Record low audience tunes in to Malaysian Grand Prix

A record low audience watched Daniel Ricciardo win a memorable Malaysian Grand Prix across Channel 4 and Sky Sports this past weekend, overnight UK viewing figures show.

Comparisons with previous years are slightly more uneven than usual due to the ever-changing time that the Sepang race occurs at in the UK, varying from a start time of 07:00 (2006 and 2008), 08:00 (2007, 2013, 2015 and 2016), 09:00 (2010, 2011, 2012 and 2014) and 10:00 (2009). Nevertheless, a valid year-on-year comparison can be conducted, which unfortunately for both Channel 4 and Sky, does not look good.

Live coverage on Channel 4 averaged 1.30m (21.1%) from 07:00 to 10:45. The audience peaked with 2.11m (24.6%) as Ricciardo clinched a Red Bull one-two. Both metrics are down around 35 percent on BBC One’s audience of 2.03m (33.6%) and peak audience of 3.23m. I think Channel 4’s live number is as good as you expect. However, the re-run number of just 747k (4.8%), peaking with 1.00m (5.8%) at 18:30 is disappointing. I would have hoped for the re-run to grab a few more viewers, the race itself was excellent but that didn’t materialise into generating more repeat viewers later on. In hindsight, I think Channel 4 should have aired the re-run earlier so it didn’t clash with the early primetime line-up.

Over on Sky Sports, their live coverage simulcast across the dedicated Formula 1 channel and Mix averaged 382k (4.2%) from 07:00 to 10:30, significantly down on last year’s average audience of 473k (7.4%). It is one of the very few times that Sky’s average race day audience has slipped below 400k since they started covering the sport in 2012. Split out, Sky Sports F1 averaged 293k (2.9%), with Mix adding a further 89k (1.3%). Early morning time slot or not, that is a really low number and doesn’t bode well for Japan next weekend, which Sky will be airing exclusively live. Sky’s audience peaked with 625k (7.6%) at 09:15 as Lewis Hamilton retired from the race.

The race audience across Channel 4 and Sky climbed from 2.14m (36.1%) at 08:05 to 2.34m (33.6%) at 08:30. Numbers stabilised at around 2.3 million before picking back up to 2.46m (31.1%) at 09:00. The number continued to climb… until a Mercedes went bang. The combined live peak audience of 2.69m (32.8%) came at 09:15. Ten minutes later (i.e. after Hamilton retired), 2.57m (31.7%) people were watching, meaning that around 119,000 viewers tuned out. A much bigger proportion bailed out of Sky’s coverage at that point: 33,000 tuned out of Channel 4’s coverage, with 86,000 turning over from Sky F1 and Mix.

The combined audience of 2.43 million viewers is the lowest for the Malaysian Grand Prix on record, by a large margin. It is also slightly lower than the season average so far, and continues the dip in numbers that Formula 1 has experienced since the Summer break. The combined peak audience of 3.69 million viewers is also the lowest on record and below the season average. Malaysia has previously rated well, due to its favourable early slot in the calendar and the effect of bringing casual viewers in for the afternoon re-run.

As with the race, comparisons are uneven with qualifying varying from a start time of 06:00 (2006 and 2008), 07:00 (2007), 08:00 (2012 to 2014) 09:00 (2011, 2012 and 2015) and 10:00 (2009 and 2016). A later live time slot, plus the added benefit of a late-afternoon re-run should have helped viewing figures.

Live coverage of qualifying, broadcast on Channel 4 from 09:00 to 11:30, averaged just 811k (11.4%) peaking with 1.22m (15.7%) at 10:55. The number is down around half on BBC One’s 2014 and 2015 live qualifying numbers, a larger percentage drop than usual. BBC One’s Saturday morning line-up is usually Breakfast and Saturday Kitchen, meaning that when the F1 usually moved into that slot for early morning qualifying session, it mopped up a larger number of viewers than anticipated, which has helped the numbers across the years. Not that the above argument is any excuse – Channel 4’s live number is still poor.

Sky Sports F1’s live programme averaged 278k (3.9%), peaking with 488k (6.3%) at 10:55. Despite the better slot year-on-year, Sky’s numbers are down around a quarter on 2015’s average of 395k (5.5%) from 08:00 to 11:00. It is Sky’s lowest numbers for a Malaysia qualifying session on record. Later in the day, Channel 4’s replay averaged 658k (4.8%) from 16:30 to 18:30, peaking with 987k (6.5%).

