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.