Hamilton’s British Grand Prix victory peaks with 5 million viewers

The British Grand Prix performed solidly on Sunday afternoon for Channel 4 and Sky Sports against a difficult backdrop of both the Wimbledon finals and the final of Euro 2016, overnight viewing figures show.

Live coverage of the race, broadcast on Channel 4 from 12:00 to 15:55, averaged 2.36m (17.9%). Across their usual three-and-a-half-hour slot from 12:00 to 15:30, the coverage averaged 2.54m, so not a major gulf between the two numbers.

Channel 4’s coverage hit a 5-minute peak audience of 3.89m (24.5%) at 14:30 as Lewis Hamilton claimed victory. What is noticeable is that Channel 4’s coverage lost 1.2 million viewers as soon as they went to their first post-race commercial break. Their audience dropped from 3.3 million viewers to 2.1 million. Some of that is natural decline, some of it is self-inflicted, with the break ‘inviting’ the audience to turn over to other channels.

Both Channel 4’s average and peak audiences are season high numbers for them, by a wide margin too. It is good news for the broadcaster, and their strategy of airing more live races in the middle to latter stages of the season may well be paying off, based on the trajectory the season is currently heading in.

Sky’s live coverage from 12:00 to 15:30 averaged 736k (5.8%), this being split 552k vs 184k in the dedicated channel’s favour. Interestingly, their coverage peaked with 1.12m (9.3%) at 13:15, which I believe is their highest peak number for shared coverage in a while. Year-on-year, Sky’s average is up 14 percent, with the peak metric up 21 percent.

Overall, the combined audience of 3.10 million is the second highest of 2016 (slightly behind Austria, thanks to Channel 4’s extended broadcast) but down 27 percent on 2015’s average audience of 4.28 million. This is the lowest audience for the British Grand Prix since 2006, but that should not be any surprise to anyone reading this considering the Wimbledon clash. Compared with 2014, which also clashed with an Andy Murray Wimbledon final, the average audience is down only 6.9 percent.

The Wimbledon build-up on BBC One from 13:00 to 13:55 averaged 2.28m (18.6%), enough to put a dent into the British Grand Prix numbers. The combined peak audience of 4.99m (31.5%) is down 14.6 percent on last year’s peak audience of 5.85m (50.4%), but up 2.4 percent on 2014’s peak audience of 4.88m (32.7%).

Live coverage of qualifying on Channel 4 from 12:00 to 14:30 averaged 1.43m (16.2%), peaking with 2.07m (21.1%) at 13:55. Sky’s coverage of qualifying across Sky Sports 1 and F1 added a further 421k (4.7%). The combined audience of 1.85m is the lowest since 2007 for Silverstone.

For the second weekend running, there are a lot of positives to take from the viewing figures. The average audience was severely weakened by the post-race segment dropping like a stone (as referenced above). The other metrics performed well, which suggests that the Formula 1 could have performed better than what it actually did had the Wimbledon final not been on.

I said at the start of the season that the viewing figures would live or die on the competitiveness of the championship. A runaway four races at the start of the year saw some very low numbers for Sky and Channel 4. The story has since swung around, and ratings have started to improve, both sides are reaping the rewards. Hungary will be an acid test as to whether viewers are going to stay around, or whether we will drop back to pre-Austria levels.

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


What the future holds for Motors TV

Today, as has been the case sporadically over the past few months, Motors TV again disappeared from Sky’s television platform. However, on this occasion, the channel also went offline for Virgin Media viewers.

A reputable insider on Digital Spy Forum has since posted about it, stating that the channel was put into receivership five weeks ago by a French court (Motors TV is a French company).

Verif.com allows the public to browse basic details for individual companies, a bit like Companies House in the UK. The record for Motors TV shows that a court decision was taken on May 31st, 2016, i.e. five weeks ago. The court decision is known as a “backup procedure”. The procedure suspends the payment of debts for those businesses, such as Motors TV, who are in money difficulty.

