Nearly 14 million watch F1’s last lap showdown in UK and Netherlands

An audience of nearly 14 million viewers watched Formula 1’s last lap showdown in Abu Dhabi yesterday, across the UK and Netherlands, overnight audience data from the different territories show.

In the Netherlands, where the weekend aired on a free-to-air basis via Ziggo Sport, an average of 4.92 million viewers (an 87.0% audience share) watched Max Verstappen win his first championship from 13:55 to 15:42 on Sunday, according to data publicly available via SKO.

2.37 million viewers (42.1%) watched on Ziggo Sport, while a further 2.54 million viewers (44.9%) watched on Ziggo Sport Select. At its peak, 3.22 million and 3.12 million viewers watched across the two channels, combined to reach a peak audience of 6.34 million viewers.

Showing just how much interest there was in the race, 1.30 million viewers (55.2%) followed the build-up from 12:05 to 13:55 across Ziggo’s two channels, with 3.87 million viewers (70.1%) sticking around post-race from 15:42 onwards.

Qualifying performed well across Ziggo Sport and Ziggo Sport Select. The session averaged 1.47 million viewers (69.5%), peaking with 2.05 million across the two outlets.

Abu Dhabi was the last race for Ziggo under its current arrangement, with F1 rights moving to NENT Group from 2022 in the Netherlands, through the Viaplay platform. However, Ziggo will continue to air highlights following an agreement reached with Viaplay.

Highest UK audience since 2014

Over in the UK, audience figures jumped to their highest level since the 2014 championship decider.

From 12:55 to 15:00, around 5.8 million viewers (52%) watched the F1 broadcasts across Channel 4, Sky Sports F1, Sky Sports Main Event and Sky Showcase.

During this time slot, 3.44 million viewers (30.7%) were watching Channel 4, with 2.00 million viewers (17.8%) watching Sky Sports F1 and Main Event. A further audience of around 400,000 watched via Sky Showcase.

A one-minute peak audience of 7.4 million viewers (59.7%) watched at 14:32 as Verstappen overtook Lewis Hamilton on the final lap. At the time of the peak, 4.38 million viewers were watching via Channel 4, with 3.02 million viewers watching via Sky’s portfolio of channels.

It is Formula 1’s highest peak audience in the UK since 2014, when a 5-minute peak of 7.9 million viewers watched Hamilton win his second championship in Abu Dhabi.

Despite the free-to-air simulcast on Channel 4, a large number stuck with Sky, the pay TV broadcaster recording their highest ever audience figures for F1, beating their previous record set the previous week in Saudi Arabia.

Channel 4’s audience was also their highest ever for F1, marginally beating their live coverage of the 2018 United States Grand Prix.

Ian Katz, Channel 4’s Chief Content Officer, said “Though many British F1 fans will be disappointed, it’s fantastic Channel 4 was able to bring this nail-biting finale to the 2021 F1 Season to 4.4 million free to air and, in partnership with Sky, to an incredible peak audience of 7.4 million.”

“Following on from the return of Test Cricket to free to air television, a remarkable Paralympics and Emma Raducanu’s US Open triumph it was a fittingly dramatic end to an extraordinary year of sport on Channel 4.”

Sky’s CEO Stephen van Rooyen added “Sky has broken its own F1 audience record for a third time this season, Sunday’s stunning spectacle will keep our customers talking about Abu Dhabi until next season rolls around.”

“Sky’s audience peaked at 3m for the first time, and thanks to our partnership with Channel 4 that added up to the 7.4m across the country.”

“It was our gift just in time for Christmas and the drama was gripping, with Sky taking an 18% share of the TV audience combined with our free-to-air partner bringing that up to 44% in total. An astonishing day.”

Elsewhere…

Unsurprisingly, the F1 championship decider drew large audiences across Europe and beyond, however, not every territory saw a boost.

