Hungarian Grand Prix peaks with 4.2 million viewers

The Hungarian Grand Prix peaked with nearly 4.2 million viewers on Sunday afternoon in the United Kingdom, overnight viewing figures show.

Live coverage of the race, broadcast on Channel 4 from 12:00 to 15:40, averaged 2.06m (21.0%). Their coverage peaked with 3.01m (26.8%) in the five-minute segment from 14:40 as Lewis Hamilton was victorious.

Channel 4’s audience is down 46.6 percent on BBC One’s audience from 2015 of 3.87m (32.5%), it should be noted that the BBC’s programme was broadcast over a shorter three-hour time slot. Nevertheless, Channel 4’s peak figure is down 39.5 percent on BBC’s peak audience of 4.98m (36.8%) from last year.

Sky’s live coverage, broadcast across Sky Sports 1 and F1, averaged 733k (7.3%) from 12:00 to 15:30. Their coverage peaked with around 1.1m (11%) towards the end of the race. Sky’s combined audience is down marginally on 2015’s audience of 745k (6.3%), although the peak audience is up by 100k.

What is noticeable is how the split across the Sky channels has changed year-on-year. In 2015, the split was 84:16 in Sky Sports F1’s favour. The dedicated channel is still ahead, but the split is closer at 70:30.

The combined audience of 2.80 million viewers is the lowest UK audience for the Hungarian round since 2006. Furthermore, the combined audience is down 39.4 percent on 2015’s audience of 4.61 million viewers. The combined peak of 4.16 million viewers is down 30.4 percent year-on-year.

The extended qualifying session meant Channel 4’s schedule was revised slightly, with Channel 4 Racing pushed back half an hour. Their Formula 1 programme, which aired from 11:55 to 15:00, averaged 1.17m (16.0%), peaking with 1.66m (20.4%) at 14:30.

The horse racing coverage from 15:00 onwards averaged just 451k (5.8%). Clearly the right decision was made to stay with the Formula 1 on Channel 4, briefly demoting the horse racing to More4.

Sky Sports F1’s qualifying programme averaged a further 284k (3.9%) from 12:00 to 15:25, peaking with 492k. Sky Sports 1’s simulcast added 83k (1.1%), that programme peaking with 170k.

Both the combined average of 1.54 million viewers and the combined peak of 2.32 million viewers are the lowest for Hungary since 2008.

A disappointing set of numbers
After a few encouraging race where viewing figures were showing signs of recovery, has the Hungarian Grand Prix set us back into ‘reset mode’? The race traditionally rates well, despite its Summer slot it has the benefits of no sporting competition and the race lasting longer than the usual 90 minutes. So the numbers from Sunday have to be considered disappointing.

Excluding Canada (which had a change of slot), the percentage drops year-on-year had been getting smaller. Slowly but surely there were signs of progress. The percentage drops year-on-year of 30%+ were the largest we have seen this season since China, although last year did rate abnormally high for Hungary. It is not all bad news; the peak audience was above 4 million viewers for the third successive race.

Hungary marked the half way stage of the 2016 season, in the next few weeks there will be full analysis of the ratings picture so far in 2016 and where Formula 1 looks to be heading as 2016 heads towards its conclusion.

The 2015 Hungarian Grand Prix ratings report can be found here.

Hamilton’s British Grand Prix victory peaks with 5 million viewers

The British Grand Prix performed solidly on Sunday afternoon for Channel 4 and Sky Sports against a difficult backdrop of both the Wimbledon finals and the final of Euro 2016, overnight viewing figures show.

Live coverage of the race, broadcast on Channel 4 from 12:00 to 15:55, averaged 2.36m (17.9%). Across their usual three-and-a-half-hour slot from 12:00 to 15:30, the coverage averaged 2.54m, so not a major gulf between the two numbers.

Channel 4’s coverage hit a 5-minute peak audience of 3.89m (24.5%) at 14:30 as Lewis Hamilton claimed victory. What is noticeable is that Channel 4’s coverage lost 1.2 million viewers as soon as they went to their first post-race commercial break. Their audience dropped from 3.3 million viewers to 2.1 million. Some of that is natural decline, some of it is self-inflicted, with the break ‘inviting’ the audience to turn over to other channels.

Both Channel 4’s average and peak audiences are season high numbers for them, by a wide margin too. It is good news for the broadcaster, and their strategy of airing more live races in the middle to latter stages of the season may well be paying off, based on the trajectory the season is currently heading in.

