German commercial web RTL scored a ratings triumph Sunday when 14.8 million viewers (a 39.7% share) watched the season’s final Formula One race from Brazil, where Germany’s seven-time champion Michael Schumacher lost to Spain’s Fernando Alonso.
Formula One broadcast was the highest rated for RTL in five years and capped a strong sports season for the web, which has turned Formula One into a major sport in Germany over the last decade.
The primetime finale doubled the average 7.6 million viewers who watched Schumacher’s drives in this 18-race season, up 680,000 from 2005.
In its peak year in 2001, RTL drew an average 10.4 million viewers for each twice-monthly race in the March-October season. But ratings then steadily declined until picking up this year.
RTL and Formula One execs have long expressed fears that the 37-year-old German champion’s retirement may send ratings into freefall when the next season begins in March. Formula One represents RTL’s main sports programming and a driving force for ratings.
Tennis was once a ratings winner in Germany, but ratings evaporated after Teutonic tennis stars Boris Becker and Steffi Graf retired.