Wednesday, 2 November 2011

BBC/Sky F1 Deal Viewing Figures

BBC F1 anchor man Jake Humphrey tweets today 7.2 million viewers tuned in to view the Indian Grand Prix. Jake tweets "In TV terms those figures are the size of Everest." The question is, under the terms of the BBC/SKY deal how many will be watching the Indian grand prix next year if it is just live on Sky Sports?

There is no way of knowing exactly but we can have an estimation using information from BARB. Broadcaster's Audience Research Board (BARB) is the organization responsible for providing the official measurement of UK television audiences.

Figures for latest quarter are:

BBC 1 audience reach is 83.7% per week or 98.9% per quarter

Sky Sports 1 audience reach is 10.7% per week or 23.4% per quarter

Under the quarter figures BBC 1 is 98.9% = 7.2 million so 23.4% audience reach on Sky Sports will work out as 1.7 million. A potential 5.5 million fans left high and dry.

Under the weekly figures BBC 1 is 83.7% = 7.2 million so 10.7% audience reach on Sky Sports will work out as 0.9 million. A potential 6.3 million fans left high and dry.

Zoom back to May this year when Bernie Ecclestone was interviewed and asked about Sky. Bernie: "Sky is doing an incredible job but if you look at their audience they are nowhere. With these figures it would be almost impossible for teams to find sponsors. That would be suicidal."

So a potential 5.5 million to 6.3 million loss of people to be advertised to in a single Sunday morning and you can see why Bernie said that would be suicidal form the team sponsorship position.

Norbert Haug questioned about the Sky deal at the Singapore grand prix "I think you need to see things right: it was BBC taking the decision if I'm informed correctly and I think it was a great job from Bernie, from Sky, from everybody else to step in and now we will see what the development will bring, but of course the initiative from the BBC. It was not the commercial rights holder selling non-free-to-air and I think that it is very important to keep that in mind. 

"I can understand the BBC's position but the basic plan was a different one. It's a good combination still. I think pay TV…this channel in England is completely different, for example, to Germany. I heard that they have ten million or whatever subscribers so basically you can have a lot of viewers. But I'm not qualified to judge that in detail, but I think it is important to realize how it all started."

"If I'm informed correctly, you can watch each and every Grand Prix free-to-air, this is still the case, and so maybe it's an addition, if it's played in the correct way. We have to wait and see but there was no alternative."

From reading what Norbert Haug says you wonder what the teams have been told to let this deal go through and Martin Whitmarsh below doesn't help them fears. As for the "no alternative" look at the free-to-air Channel 4 pitch document and check out Investigation into the legality of the Recent BBC/SKY F1 deal 

Just after the deal was announced and the teams had a meeting with Ecclestone, Martin Whitmarsh states: "Based on what I've heard there won't be a premium for watching Formula 1 on Sky" and on the highlights issue Whitmarsh says "From what Bernie has said it's better than expected, The BBC will show every grand prix in full, half of them live and half of them deferred, so free-to-air is available to everyone."

So full reruns on BBC and if you want to watch on SKY you won't have to pay a premium! The BBC have always stated it is going to be 75 minute highlights from when the deal was announced up to recently and the no premium for Sky doesn't even deserve to be answered.

What about the viewing for the 75 minute highlights, will that not add the lost 5-6 million viewers?
 Maybe for full reruns fans will avoid all social interaction, TV, internet, Facebook etc, in the time waiting for the show but for one hour of highlights without being able to follow timing information or anything even hardcore fans will struggle to be bothered. As for watching it knowing the result, yes like a couple of million are really going to want to do that!  (See 20 February update at bottom of article)

What about all the extra people joining Sky for the coverage?
 If only 33,000 fans follow the sport closely enough to know what has happened and bothered to sign the government petition it's unrealistic to assume a couple of million are going to suddenly show up looking to pay £40 a month(£50 for HD) for watching the races on Sky. 

Are all the people who haven't signed the petition in favour of the deal?
How many people do you know like paying to get something that was free before and also was much superior when free(Sky will have advertisements everywhere except during the race and it's only guaranteed to be off limits for one year.) The much more reasonable explanation is the vast majority of the millions watching on the BBC are not hard core fans which are not likely to want to pay anything and will just easily walk away.

For us many fans dismayed at the way we have been treated don't worry. All you need to do for Formula 1 next year is to get a satellite dish and point it at Astra 19.2°E to watch the German channel RTL and listen with 5 live commentary. Completely legal and completely free!

What equipment do I need to receive German RTL in the UK?
BARB viewing figures source

Update 02 December: With Sky's recent announcement, coverage of F1 is also available to customers with Sky HD. Does this make much difference to the article above?? With the latest(September) viewing figures from Sky's corporate releases we can work out Sky HD has a 6.8% audience reach with a high probability of most overlapping the 10.7% reach on Sky Sports 1. So to sum up it makes little difference to article above. Also this article is not meant to be against Sky in any shape or form, it was to show as openly as possible how the average UK fan will be left behind which will cost the teams in the long run.   

Update 20 February: Some more details on the new Sky F1 channel. Sky's own viewing estimation which was released in a sales proposal to advertisers about a month ago seems to show 1.42 million for exclusive races and 0.53 million for races shared with the BBC. My own figures above worked out through viewer reach information on BARB where between 0.9 and 1.7 million although that was based on the Indian GP viewing figures which were above average.

The one thing which has changed on the BBC side is the length of  the highlight programs originally said to be 75 minutes. They are now 90 minutes or 2 hours long depending on the race and also will be shown slightly earlier than before mentioned. The BBC has also helped to show it is still committed to F1 by strengthening its team with Ben Edwards and Gary Anderson. Given these developments by the BBC it would be a surprise if there wasn't respectable and maybe even good viewing figures for the highlight programs even though it is far from an ideal situation.

The details of Sky's own estimation of viewing figures and some information on the new channel are available at

Update on viewing figures:

BBC & Sky F1 Viewing Figures 2012

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