  • Australia – F1 fans down under stayed up to watch the action from Abu Dhabi unfold. 135,000 viewers watched the Grand Prix according to The Race Torque, the largest post-midnight race in at least six years, and the third highest F1 audience of 2021.
  • Austria – According to DWDL.de, F1 jumped to its biggest audience since the 2000 Austrian Grand Prix. The race aired on ORF2, drawing an average of 1.12 million viewers, equating to a 55% audience share from 14:03 to 15:39. ORF’s pre-race build-up, from 13:07 to 14:03, averaged 478,000 viewers (26%), while 814,000 (41%) remained for post-race analysis from 15:39 to 17:00.
  • Belgium – According to CIM, in the north of Belgium, 468,000 viewers watched a 30-minute highlights show on Eén, while 364,000 viewers watched live coverage in the south of Belgium on Tipik.
  • Canada – F1 recorded its largest ever audience on TSN, with an average of 667,000 viewers watching the action. In total, TSN’s coverage reached 1.4 million people. Interestingly, TSN notes that their streaming audience has doubled year-on-year, whilst analyst Adam Seaborn added that half of the F1 audience on Sunday were aged between 25 and 54.
  • France – Canal+ reported a record audience for their F1 broadcast. An average of 1.91 million viewers watched the race with them, peaking with 2.41 million viewers, a significant uplift on the 2021 season average of 1.14 million viewers.
  • Germany – The picture for F1 is bleaker in Germany where, according to Motorsport.com, 951,000 viewers (5.8%) tuned into Sky’s live coverage. The figure increases to 1.3 million viewers when accounting for Sky’s digital platforms which, while good for Sky, pales in comparison with RTL’s historical figures, showing the impact pay TV has had on F1 in Germany this season.
  • Italy – The race aired live on free-to-air television on TV8, as well as airing across several Sky channels. Digital News reports that an average of 3.99 million viewers (22.6%) watched across the different outlets, peaking with 4.45 million viewers at 15:11, an increase of 86% year-on-year. Sky’s coverage averaged 1.51 million (8.5%), with a further 2.48 million (14.0%) watching via TV8.
  • Poland – Nearly 800,000 viewers tuned into the action on Sunday, data from Nielsen reveals. Live coverage via Eleven Sports averaged 320,000 viewers, with highlights on free-to-air channel Polsat averaging 470,000 viewers.
  • Spain – Like Germany, Spain has also suffered with little free-to-air coverage and no drivers at the front of the field. Nevertheless, 602,000 viewers (6.2%) tuned into DAZN’s coverage via their pay TV channel from 14:04 to 15:34, reports FormulaTV. 253,000 viewers (2.2%) stayed with DAZN for their extensive post-race broadcast from 15:34 to 17:22.
  • USA – Live coverage on ESPN2 of the race itself averaged 963,000 viewers from 07:55 EST, with 449,000 viewers aged between 18 and 49, a sizeable year-on-year uplift of 84% and 134% respectively. ESPN says that 2021 was the most watched F1 season in the US since 1995.

Across the 12 territories that Motorsport Broadcasting has obtained data for, an audience of 23 million viewers watched the Grand Prix in full. Using the UK uplift as a guide, an audience of at least 30 million watched the final lap showdown.

This excludes many key territories that F1 highlighted in their 2020 data analysis, such as China and Russia, while it also excludes a variety of over-the-top platforms, such as F1 TV. Once F1 adds all the numbers together, it is likely than an audience well more than 100 million viewers watched the season finale last Sunday.

Additional UK data points supplied by Overnights.tv. Thanks to everyone on Twitter who supplied links to information from their own territory.

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Channel 4 strikes deal with Sky to air F1 season finale live in UK

This weekend’s Formula 1 championship decider will air live on free-to-air television in the UK after Channel 4 struck a deal with Sky Sports, Motorsport Broadcasting has learnt.

Live coverage of the season finale from Abu Dhabi was set to air exclusively live on Sky Sports, however, the move to air the race on Channel 4 means that millions more fans in the UK will see Max Verstappen go head-to-head with Lewis Hamilton.

Channel 4’s usual Formula 1 partner Whisper will produce wrap-around content, while race commentary will be provided by Sky Sports F1’s David Croft and Martin Brundle.

The move to allow Channel 4 to air some of their own bespoke pre and post-race content, whilst taking Sky commentary is a sensible compromise between the two broadcasters, off the heels of the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.

