Just 2 million watch Channel 4 Monaco highlights


The latest figures from Broadcasters' Audience Research Board (BARB), the highly respected independent source for TV ratings in Britain, and the official estimate British networks use to sell advertising spots, reveal that just 2 million viewers tuned in to Channel 4's Monaco Grand Prix highlights show.

The figure confirms a trend which over the last 11 years has seen the sport's global TV audience fall by 18.3% to 490 million viewers as F1 increasingly moves to pay-per-view and streaming.

The Monaco highlights show was broadcast three hours after the race, and with the result widely known by that time it comes as little surprise that viewing figures were down 19.7% on 2018, when figures were up 7.7% on 2017.

The Monaco show was the fourth most-watched show on Channel 4 that week, beaten by 24 Hours in A&E, Bake Off: The Professionals and Gogglebox. Had the show retained its 2018 audience it would have been the second most watched programme, though still down on the peak of 3.6 million viewers in 2015 when it was broadcast on the BBC.

In addition to the 2 million watching on their TV sets, a further 32,639 people streamed Channel 4's Monaco coverage, with 20,045 of those using PCs or laptops, 7,290 using tablets and 5,304 watching on smartphones.

F1's own official streaming service, F1.TV, isn't currently available in the UK, though this is probably good news as the already troubled service suffered another meltdown over the Canadian Grand Prix weekend which will see fans offered rebates for the third time since the service was launched last year.

Because F1.TV isn't currently available in the UK, Channel 4 and Sky have their own streaming services, and while the former is free, only showing the delayed highlights, the latter is only available to subscribers.

According to Forbes, over the first six races of the season, each Channel 4 broadcast had an average of just 18,959 viewers on PCs/laptops, 5,731 on tablets and only 3,903 on smartphones.

According to BARB, those first six highlights shows on Channel 4 were watched by 10.1 million viewers which is 4.8 million fewer than in 2018, the figures calculated cumulatively, which is one of the systems used by F1 and involves counting each viewer of each race separately even if they are the same person.

However, contrary to F1's predictions, Sky is not picking up all of these lost viewers.

Live coverage of this year's Monaco race was aired on the Sky Sports F1 and Sky Sports Main Event channels however, the data for the latter hasn't been lodged with BARB. In 2018, 117,000 people watched the race on Sky Sports Main Event but the vast majority used Sky Sports F1 which had 607,000 viewers.

If we take the 2,510,000 viewers for Channel 4 in 2018, add them to the 607,000 on Sky Sports F1 and 117,000 on Sky Sports Main Event, in total there were 3,234,000 viewers.

Sky Sports F1 figures were up 39.4% this year to 845,900, but even if the Sky Sports Main Event audience also rose by that amount (39.4%), combined with the Channel 4 audience it would give a total of 3,025, 198, down by 208,802 viewers on 2018.

"It concerns us in a pretty material way, not just for Britain but around the world," admitted F1 commercial boss Sean Bratches in a recent interview with Jonathan McEvoy. "Our ideal circumstance would be to have 75 per cent of our Grands Prix on free-to-air.

Asked specifically about the Sky contract, he said that it "is an agreement that was done prior to our arrival. The pay element is very exciting revenue-wise but from a reach standpoint it is sub-optimal".

However, though that might well be the case, the fact is that from the day Liberty Media - the clue is in the name - bought the sport it was making clear that pay-per-view was the way forward, with chief executive, Greg Maffei, telling shareholders, before they'd even given the all-clear to the purchase of F1, that he had identified "an opportunity to grow that broadcast stream. Much of it comes from moving potentially free-to-air to competitive pay services."

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Published: 12/06/2019
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