Elite League Sky Sports SPEEDWAY viewing figures up 22.4% in 2014 (but still second worst ever)

Judged by the industry standard of the minute-by-minute statistical sampling method employed by Broadcasters Audience Research Board, Elite League speedway shown on Sky Sports Speedway satellite television during 2014 improved in its popularity by 22.4% (up 12,563 viewers on average per meeting) to 68,563.

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There are quite a few possible factors behind this uplift: perhaps it’s the improved product offering commentators claim we’re watching or, possibly, the appeal of the British Fast Track riders. More likely is the fact that live meetings in 2014 were frequently shown on Sky Sports 1 or Sky Sports 2 rather than more Siberian less popular higher numbered Sky Sports channels. Hopefully, this choice of prime channel for speedway will continue into 2015 and beyond.

The greater popularity of televised Elite League speedway is to be warmly welcomed but, before we get out the celebratory bunting to hail a(nother) British Speedway renaissance, it’s worth realising that 2013 saw the worst ever average viewing figures so, you’d like to think, the only way was actually back up from a shockingly low base. Sadly, though improved these figures are the second worst ever. This means that 2013-2014 now represents the nadir of Elite League British speedway viewing (having overtaken 2000-2001 when the figures were 70,000 & 69,285 respectively). Even compared against more recent seasons, things don’t look rosy since average EL viewing figures in 2011 were 80,611 while, in 2012, they were 71,809.

One currently unexplained mystery of the 2014 season was the notable absence of Elite League leaders King’s Lynn from our Sky Sports Speedway screens during the regular season? In previous seasons, the Sky Sports Speedway editorial decision to broadcast so many regular live meetings from (or featuring) Poole has notionally been justified by the premise that speedway viewers want the excitement of watching race action involving the league leaders. Given that the Norfolk Arena is F.I.M. & BSI accredited, never mind that the NA track is praised for the quality and excitement of racing served up during the Monster Energy Speedway World Cup its surface, surely, can’t be a factor in this decision? Even stranger, Sky chose to show Poole ride away four times and King’s Lynn only once. Given rider absences, suspension and injury, it can’t have been the Poole line up (or race night) that trumped that of the league leaders, so what was it? In times of austerity when every British speedway club – in all leagues – need to find, service/retain and valorise their sponsors in order to continue to survive and (hopefully) thrive, though the bonus of regular season television exposure delights Poole sponsors (and management), there does seem to be a conspicuous lack of even-handedness here.

To address the canard of methodology questions, in order to compile its viewing figures BARB counts the average number of people watching any television programme throughout its duration (excluding advertising breaks). For more information on their approach and methodology click here. ‘Experts’ elsewhere – usually more vocal when the figures decline or discussing the Speedway Grand Prix series – generally either doubt the ‘accuracy’ of BARB methodology or suggest we accept their word that the Sky Sports Speedway internal viewing figures they’ve seen are markedly different. Interestingly the calibre and quantity of the advertisers during the commercial breaks during live televised Elite League meetings doesn’t suggest either a large or attractive audience. More importantly, in the absence of public corroboration, these claims about viewing figures lack integrity/veracity.

Sky Sports SPEEDWAY (not football as the odd dim bulb on the BSF claims) viewing figures are publicly available online but time consuming to find and collate. Fortunately, thanks to the diligence of speedway fan and writer Charles McKay, they’re again reproduced above for your information and enjoyment.


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