ITV’s F1 coverage comes to an end this year and the BBC are taking over for 2009.
The corporation might have done well out of the change, as it appears F1 audiences are growing in Britain at the moment. But is this a sustainable, long-term increase in dedicated F1 followers, or ‘fair-weather fans’ who only want to see if Lewis Hamilton is winning?
Here’s a look at the TV viewership figures for F1 in ITV.
The following data comes from the Broadcasters’ Audience Research Board. The BARB publishes weekly breakdowns of the top 30 programmes on each of the five major channels in Britain.
Therefore F1 broadcasts only appears on there if they are among the top 30 programmes in the week they aired. That happened on eight of the 17 Grand Prix weekends last year, but on five of the seven Grand Prix weekends (up to and including the Canadian Grand Prix) this year.
For the weeks when the programmes did not rank in the top 30 we know their audience must have been below a certain level, which I have indicated:
ITV F1 TV audience ratings 2007
|18 March 2007||Australian Grand Prix*||(<3.43m)|
|08 April 2007||Malaysian Grand Prix*||(<3.11m)|
|15 April 2007||Bahrain Grand Prix*||(<3.32m)|
|13 May 2007||Spanish Grand Prix*||(<3.34m)|
|27 May 2007||Monaco Grand Prix||3,700,000|
|10 June 2007||Canadian Grand Prix||4,690,000|
|17 June 2007||United States Grand Prix||5,310,000|
|01 July 2007||French Grand Prix||3,410,000|
|08 July 2007||British Grand Prix||3,850,000|
|22 July 2007||European Grand Prix||3,530,000|
|05 August 2007||Hungarian Grand Prix||3,370,000|
|26 August 2007||Turkish Grand Prix*||(<3m)|
|09 September 2007||Italian Grand Prix*||(<2.91m)|
|16 September 2007||Belgian Grand Prix*||(<3.31m)|
|30 September 2007||Japanese Grand Prix*||(<3.45m)|
|07 October 2007||Chinese Grand Prix*||(<3.09m)|
|21 October 2007||Brazilian Grand Prix*||7,440,000|
*Did not rank among the top 30 programmes on ITV that week.
ITV F1 TV audience ratings 2008
|16 March 2008||Australian Grand Prix**||3,900,000|
|23 March 2008||Malaysian Grand Prix*||(<2.81m)|
|06 April 2008||Bahrain Grand Prix||3,580,000|
|27 April 2008||Spanish Grand Prix||3,510,000|
|11 May 2008||Turkish Grand Prix*||(<2.9m)|
|25 May 2008||Monaco Grand Prix||3,980,000|
|08 June 2008||Canadian Grand Prix||3,990,000|
**’As live’ replay
There are a couple of things that stand out. First of all, the first round of this year’s season did very well – in fact it was the delayed rerun of the race that attracted 3.9m viewers, not the live broadcast. The fact that Lewis Hamilton won might have had something to do with it.
It also provides another potential answer to the question why Abu Dhabi landed an end-of-season slot for its maiden Grand Prix in 2009 – it allows F1’s final two races of the season, which are potentially huge draws, to be broadcast in the evening in the evening.
That was certainly why the Canadian and United States Grands Prix – in their viewer-friendly evening slots – did so well last year.
Comparing like-for-like races gives us the strongest indication of exactly how much F1 audiences have grown. The Spanish Grand Prix had at least 170,000 more viewers this year, probably more. The Monaco Grand Prix had almost 300,000 more.
Although this growth is encouraging it is still quite modest. It’s tempeting to draw the conclusion that the new viewers that have arrived are mainly checking in to see if Hamilton is winning, and aren’t hanging around to watch if he isn’t.
Given how poor the racing in France, Spain, Bahrain and Malaysia was this year, it’s hardly surprising. But I’d also like to see how big the dip in viewers is when ITV goes to their first advert break during a race.
If anyone has any data on that, or more F1 viewership figures for Britain or elsewhere, please share them below.
Read more: How will BBC TV cover F1 in 2009?