Hamilton’s fifth title victory peaks with 1.8 million viewers live on Sky

A peak audience of nearly two million viewers watched Lewis Hamilton become a five-time Formula One Drivers’ Champion live on Sky, overnight audience figures show.

As with last year’s championship decider, the Mexican Grand Prix weekend aired exclusively live on Sky, with highlights airing on Channel 4 later in the evening.

Overnight audience figures exclude viewers who watched the action via on-demand platforms such as Sky Go and Now TV. In addition, the numbers presented do not include anyone who watched the programming after 02:00 the next morning.

Live coverage of the race aired across two of Sky’s outlets to an audience of 1.28m (5.9%) from 18:00 to 21:30, an increase of 7.4 percent on last year’s audience of 1.09m (4.8%) across the same time slot and channels.

An audience of 857k (4.0%) watched via the dedicated F1 channel, with a further 490k (2.2%) watching via Sky Sports Main Event. The audience figures and shares do not add up to the combined figure, as Main Event joined the broadcast later at 18:30.

The race started with 1.79m (8.3%) at 19:10 across the two channels, reaching 1.86m (8.4%) at 19:25. After a mid-race dip, reaching a low of 1.57m (6.5%) at 20:10, audiences slowly climbed again towards the chequered flag.

A peak audience of 1.87m (8.3%) watched as Max Verstappen won the Grand Prix at 20:50, an increase of 241,000 viewers on Sky’s peak audience from 2017. At the time of the peak, 1.22m (5.4%) were watching Sky Sports F1’s broadcast, with 651k (2.9%) watching Main Event. Main Event’s broadcast peaked somewhat earlier, at 19:25, with 716k (3.2%).

By both average and peak metrics, Sky’s audience is their highest since the 2014 United States Grand Prix, which peaked with 1.93 million viewers. Back then, Hamilton was heading towards his second championship.

Sky’s audience figures for Mexico also mean that, barring any unusual trends for Brazil and Abu Dhabi, their live F1 programming never once peaked above two million viewers via the traditional television set during their 2012 to 2018 contract (with the BBC until the end of 2015 and more recently Channel 4).

Channel 4’s late-night broadcast struggled and, not for the first time, was beaten by its pay-TV counterpart. Their free-to-air broadcast averaged just 642k (13.9%) from 23:05 to 01:15, easily their lowest ever audience for a race day broadcast, and a significant decrease on last year’s figure of 1.05m (15.4%) which aired in a time slot that was 30-minutes earlier.

Hamilton’s title victories (average)
2008 – 8.9 million [Brazil]
2014 – 5.7 million [Abu Dhabi]
2015 – 3.3 million [USA]
2017 – 2.1 million [Mexico]
2018 – 1.9 million [Mexico]

Hamilton’s title victories (broadcast)
2008 – ITV [live]
2014 – Sky [live], BBC [live]
2015 – Sky [live], BBC [highlights]
2017 – Sky [live], C4 [highlights]
2018 – Sky [live], C4 [highlights]

Their highlights show peaked with 915k (14.5%) at 23:35 as the race edit started, the audience decreasing throughout the edit, finishing with 590k (18.9%) at 00:45.

The combined average audience of 1.92 million viewers is the lowest for the Mexican round for the championship on record, and a decrease on last year’s average of 2.13 million viewers. In addition, the combined peak audience of 2.82 million viewers is a decrease of 11.1 percent on last year’s figure of 3.17 million viewers.

To show how much Formula 1 loses out, and will continue to do so in future years, when the sport is not live on free-to-air television, last weekend’s United States Grand Prix averaged 3.46 million viewers, peaking with 5.54 million viewers.

In other words, F1 lost half of its audience between USA and Mexico in the UK because the latter was not live on free-to-air television. Sky’s peak audience may have increased by 452,000 viewers week-on-week, but that is small fish to fry compared to the overall difference week-on-week of 2.7 million viewers.

An audience of 334k (1.7%) watched Sky Sports F1’s live coverage of qualifying on Saturday evening, which aired from 18:00 to 20:30. Their programme peaked with 659k (3.4%) at 19:55 as Daniel Ricciardo claimed a shock pole position in his Red Bull.

However, Sky’s qualifying audience was some way down in both metrics compared with 2017, last year’s qualifying programme having brought in 423k (2.1%) across the F1 channel and Main Event.

Later in the evening, Channel 4’s highlights programme attracted 837k (6.1%) from 22:00 to 23:30, a slight decrease on last year’s figure of 873k (6.1%). The free-to-air broadcaster’s peak audience of 1.11m (9.7%) was up on the equivalent number from 2017 of 1.06m (8.8%).

The combined average audience of 1.17 million viewers is the lowest ever for Mexico and down 9.7 percent on last year’s average of 1.30 million viewers, with the peak audience of 1.77 million viewers down by 4.0 percent year-on-year.

Given that last year’s championship battle ended at the same stage, viewing figures for Brazil and Abu Dhabi should hold up year-on-year, but nevertheless low compared to what you would usually expect as the season heads to its climax.

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



3 thoughts on “Hamilton’s fifth title victory peaks with 1.8 million viewers live on Sky

  1. “To show how much Formula 1 loses out, and will continue to do so in future years, when the sport is not live on free-to-air television…” – if this is as you suggest, the major cause of declining viewing figures, then how do you explain the 2008 and 2014 comparison?
    In 2014 the BBC had lost in excess of 3.2 million viewers compared to ITV in 2008. In 2015 the drop was lower at 2.4 million when it was solely live on Sky. One could use that argument to say that FTA has had a greater impact on the reducing viewing figures, even more so when C4 became involved.

    Comparing the viewing figures doesn’t mean much until you at least know how many watch via Now TV, and also the large decline in FTA needs to be explained.

    1. The 2008 race in Brazil aired in primetime, whereas Abu Dhabi in 2014 was earlier in the day. Plus, 2008 was bound to be bigger with it being possibly Britain’s first F1 title in 12 years. In fact, 2008 Brazil was the highest ever audience for F1 in the UK.

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