Record low audience watch Hamilton win in Canada

A peak audience of just over three million viewers watched Lewis Hamilton win the Canadian Grand Prix as the start of Euro 2016 kicked all competition into touch over the weekend, unofficial UK overnight viewing figures show

Live coverage of the race, broadcast live on Sky Sports 1 and F1 from 18:00 to 21:3o, averaged 853k (4.0%). The split across Sky’s channels was 620k (2.9%) on F1 compared with 234k (1.1%) on Sky Sports 1, 73:27 in the dedicated channel’s favour. The peak audience of 1.41m (6.3%) came at 20:30 as Hamilton claimed victory. It was a similar ratio at the time of peak, albeit skewed slightly towards the casual channel: 68:34 but still in Sky Sports F1’s favour. At the same time over on BBC One, an average audience of 6.31m (29.0%) watched Germany beat Ukraine from 19:35.

In isolation, I think Sky’s figures are pretty good. In 2012, the last time Sky showed Canada exclusively live, the average audience was 945k (4.3%), peaking with 1.77m. That is a drop of between 10 and 20 percent, but when you consider the trend towards other methods of viewing and the comparatively long time period (four years), I don’t think that the figures for Sky are bad. It is not great to lose viewers, but the figures are not shocking. As always, a reminder that viewing figures exclude Sky Go, Now TV and All4.

Highlights of the Montreal round, broadcast on Channel 4 from 22:40 to 00:40, averaged just 1.30m (15.3%), peaking with 1.72m. Both numbers are comfortably the channel’s lowest of the season so far. I appreciate that audiences are lower late at evening, but I was not expecting a drop of that magnitude for the late night highlights programmes. It is extremely rare to see the terrestrial TV and pay TV numbers so close, but yesterday the ratio between Channel 4 and Sky was 60:40 (average) and 55:45 (peak).

The combined audience of 2.15 million viewers is the second lowest of the season so far. The audience that watched yesterday’s race was the lowest as far as records go back for a North American round. Make no mistake about it: yes, the trip to Canada is to serve fans in Canada, but it is also a shop window in European primetime for Formula 1 regardless of whether there is a football competition or not. Miss out on that shop window, and you miss out on a raft of new viewers.

Live coverage of Wales vs Slovakia on BBC One heavily dented Sky Sports F1’s broadcast of qualifying, overnight viewing figures show. Whilst a peak audience of 8.00m (46.1%) were watching BBC One at 18:50, 370k (2.1%) were watching Sky Sports F1. As soon as the Wales game finished, the audience jumped from 370k at 18:50 to 602k (3.5%) at 19:00, peaking with 639k (3.7%) at 19:05 as Lewis Hamilton claimed pole position.

The average audience for Sky’s F1 broadcast from 17:00 to 19:45 averaged a low 285k (1.8%), suffering as a result of the tough competition. Channel 4’s highlights programme at 22:00 averaged 1.22m (8.0%). I’m pleasantly surprised by this number, I was expecting it to be the opposite side of one million. It may well have benefited from channel hoppers following the conclusion of the England game.

The combined audience of 1.51 million viewers is the lowest for Montreal since 2006. Every year from 2008 to 2015 averaged over two million viewers. Year-on-year, the audience has halved, with 3.06 million watching last year.

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


Scheduling: The 2016 European Grand Prix

After a quick dash over to North America, Formula 1 heads back over to the East for the first ever race in Azerbaijan! Badged as the European Grand Prix, the race takes place on a street circuit in Baku.

The sporting opposition this weekend consists of four events: the Royal Ascot, Tennis from Queen’s, Euro 2016 and the 24 Hours of Le Mans (schedule here). The qualifying session clashes with Belgium vs Republic of Ireland; however, Sunday thankfully has no football clash. Of course, as widely publicised, the qualifying session will also clash with the first hour of the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

The race itself will clash with the chequered flag of the 24 Hours of Le Mans. It is the first time Le Mans has clashed with the F1 since 2011, which is a nonsense scenario that hopefully will not be repeated in the foreseeable future. Elsewhere, Channel 4’s coverage of practice two moves to More4 due to coverage of the Royal Ascot.

On the personnel front, the big news is that Martin Brundle will not be present again with Sky’s Formula 1 team in Baku due to his participation in the famous endurance race. Originally, Brundle was only set to miss Baku, but this was extended to cover Canada as a result of a “medical procedure” that Brundle had following the Monaco Grand Prix. Paul di Resta is again alongside David Croft in the commentary box in Baku.

Over on Channel 4, Eddie Jordan returns to F1 broadcasting, his first live appearance with the channel since they took over from BBC at the end of 2015.