Sky’s live coverage from 12:00 to 15:30 averaged 736k (5.8%), this being split 552k vs 184k in the dedicated channel’s favour. Interestingly, their coverage peaked with 1.12m (9.3%) at 13:15, which I believe is their highest peak number for shared coverage in a while. Year-on-year, Sky’s average is up 14 percent, with the peak metric up 21 percent.

Overall, the combined audience of 3.10 million is the second highest of 2016 (slightly behind Austria, thanks to Channel 4’s extended broadcast) but down 27 percent on 2015’s average audience of 4.28 million. This is the lowest audience for the British Grand Prix since 2006, but that should not be any surprise to anyone reading this considering the Wimbledon clash. Compared with 2014, which also clashed with an Andy Murray Wimbledon final, the average audience is down only 6.9 percent.

The Wimbledon build-up on BBC One from 13:00 to 13:55 averaged 2.28m (18.6%), enough to put a dent into the British Grand Prix numbers. The combined peak audience of 4.99m (31.5%) is down 14.6 percent on last year’s peak audience of 5.85m (50.4%), but up 2.4 percent on 2014’s peak audience of 4.88m (32.7%).

Live coverage of qualifying on Channel 4 from 12:00 to 14:30 averaged 1.43m (16.2%), peaking with 2.07m (21.1%) at 13:55. Sky’s coverage of qualifying across Sky Sports 1 and F1 added a further 421k (4.7%). The combined audience of 1.85m is the lowest since 2007 for Silverstone.

For the second weekend running, there are a lot of positives to take from the viewing figures. The average audience was severely weakened by the post-race segment dropping like a stone (as referenced above). The other metrics performed well, which suggests that the Formula 1 could have performed better than what it actually did had the Wimbledon final not been on.

I said at the start of the season that the viewing figures would live or die on the competitiveness of the championship. A runaway four races at the start of the year saw some very low numbers for Sky and Channel 4. The story has since swung around, and ratings have started to improve, both sides are reaping the rewards. Hungary will be an acid test as to whether viewers are going to stay around, or whether we will drop back to pre-Austria levels.

The 2015 British Grand Prix ratings report can be found here.

Dramatic Austrian Grand Prix helps F1 hit 2016 high

A dramatic Austrian Grand Prix lifted Formula 1 to its highest audience of the season in the UK, overnight viewing figures show.

Live coverage of the race, won by Lewis Hamilton after a last lap collision with Nico Rosberg, averaged 866k (9.9%) across Sky Sports 1 and F1 from 12:00 to 15:30. The audience was split 617k (7.1%) on the dedicated channel compared with 248k (2.8%) on Sky Sports 1. Combined, this is the highest audience of the season for Sky, surpassing Canada which averaged 853k across an equivalent slot. For a round that takes place in early afternoon, it is Sky’s highest number since the 2014 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

Channel 4’s highlights programme averaged a further 2.28m (13.6%) from 18:00 to 20:00. It is Channel 4’s highest highlights number of the season, and their second highest average figure overall, only behind their live programme from Bahrain. As expected, their number is down on BBC One’s highlights number from last season of 3.11m (23.1%), but they could take encouragement that numbers are positive in comparison with the season so far.

The combined audience of 3.11 million is the highest for Formula 1 since the 2015 Brazilian Grand Prix. Shockingly, it is the highest for a European round since the 2015 Russian Grand Prix. It is sometimes forgotten that the ratings turmoil actually started at the back end of last season, thanks to the championship being wrapped up a few races early. To a degree, Channel 4 have inherited that and are trying to reclaim those viewers.

It was a good weekend all round for Formula 1 as qualifying also posted a solid number. An average audience of 1.32m (9.2%) watched Channel 4’s highlights programme from 17:30 to 19:00. Around an extra 350k watched on Sky Sports 1 and F1, bringing the combined audience to the region of 1.65 million viewers. Considering Baku was nothing to shout about, these numbers are a surprising but welcome bump.

Double headers will help to maintain an audience off the back of a big story, and the British Grand Prix should do better than expected, comparatively speaking, with the season so far.

Formula E numbers will be on the blog on Tuesday or Wednesday. The 2015 Austrian Grand Prix ratings report can be found here.

Le Mans performs solidly against F1 and Euro 2016

The 24 Hours of Le Mans performed solidly against tough competition last weekend, overnight viewing figures show.

The race, screened live on Eurosport from 13:45 on Saturday to 14:15 on Sunday, averaged 60k (0.8%), down on last year’s audience of 70k (1.1%) but up on 2012 and 2014. Taking into account Quest TV’s coverage, the average increases to 73k (0.9%), down on the combined audience of 98k (1.5%) from 2015.

