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Monaco Grand Prix remains above 4 million

The Monaco Grand Prix performed solidly during the Bank Holiday weekend, unofficial overnight viewing figures show.

With warm weather damaging ratings across the board on Saturday and Sunday, Formula 1 escaped relatively unscathed thanks to a good figure for BBC’s highlights show, although Sky Sports F1’s live coverage was hit badly. Live coverage of the race on Sky Sports F1 averaged 797k (8.5%) from 12:00 to 15:30, which compares with 1.10m (12.1%) for the equivalent slot last year. That’s a drop of around 30 percent across both viewer and share measures. The total TV audience for the slot was marginally up yesterday for the slot, so for whatever reason, the race just didn’t perform well, unsurprisingly perhaps given that very little happened in the first 60 laps. There’s a pattern emerging that Sky’s coverage is struggling ratings wise year-on-year, which needs to be tracked as the season progresses.

BBC’s highlights programme was up year-on-year. The show averaged 3.44m (23.3%) from 17:05 to 18:05, up on last year’s highlights number of 3.33m (23.3%). That’s a good number, when you consider that last year’s highlights programme was boosted by Nico Rosberg’s qualifying incident. Overall, the combined audience of 4.23m is down 4.7 percent on last year’s audience of 4.44m. It is, however, up on 2013’s number of 4.00m. Overall, it is a good number, although I suspect one side will be a lot more pleased than the other.

Formula E and Indianapolis 500
Over the weekend, viewers failed to turn up for ITV4’s Formula E coverage from Berlin, which dropped to its lowest number since the Putrajaya ePrix last November. Live coverage on ITV4 from 14:00 to 16:30 averaged 112k (1.6%), peaking with 154k (2.2%) at 15:05. What’s unusual here is that the pre-race portion was above 100k for the majority, which is unusual, except that the programme failed to gain viewers after 15:00, and remained stagnant around 140k. It’s not a good number, being on the same weekend as the Monaco Grand Prix won’t help matters. Hopefully under the “lessons learnt” category for season one, the organisers add “don’t clash with F1.” As a general rule of thumb, having a race at the end of May won’t help anyone as all the attention from motor sport media is elsewhere.

Speaking of elsewhere, the Indianapolis 500 averaged 19k (0.1%) from 16:00 to 21:00 on ESPN. The race itself, from around 17:30 to 20:50 averaged 22k (0.1%), peaking with 46k (0.3%) at 18:15. One point I’d like to add, especially in the case of the 500, is that the numbers don’t include online viewing. Anyone (including myself) who watched via the BT Sport app will not be included in the above number, and the same applies for anyone who watched via any other sources.

The 2014 Monaco Grand Prix ratings report can be found here.

Spanish Grand Prix falls to seven year low

After a promising start to the year, Formula 1 ratings in the UK have hit the rocks, with the Spanish Grand Prix falling to its lowest number since 2008, according to unofficial overnight viewing figures.

Live coverage of the race, which was broadcast exclusively live on Sky Sports F1, averaged 674k (7.0%) from 12:00 to 15:30. The exclusivity aspect is interesting, given that BBC covered the Spanish Grand Prix live in 2012, 2013 and 2014. This is the first year since they acquired the rights from ITV that BBC have not covered Spain live. However, Sky’s numbers were boosted very little. Last year’s coverage from 12:00 to 15:30 averaged 642k (5.5%) in comparison. The share may be up 27 percent, but the raw number is up only 5 percent, implying that there could be external weather factors associated in Sky’s increase not being as big as expected. It is, however, Sky’s second lowest ever number for an exclusive European-based round, only in front of the 2013 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix which averaged 667k.

BBC’s highlights coverage did not make up any ground as a result of Sky’s lower than expected numbers. Highlights, which aired on BBC One from 17:05 to 18:30, averaged 2.90m (19.7%). In comparison, last year’s live coverage averaged 3.44m (28.7%). For a BBC highlights programme, that is a poor number, although the share stands out for me more, under 20 percent share of the available audience is unusual. The combined audience of 3.57m is the lowest since 2008 for the Spanish round. Australia, Malaysia and Bahrain were up year-on-year, whilst China was stable, so the drop in viewers for Spain is unexpected and surprising. As always with viewing figures, it remains to be seen if this number is just a blip and nothing more, or whether it is part of a trend.

