British Grand Prix helps F1 hit 2018 high

Despite England’s World Cup performance dominating headlines on Saturday, the British Grand Prix still attracted a healthy audience the following day, overnight viewing figures show.

Live coverage of the race aired across Channel 4 and three of Sky’s television outlets, with the race starting at 14:10 UK time.

Channel 4’s coverage averaged 2.39m (24.4%) from 13:00 to 16:30, a marginal increase on their 2016 and 2017 average audiences of 2.36m (17.9%) and 2.20m (20.4%) respectively. Of note is that the percentage shares for Formula 1 increased significantly compared with the past few years, reflecting the low television audience around yesterday.

Meanwhile, Sky’s programming across their dedicated F1 channel, Sky Sports Main Event and Sky 1 averaged 671k (6.9%). An audience of 384k (3.9%) watched via Sky Sports F1, with 180k (1.8%) watching via Main Event and a further 107k (1.1%) on Sky 1, a split of 57:27:16.

The total audience for Sky is up on last year’s combined figure of 652k (6.0%), but down on 2016’s figure of 736k (5.8%); in both years the race did not air on Sky 1 but did air on Sky Sports Main Event. Sky F1’s audience increased year-on-year, however Main Event’s audience dropped, reflecting the fact that Sky’s 2018 programme aired across Main Event and Sky 1.

The race itself started with 4.29m (42.7%) across Channel 4 and Sky, an excellent starting point for the Grand Prix considering Austria seven days earlier started with 3.25m (35.5%) in the same time slot. Admittedly, Austria had World Cup football to compete with, whereas the British Grand Prix had a free reign, on race day at least.

Fans remained hooked on the race throughout, audiences never dipping below 4.1 million viewers. Viewing figures climbed in the latter stages, reaching a peak of 4.55m (43.0%) at 15:30 as Sebastian Vettel claimed victory.

At the time of the peak, 3.50m (33.2%) were watching Channel 4’s broadcast, with 1.04m (9.9%) watching one of Sky’s outlets, a split of 77:23. Across Sky, the F1 channel peaked with 610k (5.8%) at 15:30, with Main Event peaking with 315k (3.1%) at the start of the race. Sky 1’s coverage peaked with 153k (1.5%) at 15:10.

The combined average audience of 3.06 million viewers is the highest of 2018 so far, and an increase of 7.1 percent on last year’s average of 2.86 million viewers. The 2018 average however is marginally down on the average audience recorded in 2016 of 3.10 million viewers.

The peak audience of 4.55 million viewers follows the same pattern as the average: an increase on 2017’s peak of 4.45 million viewers and a 2018 high, but down 9.0 percent on the 2016 peak audience of 4.99 million viewers. The shares at the time of the peak are considerably higher for 2018 (43.0%) than in the past two years (31.5% and 34.6%), again reflecting the low total audience.

Despite being the highest F1 peak of 2018, it is not Channel 4’s highest peak of 2018 as you might expect, suggesting a few more viewers sampled Sky’s coverage because of the simulcast on Sky 1.

Qualifying and Analysis
As widely anticipated, qualifying badly suffered at the hands of England versus Sweden, which clashed with the closing seconds of the session.

Live coverage of qualifying on Channel 4 averaged 1.06m (8.3%) from 12:55 to 15:50, a significant decrease of 319,000 viewers compared with 2017’s average audience of 1.38m (15.2%). Airing across four channels did not help Sky: their average audience for Silverstone qualifying dropped from 413k (4.5%) in 2017 to 277k (2.5%) this year.

Sky Sports F1’s programme averaged 198k (1.8%), with Sky 1, Main Event and Mix averaging 44k (0.42%), 30k (0.30%) and 5k (0.04%) respectively.

The combined average audience of 1.33 million viewers is unsurprisingly down 25 percent on last year’s average of 1.79 million viewers and the lowest for Britain since 2006. The qualifying session itself peaked with 1.92m (15.0%) at 14:40, compared with last year’s peak audience of 2.64m (27.3%).

In hindsight, and as stated beforehand, FOM should have moved qualifying earlier to prevent a clash, a clash which clearly dented viewing figures in the UK significantly. Thankfully, the Saturday clash did not harm Sunday’s numbers, with some excellent shares.

The raw audience is in-line with last year, a major achievement considering the heatwave that the UK is currently experiencing. If anything, this was an audience figure badly needed after the past three races: Canada and France did not air live on free-to-air television, whilst World Cup action overshadowed both the French and Austrian race days.

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


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