ESPN: Monaco TV ratings highest since 1995

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There are a few thoughts that come to mind when you read that since 2017, the combined ESPN/ABC telecast audience is up 40%. You also have to wonder what changed to make this weekend’s Monaco Grand Prix the largest viewed race on cable in more than two decades—since the 1995 Italian Grand Prix.

Numbers are a tricky thing and TV ratings numbers are even trickier. I am no expert on how the Nielsen Rating system works or how broadcasters use those numbers as a metric to determine ROI for their investment but if ESPN’s numbers are correct, you may have to wonder what was NBC Sports doing wrong?

There could many factors at work here in increasing the number of viewers including Formula 1’s efforts to press marketing and brand awareness much more since acquiring the sport last year. It could be that ESPN’s coverage is actually a re-broadcast of Sky Sports F1’s comprehensive coverage which adds more technical elements to its broadcast as well as a host of former drivers and broadcast professionals that bring a level of access that NBC simply did not have in the paddock. NBC’s Will Buxton and Jason Swales did a fantastic job but in comparison, Sky’s crew at each race is very large and they can cover a lot of ground that two people simply cannot do.

Perhaps fans have resonated with F1’s closer title battle as Ferrari have been somewhat resurgent in the past two seasons and fans could be intrigued to see if they can end the Mercedes-dominated series.

Monaco is known to be a difficult track to pass on and as such, usually produces more of a processional race than others on the calendar and yet the TV numbers were up? That’s curious. After all, the fallout from Monaco has a throng of young fans calling for track changes because it was “boring”. Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton thought the same.

Still, ESPN was able to haul in the eyeballs for the race and here is their assessment of the ratings:

Audience for Combined ESPN, ABC Telecasts Up 40 Percent Over 2017

ESPN’s live telecast of the Formula 1 Monaco Grand Prix on Sunday, May 27, earned F1’s largest audience on cable in more than two decades, according to Nielsen Fast National data.

With an average of 809,000 people watching, the telecast was the most-viewed Formula 1 race on cable since the 1995 Italian Grand Prix, which also aired on ESPN and averaged 876,000 viewers.

Sunday’s Monaco Grand Prix aired live at 9:05 a.m. ET on ESPN and an encore presentation aired on ABC at 3:45 p.m. Sunday afternoon.

The ABC telecast averaged 1.6 million viewers. Based on fast national data, the combined live and re-air telecasts on ESPN and ABC averaged 2.4 million viewers, an increase of 40 percent over the final combined numbers of the live and re-air telecasts that aired on NBC and NBCSN last year.

Why do you think TV ratings are increasing on ESPN over NBC?

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Fake stats. The N/ABC coverage was repeated several times at different times. Adding them all up to come to one statistic is just marketing gamesmanship. Anyone who might have watched or tuned in to two or more of the times would be counted multiple times. The fact that the game only netted a 40% increase actually indicates actual interest was lower, it was just counted more times.


Here’s a statistic, 73.6% of all statistics are made up.


“4 out of 5 people think the 5th is an idiot.”

Fast Freddy

Also ESPN repeated the broadcast about 4 times.


I’m guessing that letting Sky do all the work helped them immensely.

Tom Firth

Are a few factors to consider. The 2017 race aired live on NBC at 730am whereas 2018 aired live on ESPN so the ‘live’ data for the race was actually higher last year, obviously because of the difference between network and cable. The reruns however last year saw one at 1030am on NBC SN and a second at 10pm also on NBC SN. Compare the rerun this year at 330pm on the main ABC network, which is a far better timeslot for the rerun particularly as it meant it followed directly on from the Indianapolis 500 telecast, which has a… Read more »

Fast Freddy

I worry if F1 popularity will mean we end up those jokers on ABC who do the Indy broadcast. Not to mention why they insist on showing the wife all the time.


Here in Visalia CA, i suppose ideas are far away form reality of the actual. But, i think a couple of possibilities are here. For sure Liberty and the USA push is one part. Lewis is another, his marketing presence is growing in the USA as a one-person F1 promoter. Another IS McLaren. Sounds crazy, i know, but i grew up in Speedway Indiana, and Alonso’s presence at the 500 brought IMMENSE attention to F1, as did his winning at LeMan. Add to that the fact that i believe NC/Paul/Grace were right…NBCSN UNDERESTIMATED the importance of F1 detail coverage. SKYf1… Read more »

Michael H

Sort of off-topic, but how was the streaming product? Every site out there, including this one had something negative to say about the initial launch. Fair enough. One of the sites followed up and said practice on Thursday was good, but no other follow-up…. Not so fair. I’m sure it was better than the initial launch otherwise the mobocracy would have been out in force. I tried to sign up but I’m overseas and need to be in the same location as my CC. Their checks are sniffing out my vpn as well. Don’t really understand all this region stuff,… Read more »


Could 2 factors be at play:
1. Alonso – people are remembering him because of Indy so tuned in to Monaco to see what it is all about
2. Announcers – maybe the lowest common denominator commentary from the NBC broadcast chased people away, now that it is gone…


I think its highly likely that people have finally awoken to the brilliance of an internation racing series of hybrid powered, low noise cars, with halo protected drivers, reliant on high down force to blast around circuits at crazy speeds in highly strategic races on high degradation tyres.
Look out for a surge of these new fans signing up to TPF, Welcome new F1 fans!!!!! ;-)


I think it is the holy HALO effect.


Having read it repeated after the Indy 500, it could well be a combination of the Sky Crew and the Alonso Effect

The Captain

“I am no expert on how the Nielsen Rating system works” Yea, and neither is Nielsen. Joke aside Nielsen is the standard so this IS very good news. All be it slightly misleading. Nielsen tends to favor certain networks over others. Relying on some viewers willingness to participate in the Nielsen reporting hassle has always kinda skewed results, but other attempts to ‘modernize’ the process like taking into account restaurant/bar viewers may be skewing the results too. If ESPN is the default channel in every airport bar, Nielsen participants have a higher chance of just watching whatever is on ESPN… Read more »


The biggest factor in play here is that ESPN is available in 95% of the US that can receive pay TV. NBCSN was always hamstrung by two factors, low carriage of the network and the requirement to run ads in its own expensively produced coverage. When ESPN gets the Sky Sports F1 coverage for free and doesn’t have to invest in production while having a larger footprint, logically it can do a lot more to drive ratings without worrying about production expenses, such as rebroadcasts in more desirable timeslots on network TV and more frequent rebroadcasts across multiple cable networks… Read more »

Schumie Toronto

2 words …. COMMERCIAL FREE! ESPN has been airing the races without commercials! It’s the only time that I wish I could be watching in the States, rather than in Canada! How can they do it – commercial free? Because they got F1 broadcasting rights for FREE!