3.6 million watch Mercedes self-destruct

A shocking Spanish Grand Prix, which saw both Mercedes collide into one another and Max Verstappen win his first race, peaked with 3.6 million, overnight viewing figures show.

Live coverage of the race, broadcast on Channel 4 from 12:00 to 15:30, averaged 1.93m (22.6%), peaking with 2.70m (28.8%) at 13:05. Sky Sports F1’s coverage, across the same time slot, averaged 559k (6.4%), peaking with 883k (9.4%) also as the race started. Year-on-year comparisons for Sky are difficult as the channel aired the race exclusively live last season.

The combined audience of 2.49 million follows the pattern we have seen so far in 2016: smashing Channel 4’s own slot averages but down compared with 2015. The drop of 30.2 percent is what we have come accustomed to in recent races. It is the lowest audience for the Spanish Grand Prix since 2006. As referenced earlier, Sky’s and Channel 4’s peak audience happened at the same time, hence the combined peak of 3.58m (38.3%) occurred too at 13:05.

The viewing figures as the race progressed followed the exact same trajectory as Bahrain, but on a much more significant scale. At 13:05, 3.6 million were watching. This dropped to 3.4 million at 13:20, 3.2 million at 13:30, 3.0 million at 13:40, hitting a low of 2.86m (32.5%) at 14:10. Audiences picked up slightly in the last five laps, with Verstappen’s victory being watched by 3.37m (35.0%) at 14:40. I think it should be pointed out that whilst the raw figures may look low, the shares are excellent and comparable to some BBC live races from last season.

The drop throughout the mid-phase of the race might surprise readers given the lack of competition. The first point I would make is that some viewers who were watching live would have simply moved on (or out) as Lewis Hamilton retired. Unfortunately, as good as yesterday’s race was, some viewers would not have been interested in the four-way battle at the front. Secondly, if you’re not watching live, having the Mercedes drivers’ crash at turn four would have meant chase playing through the remainder of the Grand Prix to catch some of the other exciting moments instead of perhaps sticking more rigorously to it.

Live coverage of Channel 4’s qualifying programme, which aired from 12:00 to 14:30, averaged 1.01m (15.2%). Their programme peaked with 1.67m (22.6%) at 13:55 as Lewis Hamilton claimed pole position. Sky Sports F1’s programme averaged a further 302k (4.6%) from 12:00 to 14:30, peaking with 520k (7.2%) at 13:35 at the end of Q2.

The combined average of 1.31 million viewers is the lowest for the Spanish Grand Prix qualifying session since 2006. It is the lowest number for a qualifying session so far this season, and the lowest since the 2008 European Grand Prix. The previous lowest number this season was Russia, which averaged 1.44 million viewers. Year-on-year, the audience was down 49.4 percent.

I think the combined peak tells a different story. The combined peak of 2.16m (29.1%) came at 13:55. As with the race, the numbers are low but the shares are very good, showing that the total TV audience was poor on Saturday due to the nice weather that the UK is currently having. It does, however, also show that no one chose to time shift the qualifying session otherwise the peak would have been higher.

The peak is the lowest for Spain since 2009, but actually higher than China earlier this season. What we’re seeing here is that the numbers are down across the board, but are being dragged down further by fewer people choosing to watch both Channel 4’s and Sky Sports’ build-up programming in comparison to previous years.

Between 2011 and 2015, there was a gap of around 25 percent between average and peak (2.5m vs 3.2m for example), showing that a proportionally high number liked watching the supplementary material. This past weekend for qualifying, that number was 65 percent (1.31m vs 2.16m). Inevitably programme lengths play an effect, but the difference is far, far greater than historically, a sign of the weather playing its parts as viewers choose to watch the main action as opposed to watching that and the supplementary material around it.

The 2015 Spanish Grand Prix ratings report can be found here.



9 thoughts on “3.6 million watch Mercedes self-destruct

  1. Out of interest, do you know what Sky’s peak was for the race last year, I can’t see it in the 2015 Report.

      1. Thanks David. Whilst the Broadcasters would always want better figures, Sky can’t be too unhappy at losing 12% for non exclusivity.

  2. Still shows F1 needs to be Live and FTA, 2019 could be the death of F1, unless the highlights are of a similar length to now (90min/2hrs) on a Saturday and Sunday. It also shows that F1 needs the BBC (as you noted previously). I wonder if Sky would provide the BBC coverage for around £5million per year, could be good for FTA fans.

  3. I agree that the BBC TV is sadly missed. I was very interested to read that 1 million people (I.e. More than the Sky audience) went to the BBC F1 website after the Spanish to race read Andrew Benson’s race report.
    I still find the BBC Sport website and the Radio 5 broadcasts to be excellent for their F1 coverage.
    Actually, for the Sky ‘exclusively live’ races, I tend to watch the pictures from Sky and listen to the commentary on BBC Radio 5 live!

  4. Do you know of the reason F1 does not put any of the videos of this years racing on its Facebook page? It only gives out links to the website! Just think as with a lot of things it’s missing a trick.

    Also think sky are making the same mistake. Why not put the actual video of Teds notebook / Ants crash analysis on the Facebook page instead of links to the website!

  5. there where lots spare seats in grand stand . wonder if thats attendace as dropped to.

    there is no way i would pay to go to british grand prix currenlty. to expensive but i would go and watch wec.

  6. It’s worth noting the subtle changes to Sky’s output that I think improved the coverage. Using Marc Priestley was good though we perhaps didn’t see enough of him. Same goes for Mark Hughes. No Johnny Herbert for the first time I can remember and I thought Damon Hill (on for the first time since Australia) and the coverage as a whole was better without Herbert there this time.

    Also there were some interesting features and Ant and Ted were great as ever. At least they have shown they are willing to deviate from their stale format to some degree.

    1. They used Marc Priestley during the winter testing when Sky first started covering F1, I don’t know why it has taken so long for them to see how good he is. He presented an episode of the F1 Report (Midweek) several weeks ago, and it was far better than anything presented by Miss Pinkham.

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