ESPN announced record U.S. television audiences for the first two races of the 2019 Formula 1 season in Australia and Bahrain.
The season-opening Australian Grand Prix was broadcast on ESPN, and despite starting at 1 a.m. ET start the race drew an audience of 659,000. That marked an increase of 277% on the year before, when 175,000 tuned in to watch the opening round on ESPN2. The race was broadcast on NBCSN in 2017 and was watched by 238,000.
The 659,000 figure is the largest U.S. television audience for the Australian Grand Prix on record.
That strong start was followed up with another record audience for the Bahrain Grand Prix last weekend. Bolstered by the more user-friendly 11 a.m. ET start time, an average of 711,000 watched the telecast on ESPN2, up 3% on the number that tuned in for the race on the same channel last year.
With the CNBC broadcast of the Bahrain GP in 2017 drawing an audience of 413,000 — after it was bounced from NBCSN to make room for Premiere League soccer — this year’s Bahrain race was again a new record for the event on U.S. television. The 2016 edition on NBCSN averaged 548,000 viewers.
Equally impressively, 340,000 also watched Saturday’s telecast of qualifying on ESPN2, a figure that was up 9% on last season.
For NASCAR it was more of a good news/bad news scenario this week. The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race from Texas scored a 2.25/3.7m on FOX Sunday afternoon, which while up significantly from last year’s 1.7 on FS1 (1.7/2.8m) represented a downward tick from the race’s last appearance on the FOX broadcast over-the-air network in 2017, when it scored a 2.5 rating.
The NASCAR Xfinity Series race on FS1 scored a 0.60 rating and averaged 928,000 viewers, down from a 0.95/1.5m on FOX last year.
The NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series race Friday night on FS1 scored a 0.29 and averaged 455,000 viewers.
It should be noted that last year the Texas NASCAR races ran a week later without competition from college basketball’s March Madness, although the Cup and Xfinity Series both faced competition from golf’s Masters instead.