Formula One Management (FOM) has been criticised for misleading sponsors, after global TV audience figures fell by more than half.
Published average viewing figures for the past few years have been as high as 300 million, but FOM has admitted that this figure could have been inflated by as many as 160 million viewers, following a change in measurement methods.
The official Formula One viewing figures are supplied to teams every year by FOM, which is the commercial arm of F1, to help them sell their sponsorship packages.
Under the new methodology, the average viewing figures for 2002 and 2003 were 127 million and 162 million respectively, a huge drop from the 291 million reported to be watching in 1999.
Ben Pincus, who works with F1 sponsors as chief executive of agency The Works, says F1 is guilty of inflating its TV viewing figures to help sell sponsorship.
He says: “For years, the accepted average live race audience for each of the 17 races in a season was 300 million, which could be up to twice as many as actually watched the races. But hopefully this new system will restore credibility to the industry.”
He points out that viewing figures for China for the 1999 Monaco Grand Prix were given as 228.7 million, even though there was no live broadcast, which reflects FOM’s old methodology of including viewers of news among those who watched races in full.