clock hour compared to the same day last year.

Alongside Channel 4, Verstappen’s victory aired across three Sky Sports channels: F1, Main Event and Mix. An audience of 361k (5.6%) watched via the F1 channel from 07:00 to 10:30, with 98k (1.5%) and 31k (0.5%) watching via Main Event and Mix respectively. Sky’s combined average of 486k (7.5%), accounting for the shorter run-time on Sky Sports Mix, is an increase of 104,000 viewers on last year’s audience of 382k (4.2%).

Channel 4’s highlights programme performed well later in the day, averaging 941k (9.2%) from 13:30 to 16:10, an increase on last year’s figure of 747k (4.8%), last year’s programme airing much later in the afternoon. The combined audience of 2.64 million viewers is lower than both Italy and Singapore before it, but is a healthy increase of 9 percent on last year’s average of 2.43 million viewers.

The race itself started on Sunday morning with 1.94m (35.8%) at 08:00, growing throughout to a peak audience of 2.88m (33.2%) at 09:30. At the time of the peak, 2.15m (24.8%) were watching on Channel 4, with 730k (8.4%) watching via Sky’s three channels. However, Sky’s coverage peaked earlier in the race: at 08:45, an audience of 739k (10.0%) were watching their broadcast. The peak audience for the live broadcast is up on last year’s peak audience of 2.69m (32.8%)

A peak audience of 1.26m (11.6%) watched Channel 4’s highlights programme, resulting a combined peak audience of 4.15 million viewers, a strong peak to end Sepang’s stay on the Formula 1 calendar. The recent viewing figures have been positive for Formula 1, with increases at the last three rounds compared with 2016, a trend that will hopefully continue with the Japanese Grand Prix this weekend.

Qualifying
A similar number of viewers watched Lewis Hamilton’s pole position effort compared with 2016, audience figures show.

Live coverage of the session on Saturday morning aired across Channel 4, Sky Sports F1 and Sky Sports Main Event. Channel 4’s broadcast averaged 782k (11.6%) from 08:55 to 11:45, slightly down on last year’s audience of 811k (11.4%) over a slightly shorter slot.

A combined average of 329k (4.8%) watched Sky’s programming, with 274k (4.1%) watching via the dedicated F1 channel and a further 59k (0.9%) tuning into the premier Main Event channel. The slight difference is because Main Event cut away from the F1 to football at 11:30, whereas the live show on the F1 channel ran until 11:40. Sky’s audience is up on last year’s figure of 278k (3.9%).

Later, an audience of 514k (6.8%) tuned into Channel 4’s highlights broadcast from 13:35 to 15:30, down in audience but up in share on last year’s number of 658k (4.8%). The combined audience, across live and highlights of 1.63 million viewers is a decrease year-on-year of around 100,000 viewers.

The live qualifying session peaked with 1.76m (24.7%) at 10:55 as Hamilton clinched pole position. At the time of the peak, the audience split 68:32, with 1.21m (16.9%) watching on Channel 4 and 555k (7.8%) watching via the pay-TV broadcaster.

Channel 4’s highlights programme peaked with 710k (9.2%), resulting in a cumulative combined peak audience of 2.47 million viewers, a drop of 226,000 viewers year-on-year.

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

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Nearly four million viewers watch Hamilton take control

A peak audience of nearly four million viewers watched Lewis Hamilton’s victory in a dramatic Singapore Grand Prix, overnight UK viewing figures show.

Race
Channel 4’s live build-up coverage, followed by the race itself, averaged 2.29m (22.1%) from 12:00 to 15:30. Thanks to the long race length inflating the average, it is marginally the broadcasters’ highest average of the year, just ahead of the Azerbaijan Grand Prix from June, and their highest average since last year’s Mexican Grand Prix.

Because of the early drama, Sky extended their race show until 15:50 before switching to Paddock Live until 16:30. Sky’s coverage across the dedicated F1 channel and Sky Sports Mix averaged 723k (7.0%), their highest audience for Singapore since 2014. The audience was split 585k (5.6%) versus 139k (1.4%) in the F1 channel’s favour, or 81:19.

