Why F1 is still experiencing a viewer decline – even with VOD included

Yesterday, AUTOSPORT published an article noting that BBC’s iPlayer figures for Formula 1 have increased 33 percent, whilst their Radio 5 Live figures have increased 53 percent. The paragraph concludes by noting that “there is a growing view that the way people consume F1 is changing dramatically”. Whilst I agree that habits are changing, I’m not entirely convinced by the validity of that sentence.

Let’s come back to that later, and instead look at some other statistics. Compared with the first six races last year, BBC’s Formula 1 coverage has dropped by 12 percent, whilst Sky Sports F1’s live race coverage has increased by 11 percent according to unofficial overnight viewing figures from Overnights.tv. If you knew absolutely nothing about viewing figures, you might be led to believe that Sky’s ratings are beginning to move mountains and are taking viewers off BBC hand over fist. Well…. not quite.

In fact, whilst BBC’s figures have dropped 426k for a variety of factors already covered in detail on this blog, Sky’s viewing figures have increased only 79k. See how things now look different? Because Sky Sports F1’s viewing figures are coming from a low base, it means that any increase it makes will seem massive percentage wise. The combined figures for the UK are down 8 percent or 350k. The point I’m making is that percentages do not always tell the full story, and they certainly don’t here.

All the percentages we have are listed below:

+ 53 percent = BBC Radio
+ 33 percent = BBC iPlayer
+ 11 percent = Sky TV (+79k)
– 8 percent = BBC TV + Sky TV (-350k)
– 12 percent = BBC TV (-426k)

Thanks to BBC’s monthly iPlayer reports, we have some Formula 1 figures dating back a few years, which are as follows:

– 254k – Australia
– 297k – China
– 286k – Canada
– 277k – Germany
– 262k – Singapore

– 417k – Australia highlights
– 316k – China live

– 484k – Australia highlights

– 521k – Bahrain highlights

From a percentage point of view, 33 percent seems like a huge increase. It’s worth noting that AUTOSPORT probably would not have been given the raw figures from BBC’s Media Centre team, I imagine that the only figures they were given were percentage increases. But what about from a raw figures perspective? The 33 percent increase is about 100k, which definitely does not cover the entirety of BBC TV’s drop this season, nor does it account for 350k drop overall. Or, for that matter, why Formula 1’s UK viewing figures have dropped over half a million viewers between 2011 and 2014. And if BBC iPlayer is ‘only’ averaging 500k for Formula 1, one assumes the Sky Go/On Demand effect is negligible. I’d also argue that the reason Bahrain is showing above is because of the TV timeslot it was in – had that race been broadcast live on free-to-air television, it definitely would not have had 521k via iPlayer.

Whilst there is changing viewing habits, you cannot escape the fact that there are fans no longer watching the sport and are not being replaced by new fans at the same rate, whether it is due to the on-track action changing (DRS, Pirelli’s, turbo’s), those in charge of the sport running into a power-trip with no direction thanks to rules nobody wishes to see (double points), fans feeling distant from the sport (expensive ticket prices) or because Formula 1 is moving to a pay TV model, thus pricing people out of the sportMotoGP fans know what that feels like. I’ll let you decide…


11 thoughts on “Why F1 is still experiencing a viewer decline – even with VOD included

  1. It’s obviously the fact F1 is now on pay TV.

    The other factors you refer to are irrelevant if people can’t even access F1 coverage in the first place.

    The only people who seem to be happy with the TV rights situation are the ones who think they’re part of an exclusive club and have nothing good to say about the BBC’s F1 coverage (despite Sky F1 being a copy and paste job of BBC coverage, using BBC talent with added adverts).

    You can tell which ones they are because they only ever tweet with #BBCF1 to criticise Suzi Perry or to moan about EJ. But they don’t mind an advert break on Sky right after the race has ended. Hypocrites.

    1. Further to this comment, here’s an example of a tweet made a little while ago:

      “@TheJamieRyan: Sky Sports is worth the money just to avoid the awful F1 coverage the BBC is churning out nowadays.”

      This comment is not based in reality and neither it seems is the author.

    2. What about the people who actually enjoy watching their Formula 1 live? I watch Sky simply because I hate watching races that have already happened. The result is usually spoiled by the media.

  2. And the 22% loss in unique viewers since the Sky deal have not been replaced, they’ve been added too.

  3. Have you corrected Sky’s figures for the 3 program split ratings scam?

    I can tell you one thing, the fall in viewership has nothing to do with the on track action. There have been some enthralling races this season, but also there weren’t these kind of drops when Schumi was predictably winning another championship.