Qualifying too strong for Formula E
The Formula E series moved to Europe with the Monaco ePrix attracting a peak audience of 239k (2.5%) on Saturday afternoon. Live coverage of the race on ITV4 averaged 151k (1.6%) from 14:00 to 16:35, with the peak coming as the race concluded at 15:45. The coverage thrashed the GP2 Series on Sky Sports F1, which averaged 32k (0.3%) from 14:35 to 16:05, although it wasn’t enough to beat Formula 1 qualifying itself. Live coverage of F1 Qualifying on Sky Sports F1 averaged 336k (3.9%). Bear in mind that ITV4 is available to a lot more people than Sky Sports F1, and you start to see the scale of the task ahead for the electric series.

In my opinion, Formula E has been brilliant so far in its inaugural season, but the viewing figures are not moving a muscle on ITV4. ITV’s advertising seems to have stopped, which is preventing viewing figures from improving. They need to get the message out in my opinion about the series, but are failing to do so. The scheduling hasn’t been great, but it looks like season two will be better in that regard. You could argue that they have lost faith in the series already, but ITV did air Formula E qualifying live on ITV4 for the first time this past weekend to an audience of 42k (0.6%). When you look at the audiences though, I think that Formula E needs ITV more than ITV needs Formula E. The moment Formula E goes to BT Sport live is the moment you kill the series in this country. And that wouldn’t be good for anyone involved.

Elsewhere, Formula 1 qualifying highlights on BBC One averaged 2.25m (16.8%).

The 2014 Spanish Grand Prix ratings report can be found here.

Hamilton’s Bahrain win peaks with 6.3 million

It was a good day for both Formula 1 and MotoGP this past Sunday, with both two and four wheels delivering solid figures across the board. Lewis Hamilton’s victory in the Bahrain Grand Prix peaked with 6.26 million, whilst Valentino Rossi’s battle with Marc Marquez sent BT Sport’s MotoGP coverage flying above the 300k barrier, according to unofficial overnight viewing figures.

Live coverage of the Formula 1 race, screened live on BBC One from 15:00 to 18:05 averaged 3.83m (26.0%), peaking with 5.31m (30.8%) at 17:35 as Hamilton crossed the finishing line. Over on Sky, their coverage from 15:00 to 18:30 (using the equivalent slot to 2014), averaged 640k (4.3%), peaking with 951k (5.5%). It should be noted that with the race beginning at a later time, the total TV audience as the race draws to a conclusion is higher than usual, which means that figures are higher in previous years, but with lower shares.

The combined average of 4.47m is the third highest ever for Bahrain, only behind 2010 and 2012, with the combined peak of 6.26m (36.3%) only just shy of 2010’s 6.29m (47.9%). It’s a really good number for Bahrain and again shows the importance of having the mid-afternoon races on free-to-air television in order to draw in the casual viewers. Overall during the race, for every one viewer watching on Sky, there were a further 4.88 viewers watching on the BBC.

MotoGP and BTCC
Away from Bahrain, the main story surrounded the ongoing rise of BT Sport’s MotoGP figures. In Qatar, BT’s coverage peaked with 263k (1.4%), this number increased to 281k (1.2%) for Texas. Argentina was the first time ever that BT Sport’s MotoGP coverage surpassed the 300k barrier, as a record peak of 313k (1.4%) watched Valentino Rossi win on BT Sport 2. From 19:30 to 21:00, their coverage averaged 240k (1.1%) which is significantly above any number recorded in 2014.

ITV4’s highlights, screened at the later time of 22:00 on Monday due to the FA Youth Cup final, averaged 297k (2.1%), peaking with 379k (3.1%). I would put BT’s consistent rise down to the draw of Valentino Rossi, who is clearly back on form this season and drawing people to BT’s live coverage, which they need to take advantage of. Whether it will continue, I don’t know, but it is a shame that there is no live free-to-air coverage of the series. Yes, I’m afraid that klaxon had to be raised.

Staying with ITV4, their British Touring Car Championship from Donington Park peaked with 424k (3.8%) at 14:50. Their average of 199k (1.8%) is across eight hours from 10:30 to 18:30. The numbers slumped after 15:00 against the F1, never once hitting 200k.

The 2014 Bahrain Grand Prix ratings report can be found here.

F1 stable but low, BT’s MotoGP coverage increases

The Chinese Grand Prix drew an identical number to last year’s ratings low, according to unofficial overnight viewing figures.

For the third time in as many races, direct comparisons are difficult, as the Chinese Grand Prix began an hour earlier this year compared with last year. Live coverage of the race, screened on Sky Sports F1 from 06:00 to 09:30, averaged 589k (14.4%). The Pit Lane build-up from 06:00 averaged 90k (8.4%), with the race portion itself, as billed in the EPG, averaging 672k (14.4%). Paddock Live, from 09:30 to 10:15, averaged a strong 244k (3.4%). The numbers compare with 681k (11.2%) for last year’s race show from 07:00 to 10:30, with Paddock Live bringing in 173k (2.1%). Paddock Live seems to be performing better this year than last, even on occasions when the race aired earlier than last year.

