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European TV stats "encouraging"

NEWS STORY
24/04/2007

Bernie Ecclestone might want more and more Grands Prix in the east, where governments fall over themselves to meet his financial demands, but it is in Europe where his other precious market - TV viewers - continues to flourish.

Latest TV viewing figures for the five main European viewing nations - France, Spain, Germany, Italy and the UK - are extremely encouraging, according to Sportbusiness.

Although the first two races were broadcast at (Euro) unfriendly viewing times and the Bahrain Grand Prix took place during some unseasonably fine weather in northern Europe, F1 is pulling in the punters, despite the departure of Michael Schumacher.

In France, TF1 drew an average 2.5 million viewers for the third year in succession for the Malaysian Grand Prix, while the Bahrain event provided a 31 percent audience share. Year-on-year comparisons with the Australian Grand Prix are unreliable due to the fact that the event was held at a different time in 2006.

In Spain, Tele5 has shown increases for all three races so far this season, with the Bahrain event yielding the highest live audience to date with an average of 5.2 million viewers (4.2 million in- 2006). At its peak 6.7 million viewers were watching the race (5.6 million - 2006) which equates to an audience share of 57 percent.

Despite the absence of Michael Schumacher, in Germany the decline is not as bad as had been predicted, especially when one considers that 2006 was a strong year. RTL's coverage of the Malaysia race enjoyed the highest audience of all programmes that day, incredibly out-performing peak evening programmes. The fine weather on the Sunday of the Bahrain race however, meant that only 13 million watched the race compared to 20 million in 2006. Though this appears to be a massive drop, in terms of 'share' the decrease is minimal. Indeed, compared to 2006 the share for the first two races is down 10 percent, and the Bahrain event just 2 percent.

The Lewis Hamilton effect is already having an impact in the UK, where the audience for the Malaysia GP was up 27 percent on 2006. Once again, due to the fine weather, the numbers were slightly down for the Bahrain race, with the share just 8 percent up on 2006. That said, the highlights programme - shown late on Sunday night - attracted 1m viewers, compared with 400,000 in 2006.

Italy has witnessed a year-on-year increase, with each race this season attracting more viewers than its 2006 counterpart. For the Melbourne race, RAI enjoyed a share of 72 percent, while Malaysia attracted 5.8 million viewers (61 percent share). The Bahrain GP saw 11.1 million viewers tune in to see Felipe Massa take his first win of the season, a bigger audience than any race in 2006, bar the Brazilian Grand Prix, which was also won by Massa.

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