British Grand Prix bowled out by tough competition

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.

Television
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.”

Online
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.

Sources: Broadcast, Channel 4 Press, Dan Roan (BBC), Laura Lambert (Daily Mail)


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News round up: Sky F1 to air special Williams documentary; Formula E wins award for TV product

In the latest Motorsport Broadcasting round-up, Sky Sports ramp up preparations for their British Grand Prix coverage, whilst Formula E have won an award focussing on their television offering.

ICYMI: Round-Up #2 (May 28th): F1’s US audience figures increase; Formula E hits the big screen

ICYMI: Round-Up #1 (May 13th): Turner returns to F1 fold; F1 adjusts OTT pricing; Barrat joins Formula E’s TV team

Formula 1

  • Mercedes boss Toto Wolff has confirmed that the team will feature in the Netflix’s second season of Drive to Survive, having played no part in season one. Speaking to Motorsport.com, Wolff said that Netflix will film with the team at one race this year, which will “probably be Hockenheim.”
  • Ahead of the British Grand Prix next month, Sky Sports F1 have been busy filming different features.
    • Damon Hill and Johnny Herbert have been revisiting the 1995 British Grand Prix in Sky’s own cinema. Herbert won the race after Hill collided with Michael Schumacher in the closing stages.
    • A documentary celebrating Frank Williams’ fifty years in Formula 1 will premiere following the Silverstone qualifying session. The documentary features current Sky analyst and Williams Heritage driver Karun Chandhok driving the Brabham BT26, which was entered in 1969 by Williams as a privateer. Piers Courage raced the car to second place in the 1969 Monaco Grand Prix, their first ever podium.
  • F1’s in-house digital team have filmed two excellent pieces of content in recent weeks.
    • The team gave fans a peek behind the scenes with McLaren during the Monaco qualifying session.
  • F1’s in-house digital team is now also producing the content for Formula Two and Formula Three across social media, which explains the recent surge in video content across both of those championships.
  • To help with Formula Two’s growth, Formula 1 has launched an official podcast for their feeder series. Following in the footsteps of Beyond the Grid which launched a year ago, the Road to F1 podcast sees Alex Jacques and Rosanna Tennant interview the stars of Formula Two on their way to F1.
  • W Series commentator Claire Cottingham substituted for Jennie Gow during 5 Live’s coverage of the Austrian Grand Prix. Gow will be back in pit lane for 5 Live at Silverstone.
  • Recent audience figures in the Netherlands make for interesting reading. Live coverage airs on pay-TV outlet Ziggo Sport, and according to audience agency SKO
    • The Monaco Grand Prix averaged 547k (34.3%) for the pre-race build-up, 1.24m (46.1%) for the race itself and 637k (22.8%) for the post-race analysis.
    • In comparison, coverage of the French Grand Prix averaged 396k (26.5%), 824k (40.9%) and 357k (19.8%) respectively.
    • Max Verstappen’s dramatic victory in Austria averaged 479k (29.1%), 1.20m (49.5%) and 878k (36.9%).
    • France rated lower across all metrics. Austria rated lower than Monaco for both the pre-race build-up and race, noticeably closing the gap for the latter. Amazingly, Verstappen’s victory meant that the post-race segment for Austria rated higher than the French Grand Prix itself!
  • ESPN in the US continue to tout their own F1 audience figures. Live coverage of the Canadian Grand Prix attracted 1.1 million viewers on ABC, an increase of 17 percent on last year’s figure.

Formula E

  • Formula E TV won the ‘Best in Sports Media’ prize in 2019 Sports Business Awards. Formula E fought off competition from the likes of BBC Sport and the PGA European Tour to win the category.
    • The SBA said that Formula E’s television content “creates jeopardy, develops character and narrative throughout, uses technology and innovation to create a point of differentiation, and educates consumers about electric mobility while giving global manufacturers a platform to test and develop road-relevant technologies.”
  • The BBC’s technology programme Click went to Berlin at the end of May to find out more about the innovations driving the electric series (link).
  • On the social media side, Formula E’s team have been busy linking the championship in with popular culture. Heading into the Bern E-Prix, Formula E put their own spin on Crash Team Racing across their social channels.

