Channel 4's decision to push for a Formula 1 deal this year appears to be paying off, with its peak audience for the Bahrain Grand Prix making it the most watched UK channel over its slot.
The Sakhir race was C4's first live offering this year, and was always going to deliver a good indication of whether or not F1's audience would switch terrestrial channels after the BBC deal came to an end.
According to overnight television ratings, which were shared by C4's press office, its live coverage peaked at 3.2 million viewers with an average of 2.3 million viewers. This compares with Sky's 605,000 average viewers on pay TV.
The coverage on Sunday across Sky and C4 peaked at 4.01m (30.2 percent of the overall TV audience) – which is down from the 5.31m (30.8 percent) that watched on BBC and Sky as Lewis Hamilton won last year's race.
Sky's audience has dropped from an average of 640,000 viewers last year, while the BBC's average audience last year was 3.83 million.
The Bahrain TV figures have taken on more significance in light of the decision by Bernie Ecclestone to put F1 solely on Sky TV from 2019.
That move has prompted controversy because, despite Sky's UK reach of 20 million viewers, it is unlikely that it will attract the audiences that frequently watched F1 on free-to-air television.
When asked by Motorsport.com in Bahrain last week about if he was worried about the impact of losing television viewers from 2019, Ecclestone said: “Not really. The way they are going to broadcast...we are not going to lose any audience at all.”
Pushed on why he believed a pay TV channel could attract the same level of viewers as free-to-air, he added: “It's the system they have got…”
More detailed analysis of C4's audience shows great promise for the channel's commercial chiefs as it appears to have attracted a new demographic.
According to broadcast media ratings specialists overnights.tv, C4's audience featured a growth in the 35-44 age category, and the gender split – normally 50/50 at this time slot - shifted to being 64 percent male. This could be good news for advertising potential.