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Hungarian Grand Prix soars to best number since 2011

An adrenaline filled Hungarian Grand Prix, won by Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel, helped the race hit its highest number since 2011, unofficial overnight viewing figures show.

Live coverage of the race, broadcast live on BBC One from 12:15 to 15:15, averaged a strong 3.87m (32.5%), peaking with 4.97m (36.8%) at 14:45. It is BBC’s highest number for Hungary since 2011, perhaps unsurprising given the fact that they have only covered Hungary in highlights form in recent years. Nevertheless, it is another reminder that live action does draw viewers, and that viewers do prefer watching something live – if they have the choice. Over on Sky Sports F1, their live coverage from 12:00 to 15:30 averaged 625k (5.3%), peaking with 830k (6.1%). Including the simulcast on Sky Sports 1, those numbers rise to 745k (6.3%), with a peak of 1.00m (7.4%), again at 14:45.

The combined average of 4.61m is the third highest on record, since at least the late 1990s. In recent times, 2009 averaged 4.81m (42.5%), whilst 2011 averaged 4.65m (42.2%), both slightly higher than 2015. The combined peak of 5.98m (44.2%) as Vettel won the race yesterday compares extremely well, only behind 2011’s peak audience of 6.10m (50.0%). It is no surprise that all of the highest peaks this year have been recorded when BBC are covering the race live, and all of those peaks have been in the six million viewer ballpark. I think I should underline that the Hungarian round has traditionally rated well with viewers, the last time the race rated under 4 million viewers was 2008.

The great number from Hungary, combined with some recent solid audiences, means that the 2015 Formula One season is currently 8 percent up year on year. I’ll have more analysis in a few weeks time, but the numbers bode well heading into the latter half of the season.

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

British Grand Prix peaks with 5.9 million

Lewis Hamilton’s victory in the rain-affected British Grand Prix peaked with 5.9 million viewers yesterday, overnight viewing figures show.

The first disclaimer before outlining the figures is that there are no comparisons to 2012 and 2014, because both of those years clashed with Wimbledon and rated significantly lower than yesterday. The only valid comparison of recent years under the current contract is with the 2013 race.

BBC One’s live coverage of the race, which aired from 12:15 to 15:30, averaged 3.63m (34.2%), peaking with 4.93m (42.4%) at 14:30 as Hamilton sealed victory. Both of those numbers are down on 2013’s race, which featured Pirelli’s punctures and Nico Rosberg’s victory. 2013’s programme on BBC One from 12:10 to 15:30 averaged 3.72m (35.3%), peaking with 5.12m (43.7%), also at 14:30. Neither of the drops are significant, around 3 to 4 percent, but noticeable nevertheless for BBC’s coverage.

On both average and peak, BBC was down between 100k and 200k versus 2013, with Sky benefiting as a result. Live coverage on Sky Sports F1 averaged 530k (5.0%) from 12:00 to 15:30, with a further 114k (1.0%) watching on Sky Sports 1. The combined average of 646k (6.1%) and combined peak of 920k (7.9%) are both up on Sky’s 2013 average of 567k (5.4%) and peak of 860k (7.3%) – although the raw Sky Sports F1 channel numbers are down if you choose not to include Sky Sports 1’s numbers in the calculations.

Overall, the combined audience across BBC and Sky’s output of 4.28 million is down very marginally on 2013’s audience of 4.29 million, the percentage difference between the two numbers is 0.29 percent, so we are talking thousands here. There is a bigger difference for the peak. 2013’s race peaked with 5.98 million, compared with 5.85 million yesterday, a bigger drop of 2.2 percent. Again, we’re not talking a huge drop, but it should be re-iterated that the figures are a far cry from what the British Grand Prix managed in 2010 and 2011, when the race peaked with nearly 7 million viewers.

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

Dramatic Formula E decider peaks with 1.2 million

The final two races of the Formula E season performed solidly on both ITV and ITV4 across this past weekend, overnight viewing figures show.

Live coverage of round ten was broadcast live on ITV4 on Saturday. Qualifying, which aired from 11:30 to 13:15, averaged 146k (1.5%), peaking with 184k (3.1%) at 12:35. Up until that point, it was the most watched qualifying programme for the sessions that ITV4 had covered live. In fact, the peak number for London’s Saturday qualifying session was higher than the peak number recorded for the Moscow race three weeks earlier, showing that it was a strong number in isolation.

