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Brazilian Grand Prix up year-on-year, but BBC highlights underperforms

The Brazilian Grand Prix recorded a rating that was higher than last year, however, the BBC’s highlights show underperformed when you consider its position in the schedule.

Live coverage of the race show, screened exclusively live on Sky Sports F1, averaged 1.01m (6.4%) from 15:00 to 18:30. The number is marginally higher than the Swansea vs Arsenal Premier League game over on Sky Sports 1. That game averaged 1.00m (6.2%) from 15:30 to 19:00, the difference was approximately three thousand viewers between the two programmes. Thanks to airing the race exclusively live, Sky’s number is double last year’s 499k and up on the 734k recorded in 2012 for the equivalent slot.

BBC’s schedulers made the unusual decision of airing the Grand Prix highlights bang in the middle of primetime, after their juggernaut Strictly Come Dancing. Had yesterday been a title decider for Lewis Hamilton, the decision may well have a paid off. Sadly for them the highlights, airing from 20:30 to 22:00 on BBC One, averaged only 3.26m (13.2%) despite having a lead-in of ten million viewers from Strictly. Had the rating been a BBC Two number, it would have been really good. But considering Antiques Roadshow normally averages five million viewers, I think that number, and in particular the share, has to be considered a disappointment.

In hindsight, that slot probably was not the best for Formula 1. I applaud them for putting Formula 1 in the middle of primetime, but on this occasion, it did not work out. The number is down on all previous years for BBC’s Brazilian Grand Prix coverage, so it is fair to say that the highlights programme failed to bring in casual viewers. The combined figure of 4.27 million is up on 2013, but is the second lowest since at least 2006.

Sky Sports F1′s live coverage of qualifying averaged 382k (2.8%) from 15:00 to 17:45, with BBC Two’s highlights programme bringing in 1.47m (6.7%). The combined average of 1.85 million viewers makes it the lowest number since 2007 for a Brazilian Grand Prix qualifying session. Whether the relatively low numbers are because this was a ‘dud’ race or not, I don’t know.

So, as perhaps expected with double points, the championship race between Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton will go down to the wire in Abu Dhabi. In 2010, the season finale between Fernando Alonso and Sebastian Vettel at Abu Dhabi averaged a whopping 5.78m (41.4%), peaking with 7.36m (50.5%). It remains one of the most watched European based races over the two decades. Can Hamilton versus Rosberg beat that? It will be tough beating that, but time will tell.

The 2013 Brazilian Grand Prix ratings report can be found here.

US Grand Prix viewing figures improves on past two years

The United States Grand Prix performed better than 2012 and 2013 in the UK viewing figures, unofficial overnight numbers show.

Live coverage of the race, simulcast across Sky Sports 1 and F1 averaged 1.34m (5.4%) from 19:00 to 22:30. The Sky Sports 1 airing brought 309k (1.2%) to the channel, with Sky Sports F1 averaging 1.03m (4.2%) in the same timeslot. Sky’s coverage peaked at 20:05, just as the race was starting, with 1.93m (7.5%) watching. At the time of the peak, the split was 1.45m versus 479k in Sky Sports F1′s favour. The numbers are up on both 2012 and 2013. In 2012, the race peaked with 1.63m (6.4%). Technically, it is not Sky Sports F1′s highest ever peak, but if you combine the two figures, then it is.

The fact that I’m left to combine them to get a higher number than 2012 means that this years figure is not great. In fact, given the Sky Sports 1 simulcast, you could argue that the race really should have peaked with over two million viewers. Maybe this is a case of me expecting too much, but clearly the ‘Hamilton factor’ is not that big to draw viewers to watch the races live on pay TV, otherwise Sky Sports F1 would have had a bigger audience. If the pay TV model is really going to work, then the viewing figures really need to show a serious shift, which in my opinion they are failing to do so.

