Formula E’s ‘record breaking’ live audience figures fail to hide COVID slump

Formula E has continued to grow its live television audience during the seventh season, “reaching record breaking levels,” according to figures released by series organisers.

The season, which saw Mercedes driver Nyck de Vries clinch the Drivers’ Championship in Berlin, saw a cumulative audience of 316 million viewers tune in across the 15 races, a growth of 32% year-on-year.

Formula E says that the growth is “driven by new distribution agreements with free-to-air (FTA) channels in key markets,” in key markets such as Germany, Italy, Brazil, UK, France, USA, and Indonesia.

The championship says audiences in Germany increased by 336%, in Brazil by 286% and in the UK by 156%.

Jamie Reigle, Formula E’s Chief Executive Officer, said “This was a record-breaking year for Formula E as we worked with our teams, media partners and sponsors to deliver a fan-first strategy emphasising live race audience development and direct engagement on our digital platforms.”

“It’s clear there is strong fan interest in Formula E’s electric racing in cities and we are delighted to see our strategy of partnering with broadcasters committed to localised, engaging and accessible free-to-air coverage paying off.”

“We are set for a fantastic Season 8 as we welcome back fans at our races in some of the most iconic city locations in the world.”

“We are focused on strengthening our broadcaster footprint and relationships, increasing our global audiences and delivering an integrated media platform to serve our fans and support our continued growth.”

Formula E says that the live television audience makes up most of their audience (62%) for the first time, while the viewing duration has grown by 26% for each live race.

Press release masks overall decline

Most fans will look at the release issued by Formula E, and think that this is good news for the electric championship.

However, by portraying the data in this way, organisers have cleverly masked the overall decline in the race-by-race audience.

Formula E did record a cumulative audience of 316 million for season 7, which represents a 32% year-on-year growth, and both are factually accurate statements.

What the press release does not tell you, is that season 6 featured 11 races, with season 7 featuring 15 races, a 36% increase.

The cumulative audience was always likely going to jump, because there were more races in season 7 compared with season 6.

A 32% cumulative increase for Formula E represents a 3% decline year-on-year in the race-by-race average.

SeasonCumulative Audience% y-o-yAverage Audience% y-o-yRaces Held
2014-15 (1)Unknownn/aUnknownn/a11
2015-16 (2)192 millionUnknown19.2 millionUnknown10
2016-17 (3)223 million16%18.6 million-3%12
2017-18 (4)330 million48%27.5 million48%12
2018-19 (5)411 million25%31.6 million15%13
2019-20 (6)239 million*-42%21.8 million-31%11
2020-21 (7)316 million32%21.1 million-3%15
Source: Companies House accounts / Formula E press releases / Motorsport Broadcasting analysis
* never reported publicly, derived from the % increase for 2020-21 season.

Formula E’s metrics on both the television and social front surged between 2017 and 2019, with strong increases across the board as the series transitioned from Gen1 from Gen2 machinery.

As COVID struck though, Formula E suffered, with season 6 wrapped up across 6 races in Berlin, the season unusually finishing on a Thursday. With that in mind, a depleted season 6 average is more than understandable.

A further decline, even if only 3% year-on-year, shows that Formula E is struggling to recover from the pandemic, despite what series organisers may say, with audience figures now at their lowest level since season 3. An average of 21.1 million viewers worldwide tuned into each race during season 7.

On the social front, over the nine-month period from October 2020 to July 2021, Formula E’s following rose by 150,000, from 2.57 million followers to 2.71 million followers, or an increase of 5.5%.

These are small pickings for Formula E, who will be hoping for a more normal season 8, to get their metrics heading back in the right direction.

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2 thoughts on “Formula E’s ‘record breaking’ live audience figures fail to hide COVID slump

  1. It would help if viewers could reliably find the Formula E coverage. I know I missed 2 rounds, despite deliberately looking for them, because Formula E changed broadcaster 4 times this season.

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