    The problem is the coverage, both BBC and Sky.

    The BBC for some reason keep copying Sky, which is a bit like Gordon Ramsey copying Ronald McDonald.

    I’m sorry Dave, Suzi Perry is appalling, she can barely string a sentence together and appears to know as much about F1 as I do about the 1969 Accrington Stanley first 11.

    I like EJ, I know that he has Marmite type personality, but at least he has one, unlike the rest of the BBC team who are as bland as tofu.

    I have littered this site with the never ending stream of failings by Sky, I can’t be bothered to re-list them, suffice to say that they know nothing about F1. they know nothing about how to produce and shoot a motorsport program nor do they have any kind of editorial judgment.

    Sky may have the F1 contract but they have no right to host it, their presentation is about as appropriate as asking Gary Glitter to perform at Malala Yousafzai birthday party.

    1. “Have you corrected Sky’s figures for the 3 program split ratings scam?” – yes, all Sky’s figures are for the three and a half hour ‘race show’ slot in 2014 and the equivalent in 2013.

  4. I don’t have a problem with Pay TV. It certainly isn’t an issue that just effects F1, I don’t think it’ll be long until there is no live sport on the Beeb. The problem is that no one has been converting casual fans to be hardcore, without which there is no desire to pay for F1. The owners of the sport are very much the get rich quick types and that is to much hassle for them.

  5. Viewers decline? Many people watching in stream …..for free….with a really bad image.

    I think that with a decent and cheap stream provied directly from FOA/FOM, without intermediator, a really big number of fans is ready to subscrive.

  6. As a newer viewer of F1 I’m finding it hard to believe that there’s such a large decline in views seeing as there are so many more ways you can watch or when you watch. Also this season is really interesting with all the new changes to the cars and rules which is proving to provide a much more suspenseful and enjoyable experience from what I’ve seen in recent years and remember watching when I was younger.

    Although I don’t agree with some of the rules (double points wtf!?), I do like the direction the cars and technology are going and where the sport will eventually end up once these cars are fully optimized and stable.

    I’m under the impression a vast majority of the viewers are male around their mid 20’s and over. I think this is one of the main issues that will need to be addressed if your looking into increase overall viewers as theirs a huge female and teen viewer base you just aren’t tapping into.

    I’m really hoping for some female drivers in the coming seasons and more in the garages actually working in the team and not just the random ones standing around that the bbc seem to love zooming in on when there’s actually a far more important and interesting thing happening on the track. I came to watch the best drivers in the world battle it out, not see some random pretty girl acting all shy when they switch to her for 10 seconds + so the older viewers can get their kicks.

    Blowing some things way out of proportion is another thing I’ve noticed this season. Whether it be Alonso and Ferrari a few weeks ago or Nico & Hamilton and their rivalry and friendship issues. I believe a lot of the media surrounding these things is blown way out of proportion to what it actually is in reality in the attempt to try and get more viewers interested. This to me is an insult on the intelligence of the viewers because the media don’t think we can see through it all for what it actually is.

    For me it either make it free (bbc..kind of free) and widen your target audience or make it pay to view and hope the remaining few viewers will generate more or equal income for the sport than a free broadcast would.

    Personally I think we should get it free anyways because as I see it, F1 owes the British public £1bn anyways 😛

    Also ticket pricing is insane, at least for me anyways. I’d say that even on a average income in the UK, splashing out on a 3 day Silverstone ticket would leave a rather large whole in your pocket and a very upset wife.

    I do have a question about something not really directly related to the topic in question but something I paid mind to during a race this season. There was a conversation during a race when it was said there we’re 3000 volunteer workers who helped setup & run the race and without them it wasn’t possible to put it on. Do you feel it fair that they spend weeks training and preparing for this event out of their own time so the top dogs of F1 can make millions and then not pay the tax bill?

    I guess what I’m saying is, the world has changed a lot since F1 was founded and it seems your alittle behind in the times and there needs to be a drastic shake up of how its run and who by to further the sport and get more people interested.

  7. When bbc first got contract i use to come and watch the practice on iplayer after work . Now half the time i don’t know which races bbc have got and the one they don’t. Also some of the race tracks i have little or no interest in ,bahrain , abu Dhabi and Valencia so i tend not to bother at all now. I certainly will not pay any money to watch practice at all as the current rules limit running.

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