An interesting note in the breakdown is that the build-up spiked at 19:20, hitting 1.01m (4.2%) before dropping back down to under a million viewers. That’s interesting, because that five-minute segment featured the Mentality of Winning VT starring Gary Neville, Carl Froch et al, so that part clearly appeased to casual viewers who were flicking through the pre-show.

Over on BBC One, their highlights show from 22:30 to 00:00 averaged 2.51m (22.9%). That number is up on previous years, but previously the US highlights show has ran for two hours instead of 90 minutes, which should be factored in. The combined average of 3.84m is significantly up on last year’s 2.47m, and up on the 3.38m recorded in 2012. However, both numbers are a far cry on the 5.24m (31.9%) average from 2007 when the race was live on ITV.

The qualifying programme on Sky Sports F1 averaged 532k (2.8%) from 17:00 to 19:45, with BBC Two’s highlights averaging 1.23m (7.1%), bringing us to a combined figure of 1.76m. That’s a really poor number for BBC Two’s highlights programme, again when you consider that there is a championship battle involving a British driver ongoing. The number is up on 2013, but down on 2012.

Next weekend should be very interesting, as the BBC have scheduled highlights of the Brazilian Grand Prix in the middle of primetime on BBC One. The highlights rating should be in the region of 4.5m to 5m, but with it now a dead rubber, I’m not very hopeful.

The 2013 United States Grand Prix ratings report can be found here.

BTCC is best of the rest on Sunday

Away from the Formula 1 last Sunday, which peaked with 5.55m (46.3%), there was a lot of motor sport action on Sunday, albeit most of it occurred in the early hours. Nevertheless, as expected, the figures are once again a reminder that, in the UK at least, the F1 stands head and shoulders above anything else. And sadly, where BTCC and MotoGP are concerned, viewers appear to be tuning out…

The factors associated with both though are different. The British Touring Car Championship finale aired on ITV4 across a whopping eight hours, from 10:15 to 18:30. The entire programme averaged 186k (1.6%) according to overnight viewing figures, peaking with 360k (3.6%) at 15:00 at the conclusion of race two. The first of three races peaked with 99k (1.1%) at 11:40, whilst the final race peaked with 357k (2.0%) at 17:45, the huge difference in number can be put down to the fact that race one clashed with the build-up and early laps of the Russian Grand Prix, clearly taking a bite out of the audience.

I haven’t looked at all the numbers in detail, but there does appear to have been a fairly big fall in comparison to 2012 and 2013. Last year’s season finale averaged 328k (2.6%), peaking with 697k (3.8%) for the final race of the day, although that was with no F1 clash. Even so, that doesn’t account for the peak figure, outside of the F1 timeslot, dropping by almost half. I’m not sure why the figures have dropped year-on-year, but something has changed to make people turn off.

Meanwhile, over in Motegi, BT Sport’s MotoGP coverage peaked with 108k (10.1%) at 06:05. Their live programme from 02:45 to 07:15 averaged 42k (3.8%), with the MotoGP portion from 05:30 averaging 74k (6.4%). As always at this point, it is worth me pointing out that the figures include anyone who timeshifted that programme before 02:00 on Monday morning, it does not mean that 108k were up watching MotoGP at 06:05 in the morning, it just means that an average of 108k watched that five-minute ‘segment’ before 02:00 on Monday, which is the cut off for overnight ratings. BT’s repeat averaged 34k (0.3%) from 12:00 to 13:30, peaking with 79k (0.7%). ITV4′s highlights programme on Monday evening brought 283k (1.3%), which I believe is their lowest MotoGP rating of the year so far.

What that means is that the MotoGP year-on-year comparisons with the BBC are worse than usual. 204k (18.4%) watched BBC Two’s live airing last year, with 900k (8.1%) catching the repeat. A combined audience of 1.10m last year compares with about 391k for this year, which is a 64 percent drop. BBC’s peak was 1.33m, with 281k (24.1%) for the live airing and 1.05m (9.2%) for the re-run. The ITV4 rating surprises me the most, given that Motegi was the title winning race for Marc Marquez, I would have expected that to pick up one or two casual viewers, but clearly that wasn’t the case.

