Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull, Melbourne, 2012

Formula One TV viewing figures continue to fall

F1 Fanatic Round-upPosted on | Author Keith Collantine

Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull, Melbourne, 2012In the round-up: Formula One’s viewing figures continue to fall as the sport moves away from free-to-air television and the 2013 ends in an anti-climax.


Your daily digest of F1 news, views, features and more.

Vettel’s F1 Domination A Switch-Off for Fans (The Wall Street Journal)

“In France… coverage switched last year from national broadcaster TF1 to subscription service Canal+. It led to viewing figures falling by 16 million to 10.2 million and it is part of F1’s strategy to increasingly move away from free-to-air television.”

F1 television audiences take hit (Sporting Life)

“FOM has not shied away from revealing a sharp 10 per cent drop in its audience, although “not an unexpected one” according to Ecclestone, the organisation’s chief executive.”

Circuit of the Americas receives $29 million in state funds for Formula One (Austin-American Statesman, subscription required)

“The state comptroller?s office this week paid Circuit of the Americas about $29 million [??17.78m] from the Major Events Trust Fund for November?s Formula One race.”

First steps towards Melbourne (Ferrari)

“The technical parameters of the F14 T, as well as the aerodynamic validation we saw on track, match our expectations and provide a solid starting point, which we must now exploit as much as possible.”

Mercedes plays down favourite tag (Autosport)

Toto Wolff: “Even at Jerez, with the ambient [temperature] being quite cold, we were experiencing a high level of temperatures and challenges on the cooling side. We have seen for some of our competitors it is even more.”

Mercedes W05 shakedown test (F1 Fanatic via YouTube)

The triumph of F1???s new power units (Mark Gallagher)

“The achievement of all three powertrain companies should be applauded. Once again, along with their teams, they have demonstrated one of the most appealing qualities of Formula One; its ability to innovate, rise to complex challenges, and meet its deadlines. Last week was no embarrassment, it was a triumph for F1?s engineering community.”

David Beckham and F1 driver Lewis Hamilton hang out in VIP box at star-studded event (Daily Mail)

“The stars were spotted chatting away as they watched the Super Bowl XLVIII on Sunday afternoon with their manager Simon Fuller.”


Comment of the day

@GregKingston compared the sounds of some of the new engines at Jerez:

If anyone needs a visual and audible reminder of the difference between the Mercedes and Renault engines at Jerez, have a look at two of the videos I took on Day 2:

From the forum

Happy birthday!

Happy birthday to Mantas Degutis!

If you want a birthday shout-out tell us when yours is by emailling me, using Twitter or adding to the list here.

On this day in F1

1994 F1 seasonToday in 1994 Minardi confirmed its merger with Scuderia Italia.

Although the staff for the new team was largely drawn from the former – the latter having puled out of the previous season before it finish – the driver line-up of the new Minardi team compromised one of each of their drivers. Loyal Minardi pilot Pierluigi Martini remained and was joined by Michele Alboreto, giving the Italian squad a highly experienced line-up.

Image ?? Red Bull/Getty

111 comments on “Formula One TV viewing figures continue to fall”

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  1. For me, part of the problem with F1 is that people just don’t believe in it anymore from a sporting perspective. Yes, there are die hard fans who will never hear a bad word said and there are those of us who are fascinated by the technical aspects of the category. However, I feel that it is impossible for F1 to hope to maintain longterm credibility and gain respect as a sporting endeavour whilst the the results are to a certain degree fixed or pre-ordained.

    I know it’s the same in Football (and Bernie has long desired a similarly commercial product) where the Manchester Uniteds of the world thrash the pants off the poorer clubs but to all intents and purposes when the match starts it’s still 2 teams teams of guys running with the ball and the underdog still has a chance. Formula 1’s wealthiest teams have massaged the sport into a situation whereby they are doomed to win and in doing so have removed the most fundamental aspect of any sporting event, i.e. the competition.

    People aren’t fooled into thinking that each car/driver combination have an equal chance because the financial status of each of the teams is flaunted on the TV as presenters saunter past a Ferrari/Mclaren/Red Bull hospitality unit in the paddock which is bigger than most normal people’s houses and then they stroll past the Caterham Transit van parked in the corner.

