Record global TV audiences watched 2017’s unforgettable FIA World Rally Championship season as viewing figures reached a five-year high.
The most exciting and unpredictable championship battle in a decade, in which Sébastien Ogier led M-Sport Ford World Rally Team to a double title success, was watched by a cumulative audience of 848.86 million viewers, according to independent analyst Nielsen Sports.
The worldwide TV audience has surged 40 per cent since WRC Promoter won the commercial rights in 2013 and last year’s total shows an impressive increase of 20 per cent compared to 2016.
The success of increased live coverage helped broadcast time reach unprecedented levels after maintaining consistent growth. It rose from 12,000 hours in 2016 to almost 13,500 hours over the 13 rounds. Total airtime has soared by 127 per cent from 5,900 hours since 2013.
Analysing the reasons for these developments, WRC Promoter managing director Oliver Ciesla said: “These positive figures are a result of numerous changes introduced in recent years, especially the dynamic new-era World Rally Cars last season.
“They resonated with fans who enjoyed the most unpredictable and closest competition in years. Revisions to the start order and an attractive Power Stage format, with more and regular live coverage and extra bonus points, raised fan interest and helped audiences spike by over a fifth.
“Last year brought a change to the balance of power among the teams. The return of Toyota and Citroën, allied with several drivers moving to different teams, ensured the unexpected was expected throughout the entire season,” he added.
WRC TV audience has increased by 40% since 2013 to almost 850 million.
Poland, France, Spain and Finland topped the audience rankings in 2017.
Belgium, Czech Republic, Portugal, Finland, Sweden and Germany were the strongest growing markets in Europe, where airtime rose by 22 per cent from last year and audience by 13 per cent.
“Europe headed the markets in terms of viewers, but we witnessed big development in the fast-growing Asia region, where audiences rose by 125 per cent. Japan and China are the sixth and 11th biggest countries globally in terms of viewers,” explained Ciesla.
“There was also exceptional growth in North America where broadcast time on ESPN and Eleven networks more than trebled and audience rose by 132 per cent last year.”
Eleven of the 13 rallies increased their audience, while the average event total rose by 15 per cent against 2016 to more than 68 million. The average has risen more than 46 per cent during the past five seasons.
“Our rallies in Monte-Carlo and Poland have doubled their global visibility since 2013. These two rallies, along with Sweden, Portugal, Great Britain and Mexico, reached more than 73 million viewers each in 2017,” continued Ciesla.
WRC was screened in more than 150 countries via 65 broadcasters and further agreements have been put in place for 2018. These include ATV in Turkey, Eurosport 2 in Denmark, TV 2 in Estonia, V3, TV6 and Viasat Sport Baltic in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania and Eleven Sports in Taiwan.
Nielsen also reported strong digital and social media figures. There were more than 140 million video views on social media platforms and more than 1.6 billion online impressions in 2017. The number of followers on the WRC’s digital platforms topped nine million people.
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