The combined average audience of 3.01 million viewers is amazingly identical to the last round of the championship in Italy! Compared with 2016, the audience is up by a massive 625,000 viewers, the largest year-on-year rise of the season so far. Furthermore, the 2017 average is not too far away from the 2015 number of 3.45 million viewers, although the 2015 race faced tougher competition from the Rugby World Cup.

An audience of 3.91m (38.5%) watched Ferrari’s Marina Bay meltdown, otherwise known as the race start, at 13:05. Sky’s audience peaked at this stage, with an audience of 1.06m (10.5%) watching the start via their two outlets. Only in two other five-minute segments did their audience increase beyond a million viewers, at 13:20 (just before Arsenal versus Chelsea) and 14:25 (during half-time of said game).

The combined Sky and Channel 4 audience dropped to around 3.6 million to 3.7 million viewers, dipping to a low of 3.55m (32.7%) at 13:50. The audience pattern followed the football, rising during half-time and dropping again afterwards, eventually peaking with 3.97 million viewers (35.9%) as Lewis Hamilton won the Grand Prix. At the time of the combined peak, 3.03m (27.4%) were watching on Channel 4, with 942k (8.5%) watching via Sky, a split of 76:24.

The gap between the average and peak is not as large as other live races, simply because the audience did not grow throughout the race like other live races have done previously, instead it simply flat lined as the outcome was largely known as soon as the first corner accident occurred. It is the worst trajectory we have seen for a F1 race on free-to-air television since last year’s Spanish Grand Prix. The conclusion: start-line accidents at the front not only wipes out leading drivers, but it also takes out some of the casual audience as well.

Qualifying and Speed with Guy Martin
Live coverage of qualifying aired on Channel 4 from 12:55 to 15:45 to an audience of 1.16m (13.8%). Sky Sports F1’s programme added a further 294k (3.5%) from 13:00 to 15:45, bringing in a combined average audience of 1.45 million viewers. The average audience is down around 150,000 viewers year-on-year, and the lowest on record for a Singapore qualifying session.

The qualifying session peaked with 2.20 million viewers (24.8%) at 14:55 as Sebastian Vettel clinched pole position. At the time of the peak, 1.74m (19.6%) were watching on Channel 4, with the remaining 460k (5.2%) watching via Sky, a split of 79:21. Sky’s programme did peak five minutes earlier, with a slightly higher 469k (5.3%). The combined peak audience of in-line with last year’s peak audience of 2.21 million viewers.

Guy Martin’s second Formula 1 documentary did not draw as many viewers as his first one did last year, but still performed solidly for Channel 4. The documentary, focussing on his role with the Williams team during the Belgian Grand Prix weekend, averaged 2.12m (10.4%) from 20:00 on Sunday evening, a good number for the broadcaster in that timeslot.

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

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Formula Two smashes its way to a record high; Formula 1 jumps to season high

The high-octane action of Formula Two helped the championship to a record high audience on Sunday morning, overnight viewing figures show, in what was an excellent weekend for both the feeder series and its bigger brother.

Formula Two soars to record high
Last week in the Belgian Grand Prix ratings post, I joked that I would report the Formula Two audience figures as a one-off. Evidently that changed the moment this past weekend’s figures landed in my inbox. Formula Two, or its predecessor the GP2 Series, has always been the unloved sibling. Whilst Sky Sports F1 has broadcast the World Feed for the leading feeder series, and GP3 since 2012, both entities have been under promoted for various reasons well documented on these pages.

Nevertheless, the new emphasis on the series from Sky and Liberty Media, combined with the rise of Charles Leclerc and Britain’s Oliver Rowland has caused a spike in Formula Two’s viewing figures. The feature race on Saturday was delayed thanks to the excessively long rain delay for Formula 1 qualifying. An audience of 68k (0.6%) stuck around from 17:15 to 18:30 on Saturday evening, a very good figure considering the delay.