    They rub our faces in it and as with most things like that it has started to wear thin, especially now that we all have to pay an enormous subscription for the privilege. They think we are lack the intelligence to be insulted by their false claims of equal competition and I think they might be heading towards a crisis on 2 fronts. These being, lack of fan interest/loss of veiwership and collapsing infrastructure due to people being stupid with stupid amounts of money.

    Don’t get me wrong, sometimes the category does offer up some stunning, edge of the seat races but they are few and far between and more by good luck than good management. This is plain to see in the post race celebrations as the racers that work in the teams are always openly more gratified and always pleasantly surprised after such events (as are the fans) compared with the majority of races where the cars come in 2 by 2 with the rich boys at the front and the less rich boys at the back.

    Something else that is a concern is that if the encumbant audience start switching off, who will replace them? Of my group of friends I am the only one who has a strong interest in Formula 1. There are a couple of others who have a passing interest and of the ones who aren’t interested I have tried to get them to develop an interest in it and it always comes down to one thing. “Why can’t that guy at the back catch that guy at the front?” to which I reply “because his car only cost 1 10th of the cost of the one in front to make so its not as good”.

    You see, to someone who has no knowledge of the category who is considering watching, the fundamentals need to be in place to attract them in the first place and they aren’t. People want to feel like they’re going to watch 24 racers fight tooth and nail on a reasonably level playing field but F1 can’t offer that so people don’t bother. It’s different for me, I’m died in the wool. I’ve been watching so long that I’ve grown up with it and its as much an addictive soap opera as a fascinating technical endeavour to me and for that reason I am more able to tolerate dull racing. F1 sells itself as a racing category first and foremost so people are just confused when there is no racing and give up. 2 hours is a long time to sit starting at a foregone conclusion and a maintaining season long interest/viewers is not going to happen unless people are given what they want.

    The world has changed. With the internet etc. people are able to get exactly what they want more readily rather than be told what to want by the super rich. Customers have more power and have grown very accustomed to that and if they aren’t satisfied they will look elsewhere. This is something that F1 has failed to notice.

    1. I agree, we need a new March 6 wheeler, or a Porsche flat 6 engine, or anything that differentiates the technical aspect of the cars and their success or lack thereof, a trick exhaust, hole in the floor or flexible wing just doesn’t do it for me, or for casual viewers who are totally ignorant of any difference in the cars.

  2. I don’t buy the move to pay TV being the sole factor in the decline in TV number. Yes it is a big factor, but it is one of many. People in Britain and parts of Europe have been unusually lucky in being able to get such amazing F1 coverage free for all these years (granted it is the heartland of the sport so you should get some privileges!). I grew up in SA and for all bar one or two years of the early 90’s we had to pay for the privilege of watching F1, and the quality of the shows around the sport where (and still are) nowhere near what you get in Britain on the Beeb and Sky. In the UAE where I live now I have to pay to get the F1, and then I only get it with Arabic commentary. I still tune in when I can with either Sky or BBC commentary streaming on my laptop (races fall on working days here so I have to watch races on text feeds and timing pages mostly). It is a major annoyance, but I love the sport so I do what I can to get the most out of my viewing.

    1. The problem with the UK rights deal wasn’t that ‘we’ve been lucky’, it’s that the FTA model was systematically dismantled by a bunch of rich despots.

  3. Obviously F1 audiences are dropping and will continue to do so until FIA and Bernie realize that the average viewer does not have a sub-seventy IQ.

    Start fixing all the obvious blunders in order to revive F1 as a sport and forget trying to compete with Vegas shows and Paradise Hotel!

  4. That article by Bernies pet Journo is really funny. It completely fails to mention, that while number did drop off after the mid season, as they did the year before, the BBC was able to recover a bit from 2012, while SKY fell off in the whole year (as previously reported in the broadcasting blog Keith linked to a week or 2 ago).

    It also fails to highlight how every big drop is more to do with a failure to properly market and arrange the way people view F1 than with either the quality of the racing or the quality of such coverage. See example in the US where a new broadcaster did more to promote it and had some success. Counter that with a change in networks in China making it more confusing (and likely combined with even less clear marketing) showing the result in a drop of almost 30%.

    All this shows is, that FOM are doing a poor job of promoting the sport. Targeted marketing of the races does help (US), while confusing TV deals and movement to PayTV give a drop in viewers and potential. Off course having races where the local interest is moderate at best and not working towards promoting an event locally does nothing to build up new audiences either.