The combined audience of 1.75 million viewers is the lowest for the Malaysian Grand Prix qualifying session since 2008. The audience for qualifying (excluding for 2013 which had a snow-uplift effect in the UK and an unusually high 2015) was down around 24.1 percent on the usual audience of around 2.3 million from 2009 onwards. The combined peak audience of 2.70 million is the lowest since 2009 but reasonably close to other numbers recorded, so the audience there is not too bad.

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


17 thoughts on “Record low audience tunes in to Malaysian Grand Prix

    1. Sky have ruined sport! Greed rules man kind but destroys humanity and all aspects of entertainment!

  1. I think this says a lot about social media. Remember the Red Bull battle was starting to heat up about that point too. So people were on Twitter saying, “Look at this!”, they started tuning in, saw Hamilton, told even more people to “Look at this!”… …then drifted out when it was clear Daniel had the measure of Max. Without Twitter I suspect this race’s figures would be even lower – the excitement simply wouldn’t have spread. Unfortunately F1 has naturally exciting moments too rarely for this to be a viable primary promotion strategy, even among digitally-enhanced youth.

  2. The new owners desperately need to sort the camera positions out to show the sense of speed to inject some extra excitement.
    A high up camera from the end of a straight showing a car coming towards you from the opposite end of that straight just looks… well… slow!
    Likewise a camera positioned on a corner showing the car coming towards you, then at its slowest point around corner up close, the camera is side on and the car at its slowest giving no sense of speed. We need to see these cars fly by by better placed cameras!

    A few years back there was a camera showing one corner but in the background of that shot, it showed two corners (5 & 6 maybe??) which changed direction quickly. The speed the cars changed direction through those 2 corners in the background was incredible and left me in awe at how fast they looked.
    It almost looked like Scalextric because of the speed.

    I wanted to see that shot every lap but I think it was shown a half dozen times in the whole race.
    Even a dull race is livened up with a sense of real speed and fast direction changes.

  3. next year if mercedes turns out to be rubbish car and hamilton is stuck in middle field sky viewing figures will be blood bath

  4. Bearing in mind the U.K. has the most committed fans anywhere these figures are truly disappointing.

  5. Many people are put off by the upcoming switch to Sky. Money aside, if I wanted my sport to grow, I would NOT take it to a network where the audience can shrink!

    1. “I would NOT take it to a network where the audience can shrink!”
      -That’s exactly what they have done by giving it to Channel 4, they have lost 35 to 40% and it’s still free to air. Why would people be put off now by the deal that Sky have in over two years time?

      With C4 losing a million viewers compared to the BBC, the reason has nothing to do with Sky but more to do with the mentality of those fans that can’t bring themselves to select Channel 4.

      1. It’s simply what happens – ITV and the Beeb attract more viewers. It’s partly scheduling and Ch4 is considered ‘niche’. SKY is pretty crap, full of re-cycled programmes – people buy it for sport, F1 is tacked on.

  6. Andy, I take your point, but I really don’t see why they have lost audience share now its on 4. We all get the four terrestrial channels, and I cerainly don’t understand why people would not watch it now its on 4.

    1. People clearly don’t like watching C4, but the important point is that they can’t be that interested in F1.

      In the 70’s when there were only 3 channels, my old man wouldn’t watch ITV apart from the odd exception.

  7. Not sure many casual viewers who just have the likes of freeview would even know about F1 being on C4 as I have not seen any recent advert or promotions for it or really apart form a few places like here many people mention C4 and F1. Always seems an odd channel for it to be on, much like the Formula e about to start on C5. Those channels to me are just full of reality trash mostly and not ones I would look at for something like Sport and I am probaly not alone.
    Many people I know now watch F1 on sky go or nowtv and not on on traditional TV anymore. If you look at amazon for the sky sports passes, there are big discussions of where to get a cheap sky sports pass from and to build them up for F1 fans.
    Those Barb figures are only a guess and I still am not able to submit my sky or online results to Barb, so they are not reflecting that. I keep asking them, but they say I cant. But they keep doing regular surveys about our equipment that we use to watch online rather than TV.
    But does it matter, there is so much more sport to watch these days, so comparing it with the old days is a bit naff really. We have so many different ways and catchup times to watch and much more to watch, not just sport.

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