The following day, an audience of 103k (1.6%) watched Formula Two’s sprint race from 09:10 to 10:05, peaking with 128k (2.0%) as the race ended, the highest ever overnight audience for a feeder series race on Sky Sports F1 dating back to the channel launch in 2012. Depending on the overarching circumstances, Formula Two can rate anywhere between 10,000 and 60,000 viewers, a very wide margin, but the audience for the feeder series is not as loyal as Formula 1. For a small number, Formula Two may be ‘must watch’, for others it will be a case of watching if nothing else is on.

Quite simply the audience is fantastic for the series, and should please those at Sky and Liberty Media. The next round in Jerez is a standalone event during the Japanese Grand Prix weekend, and based on current standings, it is likely that the championship will be resolved during the weekend. I dare say that Sky should consider giving extra treatment to the Jerez rounds (whether via some extra London studio wrap around or some other mechanism) otherwise the potential championship decider may go unnoticed.

Race
The good news extended through to Formula 1, as both Sky Sports and Channel 4 saw healthy boosts over the weekend, perhaps helped by no top-flight domestic football action.

Live coverage of the race, broadcast across Sky’s dedicated F1 channel and Sky Sports Main Event from 12:00 to 15:20, averaged a strong 857k (9.5%). Note that I would not normally tape-check Sky’s numbers, however Sky concluded their main show ten minutes early, meaning that Main Event went off the air earlier than anticipated. In any event, tape-checking makes little difference to the overall audience as Sky Sports F1’s post-race segment performed better than usual. An audience of 550k (6.1%) watched on the F1 channel, compared with 307k (3.4%) on Main Event, a split of 64:36.

Sky’s audience is their highest ever for the Italian round and their highest European audience since the 2016 German Grand Prix. The same facts apply for the peak audience of 1.39m (15.0%), which occurred at 13:30. At the time of the peak, 883k (9.5%) were watching via the F1 channel, with 505k (5.4%) watching on Main Event. However, Main Event’s audience grew further to a peak of 586k (6.1%) of 14:15, except during the same period, the F1 channel dropped to 762k (8.0%). Overall though, Sunday was an excellent news day for Sky, and they have several reasons to be happy.

After a rough couple of races, Channel 4’s numbers also flourished across the weekend. Their race highlights programme averaged 2.15m (11.6%) from 17:45 to 20:00, their highest audience for highlights since Germany 2016. Channel 4’s peak audience of 2.72m (16.2%) was their highest since the Spanish Grand Prix in May.

The combined audience of 3.10 million viewers is the highest average audience of the entire year, the first time Formula 1 has jumped above three million viewers in this metric since the 2016 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix! Last year, Italy aired live on free-to-air television to an audience of 2.57 million viewers, so the average jumped year-on-year by 17 percent.

Italy is a race made for highlights simply because of its short length meaning that viewers are not missing as much action. The combined peak audience of 4.11 million viewers is an increase of two percent compared with 2016’s live coverage. Describing these audience figures as fabulous may be disingenuous, however they are healthy numbers in the context of the season so far.

Qualifying
Due to torrential rain, Sky Sports F1 was live on-air for over five hours on Saturday, from 12:00 to 17:10 for their qualifying broadcast. Their coverage averaged 363k (5.0%) for the duration, a good performance in the circumstances. From 13:00 to 16:45, the channel never dipped below 310,000 viewers, so most viewers stuck with the broadcast during the two-and-a-half-hour delay. Sky’s coverage recorded a five-minute peak of 543k (6.7%) as the second part of qualifying eventually ended at 16:15.

A little over 15 minutes after Sky went off the air, Channel 4’s highlights programme averaged 1.39m (11.2%) from 17:30 to 19:05, a slight overrun which is unusual for a highlights programme, no doubt the edit was still being completed whilst the programme was ‘live’ on air! The highlights show peaked with a strong 1.92m (14.0%) at 18:45 as Lewis Hamilton claimed pole position.

The combined average audience of 1.75 million viewers is a marginal increase on last year’s audience of 1.70 million viewers. The peak audience is down around 170,000 viewers year-on-year, with a combined peak this year of 2.46 million viewers, compared with 2.63 million viewers twelve months ago.

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

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