MotoGP viewership drops without FTA live coverage

A new era in the broadcasting scene began for MotoGP this past weekend on BT Sport and ITV4, with diminishing returns, as the sport found itself being watched by less people than the previous BBC and Eurosport deal, unofficial overnight viewing figures show. In 2013, the race was screened exclusively live on BBC Two from 19:30 to 21:00, the race starting an hour later in 2013 compared with this season. The programme averaged 1.67m (6.9%), peaking with 2.12m (8.4%) at 20:40.

Compare that to last weekend. BT Sport’s programme, from 15:00 to 20:30, averaged 126k (0.8%). When comparing with the equivalent BBC slot for the MotoGP race last year, from 18:30 to 20:00, that averaged 187k (0.8%), peaking with 230k (1.1%) at 19:05. ITV4’s hour long highlights show last night average 492k (2.2%), peaking with 603k (2.6%) according to unofficial overnight viewing figures, including +1. This brings us to a combined average of 679k, and a combined peak of 833k. For both years, viewing excludes anyone who viewed via the internet, so all viewing via the BT Sport app or their website is excluded, whilst the same also applies for anyone who viewed MotoGP in 2013 through BBC iPlayer. I would hazard a bet that the latter figures would be higher than the former, meaning that the overall effect is negligible.

So, are the figures any good? I said previously that if BT’s average, for the MotoGP part, was around 200k to 250k, then that would be acceptable (250k being their rumoured expectation), with ITV4’s highlights adding a further 400k. That would bring a combined figure in the 600k region, with a peak realistically near to 1 million. I’d say the figures are positive, but also a tale of two halves. Given the amount of promotion that they have done, BT’s figures are lower than I expected. On the other hand, ITV’s highlights deal came with little fan-fare and no promotion in comparison to BT. Yet, despite being on 24 hours after the original race, it brought nearly half a million viewers. BT Sport will claim to increase the sports popularity, except the viewing figures show completely the opposite. In many ways, the ITV4 viewership number has ‘saved face’. It is one of ITV4’s highest ratings of the year, only behind football and numerous repeats of Storage Wars.

I think you could run around this subject a lot, but the fact is that, thanks to Dorna taking the money and not the viewers, the viewership has halved. Julian Ryder said on Twitter last month that without BT Sport’s money, some teams would not have been on the MotoGP grid this year. I have no reason not to believe Ryder, and trust what he is saying. But instead of going to pay TV, surely MotoGP should have had a look at itself and say how do we make ourselves marketable to the wider public in the UK? If it wasn’t for the ITV4 deal (which Dorna themselves did not promote on the MotoGP website, with a press release, like they did twice for BT Sport), then MotoGP would have been turned into a niche sport.

So, will the declines continue? I think they will, be not to the extent we seen in Qatar. If ITV4’s highlights stays around half a million viewers, with BT Sport adding say 150k for the European races, then it won’t be a million miles away from BBC’s ratings. I think Dorna would have perhaps been hoping for a higher BT figure and a lower ITV4 figure. The gap, and how the viewing changes over the season will definitely be one to watch. If I’m a betting man, I’d say MotoGP will lose viewers this year, but thanks to the ITV4 deal, this has definitely been a better deal for Dorna than many people may have expected…

16 thoughts on “MotoGP viewership drops without FTA live coverage

  1. As I didn’t watch the MotoGP coverage on BT Sport because I don’t have it, I do admit to watching the ITV4 highlights package. Whilst I admit the commentary pairing of Heuwen and Ryder is perfect for MotoGP coverage in the UK, that’s some very telling figures indeed. The problem with pay-TV is the imbalance of coverage with sport. For example, football can be promoted widely and can recieve 2, 3 or even 4m viewers on Sky, but with F1, it’s a shade over 1.5m on a good day. Promotion and word of mouth is important to keep motorsport relevant on UK TV.

  2. Dorna’s gone for money in its pocket, short-term greed over long-term benefits to the sport, which seems to be the norm these days for all televised sports. The ITV4 highlights suggested a thrilling, tense race; shame we couldn’t see it in its entirety. MotoGP will always be a “niche” sport, until it learns to promote itself to the biggest audience, the audience its sponsors want, ie the free-to-air television viewers. The fans are the losers now, the teams will lose later as sponsors bale out once the audience has gone. Bravo Dorna!

    1. Short-termism has been a cancer to televised sport since the 90’s. All starting with the Premier League on Sky. Now, MotoGP on BT, the whole F1 season on Sky with half the races broadcast live on BBC. That’s the problem with motorsport on pay-TV, the audience will be too small to gain the money back from TV rights which means sponsors drop out and teams go defunct. I for one am glad that the BTCC is still on ITV4.

  3. aussie v8 supercars are on motors tv this weekend. around the same time as btcc. so i will watch that.

    motogp , btcc and v8 supercars have major advantage over f1 when it comes to highlights. they are less likely to find out the result before you have had chance to watch the highlights.

    cant watch a race when you know the result there is no point.

  4. “BT Sport will claim to increase the sports popularity, except the viewing figures show completely the opposite.”

    The same as combining Sky’s F1 live race coverage and the BBC’s highlights, it doesn’t add up to a real increase in viewers, just a combination increase and lower unique viewers.

  5. These figures for the first race of an eagerly awaited season, with much British interest, clearly illustrate how viewing figures plunge when sports go pay to view. Looking at the peak live race audience we have 2013 BBC2 at 2,120,000 viewers and then for 2014 BTSport 230,000 viewers. Not good is it? I’m not totally convinced with Julian Ryder’s comments regarding Dorna’s need to help fund the grid. The BBC and Eurosport were not exactly paying peanuts. Motorsport has always been funded by sponsors and viewing figures are their lifeblood. I know we now have to move on, but it is such a shame as the BBC/Eurosport arrangement was really starting to lift the popularity of MotoGP in the UK.

  6. Moto gp will fade to black in the UK once Rossi leaves if it’s not free to air and I’m not talking about that poorly edited highlights race on ITV. Anyone who’s been to silverstone has seen the masses dressed in yellow sporting 46 flags.
    During this transition period in moto gp with English riders being more promising and the races generally more competitive moto gp has been taken from the fans and casual viewer. How can an audience grow when ability to watch a sport has been restricted to 20 minutes of actual racing highlights and pay per view tv.
    Moto gp has been weakened by BT and Dorna with moto 2 & 3 executed right in front of our eyes. It just goes to show fans mean noting to Dorna when money is on the cards, but what Dorna has failed to realise is that it’s fans sponsers want.
    Moto gp will be back live free to air when sooner rather then later despit BTs long term strangle hold but at what price? Until then were doomed to highlights out of principle or inability to fund the loss of another sport.

  7. Dead already for me. F1 style stupid rules crept in this year regarding petrol limits and electronics. Next stop double points Christmas special

  8. Moto GP and F1 are both run by short sighted business’s and will suffer spectator loss as a result. The rule makers are taking the sport away from fans. Over complex electronic regulation and fule / engine limits do not make forgood racing. I really think theis room for a couple of championships to start a series of real less technicaly regulated racing. May be combined may be individual. New or breakaway what ever you want to call it. Two Stokes four stroke what ever, the fans would lap it up particuarly ifshown on free to air tv.

    1. Not going to do an article every week, as the figures are similar, but for Qatar:

      BT – Whole programme: 121k (0.7%)
      – 19:30 to 21:00 [MotoGP]: 170k (0.8%)
      – peak: 210k (0.9%)

      ITV – 437k (2.0%)
      – peak: 497k (2.4%)

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