British Grand Prix drops to eight year low
Posted by David
The British Grand Prix, won by Lewis Hamilton, peaked with 4.9 million viewers yesterday, unofficial overnight data shows. Tough opposition and a one hour red flag period meant that the race dropped to its lowest number since 2006.
You may argue that year-on-year analysis is invalid due to the red flag period. To some degree, comparisons are invalid and I accept that the race yesterday was not your typical 90 minute event, however that does not mean that they should be completely dismissed especially when you also look at the relevant qualifying comparisons. The live coverage on BBC Two averaged 2.82m (22.6%) from 12:00 to 16:30, with the equivalent timeslot on Sky Sports F1 bringing 501k (4.1%). A combined average of 3.33m is the lowest for the race since 2006, a more depressing statistic perhaps when you consider that a Brit is in the title race – and won yesterday.
Over 4 million viewers were tuned in as the lights went to green, 4.50m (40.1%) were watching at 13:05. Even at this point, the numbers were lower than the equivalent point in 2013: 5.29m (49.6%) watched the beginning of 2013′s race, showing that lower interest, the race being on BBC Two and other sporting attractions played their part, meaning that the red flag that followed was not the only factor in the low numbers. The problem with the red flag is that it meant that the race would now be overlapping completely with the Wimbledon final. The audience dropped to as low as 3.59m (30.2%) during the red flag period, picking back up to a high of 4.77m (35.9%) at 14:10. Despite having a British driver in contention, audience levels dropped again to 4.06m (28.2%) at 14:55, rebounding to a peak of 4.88m (32.7%) at 15:25 as Lewis Hamilton won – the audience split being 4.19m (28.1%) on BBC and 688k (4.6%) on Sky.
The peak audience of 4.88m (32.7%) compares with a peak of 6.70m (52.8%) in 2011 and a peak of 5.98m (51.0%) in 2013. The latter stage of the 2012 race, which clashed with Andy Murray’s Wimbledon, peaked with 5.2m. It is the first time since 2007 that the British Grand Prix programme average has been below four million viewers. Depressingly, the 2011 programme average of 4.89m (43.1%) is actually higher than yesterday’s peak.
Like the race yesterday, coverage of qualifying struggled similarly against Wimbledon and the Tour de France on Saturday. Whilst the Formula 1 did win its slot from 11:55 to 14:30, no doubt the opposition knocked a few hundred thousand off its potential. BBC Two’s coverage averaged 1.62m (17.5%), peaking with 2.29m (22.0%) at the conclusion of the qualifying hour. Sky Sports F1 from 12:00 to 14:30 added 293k (3.2%). With a combined average of 1.91m, it is easily the lowest British Grand Prix qualifying number since 2007. Had qualifying done well, I would have probably put a disclaimer next to the race figures, but in my opinion it is telling that both qualifying and the race did poor.
I’m afraid from a scheduling point of view, the decision to have the British Grand Prix on the same weekend as the Wimbledon finals and the Tour de France departing from Yorkshire was a disaster by FOM and the FIA. The Tour de France starting from Yorkshire has been known since late 2012 and the Wimbledon finals are always on the first weekend of July (although this is changing from 2015). I know that there are many, many factors that come into consideration when finalising the calendar, however having the British Grand Prix on the same weekend as two other big sporting events, thus reducing its prominence in the British sporting calendar, is brain fade. I did similar in 2012, but having:
- June 8th – Canada (as present, avoids World Cup clash)
- June 15th – Le Mans (as present)
- June 22nd – Britain (critically as it is a BBC live race means no World Cup clash)
- June 29th – Austria (Wimbledon middle Sunday and World Cup down to two games a day, giving more flexibility)
- July 13th – Germany (avoids clash with The Open, giving more flexibility)
- August 15th – Hungary (avoids Commonwealth Games)
- August 29th – Belgium (avoids late Summer Bank Holiday)
- September 7th – Italy
I’ll stop there, however the timing of the self imposed Summer break means that BBC highlights races are reduced to BBC Two coverage, reducing the ratings potential. I’m not sure how much consideration is given to avoiding other sporting fixtures, however in the case of Silverstone yesterday, they clearly did not pay as much attention as they should have. At a time when Formula 1 desperately needs good viewing figures, high profile clashes, along with yesterday’s one hour delay only serves to aggravate matters. Germany and Hungary are up next, and both are highlights and will be on BBC Two thanks to live coverage of the Open and Commonwealth Games. Formula 1′s Summer of low ratings looks set to continue…
The 2013 British Grand Prix ratings report can be found here.