UK TV audience falls by one million at Sky’s first F1 race

F1 television

Lewis Hamilton, McLaren, Melbourne, 2012Viewing figures from the first race weekend of 2012 indicates a fall of over a million viewers in the UK.

There was no live free-to-air coverage of the race in Britain. The race was shown live on Sky while the BBC broadcast highlights later in the day.

Sky declined to issue details of their TV audiences for their F1 programming over the race weekend when asked by F1 Fanatic.

However multiple sources have reported their first F1 broadcast attracted a peak audience of 1.02 million viewers.

This represents a fall of over 2 million compared to the figure recorded by the BBC for last year’s live race.

The BBC reported a peak of 3.2 million people watched their highlights programme, over one million more than their repeat of the race in a similar time slot attracted last year.

Combining the figures suggests around one million fewer people in the UK watched the first F1 race of the season, a fall of over 20%.

However Sky commentator Martin Brundle, who left the BBC to join the broadcaster, praised the figures, saying on Twitter: “Very happy Sky F1, BBC F1 (and hopefully BBC 5 live) had strong Australian F1 audiences. So important for British [motorsport], Silverstone and F1 generally.”

Half of this year’s ten races will be shown live on the BBC, starting with the Chinese Grand Prix.

F1 on television

Image ?? McLaren/Hoch Zwei

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115 comments on UK TV audience falls by one million at Sky’s first F1 race

  1. RickeeBoy said on 22nd March 2012, 15:44

    Don’t just write on here folks – complain to your teams that you can’t see their sponsorship who you wish to support.

    Complain because we know Bernie and Murdoch are just skimming the max of money out of everybody –

  2. RickeeBoy said on 22nd March 2012, 15:54

    Don’t just write to forums Guys – Write to the sponsors and complain – they have the money – they have the ultimate power.

  3. OOliver said on 22nd March 2012, 16:08

    Greed and Greed is the problem. Given the chance, almost everyone will be willing to pay a reasonable amount to view the races.
    But Bernie and his CVC partners just want more and more money.

    People are faced with more and more pressing needs and F1 is almost pricing itself out of the market.
    When you are then forced to make a hard choice, puffs of smoke and engine noise will soon fall down in the list of priorities.

  4. Does make me smile the way you all bash Sky when it was in fact the BBC that sold you all out. Just one other point I have a sky subscription and you can watch the races on Sky Go with two devices registered, so I have given my sister that doesn’t have Sky my login details and she watched it live on her Pc. Wonder how many others have worked that out?

    • pSynrg (@psynrg) said on 22nd March 2012, 16:59

      Plenty :) Mum’s got my old xbox and the remaining one floats about. MAte of mine is using his brothers Sky Go on his xbox etc.

    • John H (@john-h) said on 22nd March 2012, 17:22

      We’re probably tired of bashing the BBC. There are some 8416 comments here if it helps fill the void for you: http://bbc.in/nl53yt

    • David Smith said on 22nd March 2012, 18:47

      I had worked it out, but get some fact straight is wasn’t the BBC that sold us out it was Bernie and his merry men, he wanted more money and murdoch and his merry men though ahhh we can have a cash cow here!! how many adverts did I see on TV pushing f1 on sky in February/March I made the comment after seeing how ever many adverts in the one day ‘sky must be struggling to make the numbers’ And refusing to release viewing figures it doesn’t take a genius to work it out, i’m sure if a record number had watched and sibscribed to sky they would of had no hesitation is releasing figures..

  5. TED BELL said on 22nd March 2012, 16:42

    To bad you people in the middle of the F1 world have to deal with such horsecrap otherwise known as SKY. Start a campaign to protest the sponsors of the program and let them know that changes are needed or face the loss of product sales directly related to any future Sky broadcasts.They are holding a gun to your heads…

  6. KeeleyObsessed (@keeleyobsessed) said on 22nd March 2012, 16:49

    Of course, the point that seems to be overlooked is Sky’s expected viewer ratings.. I think they were published some time ago, did anyone get them, and are they accurate to the actual ratings from Australia??

  7. Can honestly say I’m not surprised at the drop in UK viewers.

    Just to pick up on on Mark’s post, he is right, it is the BBC’s fault we’ve got this split channel broadcasting. They’ve not been the best money managers recently – I’ve mentioned it on the F1fanatic forum but I’ll mention it again because it’s relevant to this article.

    They’ve got the Olympics (Not sure of what the figure will be but it’ll surely be over £50m), the move to Salford (£70m), a blatant X-Factor copy called The Voice (£20m over two years), the Six Nations rugby (£160m over 5 years), Wimbledon (£50m a year) and BBC3 (£115m a year). Just those 6 examples that I know of all equate to around £330m. I know there’s more things the BBC are doing but I’ve singled out these 6 because in my view, they’re not great value for money.

