The FIA World Rally Championship has seen a 15% rise year on year for the overall global television audience following the first three rounds of the year.
New figures from independent analyst Nielsen Sports reveal more than 242 million people watched Rally Monte-Carlo, Rally Sweden and Rally Guanajuato Mexico on worldwide television. In 2019 the figure was 211 million.
Rally Monte Carlo drew in an audience of over 100 million whilst the average TV audience for the opening three events was 80 million.
Whilst the WRC‘s audience has grown, the broadcast time jumped up too from 2,095 hours last year to 2,679 hours of coverage this year.
WRC Promoter managing director Oliver Ciesla believes changes to teams and driver line-ups caused huge anticipation among fans ahead of the season.
“The first-quarter TV figures indicate a fabulous start to the 2020 series and highlight the continued increased global interest in WRC. Driver transfers brought further unpredictability and excitement as the pilots settled into their new teams and cars.
“The Covid-19 virus has, of course, heavily impacted our season since the opening three rounds. However, WRC TV continues to produce magazine programmes and ‘best of’ shows for our global broadcast partners until the cars can run again.”
Finland, France, Spain, Belgium and Sweden were the top five audience markets. Japan, which was originally set to host a WRC round in November for the first time since 2010, was also ranked in the top 10.
In the UK, ITV4 signed a new agreement to show highlights of every event prior to the season.
Nielsen also reported strong digital and social media numbers. There were 112 million online video views across the official channels of the WRC eco-system (WRC, WRC partners, manufacturers and drivers) during the first three months.
In the same period the WRC’s own social media community grew to more than 4.3 million fans. Data also showed increased benefits to the car manufacturers competing in the WRC. Ford, Hyundai and Toyota enjoyed a combined media value of more than €150 million across the three rounds.
A major hit for the WRC was the contest to name The Greatest WRC Driver of all time attracted almost 600,000 unique page views on the FIA World Rally Championship’s official wrc.com website.
In the final, Carlos Sainz emerged victorious with over 80,000 votes received between Sainz and nine-time champion Sebastien Loeb.
The competition also generated 1.2 million video views on the WRC’s social media channels.
Two eSports tournaments broadcast on the WRC’s Facebook page during the Coronavirus-enforced lockdown generated a further million video views on the WRC’s official channels.
Ciesla said that despite the sport’s shutdown, the WRC had implemented successful concepts to retain a focus on the championship and its fans.
He added: “We reacted quickly to the absence of WRC action to keep our fans entertained. A core element of our strategy was not only to develop content for our own channels, but also initiatives relevant to our manufacturer teams, drivers, event organisers and media.”