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Channel 4 highlights viewer numbers continue to plummet

NEWS STORY
30/04/2019

News that viewer numbers for Channel 4's highlights coverage of the Bahrain Grand Prix showed a drop of 44% on 2018, is followed by the revelation that audience numbers for the subsequent Chinese Grand Prix were down a further 13.2%.

This year, courtesy of the deal Sky enjoys with F1, Channel 4 is reduced to just one live race as part of its free-to-air deal, the British Grand Prix, the remaining 20 events being shown in a highlights show several hours after the race has ended.

As previously reported, Britain is one of the few countries that makes accurate viewing figures available to the public, courtesy of the highly-respected Broadcasters’ Audience Research Board (BARB), whose data is the official guide when British networks are selling advertising spots.

Since it takes over a week for BARB to collate its data, the figures for the Chinese Grand Prix - the much-celebrated 1,000th race in the sport's history - only became available just before the Azerbaijan Grand Prix weekend.

BARB's figures state that 1,410,100 viewers watched the broadcast on their TVs, while 19,959 tuned in on a PC or laptop, 5,236 watched it on a tablet and 4,086 used a smartphone.

This gives a total of 1,439,381 which is a drop of 13.2% on the 1,658,137 who watched the Bahrain race and 30.1% down on viewer numbers for the 2018 event in Shanghai.

In an age when series like Game of Thrones are broadcast simultaneously globally, and others are released as box sets so that fans can binge, the days when fans tune into a highlights show hours after an event were already numbered.

Add in the fact that, courtesy of social media, the results and major incidents are widely available almost as they happen, and Channel 4 was always on a hiding to nothing, a situation not helped by Mercedes taking 1-2s in the first four races and openly calling on Ferrari to raise its game.

Another factor in terms of the Chinese Grand Prix is that while the Bahrain highlights show was at peak evening viewing time, the Shanghai highlights were shown in the middle of the afternoon... when it was up against Tiger Woods resurgence in The Masters.

Indeed, in terms of viewer numbers, Forbes reveals that the Chinese Grand Prix highlights show was beaten by the likes of Married at first sight, a show about legal marriage with a complete stranger, and Gogglebox.

In fact, this year's audience figures for the Shanghai race marked Channel 4's lowest for the event since the broadcaster began covering F1 in 2016. That same year, 1.8 million tuned in, with a peak of 2.1 million in 2018, dropping this year to 1.4 million.

All of which flies in the face of F1's global research director Matt Roberts claim in December that the free-to-air viewer numbers would increase.

“Channel 4 will have the highlights next year and we have worked with them to ensure they show the races in a favourable prime time slot,” he said. “We estimate that we will actually have more viewers next year in the UK (thanks to this prime time slot) than we had this year.”

With the much-hyped Azerbaijan Grand Prix not living up to expectations and Mercedes scoring another 1-2, it is certain that the fall in viewer numbers will continue, which will surely have a bearing when Channel 4 comes to deciding whether to continue with its contract with F1 which ends this year.

With the BBC and ITV having turned their backs on live coverage of F1, it is highly doubtful that either would be interested in a highlights package, especially when they view the numbers Channel 4 is pulling in.

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READERS COMMENTS

 

1. Posted by Editor, 30/04/2019 14:51 (moderated by an Adminstrator, 30/04/2019 17:05)

"Re Sky figures...

They are very, very, very difficult to obtain.

Basically they are "incomplete", but if Sky files full data, we'll report it.

Rest assured, Chris Sylt is on the case.

That said, if the figures were good, surely Sky would be crowing about it."

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2. Posted by raymondbaxter, 30/04/2019 12:41

"Now that only one F1 race is live on terrestrial TV I would expect some marginal viewers to stop watching the series completely. The previous more extensive coverage of live races by Channel 4 was enough to maintain viewers' interest enough for them to also watch the recorded races but now this does not happen. On weekends where F1 is on the same day as the BTCC racing on ITV4 I wonder if viewers are getting their fill of highly competitive live racing during the 7 hours of ITV4 coverage and then not bothering to watch the F1 recording later, which can be a bit soporific by comparison. Those of you who watched the last F4 race on ITV4 last Sunday (28th April) will be aware how these junior races put F1 to shame in terms of closeness of racing. I would agree with some other posts that it would be interesting to see the Sky viewing figures, but I think the BTCC viewing figures would indicate how the appetite of the viewing public as a whole for motor racing is evolving."

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3. Posted by Mad Matt, 30/04/2019 12:01 (moderated by an Adminstrator, 30/04/2019 17:05)

"I tried the F1TV coverage as I won't pay Sky the scandalous amount they are asking.

As far as I can see you can't watch a race from the beginning if it's currently running. You have to wait for it to finish and then start from the beginning.

It doesn't remember where you were up to if you go away or it crashes.

The quality is patchy, for a lot of the race the resolution was so poor I couldn't read the three letter names of the drivers at the side of the screen.

The problem clearly isn't on my side as I never get these problems with Netflix or other TV catchup services I use. The fact that they can't provide the basic functionality Netflix can is quite sad really. It's not that difficult!

Perhaps they should do a deal with Netflix to "publish" their content."

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4. Posted by jackois85, 30/04/2019 9:51

"I have the very basic Virgin package and mainly use it for the TivO recording facility, series link and so on. I also have freesat which, due to a falling out with C4 no longer is HD.

I use the series link to record the F1 highlights on channel 4 in HD and then fast forward through the nonsense before the actual race. Mostly, I already know the result and if there were any major incidents before hand. When F1 was free to view, I'd set an alarm and watch the early races from around the world. Now, F1 has steadily become more predictable each race weekend.

I think they should have a word with Netflix for the highlights package, as they are the first people in years to make F1 interesting and exciting. Like Ro and Motorsport-fan I'd be interested to see how many are using the sky package and watching the races live."

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5. Posted by Motorsport-fan, 30/04/2019 9:26 (moderated by an Adminstrator, 30/04/2019 17:05)

"The figures are starting to reflect the "hardcore" fans who will watch the highlights as not wanting to pay the Sky fee.
On the C4 show, I want to see the race highlights only, not the waffle that goes before it.
@Ro is right on the Sky figures, how many are actually watching them.
Will be interesting to see the Silverstone viewing figures for C4, the only live race."

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6. Posted by Renone, 30/04/2019 9:12

"A friend of mine recently remarked 'that for the amount of action in a race, YouTube F1 channel is the best way to watch'."

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7. Posted by Ro, 30/04/2019 8:37

"It would be more revealing to know what the viewing figures on SKY were at the same venues. It could be that people are not watching any F1 in its current guise."

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