    Because of their as of recent high expenditure, they lost track of Formula 1 and as a result, they’ve had to partially give it up and now we have this split broadcasting arrangement.

    • pSynrg (@psynrg) said on 22nd March 2012, 17:09

      I disagree for the most part. I don’t like Rugby, but many people of the UK do. I don’t like tennis but Wimbledon us hugely popular. A slightly more upmarket X-Factor, why not? X-Factor, love or hate, it is one of the biggest draws on TV. The move to Salford is the damp squib in all this without a doubt but when it was planned (in 2005) it was pre-financial crisis and the expected property sale gains vanished. Let’s face it, no one was prepared for the collapse of the financial markets.

      But I do fundamentally disagree with the cutting of F1 coverage – also hugely popular with a very loyal hardcore of fans and indeed ‘where it comes from’, so to speak.

      I consider the BBC to be a national treasure and happily pay the license fee. I know they are never going to please eveyone – but they sure ****** a lot of people off with the F1 deal.

    • JCF1 (@jcf1) said on 22nd March 2012, 18:54

      The salford move actually cost £700m, not £70m!

  8. John H (@john-h) said on 22nd March 2012, 17:18

    I have a scary confession to make here. I watched nearly all the GPs from 1993 (ish), getting up in the middle of the night when necessary, lost in a kind of obsessive daze every race. When the sky deal was announced I felt sad, I knew I wasn’t going to be able to justify getting Sky with the family and it turned out I couldn’t get RTL due to trees. I started to make mental preparations to move away from the obsession.

    The scary bit is that last weekend I was happy to sleep, dozing through the 5live radio coverage and then watching the highlights on BBC later on. I also had some energy on a Sunday and did some house things. I’m slightly confused, perhaps this is the beginning of the end of my love affair with Formula 1? Watched the highlights, I didn’t really get into it because I knew that the events had already unfolded, and also because F1 is turning into a tyre conservation series which is not something I’m particularly keen on. Yes I watched the highlights the statistics may show, but the quality of the experience was nothing like what I remember the live races to be.

    I’m worried… I missed the live race and I’m not as bothered as I thought I’d be about it. What is wrong with me? Does this mean the end of being a fanatic? Is there more to life than this?

    • You know, just the other day, I asked myself ‘Why do I still watch Formula 1?’

      I started watching it in 2003 when Raikkonen amazed me in Brazil. I’ve watched some great races in my time, Japan 2003 where Michael Schumacher’s sloppiness gave me hope that Raikkonen could actually pull it off. Japan 2005 where he stormed through the field from 17th on the grid, and Hungary 2006 where Button won his first ever race.

      When Kimi left F1 in 2010, I was a little disappointed but it didn’t affect my love for the sport. But then the sky/BBC deal got announced and I was so upset by it, I didn’t know what I was going to do in 2012. Quite honestly, I was very close to giving up the sport I loved, but Kimi’s return gave me another chance and I haven’t regretted it. I’m very fortunate that my brother has moved out to a new flat and bought a Virgin Media box that contained the Sky F1 channel and I’m glad I didn’t miss the live race as the Australian Grand Prix.

      • John H (@john-h) said on 22nd March 2012, 22:20

        Thanks for posting your stories Jim & James, very interesting to hear. Looking forward to seeing free practice highlights in the morning now so I think my love for F1 is not gone yet!! Websites such as this also help keep the spirit going, and to be honest I’m probably just the same as you psynrg. Just hope I can keep the passion knowing others are watching and I am not.

    • pSynrg (@psynrg) said on 22nd March 2012, 18:26

      I’ll never tire of it unless they change it to something that isn’t at least 50% the essence of F1. Whatever that may be :)

      Been following for about 35yrs now and before that it fascinated me as a toddler.

    • Same here. I could probably count on the fingers of 1 hand the number of races I’ve not watched live coverage of (especially if you discount the couple of races a actually went to) since 1985 including watching in a foreign language when away on holidays
      However I don’t want Sky (I don’t consider it value for money for one) so I made do with 5Lives coverage for this race and then watched the highlights on the Beeb later on.
      I’ll do the same this weekend for the upcoming race but I do wonder whether I’ll still be doing the same later on in the season or just decide to do something else with my weekend – even the weekend when its live on the BBC

      What is also annoying is that where as for the last few years there’s been a free Android app to follow the live timing (very handy when at work) this year the free app is a demo and instead you have to pay £20 for the app.

    • Exactly the same here. I thought I may miss being able to watch the races live, but in the end I was not bothered. I Listened to the Five-live coverage, expecting it not to be that good, but actually it was pretty good. Pleased Button won, so I recorded the highlights so I could do other things Sunday pm. Watched the highlights on Monday evening after work. All this after following F1 for 25yr’s and seeing great drivers and races.

