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…