Season high audience for Sky as F1 continues UK ratings resurgence

Daniel Ricciardo’s victory in the Monaco Grand Prix peaked with just over four million viewers, overnight viewing figures show.

Live coverage of the race aired across four different channels on Sunday afternoon: Channel 4, and three of Sky’s channels.

Channel 4’s live programme, encompassing the build-up and the race itself from 13:00 to 16:30, averaged 2.15m (24.9%). The audience increased by 188,000 viewers compared with 2017’s average audience of 1.96m (23.8%) across a slightly shorter time slot. All of Channel 4’s race day broadcasts so far this year have recorded year-on-year increases.

Combined, Sky’s coverage averaged 721,000 viewers across Sky Sports F1, Sky One and Sky Sports Main Event. Last year’s programme aired across the F1 channel and Sky Sports Mix to an audience of 591k (7.2%), so yesterday’s audience increased year-on-year by 130,000 viewers.

Breaking Sky’s audience down, the F1 channel averaged 477k (5.6%) from 13:00 to 16:30 compared with 425k (5.2%) last year. Sky One averaged 167k (1.9%) across the same time slot, whilst 111k (1.2%) watched Main Event from 14:05 to 16:30, a shorter time slot than the other two Sky channels.

Sky’s average of 721,000 is their highest of the season so far, showing that simulcasting does make a difference to their total audience. Spain was an exclusive race for Sky last time out, which aired only on the F1 channel, whilst Monaco, simulcast across two different Sky channels, also aired on Channel 4.

The race started with 3.55m (41.0%) at 14:10, compared with 3.09m (37.0%) at 13:00 last year, so already at race start an extra half a million viewers were watching. The gap year-on-year remained around half a million viewers throughout, the trend relatively static.

A peak audience of 4.06m (42.5%) watched Ricciardo win the race at 15:50, a strong increase compared to last year’s peak audience of 3.53m (40.2%). At the time of the peak, 3.04m (31.8%) were watching Channel 4’s broadcast, with 1.02m (10.7%) watching across Sky’s three channels. The split was 75:25, compared with 76:24 at the time of the peak last year, suggesting that Sky One had little to no bearing on Channel 4’s audience, for the race at least.

The combined average audience of 2.87 million viewers is the highest average audience for Monaco since 2015, an increase of 12.5 percent on last year’s average of 2.55 million viewers. The race in 2016, which Channel 4 aired in highlights form, averaged 2.78 million viewers.

The combined peak audience of 4.06 million viewers is also the highest for Monaco since 2015, an increase of 14.9 percent on last year’s figure of 3.53 million viewers, and up 7.7 percent on 2016.

Qualifying and Analysis
Channel 4’s audience was equal compared with last year’s qualifying session. Live coverage from 12:55 to 15:45 averaged 1.14m (16.7%), compared with 1.14m (15.5%) across a shorter time slot last year. Their programme peaked with 1.73m (23.1%) as Ricciardo claimed pole, compared with 1.75m (21.7%) last year.

The additional viewers year-on-year came through Sky One’s simulcast. Live coverage on Sky Sports F1 averaged 267k (3.8%), versus 277k (3.8%) last year, whilst Sky One’s simulcast averaged 75k (1.1%). The combined Sky peak of 610k (8.5%) at 14:35 across two channels compares with 491k (5.9%) for just the F1 channel last year.

The combined average audience of 1.48 million viewers is a marginal increase on last year’s figure of 1.42 million viewers, with the combined peak audience of 2.33 million viewers an increase of 104,000 viewers year-on-year.

However, whilst the Monaco Grand Prix continues Formula 1’s excellent period from a viewing figures perspective, with no signs of slowing down, the Grand Prix was not the most watched sporting event over the weekend.

The big news story is that the UEFA Champions League final on Saturday evening between Liverpool and Real Madrid peaked with a massive 4.71m (25.8%) on BT Sport 2 alone, believed to be the biggest ever audience for a sporting event in the UK on pay television. The audience does not include the 1.8 million viewers that watched via BT’s digital platforms or YouTube, or the millions further that watched in pubs.

The 4.7 million viewers include those that watched the match for free on Virgin Media channel 100 and may take up a fair proportion of that figure. I mention the figure because it shows the lengths that BT went to, to ensure that the match reached the widest possible audience. The alternative would have been a ‘token gesture’, but BT again for the Champions League final went the distance to stream the final on YouTube.

Reality is that, events such as the Champions League are very rare: a match such as Saturday’s would have peaked with close to 15 million viewers on BBC or ITV. Divide that by three and you get to BT’s figure from Saturday. Divide the highest F1 peak from the BBC days by three, and you see why Sky struggles to break the two million peak mark for F1 (they have never done so).

Although Sky’s season high audience is a very good number for them, it is still relatively small money in the grand scheme of things, and they have failed to erode the current Channel 4 free-to-air audience for Formula 1.

Indianapolis 500 drops, but still respectable
The 2018 Indianapolis 500 peaked with 91,000 viewers on BT Sport 1 yesterday evening. Live coverage from 15:30 to 21:00 averaged 32k (0.26%). From 16:30 to 21:00, last year’s equivalent slot, the race averaged 38k (0.30%), unsurprisingly a substantial drop on last year’s audience of 129k (0.91%) when there was major attention on Fernando Alonso.

Of more interest is that this year’s audience tripled compared to 2016’s average of 12k (0.09%). The peak audience of 91k (0.64%) came at 19:05, also a major increase on the 2016 peak figure of 31k (0.16%). If anything, it shows that some of last year’s audience did return for this year’s race, even if it never hit the heights that it did last year.

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


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.