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UK F1 viewing figures drop by 5.1m in 2016


Despite a record number of races, British F1 viewing figures in 2016 hit a 12-year low.

The shock decline is revealed F1’s Global Media Report, which states: "there are several factors to take into account, one being the change in broadcaster the other potentially being the dip in fortune of Lewis Hamilton.”

While the fall in Britain might largely be accounted for by Hamilton's "dip in fortune" - which is something we'll come back to, does this account for the global fall of around 10m viewers?

According to the report, the drop to 390m marked the sixth successive year that F1 viewing numbers have declined, with the sport having shed around 137m viewers since 2010.

While there was a "dip in fortune" for Hamilton, the Briton fought back, turning a 43 point deficit into a lead and subsequently taking the title fight all the way down to the wire.

Therefore, is Hamilton's "dip in fortune" to blame or could it be others factors, such as the continued dominance by one team and the increasing move to Pay TV.

In Britain, as in Germany and Italy, coverage is split between Pay TV and Free to Air, but while Pay viewers get live coverage of all events (and practice sessions), in the UK, Free to Air provider Channel 4 only has the rights to 10 live events.

From 2019, in a deal thought to be worth $150m annually, Sky will become the sole broadcaster of F1 in the UK.

Bear in mind, the teams share 60 per cent of the sport's profits as prize money… so don’t expect any pressure from Toto or Christian to keep F1 on Free to Air "for the fans".

The sport's new owners are aware they have to reverse the decline, and while Super Bowl style events might work for the locals, the sport must win back its TV viewers.

However, Liberty Media - the clue is in the name - has already admitted that it wants to sign more Pay TV deals, insisting that a more exciting, less predictable sport will entice the viewers... and their money.

“I think there is uniformity about many of the actions that it will take to do that," admitted, Liberty’s chief executive Greg Maffei, according to The Independent. "Whether we can execute on those and how long it will take, that is still open.”

"One of the things we need to do is make the races more compelling, exciting and more beneficial to promoters," he continued. "Take best practices which worked in exciting races like Mexico City, like Singapore, like Abu Dhabi and bring them across the globe to traditional tracks, which may not have had as much financing but also just don’t have as exciting a product at the moment.”

Fact is, as we have seen with DRS, which Liberty's sporting boss Ross Brawn is keen to get rid of, you cannot "make more compelling and exciting", you cannot manufacture it.

Also, the races, like the countries they are hosted in and circuits they take part on, are all different, what works in Singapore will not work in Belgium.

One man's Super Bowl is not another man's FA Cup, rather an over-hyped, celebrity-festooned, over-commercialised nonsense passing itself as sport, where the half-time entertainer grabs more headlines than anything that happens on the field.

Note: A viewer, for F1 purposes, is someone who watches at least 15 mins of non-consecutive viewing. Consequently, if you watch 1 min of 15 races or 15 mins of one race you count as a viewer... but so is someone who watches every minute of every session!


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1. Posted by cricketpo, 19/03/2017 18:10

"It is irritating to see your favourite sports disappear on to pay TV and a contrite "its the way of the world" statement doesn't help. But the plain matter of fact is that free to air stations dont appear to have the spending power of pay TV. Our only way of fighting back is to turn off. This is detrimental to the sports we love and so we are held over a barrel.
For the UK Sky has by and large had a positive effect because of the money that has been pumped into each sport however there have been some unwanted side effects. In terms of football all the TV money has concentrated into the Premier league and little of it filters into the lower leagues because the premiership tends to buy in from abroad. Add lack of english players and managers and the national team may also have suffered. So whilst F1 may benefit it may well be at the expense of lower formulas and grass roots motor racing if there is such a thing.

You pays your money and you takes your choice "

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2. Posted by Willkast, 06/03/2017 17:07

"I think the decline of viewers maybe because of the predictability of the race.
Lewis Hamilton or Nico Rosberg.

Hopefully this season will see a mix up of different winners"

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3. Posted by McMacca, 06/03/2017 15:27

"These comments actually expain the issue perfectly.

I like skys coverage because its indepth and complete, othres want to watch a race / qualiy only for the excitment, some like the noise (although I bet none have the abilty to recreate it on their t's so who cares really...?) others dont see the current cars as cutting edge however the current engine is amazingly efficient.

I love both the racing and the tecnical side, fan cars, 6 wheelers, F duct, all that crazy stuff, and this is where one size does not fit all.

And for those that riddicule Sky look at the money it pumps into english football, why are we afraid of that effect on F1, even if we only see 5% of the football money, wouldnt that be good?

I will pay, but when the package is right, i dont want Skys football, cricket and all the other junk, just F1 (GP2 and 3 if the come with it?) and I dont mind who supplies the feed as long as its good."

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4. Posted by Motorsport-fan, 06/03/2017 9:27

"I think I can sum up the declining viewing figures here, I have been watching and following Formula One as a "fan" for best part of 45 years, but for the first time have taken the BT subscription for Moto GP over Sky F1, a shame to say it, but it came down to what I would pay to watch, sorry Liberty Media. "

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5. Posted by Spindoctor, 06/03/2017 8:59

"Like many others I have no intention at all of paying Murdoch\Sky to watch F1.
I have threatened to stop watching several times over the last decade or so, as Bernie's (nearly) dead hand has taken an ever tighter strangle-hold on F1. This time its real.