A formal press release has yet to be issued by Channel 4, Sky or F1 themselves.

This is not the first time that Channel 4 and Sky have collaborated on bringing sporting events to a wider audience.

In 2019, the free-to-air broadcaster shared live coverage of the Cricket World Cup final between England and New Zealand with Sky, airing a simulcast of Sky’s broadcast.

Earlier this year, Channel 4 also aired coverage of Emma Raducanu’s victory in the US Open final after striking a late deal with Amazon Prime. Both events peaked with an excess of 8 million viewers.

The last time F1 reached such highs was in 2014, when the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix aired live across BBC One and Sky Sports.

Back then, a peak of 7.9 million viewers, or a 50% audience share, watched Lewis Hamilton win his second championship, fending off competition from Mercedes team mate Nico Rosberg. F1 will be looking to repeat such highs this weekend.

Meanwhile, in the Netherlands, Ziggo have announced that their coverage will be available on a free-to-view basis for the whole weekend.

It means that Formula 1 has a chance of attracting new fans from across the UK and Netherlands with the title showdown this Sunday.

Update on December 9th at 10:25 – Sky Sports and Channel 4 have confirmed yesterday’s news. From 12:00 to 12:15, and from around 15:30, the Whisper team of Steve Jones, David Coulthard, Mark Webber and Lee McKenzie will provide some analysis.

Sky’s coverage will be simulcast on Channel 4 from 12:15 until after the podium, with a full Channel 4 highlights package airing at 17:30. In addition, Sky will air qualifying and the race via their Sky Showcase channel.

Motorsport Broadcasting understands that Channel 4’s coverage of the race itself will be ad-free.

Channel 4’s Chief Executive Alex Mahon said “We are delighted that the whole nation will be able to watch what is set to be one of the most thrilling finales to an F1 season in living memory as Lewis strives to become the most crowned World Champion of all time.”

“After bringing Test cricket to free to air television for the first time in more than a decade, and enabling millions to share the joy of Emma Raducanu’s US Open triumph, we are so pleased to be partnering with Sky to enable the widest possible audience to share this historic sporting moment.”

Stephen van Rooyen, EVP & CEO UK & Europe Sky said: “Sunday’s Grand Prix is one of the biggest sporting events in the last decade, and could be an historic moment for British sport.”

“We’ve chosen to gift the race to the whole country at Christmas through our partnership with Channel 4, so everyone can be part of a huge national moment as Lewis Hamilton goes for a historic eighth World Championship title.”

“The brilliant Sky Sports Formula 1 team will give viewers on Channel 4 and Sky Sports the best insight, commentary and analysis of every twist and turn of this most eagerly anticipated final race of the season.”

“Additionally all Sky TV customers will have live coverage of the important qualifying session on Saturday, and the race on Sunday – which we will also show live on Sky Showcase.”

Formula 1’s CEO Stefano Domenicali added “We are excited that Sky will make the Grand Prix on Sunday available to Channel 4 viewers so everyone can tune in live for the thrilling finale to this epic season.”

“Sky’s passion for Formula 1 is incredible and this generous gesture shows their love of the sport and the millions of fans in the UK. We are all looking forward to Sunday and hope all the fans will be glued to their screens.”

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F1 audiences surge in UK and Netherlands as championship race heats up in Jeddah

A dramatic Saudi Arabian Grand Prix saw Formula 1’s viewing figures in the UK and the Netherlands surge, audience data from both countries reveal.

According to a press release issued by Sky, an audience of 2.23 million viewers watched the Grand Prix itself across Sky Sports F1 and Sky Sports Main Event in the UK, excluding the build-up and post-race analysis.

The race peaked with 2.66 million viewers at 19:19 on Sunday as title rivals Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton went head-to-head.

Both figures are Sky’s highest ever for Formula 1 in the UK, beating the season opener in Bahrain by around 400,000 viewers. It is only the second time in Sky F1’s ten-year history that their coverage has broken the 2 million viewers mark.

Sources indicate that Sky’s coverage reached 3.7 million viewers overall across the F1 channel and Main Event.