      Maybe I am not as keen now due to ‘clone drivers’, continual PR speak, artificial racing with trick wings to allow ‘overtaking’.

      I’ll take the BBC coverage while it lasts I think.

  9. Stuart Fenton said on 22nd March 2012, 17:36

    I am lucky enough to have access to a Sky Go account so watched the race on there. I felt that the Sky coverage was pretty characterless and clinical. To me it felt they took a uniformed approach that would work on say football and just applied it to F1.

    I watched the BBC highlights show and it was already miles better. I can’t put my finger on it but the BBC have a charm and character that Sky is currently lacking (baring in mind that it was their first broadcast). And I also don’t think that Crofty and Brundle go together too well.

    I am of course biased and want sky F1 to fail because I think if it is a success, then it will spell a complete bye bye for terrestrial F1 coverage.

    • pSynrg (@psynrg) said on 22nd March 2012, 18:29

      Pretty much agree with all the above but I’d give Brundle & Croft some time to jell. Damon seemed uncomfortable but then so did Coulthard when he joined the Beeb crew and developed brilliantly.

      But yeah, characterless and clinical sums it up perfectly.

  10. Young One said on 22nd March 2012, 17:52

    I chose not to give my money to Murdoch, so I listened to R5 Live instead. I thought BBC might show some races live, but so far only highlights and Radio.

  11. robk23 (@robk23) said on 22nd March 2012, 17:58

    The problem with the super rich is they want more and more money and they don’t know when to stop. Eventually they’ll have killed their source of income and they’ll move on to the next thing.

  12. Dave said on 22nd March 2012, 18:05

    As I noted elsewhere, the viewing figures for Australia appear to be at an 8 year low: http://forums.autosport.com/index.php?showtopic=112436&view=findpost&p=5606700

  13. The Limit said on 22nd March 2012, 18:31

    This is nothing more than what the majority of people on this site predicted when the Sky F1 deal was announced. Even during good economical times this deal would have put noses out of joint, nevermind doing this when we are in our worst recession for decades. Just goes to show how out of touch the F1 heirachy are from their fanbase, and as for Martin Brundle, do me a favour? Ofcourse he is on the Sky F1 team out of the goodness of his own heart and not for the money, perish the thought!
    The basic facts are that ITV failed to make F1 a successfull venture for themselves, the BBC have jumped ship and Sky will too when no one ‘pays’ to watch live F1 races. Greed, greed, and yet more greed! Serves them all right!

    • David Smith said on 22nd March 2012, 18:52

      Agree with you 100% and have you seen the price of official team merchandise.
      £39.99 for a T-Shirt, i’ll take 3 please NOT!!!

  14. sumedh said on 22nd March 2012, 20:02

    “UK TV audience falls by one million”.
    I am not sure I understand this entirely. I can make sense out of this number only when I understand how much percentage of the TV audience is the UK TV audience.

    If the UK TV audience is just 1% of the total TV audience, if I lose one million there but gain ten million out of the remaining 99%, it is still a better number, isn’t it?

    • Bobdredds (@bobdredds) said on 22nd March 2012, 20:34

      If you gain ten million of course thats good. But losing 1 million fans is another matter, especially from a fanbase that is one of the oldest and best informed in the world. It shouldn’t be presented as if they lost 1million fans to gain 10million. The population in the UK has sustained freeview for ever and if you were to strip away all the pointless extras, for a normal race coverage, it can do so again. The attractiveness of F1 for sponsors has always been its viewers and they will pay more attention to a direction that has lost 1million viewers at the start of a season with one of the best line ups in the history of the sport and more unanswered questions than ever. Combined with the relentless promotions during preseason I would say that the figures are probably higher than would otherwise be and the real pain is yet to come.
      I would suggest that writing to the F1 sponsors will have a greater influence than writing to the teams. At the very least the sponsors can use the feedback to negotiate better deals forcing action from the teams to redress the matter.

  15. Bobdredds (@bobdredds) said on 22nd March 2012, 20:04

    I watched the sky coverage(for free otherwise I would have watched RTL) and the BBC highlights program and I enjoyed the BBC coverage more. Antony Davidson is the only presenter I would rate on the Sky coverage. Brundle seems less interesting and the BBC have benefited from his absence IMHO. I will be interested to see how long Sky’s “Brundle focused” approach will last. He’s obiviously getting a big pay packet for this and fair play to him but he’s not the super pundit that either he or Sky think he is. In fact I found him quite off putting for the most part and his grid walk has seemed to suffer from this more intense approach which seemed aimed at outdoing the BBC more than covering the grid. The viewing figures have only confirmed the comments made by fans that this would be a mistake. In my view a free to air race without the frills would still beat the Sky coverage hands down. All the extras like in car coverage etc are more fun when watching reruns IMHO. The normal FOM coverage with the timing screen is more than perfect viewing for me. The teams cant be happy that they lost 1 million fans during the race and seeing as they took a payout from Sky to agree to this, their sponsors should look for a refund of part of their sponsorship.
    It seems to me that unless the whole world goes for payview there will always be a free to air option that can be accessed somewhere and fans will find it.
    They may turn it around but I think Sky are going to take a bath on this one.