Channel 4 F1
17/06 – 09:55 to 11:35 – Practice 1 (Channel 4)
17/06 – 13:55 to 15:35 – Practice 2 (More4)
18/06 – 10:55 to 12:05 – Practice 3 (Channel 4)
18/06 – 13:00 to 15:20 – Qualifying (Channel 4)
19/06– 13:00 to 16:30 – Race (Channel 4)
19/06 – 23:25 to 00:30 – Highlights (Channel 4)

Sky Sports F1
17/06 – 09:45 to 11:50 – Practice 1
17/06 – 13:45 to 16:00 – Practice 2
18/06 – 10:45 to 12:15 – Practice 3
18/06 – 13:00 to 15:45 – Qualifying
19/06 – 12:30 to 17:15 – Race
=> 12:30 – Track Parade (also Sky Sports 1)
=> 13:00 – Pit Lane Live (also Sky Sports 1)
=> 13:30 – Race (also Sky Sports 1 – until 16:00 only)
=> 16:30 – Paddock Live

Supplementary Programming
16/06 – 12:00 to 12:30 – Driver Press Conference
16/06 – 20:45 to 21:00 – Paddock Uncut
17/06 – 16:00 to 16:30 – Team Press Conference
17/06 – 16:30 to 17:00 – The F1 Show
22/06 – 20:30 to 21:00 – F1 Report: Review

BBC Radio F1
17/06 – 09:55 to 11:35 – Practice 1 (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
18/06 – 10:55 to 12:05 – Practice 3 (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
18/06 – 13:55 to 15:05 – Qualifying (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
19/06 – 14:00 to 16:00 – Race (BBC Radio 5 Live)

British Touring Car Championship – Croft (ITV4)
19/06 – 11:00 to 18:15 – Races

GP2 Series – Europe (Sky Sports F1)
17/06 – 08:00 to 08:50 – Practice
17/06 – 11:50 to 12:30 – Qualifying
18/06 – 09:00 to 10:30 – Race 1
19/06 – 10:55 to 12:10 – Race 2

Virgin Australia Supercars – Darwin Triple Crown (BT Sport 1)
18/06 – 07:15 to 09:00 – Race 12
19/06 – 04:30 to 06:45 – Race 13

World Superbikes –Misano
18/06 – 09:15 to 13:15 – Qualifying and Race 1 (Eurosport)
19/06 – 10:00 to 13:15 – Race 2 (Eurosport 2)

Last updated on June 18th, to reflect Sky Sports 1 also covering the Track Parade and Pit Lane Live.

Scheduling: The 2016 24 Hours of Le Mans

The greatest endurance race on the planet is back! The 24 Hours of Le Mans takes its usual June place on the motor sport calendar, marking round three of the 2016 FIA World Endurance Championship.

As usual, Eurosport have extensive coverage of proceedings with all of the race covered live. The one thing missing is the second qualifying session on Thursday afternoon which clashes with Tennis from Queen’s. Also a notable absentee is the Le Mans Legends race, a fixture since 2001, this will no longer be taking place in the build-up to the main race. As usual, Eurosport’s line-up will feature the likes of Martin Haven, Jeremy Shaw and Liz Halliday. Tom Gaymor will be voicing the 24 Minutes magazine programmes.

Quest TV (also owned by Discovery) will be screening coverage again this year following high numbers last year. Quest are airing four hours of live coverage, compared with three and a half hours of live coverage last year. Eurosport and Quest will be sharing the personnel used with the added use of Louise Goodman and Andy Jaye. There will also be 90 second updates at the top of each hour (excluding overnight).

Monday 13th June
22:45 to 23:15 – 24 Minutes (Eurosport)

Tuesday 14th June
22:30 to 23:00 – 24 Minutes (Eurosport 2)

Wednesday 15th June
15:00 to 19:00 – Live Practice (Eurosport 2)
20:30 to 21:00 – Live 24 Minutes (Eurosport)
21:00 to 22:55 – Live Qualifying 1 (Eurosport)

Thursday 16th June
20:30 to 21:00 – Live 24 Minutes (Eurosport)
21:00 to 22:55 – Live Qualifying 3 (Eurosport)

Friday 17th June
22:25 to 22:55 – 24 Minutes (Eurosport)

Saturday 18th June
08:00 to 09:00- Live Warm Up (Eurosport 2)
13:15 to 13:45 – Live 24 Minutes (Eurosport)
20:00 to 20:30 – Live 24 Minutes (Eurosport)
– for details of the race itself, see below

Sunday 19th June
07:30 to 08:00 – Live 24 Minutes (Eurosport)
14:15 to 14:45 – Live 24 Minutes (Eurosport)

Monday 20th June
20:00 to 21:00 – Highlights (Quest TV)

Saturday 25th June
06:35 to 07:00 – Highlights (Channel 4)

The race itself beginning on the Saturday…
13:30 to 15:00 – Quest TV
13:45 to 20:00 – Eurosport
20:00 to 20:30 – Eurosport 2
20:00 to 21:00 – Quest TV
20:30 to 07:30 – Eurosport
07:30 to 08:00 – Eurosport 2
08:00 to 14:15 – Eurosport
10:00 to 11:00 – Quest TV
13:00 to 14:30 – Quest TV

Last updated on June 18th with details about Quest TV’s personnel.

di Resta to replace Brundle as Sky’s co-commentator in Canada

Paul di Resta will replace Martin Brundle as Sky’s co-commentator for the Canadian Grand Prix, it has been confirmed.

