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. Mouse_Nightshirt (@mouse_nightshirt) said on 22nd March 2012, 13:55

    In other news, bank balance figures for Bernie Ecclestone showed an increase in income from F1 TV rights when compared to figures this time last year.


  2. Aficion said on 22nd March 2012, 14:44

    I live in Canada, and just started downloading and watching the British feeds a couple of years ago (as opposed to our local). Either way, I don’t have to pay to watch, so I’m just judging purely on feel. To be honest, I found the Sky blokes to be dry, uncomfortable, and even though the coverage had more stats and technological features, it lacked interest. I know Brundle is much-loved with the UK audience, but it really seems that neither drivers nor team principles actually like him at all. So, I’ll continue to watch BBC coverage and highlights. They have that magic formula (excuse the pun). Oh, by the way, what’s with the scary transvestite name Georgie that Sky has covering the giant iPad? HAHA!!

    • artificial racer said on 22nd March 2012, 18:54

      Thats good, just publicly admit to pirating F1 broadcasts…

      Not being live is always a problem if you go down that route. But as a non paying customer the commercial interests don’t care about you.

      It does raise the point though… the team sponsors on the cars get seen by many many more people than the official viewing figures.

  3. It will be good to see when the european races come around and also see what the figures will be when bbc and sky are showing the race live.

    I for one will be watching the bbc when both are showing live mainly becuase im on virgin media so no F1HD so will watch bbcHD.

  4. Rohan said on 22nd March 2012, 15:18

    I would love to hear the teams opinions on this, sadly I can’t see sky out the beeb asking them… The sponsors cant be happy, the fans aren’t happy, I bet the teams aren’t happy. How long can Bernie go on alienating the majority of people involved in the sport for money?!

    I cant wait for the stats when both channels are showing the races live… I’m someone who could afford to get sky just for F1, but refuse to do so as a matter of principle. I ain’t lining Murdoch’s or Ecclestone’s pockets any more than I have to…

  5. Ritesh (@rits) said on 22nd March 2012, 15:43

    Bernie will make another castle or so of cash, leave F1 on one limb and move on. The teams are busy hacking at each others’ trunks, FOTA is a joke, new Concorde will make Bernie (along with Ferrari and RBR maybe) even richer at the cost of the teams and the sport. Viewership will keep dwindling and we all know how that will end. Wonder how much Virgin had to pay Sky to get access! How the hell did this deal go through without all the sponsors and teams protesting? Its not really a coincidence that this is a deal between two of the evil turds I hate the most – Bernie and Murdoch. Another just died recently – won’t name him!

  6. 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 -

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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:

    • 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..

  10. 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…

  11. 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??

  12. 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!

  13. 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.

  14. 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.

  15. 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.

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