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.

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

  1. 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.

  2. 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

  3. 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!!!

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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

  7. 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).

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

  10. 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.

  11. It’s going to be interesting to see the UK viewing figures after the early morning China weekend, when its on the BBC.

    Subtract number of Sky viewers from Aus/Malaysia, from BBC China figures, and the number you are left with is the amount of people streaming Sky on t’internet :D

  12. Eastman (@eastman) said on 22nd March 2012, 23:20

    I wonder if the 2 am US audience even managed to beat 1 million viewers.

  13. Andrew70 said on 22nd March 2012, 23:54

    According to the UK’s BARB (Broadcasters’ Audience Research Board), these were the average daily viewing figures in millions (and %age of total audience) for BBC1 and SKY1 in these periods:

    Feb27-Mar04
    BBC1 : 20.90m (50.9%)
    SKY1 : 1.94m (3.4%)

    Mar05-Mar11
    BBC1 : 29.14m (50.8%)
    SKY1 : 1.52m (2.6%)

    When the next set of figures are released, they’ll include the Australian GP weekend.

    If SKY1’s coverage got roughly 0.75m or more viewers, it should show up on this page in the ‘other’ category.
    (BBC1’s coverage will need roughly in excess of 4m viewers to appear on their table.)

    I think the BBC1 figures for Australia have probably flattered them as a lot of F1 junkies/SKY-phobics will have wanted their first bite of F1 under the new highlights arrangement but many will not have liked the taste. Some will fold and subscribe and some will not bother again.
    I myself didn’t like the BBC qualifying coverage at all. We got approx 40-45mins of qualifying footage in a 75min programme and that included Jake links between the sessions.
    (I read either here or elsewhere that the BBC are not allowed to show more than 75% of the action on a SKY weekend.)
    I’m currently thinking that in future I’ll record the BBC1 qualifying shows and watch the intro and exit pieces for the Fri/Sat news and the grid order. Trying to watch something where someone else has effective control of the FFW button is far too annoying for me.

    And finally, considering how vehamently opposed the BBC were about Ch4 getting the F1 coverage, they’ve rather meekly and without fuss conceded the rights to another of their jewels, the Grand National (big horse race for non-UK readers) to guess who?…..

  14. Andrew70 said on 23rd March 2012, 0:39

    Apologies, SKY1 should read SKY SPORTS 1 – the numbers are correct though.

  15. chris said on 24th March 2012, 13:37

    have been a real F1 fan since Mansell in 92 but now the magic of watching it on free to air tv is gone ,and im not paying for sky ,last weekend i felt rather lost and not involved anymore sort of normal maybe ,highlights do not interest me especially after the beeb broadcasting the results on the news with the caption on the top of the screen” permission of bbc sport” ,to**ers , bit like that old likely lads sketch where they have to hide all day so as not to hear the football match score ,one very sad and let down fan bernie ,the beeb ,sky you all deseve each other

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