Brundle was already set to miss the European Grand Prix in Baku as previously reported due to the clash with the 24 Hours of Le Mans. However, his absense will now be extended to cover Montreal as well. Writing on Twitter, Brundle said that he had a “medical procedure last week, [which] went extremely well.” As a result, Brundle will not be in Montreal. Sky’s lead commentator David Croft has confirmed that di Resta will be replacing Brundle in Canada. I assume di Resta will also cover for Brundle in Baku as well.

Although the circumstances are unforseen, this is the first time that Brundle has missed two consecutive races since he started his commentary duties in 1997 with ITV. Brundle last missed Canada between 1997 and 1999 with Mark Blundell and Derek Warwick replacing him in those years.

Sorrell: Virtual Reality will transform Formula 1 “big time”

Sir Martin Sorrell, the chief executive of WPP and a member of the current Formula One Group board of directors, has given a wide-ranging interview to the official Formula 1 website, which is well worth a read. Sorrell, 71, is expected to earn a whopping £70 million this year.

Sorrell’s interview on the F1 website talks about a number of issues, including television audiences, Sky’s Formula 1 coverage and virtual reality. Sorrell speaks highly of live sporting events: “…despite streaming, despite the rise of tablets and smartphones – all the implications which in theory would make linear TV less important – live sporting events are extremely powerful. But it’s not the event alone – it’s also what’s surrounding it.”

Where the UK is concerned, I have always insisted that television is king. Overall, television audiences are declining slowly as the devices Sorrell mentions continue their surge. But, for the large sporting events, such as the upcoming European football championships and the Rio Olympics, television is the driver to these events. However, the reason those events are so popular is because they are easily accessible and free to the widest possible audience. The viewer does not need to download X app on Y device, the event is there ready to view without anything extra to do. If you hid either the Olympics or European championships behind a pay wall, audiences would plummet.

I find it odd that Sorrell talks highly about live events bringing people together in “powerful” ways, yet skirmishes over Sky’s Formula 1 audience: “When Sky UK started to broadcast there was an argument that audience would come down because it is pay TV. But the actual quality of the production and the use of technology and the engagement of the viewer is much better than it ever was. The product is simply better.” The product may be “simply better” with innovations such as the Sky Pad, but it comes at a price to the consumer. The cost for the consumer results in a diminishing audience, meaning that the live event is less powerful than in previous years. If you are reaching fewer people, you cannot make your voice heard as loudly as you once did before.

“Virtual Reality for Formula One could be fantastic – driving the car! In the Ridley Scott film ‘The Martian’ you can do that. I have lifted off in the space craft from the surface of Mars, walked in space and looked down into deep space and got terrified, with the headphones and the goggles. The technology is already incredible and will improve massively in the next few years. Think about what you could do. And there are some – Bernie and others – who are embracing new technologies.” – Sir Martin Sorrell, speaking to the official Formula 1 website

Sorrell sells the concept of Virtual Reality being part of Formula 1 in the future. Sorrell says “I said before that I believe that Virtual Reality will hit it big time. I know that some of my colleagues disagree, but I believe in it.” In the context of consuming Formula 1, I don’t see Virtual Reality being the next big thing. It works brilliantly in video games, but with Formula 1 I’m not as convinced, in the same way I was unconvinced about the hype over 3D a few years ago. Virtual Reality, whilst the technology is amazing, is a niche market. I would go as far as saying that less than 5 percent of Formula 1’s audience would be interested in Virtual Reality.

Sorrell also talks about generating interest from “other [income] models” aside from “getting a flat fee for broadcasting rights”, a statement that also feels odd given that Sky and FOM signed a near £1 billion broadcasting contract less than three months ago. The other model Sorrell refers to is presumably an over-the-top model where consumers are purchasing video content off FOM to watch at their leisure. Given the fees Sky paid, over-the-top is bound to be in conjunction with Sky as opposed to against Sky.

Lastly, Sorrell says that the fast growing markets (BRICS and Next Eleven) are key. For those wondering, those two groups cover Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa, Bangladesh, Egypt, Indonesia, Iran, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, the Philippines, Turkey, South Korea and Vietnam. So, expect a lot more movement in those countries over the next five to ten years.