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Formula 1 television viewing figures

THE FIA has just released the latest viewing figures for Grand Prix racing, revealing that 40.99 billion people saw something about Formula 1 on a television set in the course of 1996. The figures obviously count people several times over as the population of the world is currently only 5.75 billion.

The coverage reached a total of 202 countries - more countries than are members of the United Nations - and involved 52,588 programs. According to FIA President Max Mosley F1 is now "firmly established as the number one televised sport in the world", exceeding the soccer World Cup and the Olympic Games.

In addition this year will see the launch of widespread digital TV, which will allow viewers to choose the pictures they watch from a selection of five channels. In order to achieve this Bernie Ecclestone's Formula One Communications company is transporting 200 tons of equipment to each race (enough to fill two entire Boeing 747 jets) and employing 200 crew members.

"Digital TV will revolutionize the broadcasting of Grand Prix events," Ecclestone says, "It will mean a whole host of exciting new images and features and it will include highly detailed information which will allow the viewer to follow the race with information normally only available to the team manager."

As a measure of the expansion in TV viewing of Formula 1, 10 years ago the sport was claiming only 13 billion viewers. This climbed steeply in the 1990s reaching 30bn by 1992 and leaping to 45bn in 1994. This was largely due to the news coverage surrounding the death of Ayrton Senna at Imola and the figures have since slid back to 40bn.

Although the FIA does not give details of individual races the average live TV audience for a Grand Prix around 650m, but can peak at over a billion spectators - which is a pretty impressive statistic...

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