  16. I liked the sky race coverage , but that is a big drop in viewers.
    I hope this will not diminish he UK’s F1 fan base , as that would likely have a big impact on F1, bearing in mind eight of F1′s 12 teams are based in Britain.http://bit.ly/z3OMtP

  17. Tom Bisset (@pianoshizzle) said on 22nd March 2012, 20:18

    Being at university, I cannot watch the Sky races live and will have to watch the Sky races via the BBC extended highlights later in the day. I watched the Qualifying and Race sessions on the BBC’s extended highlights programmes each day and thought they did a stellar job with the short amount of time they had to play with. I think not enough track action was shown from the qualifying, however, this is probably due to the fact there were so many suprise results from qualifying that it was difficult to compute the pace of some the cars (e.g. Williams, and a McLaren front row in front of the Red Bulls). However, the shortened coverage of qualifying I think will get better throughout the season as we get more used to the pace of the cars.

    The race coverage was good as well, being shorter (not by much, as they showed a good chunk of the race- not missing out on much). This will be good for the more casual F1 supporter and those who are busy with studies/work at the weekend I’d imagine as if you are only really into the racing and not too fussed about the build up, politics and post race analysis, it is a fantastic compromise. I definitley found that trying to watch all the coverage of an F1 weekend on the BBC last season became laborious and very difficult to find the time due to the vast amount of info and in-depth analysis they produced (don’t get me wrong- I loved the build up coverage but couldn’t find the time to watch it- only just the race).

  18. Golly said on 22nd March 2012, 20:29

    I’ve followed F1 for almost 50 years and like many was upset when the Sky deal was annouced. My main gripe is that I have to pay £360pa, just to watch F1 on Sky when I have absolutely no interest in watching the other 100 odd channels that come with the subscription. If it has to be PPV, then why can’t it be just that – pay for the 20 races – which incidentally only run for 9 months of the year.
    The real worry I think that faces F1 fans is when the BBC have had enough in 2015 and Sky increase their subcription as will surely happen.

    • I agree with you completely. I have followed F1 for 25 years (it really does not seem that long ago that Senna, Prost, Mansell and Piquet ruled). I have not felt the urge to subscribe to sky. If F1 disappears from the BBC, then I doubt even then I will be persuaded to subscribe.

      My fix of motor racing will come from attending a few club/national level events. This will still work out cheaper than sky, over the minimum 12 month contract I would be forced to take.

      Sky really need to pray that Jenson and Lewis are winning. A Red Bull show will not help viewing figures and the hooking in of potential new subscribers.

      I reckon that £10 a race weekend is a fair price if PPV came to fruition. In reality, F1 would charge the earth, because, well, it is F1. The people running the show really need to stop having a laugh and take a reality check.

      • SimBri (@f1addict) said on 22nd March 2012, 22:27

        I already had Virgin Media, and £10 per race weekend is roughly what it works out to to get the SkySports package (assuming you cancel it in the off season), so I thought I’d give it a go. The coverage was pretty terrible though, and I told my dad that he didn’t miss anything by just watching the BBC highlights. I’m going to give them another couple of races and if they don’t improve it’ll be adios to Sky.

  19. AndrewTanner (@andrewtanner) said on 22nd March 2012, 22:14

    Not unexpected news at all really. I knew the figure would be high just by proxy of most people not having premium television.

    The fact is that most of the world is in financial trouble and many big companies to boot. FOM and CVC are so much in trouble that CVC are wanting to sell major shares to try to recoup some loss. Another way of doing that is not to let the television companies pay any less just out of the goodness of their heart.

    I believe that this pay-TV thing will be relatively short-term for the sport in the UK. Once FOM get their act together and the BBC or perhaps ITV can sort themselves out financially then we may be blessed with ‘free-to-watch’ F1 again.

    However, short-term is subjective and I hazard a guess it will takes years.

    FOM and FOTA (what’s left of it) know how important the UK base is and it will always be high on their agenda.

  20. DMC (@dmc) said on 22nd March 2012, 22:38

    It would be interesting to know how many f1 fanatics subcribe, and who’s determined to hold out and who just cant afford.

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