Channel 4’s F1 highlights coverage draws record audience

Formula 1 continued its ratings resurgence in the UK during the Spanish Grand Prix weekend, overnight viewing figures show.

As with last year’s coverage, live action aired on Sky Sports F1, with Channel 4 airing highlights later in the evening.

Channel 4’s highlights programme aired from 18:00 to 20:00 to an excellent average audience of 2.33m (15.6%). Astonishingly, it is the highest audience for an F1 highlights programme on free-to-air television since the BBC’s coverage of the 2015 Singapore Grand Prix, which averaged 2.77m (16.5%) across a shorter 90-minute time slot.

A peak audience of 3.00m (18.0%) watched the highlights show, comfortably the most watched commercial channel in the time slot, only behind BBC One. Again, this is the highest for an F1 highlights programme since Singapore 2015.

Earlier in the day, Sky’s race broadcast, which aired from 13:00 to 16:30, averaged 653k (8.4%), their highest average for Spain since 2015. It is Sky Sports F1’s highest average audience since last year’s Brazilian Grand Prix.

The Grand Prix peaked with 1.01m (13.8%) at 14:25, the first five-minute segment following the opening Safety Car period, Sky’s highest for Spain again since 2015. Had the race been more exciting, there is a good chance that the peak might have been around 1.2 million viewers.

As it turned out, the audience settled just under one million viewers for most of the race, which is a solid number considering that the Premier League final day fixtures kicked off half way through the race.

The combined average audience of 2.99 million viewers is the highest average audience of 2018 so far, and an increase of 12.6 percent year-on-year. It is the highest average since last year’s US Grand Prix, and the highest for a free-to-air highlights race since the 2016 German Grand Prix.

The peak audience of 4.01 million viewers is an increase of 6.1 percent on last year’s peak audience of 3.78 million viewers, although not quite the highest of 2018, that honour remains with Azerbaijan.

Qualifying and Analysis
Live coverage of qualifying on Sky Sports F1 from 13:00 to 15:35 averaged 322k (4.6%). Channel 4’s highlights programming averaged 1.33m (10.9%) from 17:00 to 18:30, both figures comfortably up year-on-year.

The combined average for qualifying of 1.65 million viewers is the highest for Spain since 2015, with the combined peak audience of 2.46 million viewers following in the same footsteps.

It has been many, many years since Formula 1 recorded consistent year-on-year increases over a sustained period. For the first time, in possibly five or six years, F1 has momentum, and viewers are starting to view the sport, as opposed to deserting it. Whether these are genuine new viewers, or lapsed viewers from yesteryear, we do not know apart from looking at anecdotal evidence.

The concern for Liberty Media however is that it was Channel 4 that saw a record audience on Sunday, and not Sky. Channel 4’s contract concludes at the end of this season, with Formula 1 moving exclusively to Sky, although the free-to-air element of Sky’s contract, and where that will turn up is unclear.

Why the sustained increase? We have been lucky so far in 2018 in that three of the five races have been excellent. Australia did not quite deliver, and nor did Spain, but not everything can be a thriller.

In the last two or three years, we have had great battles, but momentum disappeared in the intervening races. Three great races on the run may have resulting in Spain’s numbers bouncing higher than expected. There is also the increased promotion from Liberty Media across a variety of platforms: are their efforts reaping the rewards?

Next up is the Monaco Grand Prix, which begins a critical phase of the F1 season as the sport begins to battle with the football World Cup and other events for column inches. If Ferrari and Red Bull turn up in Monaco and Canada, the momentum should continue through the early Summer, even if it is at a reduced rate of knots.

The 2017 Spanish Grand Prix ratings report can be found here.


5 thoughts on “Channel 4’s F1 highlights coverage draws record audience

  1. “The concern for Liberty Media however is that it was Channel 4 that saw a record audience on Sunday, and not Sky.”
    Liberty are more likely to be concerned that they can’t sell their OTT service in the UK for several years, although they may need some of that time to get it working!
    The incompetent gaffs from Liberty Media at the weekend didn’t do F1 any favours either.

  2. F1 TV Access had extended (30 min) highlights of the race. Unfortunately the link didn’t work until Monday but the quality was good and well worth the £17.99 per year price. When compared to a minimum of £44 per month to watch sky sports f1 its a compromise I’m prepared to make. Only problem was spoilers as the video thumbnail showed the drivers on the podium so I sent feedback asking them not to do that and they replied saying they will take it into consideration.

    £17.99 per year to watch highlights with a race archive vs £528 per year to watch all the race it makes sense to me. Especially once they get rid of spoilers, iron out all the bugs and get the Apple TV app done. Ill be content with that post 2018.

  3. Once again Sky cannot get more than 630k of UK F1 fans reasons
    1) C4F1 leave SkyF1 wanting. Steve Jones and David Coulthard interact in a relaxed why that Sky’s Brundell cannot get near.
    2) SkyF1 in UK lost contract before because they cannot get the level of (Ripped off) viewers that the likes of ITV and BBC always got when they had contracts. SkyF1 average about 250k per race whereas BBC, ITV, AND NOW C4F1 get up to 3million average.

    Remember Liberty you inherited the wrong contract holder in the form of SKY and Murdoch’s bromance with Ernie Ecclestone and if there’s no Free to Air Live Races we in UK can tune into ITV4 to watch 3 BTCC races every weekend when F1 is on and with support races equals 7•5hrs of continuous Motor Racing on a Sunday.
    Finally your online race heights are a waste of time because all news channels Twitter Facebook give out result as soon as race is won so why would any want to watch a race that they already know the result of🤔

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