Australian Grand Prix peaks with 1.4 million viewers across Sky’s TV platforms

A peak audience of nearly 1.4 million viewers watched the season opening Australian Grand Prix across Sky’s portfolio of television channels, overnight viewing figures show.

The figure includes those who watched either live, or one of Sky’s repeat airings before Channel 4’s highlights programme started.

As always, this site reports overnight viewing figures supplied by The figures include those who watched between live and 02:00 the following morning, known in the industry as Live + VOSDAL (live and ‘video on same day as live’).

The audience figures reported exclude those that watched the programming via platforms such as All 4, Sky Go and Now TV.

For 2019, to present an equal measure across years, this site will continue to use a 210-minute time slot for Sky’s coverage, covering 70 minutes before lights out, to around 50 minutes after the chequered flag. This covers the last half of Pit Lane Live, all of On the Grid, the race itself, and the first half of Paddock Live.

Race – Sky live
Sky aired live coverage of the race across their F1 channel, Main Event and Sky One from 04:00 to 07:30 on Sunday morning.

An average audience of 441k (31.5%) watched the broadcast, a strong increase on last year’s figure of 344k (18.4%), and their highest Melbourne average since 2015. 291k (20.7%) watched via the F1 channel, with a further 66k (4.8%) and 84k (6.0%) watching via Main Event and Sky One respectively.

Impressively, the broadcast hit a five-minute peak of 803k (38.0%) at 06:35, an increase of 43 percent on their 2018 number of 562k (20.4%), and their highest peak audience for Australia since 2014.

The peak audience increased proportionally more than the average because Sky’s wrap around segments have rated lower in recent years than compared to their 2015 numbers.

For Sky, the story does not stop there.

Race – Sky repeats
Following the race, the broadcaster aired five repeats of the race, before Channel 4’s highlights show aired at 14:00. The first repeat began at 08:00 across the same three channels, with another repeat across F1 and Sky One afterwards.

Normally, repeats do not make a statistical difference to the overall picture, and therefore go unreported. However, the difference for Australia is significant enough to report. Accounting for the different time slots, the five repeats recorded a combined peak of 574,000 viewers as Valtteri Bottas won the Grand Prix.

In totality (from a television perspective), Sky’s audience for Australia peaked with 1.38 million viewers, around double their audience from twelve months ago, and in-line with their peak audience from 2012, including repeat airings.

Sky One is the biggest contributor, as their two re-runs peaked with 382,000 viewers collectively. It is very rare for a sporting event on pay television to add that many viewers, the early start for the race more than likely contributing to the high repeat audience.

Some of the viewers that watched the race live may have watched one of the repeats later, but that number is unlikely to be significant enough to make a major difference. Overall, the viewing figures are fantastic for Sky, and bodes well for them moving forward.

Race – Channel 4
Despite Sky’s strong gains, Channel 4 remained the biggest Formula 1 broadcaster in the UK over the weekend, but with damaged goods.

Highlights of the race averaged 1.38m (13.3%) from 14:00 to 15:55, peaking with 1.81m (17.9%). Both figures are down significantly on last year’s average of 1.71m (16.8%) and peak figure of 2.15m (18.2%).

Given Sky’s strong audience figures, the transition of viewers appears to be from Channel 4 to Sky, as opposed to fans tuning out altogether, which is good news for the sport. The drop is of concern, the highlights programme struggling to pick up any additional casual viewers.

If you look at the live airings only, the combined average and combined peak audiences of 1.83 million and 2.61 million viewers respectively are the lowest on record for Australia. In isolation, the figures paint a very bleak picture, but on this occasion, it is also a false negative.

As referenced earlier, repeats add 200,000 viewers at its limit across multiple airings. Australia was different, with it being the start of a new broadcasting contract as Formula 1 heads into a new era primarily live on pay-TV.

Adding the five repeat airings together (considering the different slot lengths) increases the combined average to 2.09 million viewers, and combined peak audience to 3.18 million viewers, a significant increase, and in-line with the past three years.

Sky’s live coverage of qualifying from 05:00 to 07:30 brought in an average audience of 283k (16.4%) across their F1 channel, Sky Sports Main Event and Sky One, an increase on last year’s audience of 252k (15.2%) over a slightly longer time slot.

The F1 channel averaged 190k (11.3%), with Main Event and Sky One bringing in 29k (1.6%) and 65k (3.5%) respectively. It is Sky’s highest audience for Melbourne qualifying since 2015, when 339k (16.4%) tuned in to watch.

Their programme peaked with 528k (22.9%) at 06:50 as the start of the final qualifying segment started, again Sky’s highest since 2015.

In comparison, Channel 4’s highlights programme averaged 1.02m (11.8%) from 12:00 to 13:25, a decrease of 157,000 viewers on last year’s average of 1.18m (15.1%). Channel 4’s coverage reached a high of 1.37m (14.5%) at 12:55, also down on last year’s figure of 1.62m (20.2%).

The dent in Channel 4’s qualifying audience is likely due to stronger competition from ITV, the free-to-air channel airing live coverage of the Six Nations rugby tie between France and Italy.

The combined audience of 1.30 million viewers is down by around 100,000 viewers year-on-year and the lowest on record, whilst the combined peak audience of 1.89 million viewers is the lowest for Australia since 2006. Neither trend changes when including Sky’s repeats before Channel 4’s highlights programme started.