While Channel 4’s figures are unknown as of writing, it is likely a combined audience of 4.5 million viewers watched the action unfold on Sunday.

Meanwhile in the Netherlands, a peak audience of 3.71 million viewers watched across Ziggo Sport and Ziggo Sport Select, in their penultimate race covering the sport, according to data released via KijKonderzoek.

An average of 2.75 million viewers watched the action unfold across the two channels, with an audience share of 44.44% (you read that right).

Ziggo’s figure is marginally below the Dutch Grand Prix from September, a race available on a free-to-view basis.

Pressure grows on Sky to make season finale available on free-to-air basis in UK

Back home, pressure is growing on Sky Sports to make the season finale this weekend in Abu Dhabi available on a free-to-air basis.

Both The Times and The Telegraph report that negotiations are underway between Sky and Channel 4 over sharing the live rights to Sunday’s race, however, a decision may not be known until the weekend itself.

Additionally, The Telegraph notes that the likelihood of the race playing out on one of Sky’s own free-to-air channels is declining.

Speaking to this site, a Channel 4 spokesperson said “We are looking forward to showing the highlights of what is set to be a gripping finale to the F1 season.”

Motorsport Broadcasting understands that discussions are also ongoing between Sky and F1, with Sky hoping to air their race day build-up live on YouTube as well as their linear F1 channel.

There is precedence for Channel 4 airing major events live in collaboration with Sky. In 2019, the free-to-air broadcaster shared live coverage of the Cricket World Cup final between England and New Zealand with Sky, airing a simulcast of Sky’s broadcast.

Earlier this year, Channel 4 also aired coverage of Emma Raducanu’s victory in the US Open final after striking a late deal with Amazon Prime.

Both events peaked with an excess of 8 million viewers, a mouth-watering figure which shows what could be on offer here for F1, if Sky and Channel 4 agree to suitable terms.

What are the sticking points?

The first sticking point in any deal between Sky and Channel 4 is cost. Currently, Sky pays F1 around £166 million for a season of F1 which, in 2021 terms, equates to £7.6 million per race.

It is unclear how much Sky recoup from Channel 4 for their highlights package, but it is likely to be a relatively small figure in comparison.

If one F1 race is worth £7.6 million to Sky, they will likely be looking for Channel 4 to provide them with a multi-million-pound payment to air season finale.

Although the exact terms remained undisclosed, media reports at the time noted that Channel 4’s deal with Amazon went into seven figures.

The Raducanu deal came together less than 24 hours before the event. If the same happens here, it is plausible we will not know whether Channel 4 will cover Sunday’s race live until after qualifying on Saturday afternoon.

Assuming the two parties agree financial terms, the next question to answer is what will Channel 4 air?

When Channel 4 aired live coverage of the Cricket World Cup, the broadcaster took Sky’s broadcast as part of the deal, including graphics and commentary team.

This presents an interesting conundrum for Channel 4, given that Whisper produces Channel 4’s F1 coverage, and is independent from Sky’s own production.

If Channel 4’s only option is to air simulcast Sky’s live offering – do they take it, or walk away? And if they take it, does that negatively impact Channel 4’s relationship with Whisper?

Presenting that scenario to Channel 4 would be an ideal way for Sky to argue that they gave Channel 4 the option to air F1 live, but they failed to take up the offer.

I hope it does not come down to that, but Sky may consider simulcast of their coverage a ‘red line’ in negotiations with Channel 4.

It is all to play for over the next few days, both on and off the circuit.

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A little thank you

Hi all,

I wanted to write this to say thank you to everyone who has donated to the fundraiser I have been running over the past few weeks.

As some of you will be aware, today (October 10th), I completed my first half marathon around the legendary Silverstone circuit in 2 hours and 18 minutes.

Today was extra special, because I was not only running for myself, to prove that I can do it, but I was also running to raise money for an awesome organisation which is close to my heart.

Racing Pride exists to positively promote LGBTQ+ inclusivity through motorsport, and is a movement developed in collaboration with Stonewall UK.