The weekend also seen both the Bathurst 1000 and the latest round of the World Touring Car Championship take place, again in the early morning. The latter peaked with 29k (0.4%), whilst the Bathurst 1000 peaked with under 20,000 viewers.

3.9m watch inaugural Russian Grand Prix

The Russian Grand Prix performed solidly in the UK viewing figures yesterday, unofficial overnight figures show.

BBC One’s coverage of the race from 11:00 to 14:15 averaged 3.22m (31.3%), peaking with 4.56m (38.1%) at 13:30. Sky Sports F1 added an average of 665k (6.5%) from 11:00 to 14:30, peaking with 985k (8.2%). Obviously there are no historical comparisons, however the combined average of 3.89m is directly in-line with the season average so far, so its not a great rating, but it is not a poor rating either.

The combined peak figure of 5.55m (46.3%) at 13:30 is split 82% vs 18% in BBC’s favour, which is similar to the peak splits in the past, suggesting that there has been no real movement between the two channels in the past two years. As an aside, that peak figure is pretty impressive, which might indicate that some of the more casual audience was caught out by the earlier start time. Considering the race quality was pretty bad, it did well to hold a stable audience throughout, I suspect Lewis Hamilton leading had a lot to play in that. As there was a lot of motor sport yesterday, there will be another post soon summarising the remaining motor sport numbers from BTCC to MotoGP.

Live coverage of qualifying on BBC One averaged 2.10m (25.5%) from 11:15 to 13:30, whilst Sky Sports F1′s coverage from 11:20 to 13:35 averaged 442k (5.3%). The combined average of 2.54m is just above average, so a solid rating there. The most interesting story from Saturday though was not the qualifying rating itself, but rather how well the GP3 Series did sandwiched between practice and qualifying.

On Saturday, Sky Sports F1 stayed above 100k from 08:45 to 13:35, this including F1′s practice three and qualifying. I thought Sky did a clever move here, wrapping the qualifying build-up around GP3. The GP3 race from 10:35 to 11:20 averaged 161k (2.4%), which is an excellent number and Sky’s highest ever for a GP2 or GP3 race. GP2 after qualifying averaged 53k (0.6%), showing how much either GP2 or GP3 would benefit from a permanent slot in between F1 practice and qualifying on Saturday’s. Yes, Sky may ‘lose’ twenty minutes of F1 build-up, but how else are the likes of Jolyon Palmer going to introduce themselves to an F1 audience? If ‘the powers that be’ are reading, maybe Russia’s Saturday scheduling could become permanent for 2015…

2014 Japanese Grand Prix UK ratings report

BBC One’s live coverage from 06:00 to 09:15 averaged 1.74m (37.1%), up on last year’s 1.30m (30.5%) Sky Sports F1 averaged 494k (10.0%) from 06:00 to 09:30, up on last year’s 370k. BBC One’s repeat from 13:15 to 15:15 averaged 2.24m (21.3%), up on last year’s 1.92m (15.3%).

The BBC live programme peaked with 2.84m (33.6%) at 09:05, with Sky’s live coverage peaking with 776k (9.5%) at 08:50. 3.55m (42.0%) were watching BBC One and Sky Sports F1 at 09:05. BBC’s highlights peaked with 2.80m (25.1%) at 14:55.

Year-on-year, the combined number of 4.48m is up significantly on 3.58m in 2013 and is the most watched Japanese Grand Prix since at least 2006, and probably the last decade and a half. Same applies for the combined peak of 6.35m, which is the second highest peak of the entire year. Given the circumstances, those facts are not worth boasting about though, really.

The 2013 Japanese Grand Prix ratings report can be found here.


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