Vettel’s Bahrain victory peaks with 4.3 million viewers

Sebastian Vettel’s victory in the 2017 Bahrain Grand Prix peaked with 4.3 million viewers, overnight viewing figures show. In comparison to recent times, it was a stronger than usual afternoon for Formula 1.

A special note about Channel 4’s live races this season. Channel 4 have decided this season to split their programming into three sections: pre-race, the race itself and then post-race analysis. As with Sky Sports F1’s viewing figures, this site will take Channel 4’s build up and race numbers for the season average. This will help provide a valid year on year comparison given that Channel 4’s live programming is expected to run longer this season.

With that in mind, Channel 4’s programme from 14:50 to 18:15 averaged 2.23m (15.2%). The build-up averaged 991k (8.2%) from 14:50 to 15:35, with the race itself averaging 2.57m (17.2%) until 18:15. Around 950,000 viewers continued to watch Channel 4’s analysis from 18:15 to 18:45. Channel 4’s average audience is in-line with last year’s average audience of 2.30m (16.2%), which considering the tough football competition on Sky is a strong number.

Sky Sports F1’s live coverage from 15:00 to 18:30 averaged 597k (4.1%), an increase of 51,000 viewers on the 2016 average audience of 546k (3.9%). Nevertheless, the average audience is down slightly on 2015’s average of 640k (4.3%).

Looking at Channel 4’s breakdown, one of the fascinating aspects is that its pre-race segment rated significantly lower year-on-year, by around 400,000 viewers which deflated the overall average. Channel 4’s programme clawed back the year-on-year difference throughout the build-up, drawing level at race start time.

Across Channel 4 and Sky Sports, the race started at 16:00 with 4.03 million viewers. The race followed the same trajectory as last year with a small dip to around 3.8 million viewers, but unlike last year the viewership climbed back up, hitting 4.04m (26.1%) at 17:00.

The audience dipped again slightly, but quickly picked back up, with 4.34m (25.9%) watching at 17:30, an increase of 433,000 viewers compared with the equivalent point last year, despite both races starting off with the same base. Last year’s race peaked as the lights went green, whereas this year built to its conclusion, showing the difference between a close fought contest and a relatively one-sided fight.

The combined average audience of 2.82 million viewers is in-line with last year’s average audience of 2.84 million viewers, the marginal drop a result of Channel 4’s pre-race build-up bringing in less viewers’ year-on-year. The combined peak audience of 4.34 million viewers is up 8.4 percent on last year’s peak audience of 4.01 million viewers. As with last year, both numbers are significantly down on the live BBC days from 2009 to 2011. Nevertheless, the increase compared with 2016 is promising.

Channel 4’s live coverage of qualifying, which aired on Saturday afternoon from 14:55 to 17:30 averaged 1.23m (12.7%), a drop of around 190,00 viewers on last year’s average audience of 1.44m (13.2%). An audience of 349k (3.5%) watched Sky Sports F1’s qualifying programme from 15:00 to 17:45, a marginal drop on their audience last year of 360k (3.3%).

A peak audience of 2.54m (22.6%) were watching qualifying across Channel 4 and Sky at 16:55, which compares with a peak of 2.60m (20.3%) last year. The reason the peak audience is much closer to last year was because 2016 saw the elimination qualifying farce, meaning that the session did not build to a crescendo like it did this time around.

The combined audience of 1.58 million viewers is down on last year’s average of 1.80 million viewers, the lowest for Bahrain since 2008.

The overnight viewing figures that were released for the opening two rounds of 2017 were disappointing for all concerned. Does the Bahrain Grand Prix mark the start of a turnaround?

It is always fascinating that the first race live on free to air television in the first one that shows a stabilised, or increased in the case of the peak, picture year-on-year. A peak audience of 4.3 million viewers against two of the biggest football teams in the country is a good result and something that Channel 4 and Sky can further build on as we head towards the Russian Grand Prix.

The 2016 Bahrain Grand Prix ratings report can be found here.


11 thoughts on “Vettel’s Bahrain victory peaks with 4.3 million viewers

  1. I wonder last season being C4’s first year people were curious about what they would offer vs. no more of the novelty factor this year could explain the pre-race viewership drop somewhat.

  2. I don’t know many people who watch qualifying anymore. What can Channel 4 do with F1 to increase the viewing figures?

      1. Yes F1 does still need live FTA races, I agree with you there. We need to make the most of these 2 years of coverage on Channel 4.

        In 2019, it is a done deal and the chances of it changing are minimal.

  3. For some reason qually is no longer exciting.

    Personally I would like the he session with 3 set qually tyres and spare cars back. Just so we really have 110 percent laps back

  4. Why haven’t you put the peak audience of C4 and Sky in this post? You’ve put the combined peak but I wondered what the split was, and how C4’s peak compared to its highest peaks since start of last year. Looks like one of their best.

  5. Sort qualifying out, it’s dull. Surely with the knockout qualifying it would have looked if the teams had more tyres available to them.

  6. I still think quali is exciting. During the last three years it was usually the most exciting hour over the whole race weekend. Now the racing seems better, so I agree some minor tweaks to improve quali make sense.

    Providing extra tyres to ensure more cars running more of the time, seems enough to me. I don’t want any big change in quali format – when that was tried last year, we all realised what we were missing.

    I can’t believe anyone who was paying attention to the short-lived knockout format would want that back. It was an absolute disaster, both from a sporting and entertainment perspective.

    On another subject – what’s happened to the new FOM lap graphic with all the tiny triangles, providing a granular picture of individual laps as they progress? It appeared in Melbourne and was brilliant, but then it just went away…

    Also I’ve noticed both C4 and Sky don’t seem to be giving us as much information about individual drivers tyre choices and usage this season, over the course of the race weekend. I really liked knowing who had what left, as you can identify strategy issues that may not be covered properly by the TV reporting.

    1. Regarding mini sector graphic, from F1Fanatic comment section

      The only problem with the coverage has been that some of the new systems haven’t worked as well as they did when they were been tested. The mini sectors been incorporated into the timing graphics for example is something that was tested and worked flawlessly pre-season but is something that over the 1st race weekend caused other systems to crash with getting to the bottom of that proving difficult since it all works fine up until the point cars get on track. There is also some new stuff planned that hasn’t been seen yet as the problems they have suffered has prevented them using all the new toys they have in store.

  7. Thanks for the information. Hopefully they’ll get that graphic working soon, as it was really compact and informative.

    I’m surprised something as commercially significant as FOM graphics are part of systems so susceptible to the type of issues referenced. However this isn’t the first time there’s been an issue with graphics on the World feed, now I think about it.

    I’m excited to find out what the new stuff planned is. Over the last few years the graphics seem to have increasingly improved, to provide more information whilst reducing on-screen intrusion.

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