With the world championship battle settled, Formula 1’s season finale figured to be a tougher sell with TV audiences. Sure enough, last Sunday’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix averaged an 0.30 rating and 473,000 household viewers on ESPN2, down 4 percent from this race last year on ESPN2 last year (3.2/494,000) although still up 6 percent from 445,000 viewers for the race on NBCSN in 2017.
The slight drop represented only the fourth race this year that wasn’t up year-on-year. In a record-setting season for its F1 television viewership, ESPN networks averaged more than 20 percent in audience gains and set seven event viewership records, according to ESPN.
Over the 21-event season, live race telecasts averaged 671,000 viewers, an increase of 21 percent over the average of 554,000 on ESPN networks last year and up 25 percent from the 538,000 average on NBC networks in 2017.
Seventeen of the 21 races saw year-over-year viewership increases and seven races earned U.S. viewership records. In addition, the young adult demographic (persons ages 18-34) was up 75 percent over 2018 and 89 percent over 2017.
“This was a fantastic season for Formula 1 on our networks,” said Burke Magnus, ESPN executive vice president, programming and scheduling. “The viewership increases and event records demonstrate that the core F1 fans in the United States are tuning in and new viewers are watching as well.
“We look forward to helping Formula 1 celebrate its 70th anniversary in 2020.”
ESPN and Formula 1 recently announced a new, three-year deal to keep F1 races on ESPN, ESPN2 and ABC through the 2022 season. As an additional element of the new deal, ESPN Deportes will serve as the exclusive Spanish-language home for all Formula 1 races in the U.S. starting in 2020.