F1 reports rise in TV, digital audiences

LONDON • Formula One saw a rise in worldwide audience figures across TV and digital platforms last year, the Liberty Media-owned motor sport reported on Friday.

It said Brazil, China and the United States represented the top three markets in TV reach, largely a consequence of new or revised broadcast deals in those countries.

The global cumulative TV audience was put at 1.758 billion, of which 1.59 billion were in the top-20 markets - a rise of 3 per cent compared to 2017 and the second consecutive year of growth.

The number of "unique viewers", now defined by the industry standard of those who watched at least three consecutive minutes, rose 10 per cent to 490.2 million.

"In today's world, just having a flat TV number is a strong performance," the sport's global research director Matt Roberts told Reuters.

"We're really pleased that we've seen growth for the second year in a row after many years of decline for the longer-term trend."

The showcase Monaco Grand Prix in May returned the highest cumulative audience of the season, showing a rise of 10 per cent year-on-year with 110 million viewers.

Bahrain, France, Austria, Britain, Italy and Mexico also had more than 90 million viewers.

France returned to the calendar last season after a 10-year absence, with the race at Le Castellet's Paul Ricard circuit broadcast free-to-air on the TF1 channel.

The audience growth in China, a key strategic target, reflected the sport returning to state network CCTV.

"China is now the second-largest market and the US the third largest. They weren't even in the top five before," F1's commercial managing director Sean Bratches told Reuters. "We have a long-term vision, we're focusing on it and I think the numbers are reflective of where we are going."

Followers across the F1's own social media platforms also showed a 53.7 per cent rise last year. Previous commercial supremo Bernie Ecclestone demonstrated little interest in using social media to attract a younger demographic.

Liberty, who took control at the start of 2017, has given the 10 teams more freedom to post videos and launched a TV subscription streaming service last year.

F1 added that its fan base had grown by three million to 506 million, with 205 million under the age of 35 and almost two-thirds were 45 or younger.

Of the new fans acquired in the last two years, 61 per cent were under 35 and 36 per cent under 25, according to market research company Ipsos.

The average viewer age of 40 was also in line with other major global sports and leagues.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on January 20, 2019, with the headline 'F1 reports rise in TV, digital audiences'. Print Edition | Subscribe