The Australian Grand Prix weekend saw a change in fortunes for both BBC and Sky Sports. In a stark contrast to last year’s viewing figures, Sky Sports F1 recorded an increase for both Qualifying and the Race, but BBC dropped year-on-year.
A quick note to start with. I’ll be using the Sky ‘race show’ slot to compare with previous years for the entire season, but will use the exact timeslot in the previous years data to do comparisons. Do not expect me to compare a full programme average (in 2012 or 2013) with a ‘race show’ average for 2014, because such a comparison would be invalid.
BBC’s highlights programme on BBC One on Sunday afternoon averaged 2.88m (25.4%), unofficial overnight viewing figures show. This figure is up on 2012 which averaged 2.73m, however, is down on the 3.05m that the programme averaged last season. Its not a major drop, but a drop nonetheless. I think the F1 has been lost in the shuffle this weekend on the BBC, due to the Six Nations taking up the majority of BBC One on Saturday. It meant that less people watched Qualifying with the broadcaster than normal, thus potentially affecting Sunday’s rating too.
Interestingly, and the first time I have said this in a long time, Sky’s coverage was up year-on-year. From 05:00 to 08:30, Sky Sports F1 averaged 594k (21.1%), peaking with 945k (21.5%) at 07:35. This compares with 517k (20.9%) in 2013 and 621k (26.8%) in 2012. The ‘split show’ appears to have worked if the intention was to bring in more viewers, although I think it will only have a bigger influence for the early morning rounds, where more people are bound to record the action.
This brings us to a combined average of 3.47m, down on 3.57m. The issue here is that, yes, a Sky gain of 73k is great for them, but if BBC loses nearly 200k, it eradicates whatever gain Sky is made. Due to the audience levels, if BBC lose or gain, it will flip flop massively either way, which is unlikely to happen with Sky. An issue with the BBC overnight ratings for the past few years is that the Scottish Cup final has meant that the F1 has been displaced to BBC Two. The BBC One overnights in this piece include Scotland viewers, so if the Scottish Cup final was lower profile than last year, that may have had an affect too. Also, whilst a combined average of 3.47m is ‘okay’ versus 2012 (which averaged 3.35m), it is a far cry from the BBC exclusive figures from 2009 to 2011, which I feel is important to remember.
Note that there are no comparisons with last year, given that the session was red flagged on the Saturday, which depleted the averages all around. As for 2014, Sky Sports F1’s coverage of Qualifying performed well in the early hours of Saturday night. The live programme, from 05:00 to 07:45 averaged 307k (15.5%), peaking with 549k towards the end of the session. The average looks healthy because it is, in fact higher than their 2012 viewing figure which was below 300k. So, they have good reason to be happy with that.
On the flip side, Sky1’s simulcast added only 32k (1.6%) during the timeslot, which shows how poorly the simulcast was promoted. It begs the question of what the purpose of the simulcast is if no promotion is going to be given. Had there have been ample promotion for the Sky1 simulcast, I’d bet that 32k being at least three or four times higher.
Later on, BBC F1’s highlights coverage on BBC Two from 14:55 to 16:25 averaged 1.35m (12.1%), peaking with 1.62m (14.1%). The combined average is therefore marginally down on 2012, but also the lowest since 2007. Whilst very disappointing, the reasoning for that in my opinion is due to mitigating circumstances, specifically the Six Nations which took a big slice out of the Formula 1 audience.
The 2013 Australian Grand Prix ratings report can be found here.