A peak audience of just 2.8 million viewers watched Lewis Hamilton win a dramatic Brazilian Grand Prix last Sunday, overnight viewing figures show.
There were several factors different about the Grand Prix last weekend compared with yesteryear. Both the qualifying and race started at 17:10 UK time, the latest slot for the Brazilian round of the season since 2009. That year, qualifying started at 18:00 UK time, with the race starting an hour earlier.
Whilst a later time slot should result in higher audience figures, Formula 1 faced strong competition over the weekend, including the Manchester derby. Outside the sporting arena, there were also a variety of events broadcast on television to mark 100 years since the end of World War I.
For the first time for a Sky-exclusive Grand Prix, the pay-TV broadcaster opted to air the race on their general entertainment channel Sky 1 as well as their dedicated F1 channel. An audience of 998k (5.6%) watched from 16:00 to 19:30 across the two channels, their lowest for Brazil since 2015 when BBC One also aired live coverage.
682k (3.8%) watched via the F1 channel, with a further 370k (2.0%) watching via Sky 1, the two numbers combined slightly higher than the total audience reported above, as Sky 1 joined the programme later at 16:30.
After a brief increase to 1.49m (8.9%) by 17:25 as Max Verstappen clawed his way through the pack, audience figures dipped to a low of 1.35m (7.2%) during the second half of the Manchester derby. Figures increased rapidly from 18:25 onwards as the final whistle blew at the Etihad, the race peaking with 1.72m (9.0%) at 18:35 as Hamilton won the Grand Prix.
Sky’s peak figure of 1.72m is an increase on their 2017 peak of 1.60m (9.8%), but down on the equivalent 2016 figure of 1.75m (8.1%). The F1 channel peaked with 1.13m (5.9%) at 18:25, the first five-minute segment after the final whistle. Sky 1’s simulcast peaked with 616k (3.2%) at 18:40, a solid number considering the channel rarely airs Formula 1 action.
Nevertheless, Sky themselves are happy with both their Brazil audience, and Mexico figures from two weeks ago. Barring any very low figures for Abu Dhabi, Sky’s overnight F1 viewing figures on race-day will be higher than what they were on average throughout the 2017 season, which is good news for them heading into 2019.
Later in the evening, Channel 4’s highlights programme attracted just 748k (9.3%) from 22:30 to 00:45, down on last year’s number of 968k (13.0%) across the same time slot, a very poor number considering the circumstances for both years were identical from a championship perspective.
Channel 4’s broadcast this year peaked with 1.04m (10.3%) at 23:05, compared with a peak figure last year of 1.38m (13.1%). A plausible explanation is that the Sky 1 simulcast resulted in Channel 4’s highlights programme losing some of their audience, but does not account for all of the differential in my view.
The combined average audience of 1.75 million viewers is the third lowest of 2018, and the lowest for Brazil on record. The figure is a decrease of 11.4 percent on last year’s audience of 1.97 million viewers.
The peak audience of 2.76 million viewers is down by a slightly lower 7.4 percent year-on-year, but is still comfortably the lowest for the Interlagos round since at least 2005, if not before.
Live coverage of qualifying on Sky Sports F1 averaged 339k (2.2%) from 16:00 to 18:35, a decrease on last year’s audience of 436k (3.7%).
What is telling is how few people are tuning in to Sky’s build-up programming. Last year, 334k (3.3%) watched their pre-session discussion, compared with just 76k (0.6%) last weekend, the heavy drop a direct result of Sky splitting their qualifying show up into two distinct segments in the television schedules.
Sky’s coverage peaked with 645k (3.9%) when Lewis Hamilton clinched pole, also down on the equivalent number last year of 743k (5.5%) in an earlier time slot.
An audience of 1.02m (5.2%) watched Channel 4’s highlights show from 20:45 to 22:15, a drop compared with the 2017 audience of 1.14m (5.4%). Both Channel 4’s average and peak figures were down in raw volume, but broadly level in share.
1.42m (7.1%) were watching Channel 4’s broadcast towards the end, compared with a peak of 1.49m (7.2%) twelve months ago.
Both combined audience metrics were down by a similar margin when compared to their race counterparts. The average audience of 1.36 million was down by 13.7 percent, whilst the peak audience of 2.06 million viewers decreased by 7.5 percent year-on-year.
The 2017 Brazilian Grand Prix ratings report can be found here.