390 million people watched Formula 1 on TV this year. That may sound like a lot, but at the start of the decade that number was more than 500 million people – and it’s been falling ever since.
In 2016 a further 10 million people switched off – and half of that number comes from the UK alone. According to a report in The Independent just 21.8 million viewers watched F1 across the whole of 2016, despite the record number of races. The number is likely to get worse in the future as well, as from 2019 the only way to watch F1 in the UK will be on Sky.
The move to Channel 4 from the BBC and Hamilton’s failure to win the championship are given as two of the main reasons for the drop in Britain last year, but it’s more likely that it’s a continued effect of the sports gradual global move to Pay TV over the last few years.
Global viewership of F1 hasn’t been this low in 12 years, back when Schumacher and Ferrari were so dominant that you wouldn’t have blamed Ross Brawn and Jean Todt for switching off from boredom.
Although Liberty Media are keen to improve the audience of F1 they’ve said that they think the sports move to Pay TV is still a good thing, because it generates revenue.
That’s all well and good but if no one is watching it, who’s going to pay for it then?