UK F1 audience declines after exclusive deal with Sky
Motor racing’s Formula 1 suffered a significant drop in its television audience in the UK for the 2019 season after pay-TV giant Sky secured exclusive rights.
According to the Broadcasters’ Audience Research Board, the UK’s official source of television viewing figures, Formula 1 lost 8.6 million viewers compared to 2018.
This has been attributed to the comprehensive rights deal signed with Sky, which came into effect this year and runs to 2024.
The agreement was signed in 2016 for the broadcaster to become the exclusive home of the sport in the UK and Ireland.
Under the deal, the British Grand Prix is the only round to be offered live on a free-to-air basis through commercial broadcaster Channel 4.
At the end of 2015, Channel 4 had picked up the free-to-air rights to Formula 1 after the BBC, the public service broadcaster, negotiated an early termination of its agreement amid swingeing cost cuts.
In a three-year deal, Channel 4 offered live coverage of 10 of the 21 rounds until the end of the 2018 season.
The broadcaster retains delayed highlights of all races but BARB’s figures showed that it attracted 34.7 million viewers last season, a 10.8 million decrease from the previous year.
In 2018, Formula 1’s global research director Matt Roberts had predicted a rise in Channel 4’s audience for 2019 after working with the broadcaster to move its highlights offering to a ‘prime time’ slot.
Channel 4’s decline was offset by an increase in Sky’s audience of 2.2 million viewers to 20.1 million for the season. However, the total number of UK viewers was still down by 13.6 per cent to 54.8 million.
The race at the Hockenheim circuit also had the third-highest audience on Sky, but the German race will not be part of the Formula 1 calendar in 2020 as it was unable to pay the $20-million hosting fee moving forward.
The Bahrain Grand Prix was the most-viewed race on Sky with an audience of 1.4 million.
The 2020 Formula 1 season will begin in March and feature a new race in Vietnam, as well as a return to the Netherlands.
Meanwhile, Alfa Romeo Racing has announced PKN Orlen, the Polish oil company, as the team’s official co-title sponsor from the start of the 2020 season.
Under a multi-year agreement, the team will compete as Alfa Romeo Racing Orlen.
The company’s branding will feature on the team’s cars and on all trackside assets, with a “programme of fan engagement” to be a key element of the partnership.
The Alfa Romeo name returned to Formula 1 last season for the first time since 1985 as Sauber was rebranded as Alfa Romeo Racing.
Under the new partnership, Polish driver Robert Kubica will return to the team with which he made his Formula 1 debut in a reserve driver role.
In July, Infront, the international sports marketing agency owned by China’s Wanda Group, signed a marketing partnership with Alfa Romeo Racing representing its first move into Formula 1.