The benefit of a “backup procedure” is that the company can be reorganised so that creditors can be paid. In essence, reading between the lines, “backup procedure” is the French term for “receivership”. It therefore seems likely that Sky and Virgin Media, and whoever else, have not been paid (yet) and have taken Motors TV off their respective EPG slots for the moment until they have been paid.

The court judgment, issued on June 10th, 2016, can be found here. The judgment does mention appointing administrators and also receivership, by stating “Receivables are to declare, within two months of this publication, to the Judicial Agent or the web portal at <weblink>”

Based on the information in the public domain, the picture looks bleak…

Update on July 8th – Motors TV is back on the EPG so it is here, for now.

Scheduling: The 2016 British Grand Prix

This weekend, Formula 1 comes home for the British Grand Prix! The Silverstone circuit plays host to round ten of 21 in the 2016 season. As is normally the case in the era of ‘split broadcasters’, the free-to-air broadcaster will be screening the race live… whether we will still have that to the same degree and reach in 2019, we don’t yet know.

Channel 4’s coverage on Sunday clocks in at four hours long, their longest race day show yet. You would have to go back to the mid-1990s to find a British Grand Prix programme that long, although of course the BBC in 2010 and 2011 were on air from 12:10 to around 16:45 (including their Red Button forum show).

Disappointingly, there is no spin-off programming to the weekend that helps cross-promote F1 to Channel 4’s other shows. This was mooted pre-season but has not come to fruition. Sunday Brunch is being billed though as a “Grand Prix show” with some F1 features.

There is also an one-hour special originally shown in 2012 focussing on Nic Hamilton, which will be broadcast on Saturday morning. On-site, Channel 4 will have an extended team with Eddie Jordan, Mark Webber and Susie Wolff all present alongside their usual line-up. Murray Walker has filmed a VT to be shown during the weekend as he is unable to attend in person. Elsewhere, the Speedway Grand Prix comes to the UK and Suzi Perry will be presenting BT Sport’s live coverage.

Channel 4 F1
08/07 – 09:55 to 11:40 – Practice 1
08/07 – 13:55 to 15:35 – Practice 2
09/07 – 09:55 to 11:20 – Practice 3
09/07 – 11:55 to 14:30 – Qualifying
10/07 – 12:00 to 16:00 – Race
10/07 – 23:05 to 00:10 – Highlights

Supplementary Programming
09/07 – 06:55 to 07:55 – Nic Hamilton’s Racing Dream
10/07 – 09:00 to 12:00 – Sunday Brunch: Grand Prix show

Sky Sports F1
08/07 – 09:45 to 12:00 – Practice 1
08/07 – 13:45 to 15:55 – Practice 2 (also Sky Sports 1)
09/07 – 09:45 to 11:15 – Practice 3
09/07 – 12:00 to 14:35 – Qualifying (also Sky Sports 1)
10/07 – 11:30 to 16:15 – Race (also Sky Sports 1)
=> 11:30 – Track Parade
=> 12:00 – Pit Lane Live
=> 12:30 – Race
=> 15:30 – Paddock Live

Supplementary Programming
07/07 – 15:00 to 15:30 – Driver Press Conference
07/07 – 18:00 to 19:00 – The F1 Show: British Special (also Sky Sports 1)
07/07 – 20:45 to 21:00 – Paddock Uncut
08/07 – 16:30 to 17:00 – Team Press Conference (also Sky Sports 1)
08/07 – 17:00 to 17:30 – The F1 Show (also Sky Sports 1)
13/07 – 20:30 to 21:00 – F1 Report: Review

BBC Radio F1
08/07 – 09:55 to 11:35 – Practice 1 (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
08/07 – 13:55 to 15:35 – Practice 2 (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
08/07 – 20:00 to 21:00 – Preview (BBC Radio 5 Live)
09/07 – 09:55 to 11:05 – Practice 3 (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
09/07 – 12:55 to 14:05 – Qualifying (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
10/07 – 12:30 to 15:30 – Race (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)

