F1 maintains strong audience position
February 8, 2021
By Colin Mann
Formula 1 has released its annual audience figures, which show viewership trends comparing well to other sports that were affected by shutdowns caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
Despite the fact that the revised 2020 season had four fewer races than 2019, Formula 1 maintained a strong audience position with an average audience per Grand Prix in 2020 at 87.4 million. While this is marginally down at -4.5 per cent on 2019, the average per Grand Prix was 87 million in 2016, 2017 and 2018, 80 million in 2015 and 83 million in 2014 and therefore the 2020 performance was very much in line with the average for the past seven years despite the challenging circumstances.
The average audience figure for the 2020 season was largely driven by the fact the season took place in Europe and the Gulf which meant a number of regions did not host their own Grand Prix, race start times were not always suited to certain markets and the usual audience uplift seen for particular races did not occur.
However, there were strong results in a number of key markets with +43 per cent year-on-year (YoY) in China, +28 per cent YoY in the Netherlands, +10 per cent YoY in the UK, + 71 per cent YoY in Russia and +5 per cent YoY in Germany. The USA also saw a +1 per cent increase even with no local time zone events and no US Grand Prix which would have benefited from wider ABC audience exposure. Unique viewers for 2020 were 433 million (-8 per cent YoY), driven by fewer races as well as the reasons mentioned above.
The cumulative TV audience for 2020 was 1.5 billion compared to 1.9 billion in 2019 and this reduction is a result of the fact we had 17 races last season compared to 21 races in 2019. It does not reflect a drop off in audiences in general but is a result of fewer races and therefore fewer events to watch on TV.
The highest audience figure for a race in 2020 was 103.7 million for the Hungarian Grand Prix, +7 per cent higher than the same race in 2019, and there were strong figures for the new races that joined the revised calendar with 100.5 million for Portugal, 98.1 million for the Bahrain outer track and 89.1 million for Turkey.
In addition, Formula 1 has continued to improve its overall perception and satisfaction with fans. Out of 6,000 fans surveyed , 72 per cent think F1 has improved over past two years compared to 52 per cent in June 2019, 68 per cent believe F1 is in good hands under Liberty Media vs 56 per cent in 2019 and 71 per cent rate their satisfaction with being an F1 fan as 8 or higher vs 44 per cent in 2019.
Furthermore, fans believe Formula 1 handled itself very well during the global pandemic, with 90 per cent believing the safety measures put in place to allow races to go ahead have been handled well, 81 per cent believing F1 has communicated well with fans during the shutdown, 73 per cent believing F1 has handled the absence of fans at the races well and 88 per cent feeling positive about the calendar in 2020.
Formula 1 has made significant gains across digital, making F1 the second fastest growing major sports league on the planet across the four major social platforms. In 2020, followers (across Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, TikTok, Snapchat, Twitch and Chinese social platforms) were up 36 per cent to 35 million, video views up 47 per cent to 4.9 billion and total engagement up 99 per cent to 810 million.
Additionally, total video views across F1.com, the F1 app and social media were up +46 per cent vs 2019 to 4.9 billion, unique users on F1.com and the F1 app were up +26 per cent to 70.5 million and page views were up +13 per cent to 1.3 billion.
In China there was very strong digital growth with followers on Chinese platforms (Weibo, WeChat, Toutiao and Douyin) up +133 per cent to 1.9 million. The biggest drivers of the digital growth have been fuelled by a 20 per cent uplift in video uploads, new races during the revised 2020 calendar and also the excitement during the races that resulted in increases in traffic and activity during a race week.
Formula 1 also amassed 14 million podcast listens in 2020, with Beyond The Grid the most-listened-to motorsport podcast in the USA, UK, Australia and Canada, amongst other territories.
The results mean that Formula 1 is now strongly outperforming other major sports in the digital arena including La Liga, NBA, PGA tour and the Premier League. The digital share of total minutes (including broadcast and digital) has grown from 7 per cent in 2019 to 10 per cent in 2020.
The F1 Esports Series 2020 rounded off a very successful year as a record number of fans tuned into the action, achieving a total of 11.4 million live stream views across all digital platforms, representing a 98 per cent increase on 2019.
The nail-biting Grand Final also reached 1.7 million social media engagements, an all-time record for any F1 Esports Series event, culminating what had already been a hugely-successful campaign regarding social media interaction, as the Pro Series achieved 291 million total social media impressions, a 151 per cent increase on the 2019 season.
Additionally, the series recorded 23.8 million video views, up 29 per cent on 2019, which was aided by increased social media output for last year’s campaign.
“Last year was an unprecedented time for everyone and Formula 1 had to adapt to the challenges presented by the pandemic,” said Stefano Domenicali, President and CEO, Formula 1.
“We delivered 17 races, something many thought impossible earlier in the year. We did it safely and brought excitement and new races to our fans around the world. The audience figures for 2020 show the strength and resilience of our sport, with average audience figures in 2020 at 87.4 million and a total season cumulative audience of 1.5 billion.”
“We had strong growth figures in China, the UK, Netherlands, Germany, and the USA, combined with the huge boost in our digital figures. We saw only a marginal reduction in TV audiences, caused by multiple reasons but clearly driven but a shortened and limited geographical calendar compared to 2019, but something every major sport has experienced in 2020.”
“We are proud of what we delivered in 2020 and know we have an incredibly strong fan base and audience platform to grow in the coming years. We are delighted our fans feel a strong satisfaction with the sport, our season, and the way we responded to the global pandemic. We are looking forward to the start of the 2021 season after the winter break and we know our fans are as excited as we are to get racing.”