ITV4’s live race coverage aired from 15:00 to 17:30. The programme averaged 274k (3.7%), peaking with 460k (5.7%). The peak, up until that point again, was the strongest since Beijing which peaked with 477k (6.8%). Against a backdrop of mediocre ratings over the past few months, this was a much needed strong figure. I also think this underlines how well the previous European races could have done had they not clashed with Formula 1.

The highlights programme on ITV, which aired from 22:55 to 23:55, averaged 387k (3.6%). You could argue that it is higher than the ITV4 race programme, therefore it is a better figure, however in reality, that figure is very poor for ITV, a picture which is unfortunately the same for Sunday’s highlights programme.

Due to the British Touring Car Championship on ITV4, and presumably also ITV wanting to give Formula E a bit of extra coverage, programming was switched to ITV for Sunday’s qualifying and race, which formed the final round of the season. Live coverage of the race, airing on ITV from 15:00 to 17:45, averaged 700k (6.7%). The race peaked with 1.18m (10.7%) at 16:50 as Nelson Piquet Jnr won the championship.

Live coverage of the race began with 406k (4.6%) at 15:00, growing to 811k (8.3%) as the race started at 16:00. It crossed the million barrier at 16:25, remaining above a million until the race concluded. The programme itself did not win the slot, but this was due to the long pre and post-race analysis rather than the race itself under-performing. Live coverage of qualifying on ITV from 11:30 to 13:15 averaged 395k (4.9%), peaking with 503k (5.9%). Not great. Repeats of The Jeremy Kyle Show on the channel generated a higher audience in the equivalent timeslot on Saturday. However, purely because of the ‘ITV factor’, qualifying and the race will stand as record high numbers for the series.

Sunday’s highlights programme, which aired from 22:20 to 23:20, averaged 454k (3.3%). Again, it is not a great audience for the channel. Over on ITV4, live coverage of the British Touring Car Championship averaged 263k (2.8%) from 11:00 to 18:15, peaking with 460k.

For Formula E, the numbers are brilliant, in that they are significantly higher than previous rounds, and further cement the case for the championship to be shown on ITV’s main channel. Of course, that works on the assumption that Formula E want to keep working with ITV. Given that the top headline currently on Formula E’s website surrounds yesterday’s viewing figures in the UK, one has to assume that Formula E do not plan to take he championship off free-to-air television. The two questions surround the nature of the deal from a scheduling perspective, but also whether ITV are willing to pay any cash for it. Do ITV see more value in the series after season one, and are they therefore willing to hand over money as a result. I don’t think Formula E has everything their own way, yet.

From a slot average perspective, the numbers on ITV’s main channel did not exceed the slot average. Does that make the live numbers disappointing? No. Yeah, they’re solid for ITV, no more, no less. I doubt it made ITV’s executives go “wow” when they saw the overnights this morning. However, I would argue that if Formula E can peak with 1.2 million viewers for a championship decider at the end of its inaugural season, then what can do it do in a year’s time, with perhaps more airtime and advertising on ITV’s main channel? Interest is only going to grow over time. That 1.2 million peak could be 2 million twelve months from now.

This requires commitment from both sides. I think logical progression from both sides would be to retain the current deal, but air the opening race of the 2015-16 season on ITV, along with two or three other races (the calendar hasn’t yet been released, so it is impossible to say which ones), with ITV committing to an on-site presence for those races. I think having every race live on ITV’s main channel could do more harm than good. I’ll elaborate on the above in a future post, but let’s keep things moving naturally rather than committing to anything too big, too soon.

But, first and foremost, we need an announcement about season two’s rights. So ITV and Formula E. What are you waiting for?

Austrian Grand Prix up year-on-year

The Austrian Grand Prix saw a ratings increase compared with last year’s race, overnight viewing figures show.

The race, won by Nico Rosberg and broadcast live on Sky Sports F1, averaged 528k (6.3%) across three and a half hours from 12:00 to 15:30. A further 224k (2.7%) watched the action on Sky Sports 1 during the same timeslot, bringing the combined Sky Sports number to 752k (9.0%). The combined number is up on last year’s Sky Sports F1 only figure of 721k (9.6%). In isolation, the Sky Sports F1 number for 2015’s race is low, with Sky Sports 1 dragging the numbers up.

