2014 saw MotoGP move to pay television in the UK, with live coverage of the sport now on BT Sport, BBC having lost the rights the previous spring. ITV did get in on the act though, with free to air highlights airing on ITV4. So, how have things progressed since this time last year?
> Audiences record slight increase versus 2014
> BT Sport sees 40% increase
> ITV highlights drop, but still above BT
The picture at the end of 2013 was that around one million viewers on average were watching MotoGP on BBC Two. During the first half of 2013, an average of 1.15 million watched the series across the BBC and British Eurosport. That number excludes BBC iPlayer. All the numbers that follow are BARB overnight viewing figures as usual, and exclude the likes of ITV Player and BT Sport’s app. Does this mean we are missing a significant chunk of the audience? It is difficult to tell, but when you are playing with a low audience anyway, a audience of 50k for example watching the BT Sport app makes a fair difference to the numbers. Not a huge difference, but perhaps noticeable. Anyway, ITV and BT, being commercial broadcasters, do not realise the on demand numbers into the public domain.
Last year, BT Sport’s live coverage from 12:30 to 14:00 (or equivalent) for the first half of the season averaged 155k. At the time, I commented that the number was poor and I stand by that submission when you consider what the BBC was getting the year before. Okay, the reach of BBC Two is many magnitudes bigger than BT Sport 2, but either way I did not expect MotoGP to lose 80 to 90 percent of its audience. In comparison, BT Sport’s live coverage so far this season has averaged 218k, an increase of 41 percent year on year. Every live race that BT Sport has covered has rated higher than 2014. The biggest jump year on year was for Le Mans, which went from 112k in 2014 to 262k in 2015, and peaked with 330k (4.4%), which is BT Sport’s highest MotoGP peak to date.
There are many reasons why BT Sport’s coverage has increased considerably year on year. The first is related to the fact that their coverage has been presented on location for this season. It is no secret that viewers are more likely to be engaged in coverage when they can get closer to the action. The other is that BT Sport may have more subscribers than this time last year, but I’m not convinced that argument holds up as their Premier League coverage has not increased by anywhere near the same amount. Two words can sum up the main reason for the increase in my opinion: Valentino Rossi. I will admit to being openly biased here. I am a Rossi fan, and it is fantastic to see him winning again. No doubt that has converted some of the ITV highlights watching audience into watching BT Sport’s coverage live. It is just unfortunate then that the 41 percent increase represents an increase of only 63k and not something of a much bigger volume…
With the UEFA Champions League coming on board for BT, alongside the changes to their subscription packages, it will be interesting to see how MotoGP’s numbers are affected, if at all. Surprisingly, ITV4’s highlights numbers have dropped 11 percent. An average of 327k have watched Monday’s highlights programme so far this year, in comparison with 366k for the first half of 2014. I should note that ITV4 are repeating the MotoGP Highlights show a lot more this year, which may explain why the Monday airing has suffered as a result. As is usual practice for the blog, repeats are not included in the figures outlined (aside from +1 channels). The high number of Le Mans on BT Sport was not replicated on ITV4 – in fact, on the weekend, BT Sport 2’s live coverage beat ITV4’s highlights number: 262k for BT’s live MotoGP portion of the show versus 253k for ITV’s highlights. It is an interesting anecdote, and does indicate that the pendulum is swinging towards BT Sport. The audience for the first half of 2014 was split 70/30 in ITV4’s favour. That split has tightened up to 60/40, still in ITV4’s favour but significantly closer than before.
Overall though, the numbers remain low compared with 2013. Even taking into account BT’s ratings increase, a combined average of 545k for the first half of 2015 is still massively down on BBC Sport’s figures for 2013, albeit 5 percent up on the average of 521k for the first half of 2014. BT Sport should be very happy with their figures – momentum is on their side. The momentum needs to be replicated in ITV’s highlights show. And, for whatever reason, that just is not happening at the moment. Neither BT Sport or ITV responded to a request for comment from this blog concerning MotoGP’s viewing figures.
The 2014 mid-season MotoGP ratings report can be found here.