Bank Holiday and warm weather knocks Belgian Grand Prix down

The Belgian Grand Prix dipped last Sunday (27th August) compared with previous years, overnight viewing figures for the UK show.

Live coverage of the race, broadcast on Channel 4 from 12:00 to 15:10 for the build-up and the race itself, averaged 1.65m (19.6%), a drop of over 300,000 viewers on last year’s average of 1.98m (21.1%), which covers a longer time slot. It is Channel 4’s second lowest audience for a live race, only ahead of last year’s Malaysian Grand Prix programme. Typically, live European races on Channel 4 so far have averaged between 1.9 and 2.2 million viewers.

Sky simulcast Sunday’s action across their dedicated F1 channel and Sky Sports Mix, which now has a more prominent slot on the EPG thanks to the latest Sky reshuffle. The F1 channel brought in an average audience of 418k (5.0%) from 12:00 to 15:30, with Mix adding a further 151k (1.8%) over a shorter slot from 12:30 onwards. The weighted combined average for Sky of 547k (6.5%) is down in audience but slightly up in share on last year’s audience of 617k (6.3%). It does represent an increase though on all the figures from 2012 to 2015.

The race, including build-up, was down year-on-year from the very beginning. At midday, a combined audience of 640k (10.2%) were watching Channel 4 and Sky’s coverage, compared with 934k (12.3%) at the top of the pre-show hour last year. The race itself fluctuated between 3.1 million and 3.3 million viewers throughout, eventually reaching a combined peak audience of 3.49m (38.6%) as Lewis Hamilton won the Grand Prix. Whilst Channel 4’s coverage peaked with 2.57m (28.5%) as the race ended, the two Sky channels hit a combined peak of 1.03m (11.6%) at 13:25 prior to the first Super Sunday football game.

The combined average audience of 2.19 million viewers is down 15.5 percent on last year’s average of 2.60 million viewers. Last year’s average was stronger than anticipated, so a larger year-on-year drop is unsurprising, even if it is the lowest average for Spa since records began in 2007. The combined peak audience of 3.49 million is a decrease of 11.4 percent year-on-year on the 2016 peak audience of 3.94 million viewers.

Qualifying and Support Races
Live coverage of qualifying on Channel 4 averaged 937k (12.5%), down on last year’s audience of 1.08m (13.4%). Interestingly, the peak audience that the broadcaster recorded was up year-on-year. The main reason for this is that, in 2016, Lewis Hamilton was out of last year’s running from the beginning, starting from the back of the grid due to engine penalties. Nevertheless, it shows that, as with the race broadcast, less viewers watched Channel 4’s build-up programming.

Sky’s coverage on Sky Sports F1 averaged 262k (3.5%), in-line with last year’s audience of 263k (3.3%), although like with Channel 4, the peak for Sky was higher year-on-year. The result was a combined average audience of 1.20 million viewers, down 10.5 percent on 2016’s average of 1.34 million, yet the peak audience of 2.01 million viewers was up 10.4 percent year-on-year! It is very unusual to see that kind of pattern.

I normally do not publish Formula Two’s viewing figures, but there has been special interest over on Twitter to publish some numbers, so as a one-off, I will include them in this piece. The Formula Two qualifying session, broadcast live on Sky Sports F1 on Friday afternoon from 15:20 to 15:50, averaged 34k (0.6%). The two races averaged 51k (0.7%) and 34k (0.6%) on Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning respectively.

Formula Two’s viewing figures look slightly higher than previous GP2 figures in the past few years. The viewing figures above are on the higher end of the pay TV scale for motor sport outside of Formula 1 and motorbikes. It is certainly lower than Moto2 and Moto3 on BT Sport, but higher than recent IndyCar figures (which have dropped back off post-Alonso).

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


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