Despite an almost identical Sky Sports audience compared with Canada – the viewer split between 1 and F1 differs a fair bit – 84% vs 16% in Canada compared to 70% vs 30% for Austria. So, why the difference? There are two reasons I feel, the time of day and also exclusivity. Sky shared live coverage with the BBC, whereas Sky had exclusive live coverage of coverage. The numbers imply that casual viewers are more likely to watch F1 on Sky Sports 1 than Sky Sports F1, which is unsurprising given the name of one of those two channels, but an interesting observation nevertheless.

BBC One’s highlights programme, which aired from 17:05 to 18:35, averaged 3.11m (23.1%). The number is comfortably up on 2014’s figure of 2.45m (12.2%), but the comparison is invalid given that last year’s highlights programme aired on BBC Two from 19:00, so it is difficult to compare the two. However, it does show the pull of BBC One in comparison to BBC Two as a whole.

The combined BBC and Sky average of 3.86m is up on 2014, due to the highlights scheduling factor. There’s not anything else to note given that Austria was off the calendar prior to that for a decade.

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

24 Hours of Le Mans peaks with 428,000 viewers

The 2015 edition of the 24 Hours of Le Mans peaked with nearly half a million viewers across British Eurosport and Quest TV, overnight viewing figures reveal.

The race, screened live on British Eurosport from 13:45 on Saturday through to 14:15 on Sunday, averaged 70k (1.1%), which is up on last year and equal with 2013’s average. The 5-minute peak on Eurosport of 172k (2.0%) came at 13:50 on Sunday afternoon, again up on 2014, but down on 2013’s peak audience of 248k. Of course, that is taking Eurosport’s figures in isolation. When you take into account Quest’s numbers, the picture is significantly different.

Quest TV aired four programmes: two live programmes at the start and end of the race respectively, alongside two highlights programmes. The start of the race on Quest, from 13:30 to 15:30 on Saturday, averaged 140k (1.7%). In comparison, Eurosport averaged 131k (1.6%) from 13:45 to 15:30. The combined peak during this time period was a whopping 345k (4.1%) at 15:20, with the audience split 190k (2.3%) on Quest versus 154k (1.8%) on Eurosport.

Unsurprisingly, the highlights programming on Quest rated lower than the live action, with 94k (0.5%) at 21:00 on Saturday and 45k (1.6%) at 07:00 on Saturday, although both numbers were higher than the equivalent timeslot on Eurosport. Quest’s live programme on Sunday from 13:00 to 14:30 averaged 198k (2.3%), their most watched programme of the day. The combined peak audience for the entire race came at 14:00 on Sunday, as 428k (5.0%) watched the #19 Porsche car win outright. At the time of the peak, 258k (3.0%) were watching on Quest, with a further 171k (2.0%) on British Eurosport.

What is interesting about the numbers is that Eurosport never lost any viewers, their audience broadly stayed the same year-on-year. Quest TV’s audience appears to be new, because of the wider reach that the channel has, and presumably filled with viewers who can not access Eurosport. Looking at the breakdowns, Quest’s live programming outperformed the slot average comfortably, suggesting that what they did this year worked. It bodes well for them increasing their coverage in 2016, although I don’t think a complete simulcast of Eurosport’s coverage is viable or feasible. It should be remembered that both Eurosport and Quest TV are owned by Discovery Communications, this is simply two channels with the same owner working together for the greater good. Quest TV provided their own, distinct colour to the coverage with Louise Goodman and Marc Priestley presenting their shows.

Quest TV isn’t the most well known channel, but it shows what can be done. I do think Le Mans could do even better if the UK rights were not restricted by Discovery exclusivity. I can understand why it is done, as it makes the event easier to distribute across Europe, but from a viewing figures perspective, it limits the potential. According to BARB, ITV4 reaches triple the number of Quest TV, and could therefore bring triple the viewers with it. As shown, any change would not be detrimental to Eurosport’s numbers. Nevertheless, looking at 2015, the numbers are superb for Le Mans and hopefully can be built on further if the “Quest formula” is repeated and more importantly enhanced upon.

The 2014 24 Hours of Le Mans ratings report can be found here


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