F1 TV audience drops in 2020, but online growth surges

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Formula 1 has revealed its TV audience numbers for 2020, with the sport suffering a slight drop in its average viewership numbers during last year's disrupted season.

Against a backdrop of uncertainty generated by the global coronavirus pandemic, Formula 1 succeeded in putting together a 17-race season in 2020, but race fans were restricted from attending events and thus enjoyed the action from the comfort of their homes.

Average viewership per race compared to 2019 declined by only 4.5 per cent to 87.4 million viewers, a decline largely linked to events taking place in Europe and in the Gulf, where race start times were not always suited to certain markets.

The cumulative TV audience for 2020 was 1.5bn compared to 1.9bn in 2019, a reduction that logically resulted from the fewer number of races that were held in 2020

China (+43% YoY), Russia (+71% YoY) and the Netherlands (+28% YoY) were key markets that enjoyed strong average growth during the COVID-19 impacted season.

Charles Leclerc (MON) Ferrari SF1000 leads Carlos Sainz Jr (ESP) McLaren MCL35.

F1 revealed that the most watched race of 2020 was the Hungarian Grand Prix which attracted 103.7 million viewers, a 7% increase over 2019.

New venues added to F1's calendar also performed strongly, with 100.5m viewers for Portugal, 98.1m for the Bahrain outer loop and 89.1m the Turkish GP.

In a statement, the Formula One Group stressed that F1's drop off was not as bad as other sports leagues or series which all suffered to retain audiences during the global pandemic.

"Last year was an unprecedented time for everyone and Formula 1 had to adapt to the challenges presented by the pandemic," commented F1 CEO, Stefano Domenicali said.

"We delivered 17 races, something many thought impossible earlier in the year.

"The audience figures for 2020 show the strength and resilience of our sport, with average audience figures in 2020 at 87.4m and a total season cumulative audience of 1.5bn."

Formula 1 enjoyed a very healthy year of growth on social media, increasing followers by 36 per cent and engagement by 99 per cent across the Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, TikTok and Instagram platforms.

Video views rose by 47 per cent to 4.9bn and the first-ever F1 Esports Series generated 11.4m live stream views across all digital platforms, a 98 per cent increase on 2019.

"We had strong growth figures in China, the UK, Netherlands, Germany, and the USA, combined with the huge boost in our digital figures," added Domenicali.

"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."

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