While 2020 was a cataclysmic year for many sports—and will mean that Formula 1 and its teams will have to survive on about the half the revenues when the financial results come out in a few weeks from now—Grand Prix racing nearly held the line in terms of TV viewers.
Worldwide TV viewership for Formula 1 racing dropped about 8% year over year in 2020, while U.S. viewership dipped about 10%.
The importance of butts in the seats remains vital for the sport, with around 38% of F1’s revenues coming from race fees. These were seriously impacted in 2020, but the viewing figures and fan engagement with the sport has been robust and that means that the TV revenues, sponsorship and advertising should not be greatly impacted in the immediate future.
Unknown is how any economic impact from the COVID-19 pandemic will affect sponsorship and advertising spends in the future.
However, the TV viewing numbers are a generally positive story with 433 million unique viewers in the course of 2020. Although this was down 8% compared to 2019, it must be noted that there were only 17 races, rather than 21 (a reduction of 23%) and there were losses of viewers as well because most of the races were in Europe which meant that the start times did not work in some other markets.
Several countries, including the United States, Canada and Mexico, lost races, which also likely impacted fan interest.
Despite this, the Chinese viewer numbers were up by the 43%, the Netherlands saw an increase of 28% and even the U.K., where the audience suffered a disastrous drop when the races were broadcast behind a pay-wall, the numbers rose by 10%. There is clearly room for more growth in all the European pay-TV markets, which have all fallen dramatically in recent years.
The cumulative audience for the year has been calculated to be 1.5 billion, down from 1.9 billion. Autoweek