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China leads drop in F1 viewing figures
Sunday 17th February 2013, 12:12 by TF1T Staff
© Toro Rosso, Getty Images
Formula One's audience dropped by some 13 million viewers during the 2012 season, according to the latest figures from the sport's annual broadcast report.
China led the decline with a drop of almost 35 per cent on its 2011 figure of 74.5 million viewers, down to 48.9 million. It's believed several key races clashed with local sporting events due to their later start times to meet European markets.
FOM CEO Bernie Ecclestone isn't too concerned by the drop and says it isn't all bad news as other markets saw significant increases.
"A small handful of territories didn't meet expectations in terms of reach," he said, "with the Chinese market suffering a decrease which could not be absorbed by a significant number of increases elsewhere."
Brazil, F1's largest audience, saw an increase of just under 9 per cent to 85.9 million viewers in 2012, helping to prop up the total worldwide audience of 502 million.
Spain and Italy also enjoyed a rise in viewers.
The figure is however markedly lower than 2008's 600 million viewers, which dropped to 520 million when Jenson Button secured his title. Despite a dominant year by Sebastian Vettel in 2010, the audience rose to 527 million, before dropping again to 515 million.
Other markets which saw drops include the US and Russia, whilst the UK dropped 3.8 million to 28.6 million, which is likely the result of a switch to pay-TV with Sky and the BBC sharing the broadcasting rights.
This is a move which is being adopted in other markets including Italy, France and Greece and is of concern to team bosses who rely on viewing figures to attract sponsors.
"We obviously present TV viewers figures to our sponsors, as the current F1 business model has developed thanks to Bernie's strategy to go free-to-air," said Lotus team principal Eric Boullier.
"We do monitor the new strategy to go to pay-TV. It may increase the fan profile and 'educated' audience but we may have to review our sponsorship figures if the tendency becomes global."