Elsewhere…

  • IndyStar posted in the run up to the Indianapolis 500 an excellent behind the scenes look at NBC’s IndyCar coverage. The article is well worth a read, even if a little late noting on my behalf.
  • According to Adam Stern of the Sports Business Journal, an audience of 1.10 million viewers watched the IndyCar Grand Prix at Road America on NBC in the US, their highest IndyCar audience on record outside of the Indianapolis 500.
  • The remainder of the 2019 VLN Series will air live on Lets Go Racing’s YouTube channel. The channel, which also airs the Japanese Super Formula championship, was founded following the demise of Nismo TV at the end of last season.
  • Fans of the British Superbike championship in the US and Canada can now watch the championship live via MotorTrend On Demand platform.
  • A trailer for the new Ford versus Ferrari film was released last month ahead of its theatrical release in November. The film, which starts Matt Damon and Christian Bale, focuses on Ford’s attempts to beat Ferrari in the run up to the 1966 24 Hours of Le Mans. For UK readers, the film will premiere under the title of Le Mans ’66.
  • The Le Mans Esports Series generated some big numbers across digital media during the 24 Hours of Le Mans weekend. Ben Rossiter-Turner, the Managing Director of Virtually Entertained, gave readers a behind the scenes look at the series on his LinkedIn page.
  • In today’s unusual mention, Channel 4 Weather is now sponsored by W Series.

Spot any stories making the rounds worth mentioning? Drop a line in the comments section.

1.2 million watch Channel 4’s Canadian Grand Prix highlights

An average audience of 1.2 million viewers watched Channel 4’s highlights of a dramatic Canadian Grand Prix, official consolidated figures from BARB show.

Consolidated audience figures include viewers who watched via the TV set within seven days of broadcast, and exclude commercial breaks. Figures in this article should not be compared to previous overnight ratings posted on this site.

Race
Highlights of the race aired on Channel 4 from 23:00 to 01:00 on Sunday 9th June, with an average of 1.20 million viewers watching. It is the lowest audience that have watched coverage of the Canadian round on Channel 4.

In 2016, 1.77 million viewers watched their highlights show from 22:42. That number dropped to 1.39 million viewers one year later, dipping again to 1.26 million viewers last year.

The structure of Channel 4’s highlights stayed the same from 2016 to 2018. Including commercials, Channel 4’s coverage consisted of around 25 minutes of build-up, 70 minutes for the race, and then 25 minutes of post-race analysis.

However, the structure of this year’s Canadian programme was significantly different, as Channel 4’s show aired later due to restrictions in their contract with Sky. This year, including commercials, Channel 4 had around 10 minutes of build-up, 60 minutes for the race, and then 50 minutes of post-race analysis.

A shorter race edit, combined with the edit finishing earlier, created a lop-sided programme. The change will have resulted in the final 45 minutes rating significantly lower year-on-year, deflating the average significantly.

Whilst it is never good to be down year-on-year, a decrease of 190,000 viewers and 60,000 viewers compared with the past two years is not that bad if you choose to dissect the figures in detail instead of looking purely at the headline.

Of course, a figure of 1.2 million viewers is still very low in the grand scheme of things, and a far cry compared to what Formula 1 has achieved in the past for Canada when the race aired live on free-to-air television.

Channel 4’s highlights were the 13th most watched show on the network for the week commencing 3rd June.

In stark contrast, seven years ago, Jenson Button’s dramatic victory placed sixth for the week on BBC One with 6.27 million viewers; with the last 90-minutes averaging 6.04 million viewers on BBC Two.

Audience figures for Sky Sports F1 are unavailable, however the race simulcast on Sky Sports Main Event averaged 320,000 viewers from 19:04 on Sunday evening. This figure increases to 423,000 viewers when viewers watching via PC, tablet and smartphone are included.

Superbikes and International GT Open
Elsewhere, Eurosport 2’s live coverage of World Superbikes from Jerez peaked on Sunday afternoon with 67,300 viewers. The segment covers the third Superbikes race of the weekend from 12:58 to 13:38.

