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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.

Vettel’s win draws 4.16 million to Malaysian GP

An average audience of 4.16 million watched Sebastian Vettel win the Malaysian Grand Prix, unofficial overnight viewing figures show.

As with Australia two weeks ago, the change in start time compared with 2014 means that it is difficult to make too many direct comparisons year-on-year. Nevertheless, live coverage on BBC One from 07:00 to 10:30 averaged 2.03m (33.6%), peaking with 3.23m. In comparison, last year the race averaged 2.45m (32.7%) an hour later, from 08:00 to 11:15, peaking with 3.26m. There is a big difference in the average, which I would put down to more viewers flicking on the TV as the race progressed due to the earlier start time than last year.

Sky Sports F1 added 473k (7.7%) from 07:00 to 10:30, peaking with 720k, compared with an average of 574k (7.7%) and a peak of 826k from last year. I don’t think you can read too much into the respective numbers, both BBC’s and Sky’s live showings were down around 17 percent year-on-year. That’s no shock, the race started earlier, meaning that less people were around. Sky’s peak did suffer as well mind, whereas BBC’s peak numbers are almost identical. Any loss in live numbers was made up by BBC in their re-run programme, which averaged 1.66m (14.7%), significantly higher than last year’s 1.07m (12.5%).

What the numbers mean is that 2015’s combined average of 4.16m is up on 2014’s 4.09m, but down on 2013’s “multi 21″ controversy. The combined peak of 5.77m is not too far away from 2013’s peak of 6.01m. Overall, the pattern remains the same as Australia: slight, but optimistic gains year-on-year, which should be taken as a positive.

The Malaysian Grand Prix qualifying session delivered exceptional numbers for both BBC and Sky, with increases across the board. A few disclaimers, as this was a very unusual situation – qualifying began at 09:00 UK time, whereas the race began at 08:00 UK time, although due to the clocks going forward, it really felt like 07:00, which is why the live figures look a lot closer between qualifying and the race. Also, the qualifying numbers include the rain delays of varying proportions.

Live coverage of qualifying averaged 1.83m (24.6%), peaking with 2.30m, up on 2014’s 1.41m (24.0%). Sky Sports F1 averaged 395k (5.1%) from 08:00 to 11:00, peaking with 639k. 2014’s live action on Sky averaged around 300k. BBC’s highlights programme averaged a further 1.27m (13.3%). The combined audience is a very impressive 3.49m, which is good, yet bewildering at the same time. I’m not entirely sure why qualifying did as well as it did, Saturday’s session is one of the most watched qualifying sessions in recent history. The combined peak was a whopping 4.38m.

Sebastian Vettel’s emergence for Ferrari on Sunday will only be good news for viewing figures. Yes, a British driver doing well is good for viewing figures, but a good champion needs an equally good challenger. A Vettel versus Hamilton battle this season is good news for the whole of Formula 1. It will be interesting to see how the viewing figures, both here and in Germany, fare going forward.

If you’re looking for MotoGP viewing figures, they will be posted mid-week.

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

F1 2015 starts off with 3.5 million

A depleted grid for the Australian Grand Prix meant that off-track talk continued to dominate the agenda, but the 2015 Formula One season began with 3.5 million viewers this past Sunday, unofficial overnight viewing figures show.

From the outset, it is important to note that direct comparisons for Sky are difficult, as the race was held an hour earlier this year. Another issue is that, for Australia at least, Sky have decided to split their live programming on race day into four segments instead of three as in 2014. This blog has always tried to make the fairest comparisons. Going forward, I will continue to use the three and a half hour block from an hour before the race to an hour after the race, irrespective of what Sky do or don’t regarding scheduling. For this piece, I will provide both comparisons in the interest of clarity. As always, figures exclude Sky Go and BBC iPlayer.

Sky Sports F1’s numbers were down year-on-year, unsurprisingly given the change in start time. In 2014, from 05:00 to 08:30, the channel averaged 594k (26.9%), which compares with 517k (29.5%) from 04:00 to 07:30 for this year. The 05:30 to 08:30 slot in 2014 averaged 659k (27.2%) versus 586k (32.9%) from 04:30 to 07:30 for yesterday’s race. So either measurement puts Sky down around 70k year-on-year. I would say that the drop is due to the start time change rather than anything more, although the figures do include anyone who watched the live Sky broadcast later in the day. Having said that, the 2015 average was identical to 2013, which is an impressive feat all considering. Sky’s 2015 coverage peaked with 789k (40.3%) at 06:10, compared to a peak of 945k (21.2%) from 2014. 2013’s coverage peaked with 893k (21.1%). Looking at the breakdown, more people watched Sky’s post-race coverage in comparison with previous years. On one hand that is surprising as the race was uneventful, but there was a British winner so it evens out really.

Over on BBC One, highlights of the race averaged 3.03m (27.7%) from 13:15 to 14:40, which is up on 2.88m (25.4%) from 2014 but marginally down on 3.05m (21.9%) from 2013. There’s an argument about whether you can compare those figures as BBC’s highlights programme was 35 minutes shorter than in previous years. The share is strong, the raw figure, not so much. Yesterday was Mothering Sunday in the UK, which may explain that one. BBC’s coverage peaked with 3.38m (29.7%) at 14:15, up on 2014’s peak figure of 3.15m (26.6%), but down on 2013’s peak of 3.69m (24.5%). It is a mixed bag, but nothing disastrous either way.

The combined total is bang in line with 2013 and 2014, and up on 2012. 2013 averaged 3.57m, whilst 2014 averaged 3.47m. The 2015 Australian Grand Prix slides straight in the middle of those two figures with 3.54m. You can’t read too much into figures, I’d say it is just ‘good’ rather than anything more or less.

Qualifying and Formula E
Live coverage of qualifying averaged 261k (12.7%) on Sky Sports F1, with a further 54k (2.6%) watching on Sky1, and an additional 24k (1.2%) choosing to watch on Sky Sports 1. The three combined means that an average of 339k (16.4%) watched across Sky’s platforms, although both the Sky1 and Sky Sports 1 airings were not promoted. BBC One’s coverage averaged 2.29m (24.5%). The total number of 2.63m is a solid start to the season where qualifying is concerned.

Formula E’s underperformed on ITV4 for round five of its championship from Miami. Live coverage of the race from 19:00 to 21:30 on Saturday averaged 150k (0.7%), peaking with 269k (1.3%) at 20:45. Highlights the following day averaged 71k (0.9%). Both numbers were below the respective slot averages for ITV4. I don’t think Miami was helped by being on the same weekend as the Formula 1 season opener and also by being up against two big Saturday night shows on both BBC One and ITV. Is it concerning yet that the highest audience for the series in the UK is still the inaugural race? I really like Formula E, in fact Miami was better than Melbourne, but for whatever reason, the series is not yet taking off in the UK.

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


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