I would be prepared to pay Liberty directly for a good-quality Internet feed: minimum 1080p, intelligent commentary, no adverts. I'm not bothered about all the "extras" that are currently de rigeur, though some decent technical analysis would be good!
This would naturally be predicated on the "Sport" being worth watching which seems less-likely with each iteration of the current Formula.

The "noise". Of course I love the sound of Vee engines running up to 20+k RPM, but it's hardly a deal-breaker. If that's what floats your boat IndyCars (to name but one) offers lots of noise & fury.

The reason 'casual' fans are leaving and old fogeys like me harrumphing, is the banal predictability of it all. Whoever has the best car at the 1st race is pretty certain to win the Championship simply because once raced, the whole car & PU is subject to only minor in-season development & testing.
Until recently Formula 1 cars were about the bleeding-edge of technology & performance and consequently expensive, and frequently unreliable. In-season development of chassis and engines wasn't prevented by stupid "cost-saving" rules. That's where the uncertainty and excitement crept in, even during periods of dominance by a particular team.
Bring-back that uncertainty and the racing will improve, and hopefully audiences will rise again"

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6. Posted by EAKLE_510, 06/03/2017 5:01

"Guess what was introduced 6 years ago? DRS (2011).
I believe the introduction of the DRS combined with the low revving lawnmower engines introduced in 2014 has made the sport less exciting. At that same time, PPV is monopolizing and charging heaps of money in cable each month to watch a sport 1-2x per month if it's not the off season. Who wants to pay top dollar for a sport that's declining in excitement? "

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7. Posted by Jeremysmith, 05/03/2017 23:45

"This has nothing to do with Lewis Hamilton's form.. it has to do with "so" called fans wanting to watch for free..."

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8. Posted by Renyk, 05/03/2017 20:09

"Well, says a lot about F1's chances of success on pay TV if you lot won't be watching. You lot are die hard fans after all.

My view is that a share of $150m will not look so enticing with no-one watching, no sponsors interested and empty stands. When sports think about money over fans you may as well stop watching."

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9. Posted by F One, 05/03/2017 19:56

"They want even more pay tv eh? F1 is dead as a dodo."

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10. Posted by kdxrider, 05/03/2017 19:06

"Reading the comments below, I see people are just coming around to what I've been saying from the get-go. It's nothing to do with the racing, F1 has always had minimal overtaking, even way back in the 60's the best team was always leading and on my trips to Silverstone I can't actually remember seeing any multiple passing. Only if someone made a mistake did any of the others make up a place or two.

I've always said it's having to pay 'twice' to watch anything. Over here in Canada we had all the major motor sports on regular TV, F1, MotoGP, WSBK, but then payTV came along. First WSBK dropped off regular TV, then MotoGP and now it seems it won't be long before F1 ends up being just payTV. Well, I already pay for my internet connection and for my satellite connection, I'm not going to pay anything else and if it all ends up on payTV, it's bye-bye from me too."

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11. Posted by Ro, 05/03/2017 17:20

"I agree with "yakker". Mini 7 Racing is just brilliant! Its a brick with 4 wheels where its the nut behind the steering wheel that counts. Go to Minispares website and buy a lottery ticket to drive your mini as a parade car for Mini7's amd Miglias...Ive done Brands Hatchg GP Circuit in my "S" and it was mega. Another comment was "My kits arent interested in F1" thats the problem, the younger generation just has no idea what is happening during a race, they want overtaking and most of all "NOISE""

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12. Posted by delbort, 05/03/2017 17:11

"Who wants to pay to watch the 2 Mercs run away in the distance and you know who is going to qualify first and second and win the race before the weekend racing starts. Its nothing to do with Hamilton not winning its about racing the only races worth watching is when the Mercs take each other out. The cars are to technical the engines sound is like lawn mowers bring back real engines. I know i will not be paying to watch if it stays the same as the last few years"

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13. Posted by jackois, 05/03/2017 16:02

"There's a couple of things in play here...

Firstly, forget Hamilton's 'dip' in form. Whilst we all have our favourite drivers and teams, most of my friends and myself don't go on the 'he's British, he's ours' kick.

The declining viewing figures come from a lack of exciting racing and Sky having the rights.

I agree that on an F1 weekend, their coverage is second to none. All the practices, lots of interesting factual slots, GP2 & GP3 and historic races make for an unrivaled coverage.
Ordinary people, however, have more than one interest and it's a long time since I've wanted to spend Friday, Saturday and Sunday watching F1. For one thing, practice tends to be very boring with even the shoot-out 3 part qualifying having to be tweaked to get all the remaining cars out on track for qualifying 3. When you get to the point where it depends on who can use the tyres best over 3 days, there's something wrong.

We've had periods where other teams dominated, yet the racing was exciting and qualifying mesmeric, qualifying tyres and all.

F1 needs to beware Sky only. Like football, too many games leads to lower viewing figures and once F1 isn't free to view, even just on a highlights package, people will find other motorsport to watch."

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14. Posted by yakker, 05/03/2017 15:44

"And , in that one phrase, "at that age" I suppose I sum up why the "modern" F1 is no longer aimed at me :)"

And me, the problem is my children have no interest in F1, they find it too boring. So as I will not pay to watch F1 where are all the new fans to replace us oldies going to come from? It is not my children don't like motorsport, they will come with me to watch Mini 7s and the like, where you see plenty of overtaking."

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15. Posted by alfsboy, 05/03/2017 15:26

"I wont pay a single to penny to Murdoch so its goodbye from me ."

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