Over on BT Sport 3, the first International GT Open race from Spa averaged 16,800 viewers from 15:35 on Saturday afternoon.

Hamilton’s Monaco victory performs solidly in UK

Lewis Hamilton’s victory in the Monaco Grand Prix performed solidly, official consolidated figures from BARB show.

Consolidated audience figures include viewers who watched via the TV set within seven days of broadcast, and exclude commercial breaks. Figures in this article should not be compared to previous overnight ratings posted on this site.

Race
Due to incomplete data, comparisons for Sky’s F1 coverage are difficult, however, all of Channel 4’s figures are publicly available. In addition, Channel 4 aired the Grand Prix live in 2017 and 2018, which also should be factored into the viewing figures.

Unfortunately, the ever-changing slot lengths also make direct comparisons tricky, meaning that the figures must be taken at face value.

Live coverage of the race aired across Sky Sports F1 and Sky Sports Main Event. At press time, audience figures for Main Event are unavailable. The race airing from 14:03 to 16:24 averaged 845,900 viewers on Sky’s F1 channel. Including Main Event will push the race average for Sky to around one million viewers.

Last year, a combined audience of 707,000 viewers watched across F1 and Main Event (excluding an additional simulcast on Sky One) from 14:05 to 16:36. In 2017, 688,000 viewers watched across the two channels across a longer slot from 12:30 to 15:37.

Sky’s 2019 figures are also significantly higher than 2016, when the race last aired exclusively live on Sky Sports F1 to an audience of 786,000 viewers from 12:30 to 15:50, although this is over a longer time slot.

As mentioned, exact comparisons are extremely difficulty, however it does appear that Sky made noticeable gains on race day compared to previous years. On Sky Sports F1 alone, Pit Lane Live averaged 247,700 viewers from 12:30, On the Grid brought in 507,000 viewers, with Paddock Live averaging 227,900 viewers from 16:24.

The F1 increase helped the Indianapolis 500, which recorded excellent figures following the Grand Prix.

Highlights of the Grand Prix aired on Channel 4 from 19:00 to 21:00 to an audience of 2.02 million viewers, their highest audience of the year so far.

Last year, the free-to-air broadcaster aired Monaco live, with 1.01 million viewers watching the build-up (12:59), 2.50 million watching the race itself (13:33) and 970,000 viewers watching the post-race analysis (16:29). In 2017, the same three components averaged 920,000 viewers (11:59), 2.30 million (12:32) and 720,000 viewers (15:20) respectively.

If you use the first two components to pull out a rough three and a half hour average, encompassing the build-up and the race itself, then 2017 averaged 2.07 million viewers, with 2018 averaging 2.26 million viewers.

Compared to 2017 and 2018, the 2019 highlights show does not fare too badly. However, the 2016 highlights comparison averaged 2.48 million viewers over a slightly longer time slot. Whilst the 2019 figure is still down, it is down less than compared to previous races.

Looking at the figures in totality, the Monaco round rated in a similar ballpark to previous years, with a slight Channel 4 decrease being countered by a good increase for Sky. How well it rated is difficult to say given that the picture is incomplete, but the figures are promising nevertheless.

Qualifying and Analysis
Live coverage of the qualifying session on Sky Sports F1 averaged 476,100 viewers from 13:50, compared with 332,000 viewers from twelve months ago. An average of 228,400 viewers watched Sky’s build-up, also an increase on 2018’s figure of 169,000 viewers.

Both figures exclude their respective simulcasts. In 2018, the session also aired on Sky One, with this year’s session simulcast on Main Event.

Highlights on Channel 4 jumped to their highest Monaco figure on record. An audience of 1.59 million viewers tuned in from 18:30 to 20:00, an increase on last year’s live average audience of 1.26 million viewers from 12:55.

Considering the way the season is turning out, the audience figures across the Monaco weekend are surprisingly good. By no means are they spectacular, but neither do they show signs that F1’s audience figures are collapsing across the board.

Up next, the championship heads to Canada, where Channel 4’s highlights programme airs late at night. Expect the viewing figures between Channel 4 and Sky to be relatively even as a result, with Sky recording some of their highest figures of the year.

