F1 soars to highest lunch time peak audience on Sky Sports in six years

The Hungarian Grand Prix was quite the weekend for Sky Sports in the UK, as it recorded some of its highest Formula 1 audience figures in years, overnight viewing figures show.

Live coverage of the race aired on Sky Sports F1 and Main Event from 13:00 to 16:30 to an audience of 1.02m (10.5%), an excellent figure. The audience is Sky’s highest for Formula 1 since the 2017 Mexican Grand Prix, which averaged 1.09m (4.8%).

A fairer comparison would be with Sky’s viewing figures for their other European races, which is where last weekend’s race stands out. Hungary was Sky’s highest for a European round since the 2014 Monaco Grand Prix, when an audience of 1.10m (11.9%) watched Sky’s coverage.

An audience of 669k (6.8%) watched via the F1 channel, with the remaining 353k (3.6%) choosing to watch via Sky Sports Main Event.

Sky’s coverage peaked with 1.55m (14.5%) at 15:45, their third highest peak figure for a European race, only behind the 2012 German and Bahrain rounds! The Germany race from six years ago is top of the tree is because Sky made the race available to Freeview customers as a one-off experiment.

Races in America, Mexico and Canada have peaked at a similar level since, but again is an unfair comparison with Hungary due to the time zone differences, with more viewers available to watch in the evening.

At the time of the peak, 1.06m (9.9%) were watching on Sky Sports F1, whilst 492k (4.6%) tuned into the Main Event simulcast. Both Sky’s average and peak audience figures rose by around 45 percent year-on-year.

> Analysis: Formula 1 shines as UK TV viewing figures increase at half way stage of 2018

Later in the day, Channel 4’s highlights programme from 18:45 to 21:00 averaged 2.08m (11.6%), an increase on last year’s audience figure of 1.96m (13.8%). Considering the German Grand Prix highlights show averaged 2.26m (13.8%) one week earlier, Channel 4’s figure looks low in the context of both that, and Sky’s strong numbers.

A peak of 2.76m (14.2%) watched Channel 4’s broadcast, the peak occurring at 20:25. The poor weather, combined with very little sporting opposition, may well have worked in Sky Sports F1’s favour on Sunday, denting Channel 4’s highlights slightly.

Thanks to Sky’s viewing figures, the combined audience of 3.10 million viewers is the highest for a European round since the 2016 German Grand Prix, and the highest for Hungary since 2015 when the race averaged 4.61 million viewers.

The combined peak audience of 4.31 million viewers is 10,000 viewers higher than one week ago, but still 31,000 viewers below that of the 2016 German Grand Prix! Last week’s highlights show on Channel 4 had stronger growth throughout the broadcast, which explains why there is a closer differential between the average and peak for Hungary compared with Germany.

Qualifying and Analysis
Coverage of a wet qualifying session performed excellently, with the highest audience for qualifying since 2015, and Channel 4’s highest on record.

Live coverage of qualifying aired across Sky Sports F1 and Main Event to an audience of 429k (5.7%) from 13:00 to 15:30, their highest ever audience for a Hungarian qualifying session. Sky’s audience was split 361k (4.8%) to 68k (0.9%) in the F1 channel’s favour. A peak audience of 779k (9.7%) watched the battle for pole position unfold at 14:55.

Later in the day, Channel 4’s highlights programme averaged 1.62m (12.9%) from 17:30 to 19:00, the broadcasters’ highest ever audience for a qualifying programme. Their show peaked with 2.12m (15.8%) at 18:40 as Lewis Hamilton splashed his way to pole position.

The combined audience of 2.05 million viewers is the highest for qualifying since the 2015 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. It really was a weekend of highs, in just about every element where F1 and UK viewing figures are concerned.

Twitter trends are not the most reliable indicator, but I did find it interesting how F1 dominated the UK trends on Sunday afternoon, something that I have not said for an exclusive pay-TV race in years.

Overall, F1 is in an excellent position ready for the second half of the championship. Anecdotally, it feels like F1 is clawing back ground it has lost in recent years on both free-to-air and pay-TV. After the Summer break, F1 moves to Belgium where the battle between Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel continues…

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



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