The World Rally Championship (WRC) registered record television ratings in 2018, as fans watched the 13-rally campaign for more than 14,000 hours for the first time.
Figures from the industry analyst Nielsen show that audiences tuned into last season’s broadcasts for 14,208 hours – climbing by more than 700 hours from its 2017 broadcasts.
The championship also recorded 105 million video views via the WRC’s digital platforms, including more than 1.3 billion online impressions through 2018.
Despite last year’s Winter Olympics and the Fifa World Cup apparently having an adverse impact on the WRC’s viewing figures during February, June and July, its global television audience topped 800 million for its second consecutive year.
The WRC’s most-prominent markets include France, Poland, Belgium, Finland, Spain and Japan, while Turkey, which hosted a championship round for the first time since 2010, immediately vaulted into the top 10.
Nielsen’s figures show 823.79 million people watched the championship on television last season, a rise of 36 per cent compared to 2013, when WRC Promoter took over ownership of the series’ commercial rights. Viewing hours have also increased by more than 140 per cent from 5,900 hours in 2013.
“In recent seasons WRC fans have enjoyed unpredictability and excitement which has generated fantastic battles for rally wins and titles, and these positive audience figures reflect that,” said Oliver Ciesla WRC Promoter’s managing director.
“Changes to the competition format, including revisions to the start order and an attractive Power Stage format, with extra bonus points available, have helped raise fan interest to new levels.
“Competition with the new-generation World Rally Cars has been closer than ever. Five different drivers won rallies last season and each of our four manufacturer teams won at least once.”
Monte-Carlo, Spain and Australia were the most watched rallies in 2018, while a high-profile opening round in Monaco is a traditional audience peak of the season.
However, figures spiked again during the final two rounds as Thierry Neuville, Ott Tänak and eventual champion Sébastien Ogier took the championship to the wire.
“Since 2014, the live programmes produced for TV have doubled to 50 hours,” Ciesla continued. “In the same period, the total number of programme hours offered to WRC broadcast partners has increased by 38 per cent to 85 hours.”
Nielsen’s figures also showed increased benefits to the car manufacturers involved in the WRC, returning more than €100 million (US$1.13 million) per team for the first time, marking an average 70 per cent increase over the last five years.