The motorsport broadcast market revs up…

As the start of the 2014 MotoGP season begins this weekend in Qatar, FOX Sports has announced (as reported by TV Tonight) that it will once again be broadcasting the top flight of two-wheel racing after signing a sub-licensing deal with the TEN Network. This deal follows hot on the heals of FOX Sports signing a broadcast deal with V8 Supercars Australia, where it will broadcast all events LIVE in HD, with the six marquee races being simulcast on TEN.

Under the new sub-licensing deal, FOX Sports will simulcast all MotoGP category races in the 2014 season LIVE with TEN. FOX Sports will also broadcast all races from the Moto2 & Moto3 categories and all practice, and qualifying practices from all 18 Grands Prix in the MotoGP World Championship LIVE. This coverage will be exclusive to FOX Sports for all Grands Prix outside of Australia. FOX Sports has also licensed streaming coverage of MotoGP, with SPEED’s coverage available on FOXTEL Go.

FOX Sports previously broadcast the MotoGP from 1997 through 2009. The TEN Network has carried the championship since 2004 and exclusively on Australian television since 2010.

It seems more and more these days that the free-to-air networks are happy to simulcast sporting events with FOXTEL. For example, Seven and Fox Footy simulcast 4 AFL games per week, TEN and FOX Sports simulcast Wallabies matches, and next month marks the first time that the US Masters golf will be broadcast live on Seven and FOX Sports.

TEN’s 5-year broadcast deal with Dorna (the commercial rights owner of the MotoGP category) began in 2010 and it will be interesting to see what form the new rights deal takes once TEN’s current deal expires. For example, will TEN return to just broadcasting the championship MotoGP category and simulcast races with FOX Sports / SPEED (as it is doing under the new sub-licensing deal with FOX Sports this year)? We will have to wait and see. It does seem though that TEN has realised the MotoGP does not have the same pulling power as its Formula 1 broadcasts. When James Warburton was TEN’s CEO, he announced that MotoGP and F1 races (in Europe) would be broadcast LIVE on TEN in primetime on Sunday nights. However, that experiment (at least for MotoGP races) was short lived, as we now only see F1 races on the primary channel on Sunday evenings.

For FOX Sports and its 24-hour motorsport channel SPEED, the return of MotoGP to the pay-TV sports broadcaster’s suite of motorsport program is a boon for its product offering. Currently, it is fair to say that SPEED broadcasts motorsport categories that are not the most popular forms of motorsport in Australia. However with the return of MotoGP and the new rights deal V8 Supercars Australia commencing in 2015, FOX Sports / SPEED is seriously becoming a must watch destination for fans of motorsport.

The next major motorsport broadcast deal of Australian broadcast will be for the next round of rights to the F1 World Championship. The Australian Financial Review reported recently that the incumbent broadcaster TEN will commence negotiations on a possible extension to its F1 broadcasting deal later this year, before the contract’s expiration at the end of 2015. According to the AFR, TEN is understood to currently pay less than $10 million annually for the grand prix rights.

TEN will be keen to continue maintain its exclusive rights to F1 given the success of its Australia Grand Prix coverage last weekend. The race in twilight on Sunday night was TEN’s highest rating broadcast for any program since TEN’s  broadcast of the 2013 Australian Grand Prix (see the Mediaweek morning report for 17 March 2014 for more analysis), drawing a national audience of 1.74 million for the race. On, the 2014 Formula One Australian Grand Prix recorded 116,000 video views and 367,000 page views from March 13 to March 16.  The network will also been keen to extend its F1 rights deal to complement its coverage of the domestic V8 Supercars series under a new deal which begins in 2015.

The interesting factor in the next F1 rights deal is whether TEN will be willing to buy rights to cover all practice sessions to F1 rounds. Currently it only broadcasts practice sessions for the Australian Grand Prix. At the very least it should (if it is successful in renewing its rights) offer LIVE streaming coverage on tenplay of all practice sessions using the world feed. FOX Sports will no doubt make a play for the rights (and maybe even 7mate) by offering to buy the rights for all practice and qualifying sessions and race coverage. This could be appealing to F1 management, as it has shown in recent years a tendency to sign pay-TV deals (think Sky Sports in the UK), even though F1 has traditionally been a free-to-air sport.

Expect plenty more action in the broadcast rights space for motorsport over the coming 12 months as both free-to-air networks and pay-TV look at ways they can leverage their brands through the broadcast of compelling motorsport action.


MotoGP returns to FOX Sports

Ten Network sets sights on F1 rights extension

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