A peak audience of 600k watched Sebastien Buemi win the 2015-16 Formula E championship on Sunday afternoon, overnight viewing figures show.
Unlike last season, ITV did not broadcast qualifying live on either Saturday or Sunday, meaning that we only have data for the race programme itself.
The first London ePrix race of the weekend was watched by an average audience of 296k (2.9%) on ITV from 15:00 to 17:30. The show started off with 277k (3.2%) at 15:00. Worryingly, the audience dropped through the build-up, hitting a low of 157k (1.7%) at 15:25. Audiences picked back up, with 356k (3.6%) watching at 16:05. The audience peaked with 469k (4.1%) at 16:55 as Nico Prost claimed victory.
Last year, race one was broadcast on ITV4 to an audience of 274k (3.7%), peaking with 460k (5.7%). So, audiences are up very slightly year-on-year, but the raw shares are down. And that is on a higher profile channel as well. To compound this, Formula E’s audience on ITV on Saturday afternoon was significantly below their slot average. ITV’s Formula E coverage was last of the five terrestrial stations and was level with several multichannel stations, including Sky Sports 2 (cricket) and ITV3 (a Midsomer Murders repeat).
Highlights of the race on Sunday morning from 11:00 averaged 176k (2.6%), in-line with the rest of the ITV highlight shows this season.
Numbers picked up on Sunday, but not sufficiently enough to challenge last year’s audience.
Live coverage of the second race on ITV’s main channel averaged 411k (3.8%) from 15:00 to 17:45, peaking with 600k (5.6%) at 16:45. The programme began with 206k (2.2%) at 15:00, rising to 483k (4.8%) at 16:00 for the start of the race. Numbers briefly surged to 571k (5.6%) as title rivals Buemi and Lucas di Grassi collided, before settling around 520k. The race peaked at its conclusion as Nico Prost again was victorious.
Unfortunately for Formula E, the key performance indicators year-on-year are bleak. The average audience for the season finale was down a whopping 41 percent on last year’s audience of 700k (6.8%). The peak audience halved compared with last year’s peak of 1.18m (10.7%). Yes, there was a clash with Wimbledon, but overall it is clear that season two of Formula E has failed to connect.
Again, Formula E managed to haemorrhage all of its lead-in. In this instance, that was Love Your Garden (admittedly the two audiences are not compatible but the point remains).
If someone was writing a book called “The rise and fall of Formula E”, purely from a UK broadcasting perspective, I fear that we are already in the fall phase. Alarmist? Maybe. For whatever reason, the viewing public has not taken to Formula E in the way either they, or ITV, expected. The above numbers are proof of that pudding.
I’ll summarise the issues briefly as advertising (ITV’s was shocking, enough said whilst FE’s social media and online effort has deteriorated), scheduling (far too sporadic for a casual fan to become invested) and press interest (if the dedicated press is not making much effort, why should ITV).
If Formula E heads to pay-TV for the 2016/17 season for season three, game over for the electric series in the UK. Simple as that, and no amount of online streaming would save it. Formula E should have a plan with ITV, as they should with every broadcaster as to how their air-time and advertising efforts are maximised to the best possible way. I do not think you’ll get any UK broadcaster paying big money (if any, in the case of ITV) for Formula E.
In the space of two years, Formula E to television executives might have gone from “new series with potential to reach a new audience” to “schedule filler”. Let’s hope there are some out there who still think Formula E can turn things around and reach a bigger audience. Sadly, I think that ship is about to sail…
The 2015 London ePrix ratings report can be found here.