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.