The only downside for them is the clash with the UEFA Nations League final, which could severely dent the potential audience on offer.

Indianapolis 500 soars to record UK audience

The Indianapolis 500 soared to its highest ever audience of the modern era last weekend, official consolidated viewing figures from BARB show.

Consolidated audience figures include viewers who watched via the TV set within seven days of broadcast, and exclude commercial breaks. Figures in this article should not be compared to previous overnight ratings posted on this site.

Background and Historical Comparison
For the first time ever, the race aired live on Sky Sports F1. Historically, the race, which forms part of the IndyCar Series, aired on Sky Sports through the 2000s. Both the series and the race moved to BT Sport under the ESPN banner at the start of 2013. The series has a small, but passionate following in the UK, and that is reflected in most of the audience figures.

However, in 2017, BT Sport’s coverage of the Indianapolis 500 averaged 141,000 viewers from 16:30, a number boosted significantly by the presence of Fernando Alonso, a year-on-year increase of 900 percent! BT’s programme started half an hour than Sky’s offering did this year, but the race back in 2017 also started earlier, so the comparison is like-to-like.

Last year with no Alonso, audience figures dropped back to their usual levels of around 40,000 viewers on BT. 2019 is IndyCar’s first year back on Sky, but audience figures have not jumped significantly so far. That was, until the 500 came around…

Race
The Indianapolis 500 averaged 172,000 viewers from 17:00 on Sunday 26th May on Sky Sports F1, IndyCar’s highest ever audience in the modern era.

Furthermore, the IndyCar average is across a four-and-a-half-hour time slot, suggesting that those watching did so for most of the broadcast, as opposed to a downward trend throughout. BARB does not publish consolidated peak figures, but it is likely that the 500 peaked with around 250,000 viewers.

IndyCar retained most of the audience that were watching Sky’s F1 post-race show. Paddock Live from Monaco, which preceded events from Indianapolis, averaged 228,000 viewers from 16:25 to 17:00.

Excluding Formula 1, it is Sky Sports’ highest audience for a live motor race since the launch of A1 Grand Prix nearly fourteen years ago! The World Cup of motor sport’s inaugural race from Brands Hatch in September 2005 attracted an audience of 247,000 viewers to much fanfare back then.

Of course, that statistic also means that the 2019 running of the 500 out-rated every Formula 1 feeder race in the past seven years, which is great for IndyCar, but not so good for Formula Two. Sky did not repeat the 500 in the days following the race, whereas Formula Two races are repeated ad nauseam on the channel.

The audience figures are slightly below what MotoGP gets on BT Sport and ITV4 get for British Touring Cars, but not a million miles away.

Analysis
For me, the viewing figures this time around are more surprising than 2017. The 2017 audience boost can be equated to Alonso, and we all knew that race was going to receive a sizeable boost, whereas this time, the boost cannot be equated to a specific person.

Yes, the race did follow Sky’s Monaco programming on the very same channel, but the gap between Monaco concluding and the Indianapolis 500 starting was nearly two hours, enough time for the audience to dwindle, as we have seen on many occasions in the past.

However, it should be acknowledged that BT’s programme in 2017 essentially had to ‘self-start’ from an audience perspective, whereas the 2019 audience was already there and waiting on the same channel.

If Alonso drives in 2020, and manages to qualify next year, it will be interesting to see if there is any boost beyond 2019’s figure. The target audience will already be watching Sky Sports F1, so any further boost may be limited.

As in 2017, do not expect IndyCar’s numbers to suddenly jump moving forward. However, being on the same channel as Sky’s F1 offering provides a platform for IndyCar’s numbers to gradually increase.

Sky need to prepared to increase resources to help the cause, including bespoke UK commentary during US ad-breaks. The argument for doing that has surely increased following the successful trial run during the 500, bringing Sky back in-line to the level of coverage that BT Sport offered.

For now, at least, the IndyCar Series had another, somewhat unexpected, day in the sun from a UK perspective. And based on the quality of both the 500, and the Duel in Detroit over this past weekend, they absolutely deserve it.