  5. Lovely article – or ode to the marvel of F1 – from Gallagher.

    He is right. Instead of pointing out to failure, we should be proud to see a sport that can turn incredibly complicated things around and bring them on track in such an incredible pace. Its exactly why a cooperation between Caterham composites and Airbus is interesting for both. And why McLaren applied technology can be a real boost to any company they work with. And why Ferrari is so exciting. And why Williams Hydro Power can be a leading company in its field. In a world where bringing things to marked is a valued, maybe even critical, skill, that is where F1 does indeed give a real world return on investment.

  6. I think the problem is that there is inconsistency in what FOM is trying to achieve – they want to have their cake and eat it.

    (1) They want to move to Pay TV, in reality this means they forgo casual viewers as the main market for this product is the die-hard motorsport Fanatic who is willing to pay for the product. Casual viewers might tune in if they happen to have the full sports package but otherwise they are outside the universe of potential viewers

    (2) They want to attract more casual viewers by manipulating the formula, using gimicks such as DRS, double points and oddly designed tyres to spice up the show and holding events at venues which are more about the trackside-sparkle than the on-track action and freezing/restricting innovation to keep the cars as close as possible. This does not appeal to the die hard motorsport fanatic who wants to see a group of different solutions from groups of engineers up against each other on the track with the best drivers racing wheel to wheel. If one driver/chassis/engine package is the best then they may well win lots of races and that’s ok because over the winter the teams will go back to the drawing board and try to come up with their own even better solution.

    I just don’t think F1 can have mass market appeal on pay TV. It’s not football and it never will be.

    1. @jerseyf1 Exactly, the entire way of thinking within the FOM needs to change in my opinion. Formula 1 in itself is a fantastic product and needs very little change to appeal to a lot of people.

    2. I think you’re probably right, and there are other reasons for me to think so.
      Casual viewers tend to expect to see cars racing against each other in the moment, rather than individually pursuing a tyre ‘strategy’ that plays out only at the very end. They certainly don’t have the attention span to sustain them through the difference between a “three-stopper versus a two stopper, hard-hard-medium tyre strategy” type of race.
      The more gimmicks that Bernie tries to add into a race, the less the casual viewer understands.
      Last summer a friend came to stay over a Grand Prix weekend, and so of course I watched the practice. He’s a knowledgeable sort of chap and a cricket fan, so he is used to complex rules and games that go on for days. But I tried to explain the rules of qualifying to him as we watched, only to observe his eyes glaze over as I spoke.
      The rules of F1 are too complex for the casual viewer to follow, and the casual viewer is certainly not going to pay money in advance to watch a sport/entertainment spectacle they do not understand.
      Make it simple – same cars – no mandatory tyre grade changes – single phase qualifying – no fuel limits – and it might be understandable to the masses, but then it wouldn’t be F1, would it?

      1. It’s very difficult for F1 since there’s that history behind the Constructors’ championship and the unique approach that teams of engineers have to building cars. I love that, otherwise we wouldn’t have had crazy ideas like ground effects, fan cars, six wheelers, etc.

        With regulations so rigid and talks of “impossible to enforce” cost caps, I think F1 needs to be closer to a spec series. Many F1 fans absolutely hate this idea, but I think that’s what modern F1 needs (but just one perspective). I like the idea of closely matched cars and drivers differentiating themselves, pushing each other to their limits since every driver is already extracting the most out of their cars. This is what I think NASCAR does very well, and I would be tremendously excited if F1 took this approach. I’ve always paid much more attention to the drivers’ championship than I have the constructors’ championship.

        On the other hand, I would not be opposed to F1 doing the complete opposite of what I mentioned, where the series takes more of a WEC approach. I love modern endurance racing because of how free the “formula” is, and that there can be radically different approaches to engines, etc. I think the big issue with F1 is that it’s stuck somewhere between a spec series and an open-engineering formula.

        I know that it comes down to cost issues, ‘purity’ of the sport, etc. but I think F1 needs to pick a route and not look back; in my opinion, it’s this half-hearted approach that hurts the series.

