Because of the time of day/night/morning it often airs, Formula One might be the most anonymous of the “key” sports properties NBC/NBCSN broadcast. That said, the network has done a decent job of promoting it and seems to be connecting to the core fans of the circuit. They’ve done that so much so that in just their second year covering it, they’ve broken records.
NBCSN averaged 385,000 viewers for its live coverage of 12 races this season, up 86 percent from their inaugural year covering F1 in 2013 (207,000) and the best F1 season ever for a single cable network, surpassing the previous record held by SPEED in 2007 (379,000 for 13 races). NBCSN also was up 24 percent from SPEED’s (now FS1) last season covering Formula One, 2012.
Another positive sign for the network: they broadcast 10 races this season that they also broadcast last season, and all of them were up double digits from 2013, with five up them up 100 percent or more.
NBCSN and CNBC combined to air 16 races, which averaged 348,000 viewers, tied with SPEED in 2011 for the best F1 season on cable since 2007. For all 19 races, NBCSN/NBC/CNBC combined to average 477,000 viewers, up 30 percent from 2013, and 15 percent from Fox/SPEED’s average in 2012. The Canadian Grand Prix in June (1.46M viewers) was the most watched race of the season, and the most watched Formula One race since 2007.
NBC has two more seasons with Formula One, and much like the Premier League, it’s a mostly foreign-based sport that they’ve increased audiences for, to the point where they may have to increase rights fees or fight off competitors for it in the next rights deal, especially with the dearth of programming currently up for sale.