Formula 1 viewing figures down in 2012 despite thrilling season

18 February, 2013

Formula 1 on TV

Despite a thrilling season of racing with the title decision going down to the wire, a significant drop in Chinese viewers pushed down Formula 1′ global television audience last year, according to figures compiled by the sport’s commercial rights holder.

F1 fans in China

F1 fans in China

“The majority of our established markets brought larger audiences throughout 2012 than they delivered in 2011,” Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone said in a foreword to the 2012 global broadcast report.

“A small handful of territories didn’t meet expectations in terms of reach, with the Chinese market suffering a decrease which could not be absorbed by a significant number of increases elsewhere,” added the 82-year-old.

“Overall, the audience remains at well over half a billion viewers globally.”

The Chinese audience is one of the youngest, with more than 10 percent of all viewers under the age of 16 and a quarter under 25.

However, the report said scheduling clashes with other events, particularly in the latter part of the year, made a “significant dent” in both audiences and the level of coverage offered.

A total of 229 hours was broadcast in 2012 in China, compared to 322 in 2011, which led to the overall reach dropping to 48.89 million viewers – about four percent of the Chinese population – from a previous 74.5 million.

FOM Cameraman. Formula One World Championship, Rd 4, Spanish Grand Prix, Practice Day, Barcelona, Spain, Friday 11 May 2007. DIGITAL IMAGE

FOM cameraman

The report said that while Formula One lagged sports such as NBA basketball, which have become ‘ingrained’ in Chinese sports culture, it remained comparable with the majority of European sports despite the decreased audience.

The 2012 report did not give a precise figure for the global audience, which was 515 million in 2011. Television coverage of the sport was aired in 185 territories with 110 broadcast partners.

Brazil was the sport’s largest market by both reach and average audience with 85.55 million people in total tuning in to watch the record 20 races.

The 2012 figures represented an increase of almost 10 percent on 2011 in Brazil, which hosted the season-ending and title-deciding race.

Spain and Italy also showed improved figures, reflecting Fernando Alonso’s title challenge with Ferrari, as did France but they fell in Britain where coverage was shared for the first time by free-to-air BBC and subscription only Sky.

Reach in Britain over the season fell from 32 to 28.58 million but the country had the most coverage with Sky broadcasting all sessions live.

Fans. Formula One World Championship, Rd 17, Indian Grand Prix, Buddh International Circuit, Greater Noida, New Delhi, India, Race, Sunday 30 October 2011.

Fans at the Indian GP

Audiences fell slightly in Russia, which will have a race for the first time next year in Winter Olympic host city Sochi, and the United States which returned to the calendar in 2012 with a new race in Austin but still without a U.S. driver.

Russia’s sole F1 driver Vitaly Petrov was in an uncompetitive Caterham last year and has now lost his seat altogether. Total reach was 13.78 million, down from more than 15 million the previous year.

“A reach of 10 million U.S. viewers is short of the target set for this season,” said the report. “That said, it remains a solid foundation to build upon in the coming seasons.”

Figures also dipped in Germany, reflecting Sebastian Vettel’s slow start to the season before he picked up pace and seized a third successive title with Red Bull, and Japan. (Reuters)


  • Falling farther in 2013

    Get ready for the number to plumet even farther in 2013. I now in America I will not be watching as only a few races will be broadcast then it is all pay per view and I refuse to watch F1 on pay per view.

    Oh well greedy Bernie has just about ruined F1 anyway so who really cares anymore.

  • Apex Assassin

    Perhaps it’s that F1 has become a farce of a racing series. It’s nearly gp2 just with more drama.

    Pirelli, DRS, KERS, static engine regs, all killing the sport faster than spending.

    F1 should have been kept as a purist sport rather than this sad attempt at justifying road car technology. Also, when i watch racing, I don’t give two shits about the enviroment or “green technologies” and I consider the new hybrid NSX an abomination to the NSX badge and true sports cars everywhere.

  • Apex Assassin

    @ falling farther:

    its not ppv in the usa. it’s the same as it was, part of your standard cable/satellite tv package. in fact i read there will be even more coverage (FP1 & FP3) than in previous years.

    and if you can find f1 news online, you can certainly find live feeds and free downloads with a simple search. ;)

  • Bec

    A loss of 14,522,000 in the UK alone, due to 50% of the races being hidden away behind a pay wall.

    And now Italy and France have gone down the same road.

    Expect a further loss of viewers.

  • stewy33

    Bec beating me to the punch again. Thank you Sky network…NOT

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