Live coverage of the British MotoGP round on ITV peaked with fewer than half a million viewers, overnight viewing figures show.
The broadcaster aired the race live from 12:30 to 14:30 on Sunday, providing a bespoke pre- and post-race offering fronted by Matt Roberts.
An average of 277,470 viewers (3.72% audience share) watched the broadcast, according to audience data supplied to this site by Overnights.tv.
A peak of 472,300 viewers (6.17% audience share) were watching at 13:18, as Fabio Quartararo stretched his margin at the front of the field.
Earlier this year, the Le Mans round aired on ITV4, peaking with 425,900 viewers.
2021 marks the first of a four year deal that ITV has with MotoGP’s commercial rights holder Dorna. The deal sees ITV4 airing highlights from every race, with two races each year also airing live and free-to-air across ITV’s portfolio of channels.
BT Sport remains MotoGP’s main rights holder from a UK perspective, the pay-TV broadcaster airing every session live until the end of the 2024 season.
Speaking to Motorsport Broadcasting last weekend, Manel Arroyo, MotoGP’s Chief Commercial Officer, contextualised BT’s relationship within the wider UK ecosystem.
“In the UK, we’re working very hard with Silverstone, and also very important for us is Triumph, our engine supplier for Moto2. And all together [with BT], we are trying to create momentum, to push the popularity of the sport.”
“We have seen the commitment from BT with us all these years and we are happy with that. In this new deal, we’re approaching the free-to-air window in a different way [with ITV].”
“We’re very happy because we are in a fantastic position to achieve new audiences through our broadcast offer, ITV4 with highlights, plus the two GPs live, one in Le Mans and the second one today.”
ITV’s offering struggles to draw in the viewers
Arroyo’s comments to this site make sense: free-to-air coverage on ITV’s main channel should draw a significant audience.
The fact that it did not is perplexing and surprising in equal measure. Including BT Sport will bring the average and peak audiences up, but unlikely to be much higher than the Le Mans audience in May.
Clashing with the F1 build-up on Sky Sports and the Paralympics on Channel 4 likely did not help, however it is clear the audience interest was not there from the get-go.
But, sticking a race on free-to-air television, and then not promoting it is an odd strategy to take.
As some pointed out to this writer over the weekend, the main PR exercise ahead of Silverstone saw Spanish rider Marc Marquez visiting Manchester City’s training ground.
Only one outlet, the Daily Mail picked up, but failed to note that the British MotoGP was airing live on ITV.
COVID restricts what MotoGP can do to promote the series, but not using the British stars, led by Cal Crutchlow and Jake Dixon for Silverstone, was a missed opportunity.
Live coverage of MotoGP on BBC Two back in 2013 regularly averaged one million viewers, which MotoGP needs to be aiming towards for their free-to-air offerings, combined across BT and ITV.
On this occasion at least, MotoGP failed to hit the mark.
The good news though is that MotoGP’s deal with ITV is in place until the end of the 2024 season, giving them more chances moving forward to increase the championship’s reach in the UK.
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