British Superbikes – Snetterton
09/07 – 16:00 to 18:00 – Qualifying (Eurosport 2 and Quest)
10/07 – 12:30 to 13:45 – Race 1 (Eurosport 2)
10/07 – 12:30 to 18:00 – Races (Quest)
13/07 – 21:00 to 22:00 – Highlights (ITV4)

GP2 Series – Britain (Sky Sports F1)
08/07 – 12:00 to 12:50 – Practice
08/07 – 15:55 to 16:30 – Qualifying (also Sky Sports 1)
09/07 – 14:40 to 16:10 – Race 1
10/07 – 09:25 to 10:40 – Race 2

GP3 Series – Britain (Sky Sports F1)
09/07 – 08:45 to 09:20 – Qualifying
09/07 – 16:20 to 17:20 – Race 1
10/07 – 08:15 to 09:15 – Race 2

IndyCar Series – Iowa Corn 300 (BT Sport//ESPN)
10/07 – 22:30 to 01:00 – Race

Porsche Supercup – Britain (Eurosport 2)
10/07 – 10:45 to 11:30 – Race

Speedway Grand Prix – Britain (BT Sport 1)
09/07 – 16:30 to 20:30 – Races

Virgin Australia Supercars – Townsville (BT Sport 2)
09/07 – 07:00 to 08:45 – Race 14
10/07 – 07:00 to 08:45 – Race 15

World Superbikes – Laguna Seca (British Eurosport 2)
09/07 – 19:15 to 20:30 – Superpole
09/07 – 22:15 to 23:30 – Race 1
10/07 – 22:15 to 23:30 – Race 2

As always, if anything changes, I’ll update the schedule.

Updated on July 8th to reflect Murray Walker’s status.

Buemi’s Formula E title victory peaks with 600k

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.


Dramatic Austrian Grand Prix helps F1 hit 2016 high

A dramatic Austrian Grand Prix lifted Formula 1 to its highest audience of the season in the UK, overnight viewing figures show.

Live coverage of the race, won by Lewis Hamilton after a last lap collision with Nico Rosberg, averaged 866k (9.9%) across Sky Sports 1 and F1 from 12:00 to 15:30. The audience was split 617k (7.1%) on the dedicated channel compared with 248k (2.8%) on Sky Sports 1. Combined, this is the highest audience of the season for Sky, surpassing Canada which averaged 853k across an equivalent slot. For a round that takes place in early afternoon, it is Sky’s highest number since the 2014 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

Channel 4’s highlights programme averaged a further 2.28m (13.6%) from 18:00 to 20:00. It is Channel 4’s highest highlights number of the season, and their second highest average figure overall, only behind their live programme from Bahrain. As expected, their number is down on BBC One’s highlights number from last season of 3.11m (23.1%), but they could take encouragement that numbers are positive in comparison with the season so far.

The combined audience of 3.11 million is the highest for Formula 1 since the 2015 Brazilian Grand Prix. Shockingly, it is the highest for a European round since the 2015 Russian Grand Prix. It is sometimes forgotten that the ratings turmoil actually started at the back end of last season, thanks to the championship being wrapped up a few races early. To a degree, Channel 4 have inherited that and are trying to reclaim those viewers.

It was a good weekend all round for Formula 1 as qualifying also posted a solid number. An average audience of 1.32m (9.2%) watched Channel 4’s highlights programme from 17:30 to 19:00. Around an extra 350k watched on Sky Sports 1 and F1, bringing the combined audience to the region of 1.65 million viewers. Considering Baku was nothing to shout about, these numbers are a surprising but welcome bump.

Double headers will help to maintain an audience off the back of a big story, and the British Grand Prix should do better than expected, comparatively speaking, with the season so far.

Formula E numbers will be on the blog on Tuesday or Wednesday. The 2015 Austrian Grand Prix ratings report can be found here.