Chinese Grand Prix continues F1’s ratings slump

Formula 1 continued its rocky ratings patch in the United Kingdom last weekend, as viewing figures for the Chinese Grand Prix dropped a million year-on-year, making it the worst Chinese Grand Prix rating in seven years.

The race, which aired exclusively live on Sky Sports F1 from 07:00 to 10:30, averaged 681k (11.2%), which compares with 622k (8.4%) and 547k (7.4%) respectively in 2012 and 2013 for their shared coverage. BBC One’s highlights averaged 2.87m (21.1%) from 14:30, bringing a combined average of 3.55m.

Whilst Sky’s numbers are up about 20 percent as a result of screening it live, BBC’s numbers fall significantly when comparing against the live plus re-run numbers from years gone by. In 2012, BBC averaged 4.45m by that measure and 3.93m in 2013. In fact, BBC’s live numbers for both 2012 and 2013 were nearly higher than the highlights number that the channel recorded last weekend!

The combined average does not compare favourably with previous years as a result: the Chinese Grand Prix has averaged 4.4m or more for every year from 2008 to 2013 inclusive, making it the lowest Chinese Grand Prix number since 2007. It is a worrying trend, however we will only know how concrete it is when we get to Europe. If Spain and Monaco record averages in the low to mid three million range, then alarm bells have to start ringing.

Sky Sports F1’s live Qualifying coverage from 06:00 to 08:45 averaged 236k (7.1%), which is almost identical to last year’s rating, despite this year being exclusively live on Sky. BBC’s highlights brought 1.59m (18.6%) to BBC One, meaning that the combined figure was 1.82m. Again, and worryingly so, that combined figure harks back to the ITV days. Whereas 2009 through to 2013 were all above 2.00m, this figure falls short.

I sometimes get criticised for painting a negative picture, but that is the only picture I can paint here. Where viewing figures are concerned, there are no positives when steep drops are being recorded more often than not. Over half a million viewers, which is the gap in most cases, would not be clawed back via ‘other methods’. The fact is, some people have tuned out due to many different primary and secondary factors.

The 2013 Chinese Grand Prix ratings report can be found here.


10 thoughts on “Chinese Grand Prix continues F1’s ratings slump

  1. I think there are a few issues here which are compounding the ratings drop. Vettel’s dominance over the past four years, negativity before and at the start of the season (double points in final race, Gary Anderson being axed and the new engines (which surprises me because I didn’t realise how many people watched F1 just for the screech of the V8 and not the racing, but I digress.))

    Anyway, relating to the viewing figures on the BBC in particular, I think the main issue has been the lack of live races at the beginning of the season. Correct me if I’m wrong, but doesn’t the BBC usually show both Malaysia and China live, which at least means there is one live race a month, whereas this year all they have had is one live race (Malaysia) for the first two months of the season. It also didn’t help that that race wasn’t exactly action packed this year. Had the race have been like it was in Bahrain, the viewing figures would have probably been a lot higher, or I would like to think so anyway.

    I suppose by sacrificing live races at the beginning of the season it does mean that there will be more live races towards the end of the season, but it doesn’t help in trying to gain interest in the season if only one race out of the first four can be watched live if full. However, maybe this doesn’t matter to the casual fan who doesn’t really keep check on the championship and just watches the odd race here and there throughout the year.

  2. Should the UK weather must be considered as a factor for bbc highlights shows and future live races in the middle of the day? For example the Sundays for the Australian and Malaysian GPs were pretty decent so more casual fans don’t want to spend time indoors watching TV.

    Great blog as always by the way.

  3. Sky ratings up and overnight ratings fail to account for iplayer viewings which I’m sure would improve ratings considerably, so I’m not convinced in this “sharp” decline in viewing figures just yet.

    1. By the same logic, you’d have to include iPlayer viewings for last year too.

      Viewing via other devices would not account for ratings being down a million year-on-year. I agree that iPlayer and the such like (including Sky Go) can make a difference of about ~0.2m, but not a million.

  4. Last iplayer figures I could find for f1 was from 2012 with 417,000 for one race. I can safely say iplayer is bigger now than it was then. Viewing habits are changing. Iplayer and the like could easily add 500,000 now. I agree going away from FTA to Sky has potentially made people turn their backs on F1. When F1 hits Europe will be the true test.

    1. BBC release iPlayer figures each month. For 2013 and individual F1 shows: – Australia 2013 race highlights: 484k – all below 410k for April – all below 413k for May
      – can’t find June – all below 368k for July
      – n/a for August – all below 421k for September – all below 441k for October – all below 507k for November

      F1 doesn’t add anywhere near as much for iPlayer as people think, and wouldn’t account for large year-on-year drops we have seen in the past few weeks.

      iPlayer is bigger now, but doesn’t make much difference for live sport.

  5. for me a viewer without sky. It is very much live or nothing. you cant not find out who won grand prix now and once you know there is no point watching it.

    having said that i did use to watch the practice on iplayer when i finished work on friday but since bbc lost half the races i no longer bother.

    viewers without sky could be in for lean year. my bet is russian grand prix will be cancel cause Russia started a war and there will be sanction which will take the grand prix out which is to be shown on bbc.

    does anyone know if bbc will get to choose another race if russian gp is cancelled?

    abu dubai hopefully will be pointless as the championship should be wrapped up by the merc team by then and fia can stick the double points Christmas special

    1. Paul that’s a very good point you make about Russia. I don’t believe the BBC will get chance to show a different one live it’ll be just like back when the Bahrain GP got cancelled in 2011, this was supposed to be shown on the BBC and so BBC viewers had to wait for the next race they had picked – so no picking another GP once races have been picked by sky and BBC at the start of the season I’m afraid!

  6. I personally think that a lot of the dip for the BBc is down to the fact that people who only have the beeb are not as interested in watching just highlights anymore. The fact that the sky viewership went up at a time when they have changed the way people can get Sky f1 (ie it used to be free with the HD package and now you have to buy sky sports at that ridiculous price) shows that the fans tuning in to watch the whole race aren’t necessarily put off the sport as a whole.

    What it does show, which is still worrying, is that the audience is unlikely to be grown from PPV only racing,. I struggle to see where a new generation of fans are going to come from if they aren’t watching the full race weekend and seeing the sport as a whole and not just a highlights package.

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