Speedway Grand Prix live tv viewing figures decline continues in 2017 (& is now lower than British Speedway live audience)
The ongoing decline in the popularity of the Speedway Grand Prix series for UK television viewers (the main way the British speedway fan experiences the SGP) has continued in the second year of the BT Sports coverage. After the massive fall in British TV viewers using BT Sports to watch the SGP series live in 2016, only losing nearly 2% of their already meagre audience is what nowadays counts or is spun as success.
BT Sports, SGP rights holders BSI and event sponsor Monster Energy must really be thanking their lucky stars that they have Natalie Quirk, wacky shirts from Scott Nicholls and have also had the benefit of showcasing the “strongest ever” and “best ever” Speedway Grand Prix rider line up (in a series that also notionally kept the drama going right to the end by going down to wire) in order to staunch the shrinking popularity and interest the series holds amongst UK speedway fans.
More significantly, for Speedway Grand Prix fans, rights holders and sponsors alike, BARB figures reveal that the SGP average audience size (33,875) has now fallen below that achieved by live broadcasts of the top level of British Speedway (34,000). It is held by some relentlessly negative commentators – albeit those whose independence is commercially compromised by the relationships and earnings of their SGP or SGP rider related work – that British Speedway is in (possibly) terminal ‘crisis’ for a variety of structural, administrative and bureaucratic factors so requires dramatic attention grabbing reform. The reforms they advocate are always ideological, short term and rarely intelligent. Strangely too, these sincerely held but low wattage suggestions usually suit or dovetail with commercial interests outside British speedway, while also virtue signaling to the increasingly fickle actual or fading ‘star’ riders.
The current magic solutions are primarily either fixed race nights and squads, preferably both. Advocates suggest we need to experiment with a few desperate throws of the baby from the bathwater in order to attract back the “star riders” and “top riders” it is alleged/claimed that the fans require in order to rekindle their waning enthusiasm (as judged by declining fans numbers through the turnstiles).
However, the ongoing decade long decline in (Sky Sports, Eurosport & BT Sports!) viewer numbers at home on the sofa for the SGP series must, surely, give pause for thought as to whether enabling the “missing” top riders to race here again is really going to do anything to improve crowd numbers (except the initial dead cat bounce) or rider shortages, let alone at what cost to declines in British Speedway club profitability?
Far from being the route to speedway future its boosters claim or imply, perhaps it is the Speedway Grand Prix series business model that is in terminal decline? British Speedway has a long tradition of success and also recovery from tough times. Currently (again) it needs strategy and leadership built on analysis and, now more than ever, the support, voices and advice of real fans. It certainly doesn’t need fairweather or commercially compromised fellow travelers advocating half-baked short-term temporary solutions on our behalf. Hopefully, British speedway is worth much more than that….
Thanks yet again to Charles McKay for these BARB television viewing figures