Eurosport’s coverage of Le Mans hit a high of 147k (1.6%) on Sunday afternoon as the race came to a conclusion, compared with a peak audience of 172k (2.0%) last year. In the grand scheme of things, that’s not a major difference. Where Eurosport really lost viewers year-on-year was in the early stages of the race.

From 13:45 to 20:00 on Saturday, Eurosport averaged 78k (0.7%), down 25 percent on a figure of 104k (1.0%) across the same slot last year. The safety car in hour one will have contributed to this, alongside the European Grand Prix qualifying session and three Euro 2016 games. Numbers rebounded on Sunday for Eurosport, averaging 87k (1.3%) from 08:00 to 14:15 compared with 85k (1.2%) last year. I think overall Eurosport should be happy with their numbers.

Unfortunately for the overall Discovery family, Quest TV’s numbers are underwhelming with two live segments falling flat against Formula 1. The first programme, also hurt by the safety car start, averaged only 56k (0.6%) on Saturday afternoon compared with 140k (1.7%) last year. The two updates on Saturday evening and Sunday morning were Quest TV’s bright spots, averaging 143k (0.8%) and 73k (1.1%) respectively. Numbers slumped again on Sunday afternoon, with their final programme from 13:00 to 14:30 on Sunday averaging just 33k (0.4%). Quest’s coverage peaked with 191k (1.1%) during their Saturday evening update.

I don’t have an exact figure, but it appears that the combined peak audience was in the region of 275k, recorded on Saturday evening whilst Quest TV’s update aired from 20:00 to 21:00. The combined peak last year was 428k (5.0%), so the peak this year is shy of that mark.

Overall, the viewing figures are not too bad. The combination of Euro 2016 and the European Grand Prix was always going to put a dent in Le Mans numbers. If you look at 2012 and 2014, the phenomenon is repeated: even numbered years rate worse than odd numbered years simply because the former clashes with the bi-annual international football event. So, 2016 was in-line with expectations, if anything perhaps slightly above what was anticipated. I hope Quest TV’s coverage continues in 2017. The pattern that they experienced is unusual, but there are rational factors to explain why their number dropped so much for their last programme on Sunday afternoon.

The 2015 24 Hours of Le Mans ratings report can be found here.

Inaugural F1 race in Baku peaks with 3.8 million

The inaugural European Grand Prix from Baku peaked with 3.8 million viewers yesterday, overnight viewing figures show.

Channel 4’s live coverage of the race, broadcast from 13:00 to 16:25, averaged 2.03m (19.3%), peaking with 2.91m (24.4%) at 15:25. The programme won its three and a half hour slot, also comfortably beating its own slot average. Live coverage over on Sky Sports F1 averaged 465k (4.4%) from 13:00 to 16:30, with Sky Sports 1 adding 167k (1.6%) over a slightly shorter slot from 13:00 to 16:05. Sky’s combined peak came at 14:20, when 997k (9.3%) were watching the race with them.

The overall combined average of 2.64 million is the lowest for the European Grand Prix since 2006. It is, however, the third highest audience of the season only behind Bahrain and Monaco. The combined peak audience of 3.85m (32.2%) was recorded at 15:25 as Nico Rosberg won the first ever race at Baku. At the time of the peak, the audience was split 75%, 19% and 6% across the three channels that were covering the race.

Live coverage of the qualifying session, broadcast on Channel 4 from 13:00 to 15:20, averaged 1.08m (11.5%), peaking with 1.55m (14.6%) at 14:55. Channel 4’s programme lost out to ITV’s Euro 2016 coverage of Belgium vs Republic of Ireland, which averaged 2.31m (24.6%) whilst the F1 was on-air.

Perhaps surprisingly, the Channel 4’s F1 coverage also lost out marginally to BBC One’s coverage of Tennis from Queen’s, that programme averaged 1.11m (11.8%) across the same slot as the F1. As usual, the F1 smashed Channel 4’s own slot average. It was also ahead of the Royal Ascot coverage which followed on the main channel from 15:20 to 18:00. The horse racing coverage averaged 674k (6.2%).

Sky Sports F1’s live coverage of qualifying from 13:00 to 15:45 averaged 306k (3.2%), peaking with 613k (5.8%) at 14:50. The combined audience of 1.39 million viewers is the lowest for the European Grand Prix since 2008, with the combined peak of 2.15 million viewers following the same trend.