ITV F1 TV ratings grow slowly

Posted on

| Written by

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 2007Australian Grand Prix*(<3.43m)
08 April 2007Malaysian Grand Prix*(<3.11m)
15 April 2007Bahrain Grand Prix*(<3.32m)
13 May 2007Spanish Grand Prix*(<3.34m)
27 May 2007Monaco Grand Prix3,700,000
10 June 2007Canadian Grand Prix4,690,000
17 June 2007United States Grand Prix5,310,000
01 July 2007French Grand Prix3,410,000
08 July 2007British Grand Prix3,850,000
22 July 2007European Grand Prix3,530,000
05 August 2007Hungarian Grand Prix3,370,000
26 August 2007Turkish Grand Prix*(<3m)
09 September 2007Italian Grand Prix*(<2.91m)
16 September 2007Belgian Grand Prix*(<3.31m)
30 September 2007Japanese Grand Prix*(<3.45m)
07 October 2007Chinese Grand Prix*(<3.09m)
21 October 2007Brazilian 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 2008Australian Grand Prix**3,900,000
23 March 2008Malaysian Grand Prix*(<2.81m)
06 April 2008Bahrain Grand Prix3,580,000
27 April 2008Spanish Grand Prix3,510,000
11 May 2008Turkish Grand Prix*(<2.9m)
25 May 2008Monaco Grand Prix3,980,000
08 June 2008Canadian Grand Prix3,990,000

**’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?

Author information

Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

Got a potential story, tip or enquiry? Find out more about RaceFans and contact us here.

16 comments on “ITV F1 TV ratings grow slowly”

  1. Do you have the 2006 figures? It would be more interesting to compare how much effect Hamilton’s arrival had on viewing figures.

  2. You can find them via that link – but if a lot of them are outside the top 30s then there might not be much useful data.

  3. The 2006 races that made the top 30 for their respective weeks were:

    US Grand Prix (3.50m viewers)
    Brazilian Grand Prix (5.09m viewers)

    And no others. The trouble is that there are three confunding factors.

    At the end of 2006, Michael Schumacher retired. As exciting as many motorsport devotees found him, many casual viewers associated his name with monotonous victories. Casual viewers don’t tune into a race when they think they can predict the result.

    Secondly, a British rookie’s arrival sparked a considerable benefit to F1’s advertising in the UK. Not so much from ITV (whose out-of-program advertising for F1 remains pretty flat) but from the TV magazines who decided that a new British driver was enough excuse to write something in their pages. Of course, the moment Hamilton looked remotely successful, this continued, especially since it proved that Michael Schumacher no longer won every race (trust me, some potential casual viewers were a bit slow to discover this!)

    Finally, 2007 did not have a major football tournament. While football tournaments don’t have a direct effect on F1 (except for the occasional clash between a match and a race) but it raises the average audience required for the summer races. And it’s the summer races that are mostly in the top 30 – in fact, they get there despite their early afternoon slot not being particularly favourable.

  4. Thanks for that analysis Alianora and looking up the rest of the data. There’s not much I can add to that except to say there are loads of factors that can influence the audiences of individual Grands Prix as well – hot weather in Britain for example!

  5. Did Canada have some unusual competition this year? It was in the same slot as last year and lost quite a percentage of its viewing figures…

  6. Kris – off the top of my head I think a combination of Hamilton going out early and a Euro 2008 match in the afternoon might be the cause.

  7. not wanting to be picky, but are you sure ITV let the contract lapse? even your own post that you link to states “ITV’s existing F1 deal has been cut short”.

    they didn’t chose anything, the contract was ripped from their sweaty palms.

  8. Fair point that’s sloppy writing. Fixed, ta.

  9. no probs, i wouldn’t want itv getting more credit than they deserve :)

  10. Well ITV didn’t exactly fight back. I think they wanted to focus on football more.

  11. Its good to see that the viewing figures have risen, I always enjoyed Martin Brundle’s assessment of the proceedings and his overall knowledge.
    Speaking about F1 as a whole, outside of Great Britain, getting these races to the general tv audience worldwide is extremely difficult. A race that may be at a prime time slot in England is going to be in the middle of the night somewhere else, it is impossible to please everybody.
    For the Chinese GP last year I stayed up all night, I was afraid that if I fell asleep too early I would miss the whole race. Following F1 takes alot of dedication.
    Following Indycar is relatively easy as most races are within the United States and fall nicely within the three time zones.
    I hope the BBC do a good job broadcasting Formula One next year, I remember it well in the 1980’s and I’ve been a big Fleetwood Mac fan ever since.

  12. I think we have an answer here about why the Bitish Grand Prix is moving next year. The BBC would not want the Grand Prix and the Mens Final of Wimbledon on at the same time.

    Do they have that kind of power? My guess is that they do.

  13. Alex – I don’t know how popular Wimbledon is outside Britain (though I’m guessing it’s big in Spain and Switzerland). I suspect the BBC wouldn’t have much leverage on calendar timings.

  14. Christopher Wait
    3rd July 2008, 10:10

    Just going to throw this one into the mix…i also follow the three moto gp motorcycle race series which i normally watch on eurosport. In a break from tradition i watched the BBC coverage for Donnington park. It was aweful. I don’t know if the BBC see moto gp as low profile, but the female presenter displayed little interest or knowledge on the event she was presenting. I hope they make a better programme of the F1 next year. I am looking forward to no adverts.

  15. The first years of ITV coverage of F1 were pretty horrible, and they have only slowly improved as the time has gone on – but not apparently as a result of pressure from their viewers, and I think that the viewing figures are high at the moment only because of Hamilton – I’d like to know what the viewing figures have been for their BTCC and GP2 coverage over the last couple of years, since they have done little to improve their presentation of these sports (if any!)
    The last time the BBC covered F1 they were allowed to have their own cameras as well as use FOM footage – I wonder if they would do the same again? (I don’t just mean for interviews). It will be good to see a race without adverts, and they normally chose good commentators, although the front presenter just needs to look better than Steve Rider!

  16. Well I was introduced to F1 because of Lewis Hamilton and know ive become a die hard mclaren fan, its got to the point that im so addicted im watching races from the 80’s on youtube and even if mclaren no longer built a winning car I think id still have to watch for the joy of racing.

Comments are closed.