Are F1 audiences switching off?

Formula 1’s global TV audience fell to 450 million in 2013 – a drop of 50 million viewers – it has been confirmed in a review of last year’s broadcasting numbers published by Formula One Management.

F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone – whose FOM concern derives income from the broadcasters buying the rights to air the Grands Prix – has blamed the drop in viewership on two factors: Sebastian Vettel’s dominance in the latter half of the season and switches to pay-TV broadcasting in a number of key markets.

By far the biggest dip came in the Chinese market, where 30 million viewers were lost following a switch from the state-run CCTV network to a consortium of thirteen regional partners, while French viewership fell by nearly 6 million (down to 10.2 million pairs of eyeballs) when its broadcasting moved to the subscription service on Canal+.

“The less-than-competitive nature of the final few rounds, culminating in the championship being decided ahead of the races in the USA and Brazil, events which often bring substantial audiences, had a predictable impact on reach,” Ecclestone said.

““The overall effect was exaggerated further still when you consider the calendar was one race shorter in 2013.”

A viewership factor that FOM cannot measure, however, is the number of fans who have switched to web streaming to dodge the paywalls in their local markets, or to gain access to networks offering far better coverage than what they may enjoy from their local broadcasters.

That being said, several key markets also saw increases in viewer numbers. The biggest increase was witnessed in the United States, which saw a viewer jump (from 1.7 million to 11.4 million) following the off-season move to the NBC.

Other key markets in Britain and Italy – which both use a mix of pay-TV and free-to-air broadcasters – also showed moderate increases.

Nonetheless, Ecclestone remained positive about 2014’s projected viewing figures, citing the radical changes in regulations will draw more viewers back to the sport.

“One thing I am sure of is that this coming season will not only offer a heightened level of unpredictability, but renewed excitement and fierce competition,” he added.

Image via Getty

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Richard Bailey

Founder & Chief Editor at MotorsportM8
Hasn't missed a Grand Prix since 1989. Has a soft spot for Minardi. Tattooed with 35+ Grand Prix circuits.

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