Formula 1’s cumulative television audience reached a seven-year high in 2019 after an increase of 9%, with a third consecutive year of growth taking the total reach to 1.922 billion.
The United States – where ESPN provides coverage – saw a modest 7% increase, but remains the fourth-biggest market in terms of unique viewers. The highest cumulative figure for the sport since the 2012 season was achieved despite a 3.9% decrease in unique viewers globally, and F1’s director of media rights Ian Holmes said a flat-line is a win given the evolving media landscape.
“It shows that engagement with F1 has increased significantly year on year,” Holmes said. “We have a similar size group of people watching more content and for longer than they did a year ago. This was of course helped by more compelling races and a more engaged fan base who have increased the amount of content that they are watching compared to 2018.
“We have found this with all F1 touchpoints. It’s no coincidence that 72% say that the sport has improved in the last two years. Helped by improved digital and social, F1 TV, the launch of esports and the success of Netflix series Drive to Survive, the average number of F1 touchpoints consumed per F1 fan has also increased year on year as F1 becomes a more multimedia organization – rather than just focusing on TV.”
The biggest increases in audience came in Poland and the Middle East – aided by Robert Kubica’s return to racing and a new broadcast deal with free-to-air channel MBC Action respectively – but Holmes said it is too simple to only focus on outright audience numbers compared to pay channels.
“It goes without saying that an FTA broadcaster is going to generate a larger audience than a pay TV channel,” he said.
“That said, it is a bit of an oversimplification. Firstly, there are always commercial elements to be considered but equally as important, is to look at who the viewers are, what the demographics are, and therefore who you’re addressing.
“Furthermore, pay TV often provides far more in depth coverage and I think it would be fair to say that in the likes of Sky (UK) and Canal+ (France) they have and continue to strive to improve the overall standard of F1 coverage, bringing to the fan far more than ever existed in the past – and they do a fantastic job.
“Then there are those people who are consuming F1 content on the different digital and social channels of our broadcast partners and our own F1 owned and operated platforms and channels.”
F1’s own media channels also saw significant increases in 2019, with a total number of followers across Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube hitting 24.9m – up 32.9% – meaning that it retains its position as the fastest-growing of all major sports leagues in the world on social media. The sport’s core digital platforms – the official website and the F1 app – surpassed 1bn page views for the first time, nearly doubling compared to 2018 to 1.124bn.