The 24 Hours of Le Mans performed well in the United Kingdom over the weekend despite hot weather depleting the total available audience, overnight viewing figures show.
Live coverage of the race aired across Eurosport, Quest TV and ITV4. Eurosport and Quest TV had the same arrangements as 2015 and 2016, with Eurosport airing the whole race live. ITV4 joined the fray this year, airing the last four and a half hours live. The viewing figures in this piece exclude those who watched via the Eurosport Player, FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) App or via other online means.
The race from 13:45 on Saturday to 14:15 on Sunday averaged 98k (1.6%), when taking into account the various outlets, an increase on last year’s number of 73k (0.9%) and in-line with 2015‘s average audience of 98k (1.5%). To be level with 2015’s number, despite a live presence from ITV4 could appear disappointing, but television over the weekend took a hit due to the weather.
Eurosport’s coverage of the complete race averaged 58k (0.99%) from 13:45 on Saturday, peaking with 166k (2.52%) as the race ended at 14:00 on Sunday. Their 2016 average is in-line with last year’s number of 60k (0.79%), although the audience share is significantly up. Both metrics are down on 2015, which averaged 70k (1.1%).
For the second year in a row, Quest TV’s coverage struggled compared to 2015, with all their shows recording under 100,000 viewers. An audience of 89k (1.59%) watched the race start on Quest from 13:30 to 15:30 on Saturday, whilst 98k (0.66%) watched their evening update.
Quest TV’s Sunday programming struggled badly, suggesting a significantly overlap between their demographic and ITV4’s core audience. Quest’s Sunday update at 10:00 averaged just 14k (0.25%), with the race conclusion from 13:00 to 14:30 averaging 39k (0.62%). Certainly, the evidence would suggest that live coverage should air on Quest or ITV4, but not both at the same time.
ITV4’s live programme on Sunday aired from 09:30 to 14:30 and averaged 146k (2.4%). Considering that the broadcasters’ coverage was relatively unadvertised, with little promotion from series organisers, this is a solid number. ITV4’s coverage grew to a peak of 284k (4.3%) at 14:00.
The combined peak audience of 519k (7.9%) came on Sunday at 14:00 as the race ended, with 284k watching on ITV4, 166k on Eurosport and a further 69k on Quest TV. It is the highest Le Mans peak in the UK for many years, with an excellent combined share as well across the three networks.
However, whilst it is great to see Le Mans broadcast on three networks, there is evidence to suggest that one network with full live coverage and another free-to-air network broadcasting some action live. Assuming there are no clashes, I think the free-to-air network in question should be ITV4 given that the network reaches more viewers than Quest.
Most of the talent working on Quest’s coverage had either or currently do work on ITV4’s motor sport portfolio, so it would make sense to rationalise the output with emphasis on promoting ITV4’s live coverage as well. To the contrary though, Quest is part of the Discovery family (which Eurosport is a part of), so they get Le Mans as a ‘freebie’ to promote Eurosport’s programming which Discovery would probably be keen to keep.
The 2016 24 Hours of Le Mans ratings report can be found here.