        1. Probably right. Is F1 going to be a ‘purist’ sport or an entertainment spectacular?

          1. Well said, @jerseyf1 @timothykatz and @steevkay Personally I don’t think F1 needs to go spec to create close racing…just reduce their aero by 50%. Close racing without gimmicks should satisfy both us diehard fans and the fringe fans and newcomers. Lack of close racing has caused the knee-jerk reactions toward gimmicks. And we’ve already had DRS long enough to see that it has not added to the product, based on dropping viewership. Depending on what the product will be like this year, which is unfortunately now muddied with double points, more changes for 2015 might be vital, and hopefully they will have more to do with driver vs driver which is really what built F1 and all series to begin with.

  7. Perhaps F1 shouldn’t try to attract as much audience as possible. I believe that the casual fans are much less likely to go to races, pay for Sky Sports package or buy sponsors’ products than the die-hard fans. What is the point of attracting a few million television viewers, who watch slightly “more than 15 non-consecutive minutes of the sport during the season” and thus make the figures look better? Better stop blaming Vettel and focus on the F1 fanatics, who will keep spending thousands of euros on the sport as long as it doesn’t get fully destroyed by DRS, double points and similar gimmicks.

  8. Haha, oh Bernie. Vettel’s dominance accounted for the two races I neglected to watch last season, but to blame falling TV figures on that is a bit much!

    I view it as a ‘sum of its parts’ situation. Vettel’s dominance, the move to paid-subscription TV in key markets (namely the UK), the general racing and overtakes (lack of), not to mention the infamous Pirelli tyres.

    Let’s be real, last season was good but boy was it stale. None of the problems I listed above are large enough to make a whole season stale, but together they do, and I’d assume to layman who doesn’t visit specialist F1 websites, would agree and simply stop watching.
    That’s how I see it anyway and I may be wrong, but to blame declining TV viewers on Vettel’s dominance is a little far-out. Maybe the pressure from the court case is bearing it’s toll??

    1. @timi as I have said on twitter, it’s not Vettel’s fault but Ferrari’s, McLaren’s, Mercedes’, Lotus’…for not building a good enough car to match the RB9 and the other drivers for just simply not being as good.

      New Zealand aren’t blamed for dominating rugby so why should Vettel/Red Bull be blamed for dominating F1? Surely it falls on those who have failed to take the challenge to them?

      1. @vettel1 You are exactly right. And as I said above, there are way more problems with F1 that would have put fans off..

  9. Having been a f1 fan for 16 years, I can honestly say for the first time the btcc looks more exciting prospect, a competitive series, capacity grid with 32 cars, all day free coverage, cheap tickets at the local event £30 for race weekend at donington! Plus 7 ex champions on the grid

  10. I want to make 1 point very clear. Vettel is not the only reason why F1 audience declined. Artificial DRS is also a factor and the limited usage of KERS is also a contributing factor.

    1. I have heard large number of people complained about the DRS, making it too easy to pass the car in front on the straight, we want to see some fighting. If baseball bat was allowed for boxing when one side is losing…. it doesnt really make sense right? who would like to watch that? I support the idea of DRS, but not the way we use them now. It’s good to use DRS to get the car bunched up, like allowing DRS for cars that behind that are 2+ seconds behind, allowing them to catch up… I am sure many video games have such idea of allowing the losing player to catch up and get them back into the picture…….

    2. For Kers…. FIA should give teams flexibility of how they wish to use their Kers system. Some might choose to bring a massive battery and use the Kers for more than 60 seconds a lap, some would like to increase their power of the Kers, thats up to them… we need to see some innovation. Having forcing team to limit the usage and power of the KERS will not encourage innovation, not better the race….

    3. Vettel … yes….. yes, I must agree I found it extremely boring to see him winning again and again… and he is 50% of the cause of the audience drop easily..

    1. Comes down to predictability doesn’t it. DRS makes passing inevitable, predictable, and nothing special. Nobody dwells on ‘that great DRS pass’. And SV winning has become predictable too. And that can always happen, domination I mean, but I think everyone has much less issue with a success story when it is perceived that it is not a cakewalk for them.

      Close racing through much reduced aero to me is the golden ticket to getting back to basics, simplifying, and putting the story back in the hands of the athletes on the track. Let’s see what today’s new, albeit only further gimmick laden product brings this season. Methinks the introduction of double points on the cusp of this new formula that should have on it’s own stood to shake things up, has already set them back highly unnecessarily and has already worked against a higher level of excitement that F1 should be enjoying right now.

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