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US F1 viewing figures up by 28% in 2022

According to ESPN, the 2022 F1 season is the first in U.S. television history to average 1 million or more viewers per race, up 28% over the previous best in 2021.

As (general) television viewership records fell by the wayside all year, the 2022 F1 season ended as the most-viewed ever on U.S. television, smashing a record that was set a year earlier.

The season averaged 1.21 million viewers per race across ESPN, ESPN2 and ABC, a 28 percent increase over the previous U.S. television record of 949,000 average viewers that was set in 2021. The 2022 season also became the first in U.S. television history to average 1 million or more viewers per race.

In addition, more female and younger viewers watched F1 races on U.S. television than ever before.

The 22-race season, which ended on Sunday in Abu Dhabi, included a record 2.583 million average viewers for the new Miami Grand Prix, setting the mark for the most-viewed live F1 telecast ever in the U.S.

Including Miami, there were 12 races that set all-time event viewership records:

• Bahrain – 1.353 million average viewers
• Saudi Arabian – 1.445 million
• Miami (new event) – 2.583 million
• Spanish – 1.146 million (largest live version)
• British – 1.239 million
• Austrian – 1.066 million
• Hungarian – 1.249 million
• Belgian – 1.047 million
• Dutch – 1.148 million
• Italian – 995K (largest live version)
• Singapore – 1.036 million
• Brazilian – 1.401 million (largest live version)

Other superlatives from the season:

• The Monaco (1.396 million) and Emilia Romagna (1.166 million) races had their largest live cable audiences on record.
• Seventeen races drew more than 1 million average viewers.
• The season averaged 521,000 viewers per race in the Persons ages 18-49 demographic, an increase of 29 percent over 2021 (402K viewers).
• Younger viewers were up significantly in 2022 – Persons ages 12-17 were up 49 percent over 2021, averaging 36,000 viewers per race, the largest year-over-year growth across all key demographics. Persons ages 18-34 averaged 238K viewers per race, up 43 percent over 2021, and Persons ages 25-34 averaged 169K viewers per race, up 46 percent over 2021.
• Women averaged 352K viewers per race, up 34 percent over 2021, and averaged 28 percent of the 2022 audience.
• F1 qualifying sessions on ESPN television platforms in 2022 averaged 554K viewers, up 17 percent over the 2021 full-season qualifying average (475K viewers).

The rain-plagued Japanese Grand Prix is not included in the overall viewership average for the season.

The Walt Disney Company, ESPN and Formula 1 recently announced an extension of their relationship with a new, multi-year contract that will keep F1 races on ESPN platforms in the U.S. through the 2025 season. F1 returned to its original U.S. television home in 2018 – the first race ever aired in the country was on ABC in 1962. F1 races also aired on ESPN.

Of course, that new contract announced last month is said to be worth between $75m and $90m, up considerably on the $5m a year deal ESPN signed in 2018. Indeed, Sportico’s Anthony Crupi claims Disney will pay $85m a year for the deal.

This increase from $5m to $85m is naturally going to be reflected in subscribers costs so it is going to be interesting to see whether further records are established in 2023.

Then again there’s the fact that F1 claims to have a fan-base of 36 million in the U.S., yet seemingly ‘only’ an average 1.21 million are watching the races.

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