Best & worst live British Speedway TV viewing figures by year from 2002 to 2017 (plus average viewing figures)
The highest and lowest live British speedway viewing figures for the period 2002 to 2017 are below (extracted from the BARB figures kindly and diligently compiled by Charles McKay). These tables also include the average for the season from all live British speedway meetings for which BARB speedway viewing figures are available. These are the closest we can get to apples with apples comparisons rather than the apples to potatoes some still prefer to favour.
Everyone can make up their own mind about what these do or don’t indicate. They are facts based upon the widely-adopted industry standard analytical template for assessing UK television audiences. They are also publicly available, statistically significant results that use a published methodology and template. From these statistics, the golden era of live British speedway viewership over the last fifteen years would appear to be the years 2007-2009. Since then, we appear to have jumped the shark or considered doing so. Until 2017 when BT Sports came onto the scene, the least popular live British speedway meeting in any season tended to hover either side of 40,000 on Sky Sports. Without initiatives to (centrally) promote of the sport of speedway in general, this bargain basement figure may no longer hold moving forwards.
Everyone will have their favourite reason(s) to explain away the decline. Worse still, some abuse their media platforms to tiredly advocate commercially compromised fact-free opinion heavy solutions. Many love the sport so much, they are prepared to kill the speedway patient in order to try to save it.
There was a time when some British speedway promoters apparently held the opinion that the ongoing reduction of numbers through their turnstiles to watch live speedway live (aka in person) was function of fans choosing instead to get their shale kicks from the comfort of their own sofas. Increasingly this explanation looks like hopeful wish fulfilment.
Troublingly for those who relentlessly suggest – without any real evidence to back up their claims – that missing “top riders” and “star riders” are the magic ingredient to restore fan interest now have the live broadcasts of Speedway Grand Prix meetings attracting less viewers than live (‘starless’) British speedway to give them pause for further thought. It is instructive to recall that attendances through the turnstiles at the SGP have also been in catastrophic or terminal decline for many years.
These viewing figures could indicate it is a product (or product awareness) issue rather than a format or governance problem. Equally, it may be a function that the (written and broadcast) descriptions and acclaim often lavished upon the charms and brilliance of televised live speedway racing doesn’t really accord with the lived experience or evidence of the viewers own eyes. Whatever the real reasons, new culprits or explanations will urgently have to be found. Hopefully these real reasons will be believable, credible, honest and commercially disinterested as well as actionable.
With thanks, as usual, to Charles McKay.