Sky Sports Speedway Grand Prix 2011 viewing figures: up but second worst yet

Apparently the inaugural (will it be the only ever?) Speedway Grand Prix from Auckland New Zealand will be shown from 04.00 this morning on satellite television channel Sky Sports. Raced on a specially prepared (slick) track at Western Springs Stadium, the event will be shown in “High Definition” and, for once, – possibly because there’s no other ‘major’ sporting event scheduled for such a viewer and advertiser unfriendly time – the programme hasn’t (yet) been relegated to the Sky Sports equivalent of Siberia (i.e. the usual channels for the SGP: otherwise known as Sky Sports 2, Sky Sports 3 or Sky Sports 4).

Ignoring that it’s hardly a fan friendly time to showcase the first meeting of the 2012 SGP series, nor a rider friendly location since it’s circa a 27 hour journey from Europe, for the first time since 2008 the UK satellite television SGP viewing figures are actually on the up! That’s right, the average 2011 Sky Sports viewer numbers were 73,100 per SGP or around 6% UP on 2010!!! See below and hold page 74 for this astonishing news:

However, before fans of the SGP or the management visionaries of BSI management team break out the budget supermarket sparkling wine, it’s wise to check back over recent history. There we find that 2011 saw the second worst average SGP viewer numbers on Sky Sports:

2005               109,571

2006               140,333

2007               124,000

2008               145,272

2009               103,333

2010               68,714

2011               73,100

Apologists for the falling popularity of the SGP for viewers of Sky Sports like to doubt the veracity of the BARB figures or clutch at straws like the weather, changing start times or, arguably more relevantly, the position of the the moon in Aquarius.

That said, with things notionally more positively poised, it’s definitely beyond dispute that 2012 will see the SGP series expand to 12 events. So, maybe just maybe, the viewing figures will start to vaguely match many years breathless hype provided by BSI press statements or the SGP website? Let’s see but not hold our collective breath.

The chance to get up in the middle of the night to see Jason Bunyan mix it in New Zealand with the ‘big boys’ is – as Chris Holder might say – “awesome” and certainly something to really get the juices flowing here at Methanol Press towers. Never afraid to make wild but grandiose press statements BSI Head Honcho and speedway ‘development’ guru Paul Bellamy has claimed without substantiating evidence other than some draft version of one of his own business plans, “Taking the Grand Prix series to nations like New Zealand is vital for the future development of the sport” Equally unafraid to hold forth speciously, IMG big cheese Rob Armstrong completely failed to get worldwide media attention by – possibly drawling in a slightly robotic voice ideally suited to such corporate piffle – “When we acquired the promoter of the world speedway series, we had an understanding with the FIM we wanted to take it outside Europe.” Be still my beating heart…

With a capacity of “15,000 approx” according to the always reliable capacity figures on the SGP website, (assuming a sell out) let’s hope tonight isn’t the first time fans numbers at the event exceeds the Sky Sports audience!

As usual, many thanks to Charles McKay for his kind help in providing these viewing figures. More info on how BARB compile these official figures is here.

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