Monster Energy Speedway World Cup 2016 – horror UK television viewing figures
If judged via the television audience figures for BT Sports Speedway broadcasts in the UK, the Monster Energy sponsorship of the 2016 Speedway World Cup has massively shrunk the popularity and interest amongst British speedway fans.
Without BARB information for the EuroSport broadcast years of 2013-2015, it is hard to establish if the unmitigated disaster of 2016 is an awful one-off or a trend that Monster Energy have hastened. Looked at in bald terms, every meeting of the 2012 Speedway World Team Cup was more popular than the highest viewed meeting of the 2016 series. Since we have (thanks to Charles McKay) viewing figures for 2002-2016, going back to the high water mark of 2007, only the race off that year attracted a lower UK television audience than the total viewing figures for the 2016 series.
Even allowing for the comparative obscurity of the BT Sports product offerings, it cannot be a function of the racing since both meetings at Belle Vue’s National Speedway Stadium were acclaimed as some of the best ever. This isn’t the usually acclaim of commercially interested parties we see with Speedway Grand Prix boosterism but real fan feedback via social media, speedway forums and (though there is some selection bias here) the letters page of the Speedway Star.
The reasons could be more fundamental to do with either the decline in leisure time popularity of speedway itself, the ongoing bungling of rights holders BSI Speedway or the (annual) frequency and team make-up of the “World Cup”. These are strongest possibilities but, equally, since the Speedway World Cup regularly serves up genuinely competitive racing and lashings of patriotism from riders and fans alike, real speedway fans are more likely to attracted to watch these meetings in person or via live broadcast. It maybe to do with the sponsorship – there are a range of possible issues here from the ongoing craven publicity seeking of the sponsor’s local agent to the brand commodification of the events they back – or, even, disgust at World Champion Greg Hancock’s sudden decision to withdraw for no reasonable given reason at the last minute. These figures even throw doubt on the suggestion that if Team GB were likely winners the crowds would flood back to the events or amongst the stay-at-home armchair speedway fans.
Whatever the reasons, based on the UK television audience figures, the exciting racing so often served up at the Speedway World Cup isn’t finding old fans, new fans or potential drinkers of the sponsors beverage.