Final thoughts
A better result than Sky could have ever expected.

The worst case scenario here was that Sky struggled to increase their audience year-on-year, despite splashing the cash on blockbuster trailers. To double their audience year-on-year is a major success.

One of the drivers behind the increase was Sky One, which on its own added over half a million viewers. The first three races are airing live on Sky One, but what happens to those viewers when that disappears?

If Sky One’s viewers migrate over to the F1 channel to follow the sport, then that is great news for Sky. Similarly, the opposite is true if Sky One’s audience returns back to Channel 4’s highlights package from Baku onwards.

Australia is always one of the lowest rated races, with viewing figures tending to pick up in Bahrain, where F1 heads to next. The Sakhir race has aired live on free-to-air television since 2015, and will be a good indicator of how Formula 1’s viewership could change moving forward.

Update on March 18th at 20:10 – Not long after I posted this, Sky’s F1 lead commentator David Croft posted on Twitter that Sky’s coverage reached 2.1 milllion viewers, and combined Sky and Channel 4 reached 3.5 million viewers. For those unaware, that is the amount of viewers that watched three consecutive minutes of coverage.

The 2018 Australian Grand Prix ratings report can be found here.

14 thoughts on “Australian Grand Prix peaks with 1.4 million viewers across Sky’s TV platforms

  1. Going to be interesting to see the figures when they’re not putting the race out on their “free” channel. Given the same old story in the Aus race and the coverage going back to premium I would expect to see a big drop for the next race.

  2. Crofty spinning there to make Sky look better than C4.

    Fact is these figures aren’t that impressive. Sky F1 increased by 100k – fair enough. But we’re still no where near the BBC days – and even if the audience is up year-on-year the overall trend is down and has been down since the Sky deal was done.

    Of course Sky could keep putting on Sky One – but then what would be the point of all those paying the £10 a month extra?

    1. Given the breakdowns here it’s fairly disingenuous of Croft to somehow imply 3.5 million people rose early on Sunday for it…

    2. Haha Bernie used to include all the clips shown on news channels in his figures as well.
      But basically it is down in the UK as we expected.
      But on Channel 4 it was not the same, it felt like watching a re-run of an old race, no excitement. In fact GP+ was published just as the race started on Channel 4 in addition to a whole morning’s news and many blogs. It was all very downbeat to me. Last year was ok, but Lee and Karun missing, makes a difference. Stefano Domenicali was a nice surprise but he was rather shy, maybe the mafia are watching what he says.

      1. I know what you mean; I enjoyed it a lot, but on reflection the Channel 4 coverage doesn’t feel quite right, through no fault of their own. Not having that personal touch of Lee’s driver interviews is a small but significant change. I think they did the best they could in the circumstances, and the actual race highlights were skilfully edited. They just need to develop the build-up and analysis portions of their programme to make them feel a bit more like an event than an afterthought. Basically, I’m glad we’ve still got it – something’s better than nothing. But it would be so much better if they had the freedom to make whatever show they wanted in highlight form, rather than having to subcontract it from Sky and obey Sky’s stringent rules.

  3. Are the Sky figures actually that good considering they’ve (desperately) showed it on 3 channels and had immediate back to back replays? It seems they’ve done everything they possibly could do boost the numbers.

  4. They need to look at the F1 calendar as you cant kick off a season in the middle of the night for most.
    Once its all started and you missed it the urge to sign up for it is diminished.
    Find them a slot in a particularly sleepy part of the schedule. They seem so desperate to show they exist down there they would take it.

  5. How many races can Sky put on their ‘free’ channel before they piss off those who’ve paid a tenner a month to watch? I’m on Sky, but I don’t pay for F1, even so, my monthly package has just gone up by £5, probably to subiside the football and F1, neither of which pay their own way.

    I can’t believe that Sky have dumped Ted’s Notebook. For the cost of Ted and a roving cameraman, they’ve lost over an hours broadcasting. I very much doubt if that cost is anything like what they’re paying out for a couple of recent F1 champions and a talking Wikipedia, who, in my opinion, don’t contribute as much to Sky’s broadcasts as Ted’s ramblings.

    1. I’ve just read on Joe Saward’s site that Sky are going to broadcast the first 3 races on Sky 1. If true, that’s a kick in the wallet to the tune of £20 or more to everyone who has signed up for the full Sky F1 package.

  6. Did anyone else see that strange advert on Channel4 for Max Verstappen? Not the team, just him as a product. It must have cost fair amount at prime F1 time on Channel 4 .
    I have never seen an individual driver ad before, what is the point? Is Max lacking the awareness of the British F1 fans? I would not have thought so, will this gain him new fans? No.
    Will you now want to dress like him? No! Lewis has that sewn up, to a cringeworthy level that has lost him some FB followers.
    So what was it about? Who paid for it? Why?

  7. As one who has paid £195 to watch the season on Nowtv I nevertheless chose to watch the first race on Channel 4 – in any event I was going to be watching a highlights programme. I am looking forward to reading your critique of the two new approaches to coverage. I was very conscious of some key missing pieces to C4 coverage – like pit lane access and pen access (not so bothered about grid walk as that has never been that great) and I am hoping that Stefano will grow on me! Equally it will be interesting to see how much I like the Sky pre race show…

  8. Just watched the midweek debrief on Sky….hardly worth plugging the sky box back in for that! Paddock pass on Youtube is better.

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