Formula 1 stumbles to the finish in 2015

The 2015 Formula One season ended with a whimper on Sunday afternoon, as 2.6 million tuned into the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in the UK, overnight viewing figures show.

Live coverage of the race, moved to BBC Two at the eleventh hour due to the conclusion of the Davis Cup, averaged 2.21m (16.9%) from 12:00 to 15:15, recording a five-minute peak of 3.08m (20.8%) as the race came to a conclusion. The race programme on Sky Sports F1 averaged 399k (3.0%) across the same timeslot. Sky’s coverage peaked with 632k (4.6%) in the five minutes from 14:00, which shouldn’t be too much of a surprise as this was in the gap between the first two Premier League games yesterday.

As alluded to above, the race faced competition from the Davis Cup on BBC One, which itself averaged 3.01m (22.9%) from 12:00 to 15:45. The decision to air the Davis Cup finale on BBC One was unsurprising, what was ridiculous however was that this was decided an hour before both shows were due to go on the air – certainly not something you expect when both events were known weeks in advance. I’m not convinced that number justified switching the two events at the last minute.

Comparisons with 2014 for the race are redundant given that last year was a championship decider and yesterday was not. Nevertheless, the combined average for Abu Dhabi of 2.60 million is comfortably the lowest ever recorded for that race. The previous low was 4.03 million from 2013, traditionally Abu Dhabi does well but for a variety of factors, viewers were not interested in Formula 1 yesterday. There are also these facts, based on the overnight viewing figures:

> lowest season finale since at least 2005
> lowest ‘European time zone’ race audience since the 2007 Bahrain Grand Prix
> lowest BBC F1 audience for a live race in the ‘European time zone’ since the corporation returned to the sport
> lowest Sky Sports F1 audience for a ‘European time zone’ race ever

The consolidated figures will make a few of the points above null and void, timeshift is larger in 2015 than in 2010, but I feel that the points still stand. For reference, ‘European time zone’ means any race that has aired live here during the lunch time hours, so anything from 11:00 through to around 14:00. There are multiple reasons for yesterday’s very low rating: increased competition, the switch from BBC One to BBC Two will have hurt the same-day timeshift figures and pure fatigue given that the championship race was over a long time ago.

However, Formula 1 has faced bigger competition before in recent years (Wimbledon finals and major games in football competitions) and has not dropped as low as Abu Dhabi did. Viewing patterns have changed as well, you cannot escape that fact. I will analyse the figures more in a post coming soon, but the picture, whichever way you want to paint it, is not promising.

Qualifying and Pointless
The final qualifying programme of the season averaged 2.05m (21.2%) from 12:10 to 14:05 on BBC One, with Sky Sports F1 adding a further 258k (2.7%) from 12:00 to 14:35. To end on a positive note, a Grand Prix themed edition of Pointless Celebrities averaged a massive 5.73m (29.2%) from 18:00 on BBC One on Saturday, one of its highest ever ratings.

The 2014 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix ratings report can be found here.


5 thoughts on “Formula 1 stumbles to the finish in 2015

  1. There were a lot of factors against F1 yesterday. The switch to BBC2 at the last minute. Mercedes effectively managing the race with their own interests above that of the sport. Hamilton winning the championship in Austin. But mainly the lack of competition from other teams this year has made it a year of few highlights. F1 needs to get back to basics & find itself again or the sport will become a minority hidden away behind the paywall as the cost will outweigh the quality of the product.

  2. Sky’s Saturday coverage was very odd.

    I had to record qually, normally when I do I spin through most of it but Saturdays qually show was packed with really good features, for possibly the first time ever I thought Sky’s coverage was acceptable.

    It was weird, like they’d been sitting on budget or ideas they had to use before the end of the season.

    Then just when I thought I was in an alternate universe, the outro VT came on and was the mediocre, average, uninspiring dross that I’d expect from Sky. The music is the most annoying thing, it’s like some ageing hippy editor just presses shuffle on his iPod and uses whatever comes on.

    Sunday’s coverage was the standard Sky underachievement, so at least they can claim consistency for year.

  3. Hi David,

    Please don’t be too alarmist.

    The viewing figures weren’t good because 1. the result didn’t matter 2. it was up against the Davis Cup Final, which turned out to be Britain’s greatest sporting achievement this year – most motorsport fans I know were glued to the tennis! 3. the top motorsport personalities of the year are people like Nick Tandy and Oliver Rowland and not Lewis Hamilton.

    Keep up the good work – I enjoy your blogs.


  4. I was really surprised that at the end of qualifying Suzi didn’t mention the Pointless Celebrities episode due a few hours later. Especially with Mark Webber, another contestant, right there with them.

    I’ve never understood the obsession with putting things on BBC1. Things like Wimbledon frequently fill up the BBC2 schedules during the day and then an overrunning match gets moved to BBC1 at the last minute, moving BBC1 shows to BBC2. Why not just leave the thing on BBC2 and overrun, leaving BBC1 alone? Madness.

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