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.