Having come out as bisexual in 2016, it only felt fitting to give back in my own way, and this felt like the perfect mechanism to do it. Organisation such as Racing Pride need our support so that they can perform their core activities each year.

In addition, running has helped me immensely through the pandemic, boosting my mental health as a result. In 18 months, I have gone from no running at all to running a half marathon.

The race itself today was tough, and my body feels a little bit broken right now! But I am so proud of where I have come from, and where I am now (both physically and mentally).

Many thanks to everyone who has donated, no matter how large or small, every penny will help Racing Pride in the months ahead.

There is still time to donate, so if you do want to contribute to the total, head over here – https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/dave-nelson-running-racing-pride

Thanks,
Dave
Owner and Editor of Motorpsort Broadcasting

NENT Group extends F1 reach to Netherlands, Ziggo Sport contract to end following 2021 season

The Nordic Entertainment Network Group (NENT Group) will broadcast Formula 1 in the Netherlands from 2022 to 2024 after outbidding current rights holder Ziggo Sport.

Ziggo Sport, a joint venture between Vodafone and Liberty Global, have aired Formula 1 since 2013 across cable, satellite, and internet.

From next season however, coverage will air via NENT Group’s streaming service platform.

Viaplay, which has yet to launch in the Netherlands, will cover every F1 season live, with NENT promising “in-depth coverage from every event and innovative programming.”

Six races will be available on a free-to-view basis, including the Dutch Grand Prix.

Despite the change in broadcast rights, F1 has confirmed that their own streaming service, F1 TV Pro, will remain available to fans in the Netherlands, as it has been since launch at the start of 2018.

The announcement increases NENT Group’s stranglehold on F1 in the Nordic regions. Earlier this month, the group announced that they would be airing F1 exclusively in Poland from 2023 onwards.

Today’s news brings the total number of territories that they hold, or will be holding, F1 rights in to ten (Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Iceland, Latvia, Lithuania, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Sweden).

Commenting on their Twitter, Ziggo said that they were no longer able to afford F1, with NENT, along with a third party, increasing the asking price.

NENT are understood to be paying around €30 million per year to broadcast F1 in the Netherlands, a 36% increase on the €22 million that Ziggo are paying currently.

NENT’s arrival in Netherlands part of a much bigger jigsaw

Ziggo has benefited significantly in recent years from the rise of Max Verstappen, the Dutch driver now in his 7th F1 season.

The opening race of 2021 in Bahrain averaged 2.51 million viewers across their television channels, with more than 18% of the population watching the race.

Although not truly free in the sense of the word, the small fee involved to watch F1 in Netherlands during Verstappen’s rise has not resulted in interest in the sport stifling. How NENT’s emergence from 2022 will change interest in the sport, time will tell.

NENT will be hoping that the Verstappen hype will translate into new subscribers on their service. The quote from NENT Group President and CEO Anders Jensen gives a sense of where NENT want to head.

“The Netherlands is an ideal market for Viaplay and a very attractive next step towards our ambition of becoming the European streaming champion,” Jensen says.

“Our long-term and multi-market partnerships with key sports rights owners, together with our ever-increasing line-up of original and exclusive content, will enable us to offer Dutch viewers something new and unique.”

“When bringing Viaplay to a new market, we look for clear opportunities to grow, innovate, collaborate, and take leadership. The Netherlands delivers on all counts.”

For the NENT Group, Formula 1 is a small part of the jigsaw, but an important one as NENT attempts to break into what they believe is a strong market for streaming.

Note how the quote from NENT curiously fails to mention F1, but does reference NENT’s goal of “becoming the European streaming champion.”

NENT sees itself in a long-term battle with Netflix. In the territories where NENT is active, NENT holds a strong second spot, only behind Netflix.

If NENT, which targets 4.5 million international subscribers by the end of 2025 for Viaplay, can expand into further European territories, it has long-term potential to dent Netflix’s position in the market.

There is a lot of movement in the streaming sector currently, following news earlier this week that AT&T and Discovery are to create a new streaming giant.

This is the first time that a ‘streaming first’ entity has taken on Formula 1 rights in a big market. It is, I suspect unlikely to be the last.

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