Lewis Hamilton’s victory in British Grand Prix recorded solid audiences over the weekend, but was down slightly on 2016, overnight viewing figures for the United Kingdom show.
As usual for the home round, the race was available live on terrestrial television, which makes it one of the races where we can make a proper comparison. However, the usual historical factors skew comparisons: Wimbledon, the weather or British fortunes in F1. All viewing figures exclude audiences who watched via other platforms, such as Now TV, All 4 or Sky Go.
Channel 4’s live race broadcast averaged 2.20m (20.4%) from 12:00 to 15:20, which compares with an average of 2.36m (17.9%) from 12:00 to 15:55 from 2016. I should note that Channel 4 did not split their shows last year, whereas the broadcaster split their programming into three chunks this year (quite clearly, the show this year recorded a decrease via both metrics). Fewer people chose to record Channel 4’s reaction to the race, which averaged just 543k (4.4%) from 15:20.
Live coverage on Sky Sports averaged 652k (6.0%) for the three and a half hours from 12:00, compared with an average last year of 736k (5.8%). Sky simulcast their coverage across Sky Sports F1 and, for the last time, Sky Sports 1. An audience of 373k (3.4%) watched on the dedicated F1 channel, with a further 279k (2.6%) watching via Sky Sports 1, a split of 57:43.
Both broadcasters recorded higher shares, but lower audiences compared with 2016. I suspect Andy Murray’s failure to get to the Wimbledon final caused this effect. Murray would have brought more viewers indoors to their television sets last year, inflating the F1 which preceded Wimbledon. This year, no Murray, resulting in no positive effect on audiences.
The combined average audience of 2.86 million viewers is down 8 percent on last year’s average of 3.10 million viewers. It means that, at the half way stage of the season and for the first time on record, not one race has reached a combined average of three million viewers. For the British Grand Prix, yesterday’s audience is the lowest since 2006. So, whilst attendances at the circuit are at their highest, the action on the circuit is not connecting to viewers at home. It does suggest though that the F1 is becoming more of a ‘may watch’ than a ‘must watch’ to the viewing public.
The Grand Prix started with 4.29m (41.0%) at 13:05, compared with 4.44m (38.6%) at the same point last year. However, the 2017 race only just hit that point at the very end, peaking with 4.45m (34.6%) at 14:25. At the time of the peak, 1.04m (8.1%) were watching on Sky, with 3.41m (26.5%) watching on Channel 4, a split of 77:23. The combined peak audience of 4.45 million viewers was the highest of 2017, but down 11 percent on last year’s peak of 4.99 million viewers.
Qualifying and Analysis
Live coverage of qualifying, broadcast on Channel 4 from 11:55 to 14:30, averaged 1.37m (15.2%), a marginal drop on the equivalent number from 2016 of 1.43m (16.2%). Sky Sports F1’s programming added an additional 413k (4.0%) on top of Channel 4’s audience, again a very slight drop on the combined Sky Sports F1 and Sky Sports 1 audience from 2016 of 421k (4.7%).
There is an amusing anecdote within the figures here: Sky Sports F1’s qualifying coverage beat their race day programme, 413,000 viewers for qualifying compared with 373,000 viewers for the race! Of course, there is a valid reason for this statistic. Sky simulcast their race day programme on Sky Sports 1 spreading the audience more thinly, whereas Sky kept their qualifying show exclusive to the dedicated F1 channel. It does not matter in the grand scheme of things, after all both channels show the same content on race day.
The combined average audience of 1.78 million viewers is, as you probably guessed by now, also down on the 2016 average audience of 1.85 million viewers. The combined peak audience followed an identical trend, with qualifying peaking with 2.64 million viewers (27.6 percent share) at 13:20, around 100,000 viewers lower than 2016.
I noticed a few comments over the weekend across social media platforms saying that the British Grand Prix, from a broadcasting perspective, felt like it was another race on the calendar. The race no longer feels like a special race that broadcasters give special treatment to, like the BBC and ITV did in yesteryear, and to be honest I agree with those sentiments. There are plenty of ways both broadcasters could make the Grand Prix feel more special.
In Sky’s case, simply treating Formula Two and GP3 as part of their Silverstone schedule instead of relying on World Feed only coverage and staying on air ‘round the clock’ like BT Sport currently do with MotoGP would suffice. Charles Leclerc is currently dominating Formula Two and will more than likely be in Formula 1 next year, yet viewers currently know little about him.
Over on Channel 4, their magazine programme called Sunday Brunch was the usual affair and not broadcast from Silverstone, under a ‘Grand Prix Sunday’ banner for example. If broadcasters are unprepared to give the Grand Prix a special feeling and spice up their programming, why should viewers treat the race any differently?
Coming up in the next few weeks on the site will be the annual mid-season viewing figures analysis as we dissect the audience patterns year-on-year and try to establish what has, and has not, been a rating draw this year.
The 2016 British Grand Prix ratings report can be found here.