Over on BBC One, the highlights programme averaged 2.97m (24.5%), which compares with 2.87m (21.1%) from 2014. So the 100k that Sky lost transferred directly over to BBC’s highlights, which again I suspect it due to the earlier start time, like with Australia and Malaysia. Overall though, the total of 3.56m is identical to 2014’s 3.55m. If you want to get statistical about it, then 2015 was up 0.24 percent on 2014. Either way, both numbers are lower than previous years

MotoGP and World Endurance Championship
Heading over to two wheels, BT Sport’s MotoGP coverage (or shall we call it #WaterSpillage?) peaked with 281k (1.2%), which is a record high for them and follows on from the Qatar high two weeks ago. The MotoGP portion from 18:30 to around 21:40 averaged 234k (1.0%), also a record high for their coverage. It was a big day for Moto3 and Moto2 as well on Sunday, and this was replicated in the ratings. Moto3 peaked with 127k (0.9%) at 17:15, whilst Moto2 peaked with 218k (1.1%) at 19:00. I believe that is Moto2’s highest ever peak figure for BT Sport.

Unfortunately, any good racing by the British riders was not replicated in ITV4’s highlights rating, which tumbled on Monday evening to 283k (1.3%), peaking with 349k (1.5%). If you think BT and ITV’s numbers look closer than last year, then you are not alone in that thought. That’s not necessarily good. Yes, more people are watching live – excellent. But at the expense of the highlights audience, and more critically, substantially below BBC levels, in my opinion, that’s not good at all. BT will be happy, but the overall picture is not great. It is worth noting that ITV have added more airings of the MotoGP Highlights programmes, so the aggregated picture could be better, but you can’t start adding all the airings together. As I’ve always said, how do you do the line in that situation.

Elsewhere, live coverage of the first round of the World Endurance Championship season averaged 11k (0.1%) from 11:30 to 18:30 on Motors TV, peaking with 24k. That number does not include anyone who watched via online streaming. Don’t get me wrong, I like the championship and thoroughly enjoyed going to Silverstone this time last year, but anyone who thinks that it is about to become the next big thing is wrong in my opinion. The series needs a free-to-air highlights package. As far as I’m aware, it currently doesn’t have that. There’s more chance of Formula E becoming the next big thing (if there is such a thing) than WEC. Why? Because it actually has a presence on a major television platform in the UK which it can build upon. WEC does not have that in the UK, and I don’t believe it trended on Twitter on Sunday. A lot of noise, but not much movement from those outside of the bubble.

The 2014 Chinese Grand Prix ratings report can be found here.

ITV’s MotoGP highlights stumble as BT increases

Highlights of the first MotoGP race of 2015 stumbled off the starting blocks last night as BT Sport recorded a record high for its MotoGP coverage, unofficial overnight viewing figures show.

Last year, BT Sport’s coverage from Qatar averaged 126k (0.8%) from 15:00 to 20:30. The MotoGP portion averaged 187k (0.8%), peaking with 230k (1.1%). The programme length this year was slightly shorter due to rugby coverage preceding it, with new programme The Chequered Flag following at 20:00. Yesterday, from 16:00 to 20:00, BT Sport 2 averaged 172k (1.1%), which is up on the equivalent number of 142k (0.8%) from twelve months ago. For the MotoGP race, from 18:30 to 20:00, the channel averaged 212k (1.1%), peaking with 263k (1.4%). By all three measures, BT Sport was up year-on-year, by around 15 percent. BT’s numbers are actually a record high for them.

Those of you that follow my F1 posts know that, even if the pay TV broadcaster does increase its numbers, it is rendered redundant if the free-to-air broadcast struggles. And that is the case with ITV4. ITV4’s Qatar highlights programme last year from 20:00 to 21:00 averaged 492k (2.2%), peaking with 603k (2.6%). This year, the programme averaged 372k (1.6%), peaking with 455k (1.9%). So whilst BT gained, ITV4 lost a quarter of its audience. The end result is that, combined, coverage averaged 584k versus 679k last year, a drop of 14 percent. Again, I would remind readers that in 2013, BBC Two’s live coverage averaged 1.67m (6.9%), peaking with 2.12m (8.4%).

It’s probably worth noting that, over the course of last year, ITV’s higlights dropped off towards an average of 300k. The first 2015 rating is slightly above that. Whether 2014’s first programme was an anomaly for ITV because it was the start of the new deal, remains to be seen.


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