Coverage of the British Grand Prix was squeezed on Sunday afternoon, as the Formula 1 race faced tough competition from Wimbledon and the Cricket World Cup final, overnight viewing figures show.
All overnight viewing figures exclude people watching in pubs and bars, as well as those watching via on demand platforms, such as Now TV and All 4.
Although Motorsport Broadcasting no longer has access to audience data, a number of figures have been published in the public domain, the sources for which are at the foot of this article.
Live coverage of the Grand Prix averaged 1.8m (13%) on Channel 4 from 13:10 to 16:45. The figure includes their pre-race build-up and post-race reaction.
Channel 4’s coverage reached a five-minute peak of 2.8 million viewers as Lewis Hamilton won the race. The peak audience increases to 3.7 million viewers when including Sky Sports F1’s offering, resulting in a split of around 76:24 in Channel 4’s favour.
F1’s audience figures are the lowest for Silverstone since 2006, when the race started at 12:00 UK time to avoid competition from the football World Cup. Year-on-year, F1 lost around 700,000 viewers due to the increased competition.
Despite the year-on-year decrease, Channel 4’s peak audience is their highest of the year so far for F1, which is to be expected as it is the only race that the free-to-air broadcaster is airing live this season.
In contrast, an average audience of 6.0m (43%) watched Novak Djokovic beat Roger Federer in the Wimbledon final from 13:50 to 19:35 on BBC One.
The final peaked with a massive 10.2m (49.2%) just after 19:00 as Djokovic won the match. Whilst the Grand Prix did not beat Wimbledon head-to-head, the race itself did beat the cricket, although this was before the cricket hit its stride later in the afternoon.
A peak audience of over eight million viewers watched England’s cricket victory over New Zealand at 19:25. It was the first time a major cricket game had aired live on free-to-air television in the UK since the famous Ashes 2005 series between England and Australia.
At the time of the peak, 4.8m (23.2%) were watching Channel 4, with an additional 3.5 million viewers watching via Sky One, Sky Sports Cricket and Sky Sports Main Event.
Audience figures suggest that many viewers switched over with the cricket when Channel 4 moved from the cricket to the F1 at 13:10, as More 4’s airing of the cricket averaged a sizeable 936k (7.2%).
In comparison, Channel 4’s morning coverage of the cricket averaged 1.2m (16.9%) from 09:00 to 13:10, a lower audience but higher share than the F1. When Channel 4 returned to the cricket at 16:45, the remainder of their coverage averaged 2.5m (13.7%) until 20:15.
Channel 4’s CEO Alex Mahon said “I’m thrilled that a total peak audience of 8.3m watched England win the Cricket World Cup Final on Channel 4 and Sky and 3.7m viewers saw Lewis Hamilton win a record-breaking sixth British Grand Prix.”
“It’s wonderful that the whole nation can come together to share these momentous British sporting events thanks to a fantastic partnership between Channel 4 and Sky.”
It was a big day for the BBC Sport website. Their live page for the Cricket World Cup final attracted 39.7 million hits, BBC’s highest of the year so far across News and Sport.
In comparison, the Wimbledon live page recorded 13.4 million hits, with the British Grand Prix live page seeing 2.5 million views.
Of course, the length of the three events plays its part (cricket lasted the best part of nine hours, whereas the Grand Prix is 90 minutes), but it shows that the Grand Prix was squeezed out badly by both the cricket and Wimbledon.
I know you cannot avoid every sporting event, but scheduling the Grand Prix against Wimbledon (again) and the Cricket World Cup final was never going to end well.
It meant that a fantastic Grand Prix was pushed off the back page, quite rightly, when on another Sunday, it may well have received many more plaudits, and higher audience figures to boot.
Of course, expecting F1 to equal major finals is a ridiculous notion, but a clear path yesterday would have allowed F1 to reach 30 to 40 percent more viewers than what they did.
Evidently, major live sport on free-to-air television is like buses. When they do turn up, they all arrive in one go. Not everyone can win, and yesterday it was F1 that lost out on the jackpot.
With only one race live on free-to-air television for each of the next five years, F1 as a collective cannot afford to waste days like yesterday.