The high-octane action of Formula Two helped the championship to a record high audience on Sunday morning, overnight viewing figures show, in what was an excellent weekend for both the feeder series and its bigger brother.
Formula Two soars to record high
Last week in the Belgian Grand Prix ratings post, I joked that I would report the Formula Two audience figures as a one-off. Evidently that changed the moment this past weekend’s figures landed in my inbox. Formula Two, or its predecessor the GP2 Series, has always been the unloved sibling. Whilst Sky Sports F1 has broadcast the World Feed for the leading feeder series, and GP3 since 2012, both entities have been under promoted for various reasons well documented on these pages.
Nevertheless, the new emphasis on the series from Sky and Liberty Media, combined with the rise of Charles Leclerc and Britain’s Oliver Rowland has caused a spike in Formula Two’s viewing figures. The feature race on Saturday was delayed thanks to the excessively long rain delay for Formula 1 qualifying. An audience of 68k (0.6%) stuck around from 17:15 to 18:30 on Saturday evening, a very good figure considering the delay.
The following day, an audience of 103k (1.6%) watched Formula Two’s sprint race from 09:10 to 10:05, peaking with 128k (2.0%) as the race ended, the highest ever overnight audience for a feeder series race on Sky Sports F1 dating back to the channel launch in 2012. Depending on the overarching circumstances, Formula Two can rate anywhere between 10,000 and 60,000 viewers, a very wide margin, but the audience for the feeder series is not as loyal as Formula 1. For a small number, Formula Two may be ‘must watch’, for others it will be a case of watching if nothing else is on.
Quite simply the audience is fantastic for the series, and should please those at Sky and Liberty Media. The next round in Jerez is a standalone event during the Japanese Grand Prix weekend, and based on current standings, it is likely that the championship will be resolved during the weekend. I dare say that Sky should consider giving extra treatment to the Jerez rounds (whether via some extra London studio wrap around or some other mechanism) otherwise the potential championship decider may go unnoticed.
The good news extended through to Formula 1, as both Sky Sports and Channel 4 saw healthy boosts over the weekend, perhaps helped by no top-flight domestic football action.
Live coverage of the race, broadcast across Sky’s dedicated F1 channel and Sky Sports Main Event from 12:00 to 15:20, averaged a strong 857k (9.5%). Note that I would not normally tape-check Sky’s numbers, however Sky concluded their main show ten minutes early, meaning that Main Event went off the air earlier than anticipated. In any event, tape-checking makes little difference to the overall audience as Sky Sports F1’s post-race segment performed better than usual. An audience of 550k (6.1%) watched on the F1 channel, compared with 307k (3.4%) on Main Event, a split of 64:36.
Sky’s audience is their highest ever for the Italian round and their highest European audience since the 2016 German Grand Prix. The same facts apply for the peak audience of 1.39m (15.0%), which occurred at 13:30. At the time of the peak, 883k (9.5%) were watching via the F1 channel, with 505k (5.4%) watching on Main Event. However, Main Event’s audience grew further to a peak of 586k (6.1%) of 14:15, except during the same period, the F1 channel dropped to 762k (8.0%). Overall though, Sunday was an excellent news day for Sky, and they have several reasons to be happy.
After a rough couple of races, Channel 4’s numbers also flourished across the weekend. Their race highlights programme averaged 2.15m (11.6%) from 17:45 to 20:00, their highest audience for highlights since Germany 2016. Channel 4’s peak audience of 2.72m (16.2%) was their highest since the Spanish Grand Prix in May.
The combined audience of 3.10 million viewers is the highest average audience of the entire year, the first time Formula 1 has jumped above three million viewers in this metric since the 2016 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix! Last year, Italy aired live on free-to-air television to an audience of 2.57 million viewers, so the average jumped year-on-year by 17 percent.
Italy is a race made for highlights simply because of its short length meaning that viewers are not missing as much action. The combined peak audience of 4.11 million viewers is an increase of two percent compared with 2016’s live coverage. Describing these audience figures as fabulous may be disingenuous, however they are healthy numbers in the context of the season so far.
Due to torrential rain, Sky Sports F1 was live on-air for over five hours on Saturday, from 12:00 to 17:10 for their qualifying broadcast. Their coverage averaged 363k (5.0%) for the duration, a good performance in the circumstances. From 13:00 to 16:45, the channel never dipped below 310,000 viewers, so most viewers stuck with the broadcast during the two-and-a-half-hour delay. Sky’s coverage recorded a five-minute peak of 543k (6.7%) as the second part of qualifying eventually ended at 16:15.
A little over 15 minutes after Sky went off the air, Channel 4’s highlights programme averaged 1.39m (11.2%) from 17:30 to 19:05, a slight overrun which is unusual for a highlights programme, no doubt the edit was still being completed whilst the programme was ‘live’ on air! The highlights show peaked with a strong 1.92m (14.0%) at 18:45 as Lewis Hamilton claimed pole position.
The combined average audience of 1.75 million viewers is a marginal increase on last year’s audience of 1.70 million viewers. The peak audience is down around 170,000 viewers year-on-year, with a combined peak this year of 2.46 million viewers, compared with 2.63 million viewers twelve months ago.
The 2016 Italian Grand Prix ratings report can be found here.