Live coverage of the first Formula 1 test of 2019 peaked with just under 100,000 viewers in the UK on Sky Sports, overnight viewing figures show.
The pay-TV broadcaster aired the four afternoon sessions live from Barcelona last week from 13:00 to 18:00. The first four hours consisted of on-track action, with a review show airing from 17:00 onwards.
As always, figures exclude those that watched via Sky Go and Now TV, the former of which may be higher than usual with testing taking place during the week when people are normally at week as opposed to the weekend.
The audience figures for the on-track action peaked on the first day of running, with an average audience of 58k (0.79%) watching across the F1 channel and Sky Sports Main Event. A peak of 96k (1.45%) watched day one, although the number of viewers the programme reached will be higher than usual due to the dip in and out nature of testing.
The remaining days fell into a similar ballpark for the live on-track segment from 13:00 to 17:00, averaging 37k (0.59%), 35k (0.53%) and 37k (0.58%) respectively, all peaking with around 65,000 viewers.
Although lower than most Formula 1 figures from 2018, live testing rated higher than all but two GP3 races and higher than most Formula Two races last season. In the grand scheme of things, audience figures are not spectacular, but on an expected level for a week day.
Welcome to F1 2019, the evening wrap-up show, fluctuated throughout the week. The first and third days averaged 21k (0.16%) and 21k (0.17%) from 17:00 to 18:00 on Sky Sports F1. Days two and four performed better, averaging 38k (0.32%) and 50k (0.40%). Certainly, the trend as the week progressed leaned slightly towards the review show if anything.
The review show recorded its highest peak figure on Thursday, when 72k (0.50%) were watching at 17:50.
Year-on-year, audience figures for testing have increased based on the first airing. However, comparisons are difficult as Sky repeated last year’s content (Paddock Uncut and Ted’s Notebook) ad nauseam meaning that the individual shows reached a higher number, whereas Sky are not repeating this year’s testing content on the channel.
A better comparison is with Sky’s 3D experiment in 2013, when the broadcaster aired testing live. In 2013, Sky aired two and a half hours of testing live, repeating the showing later in the night. Combined, the audience peaked with around 120,000 viewers on three of the four days, higher than the highest peak in 2019.
In the six years between 2013 and 2019, Formula 1’s UK viewing figures have dipped, so a drop between both years expected. The drop may also suggest that five hours of live testing content per day to air on TV is simply too much and that two and a half hours, as we saw in 2013, is the right amount.
However, if the reason for testing not returning in 2014 was because viewing figures were too low, then Sky’s viewing figures for this past week may not bode well for live testing returning to Sky’s schedules for 2020.
Barcelona test 2 update
Live coverage is not returning for the second Barcelona test, which begins today. As reported earlier, last week’s coverage was a one-off effort between Formula 1 and Sky to inform future decision-making.
In a departure from previous years, Sky are not airing their round-up shows for the second test, which typically consisted of Paddock Uncut and either Ted’s Notebook or #AskCrofty. Instead, fans will need to keep an eye on F1’s social media platforms and Sky Sports News to find testing updates.
F1’s over-the-top platform is scheduled to air a review show following Friday’s running, but it is currently unclear if Sky Sports F1 will also carry the show via their channel.