BT Sport have secured exclusive rights to the MotoGP World Championship, along with feeder series’ Moto2 and Moto3, it has been announced. The announcement ends BBC’s ten year association covering the championship, and British Eurosport’s coverage. BT Sport’s deal will cover 2014 through to and including 2018, the broadcaster covering every session of the championships.
The acquisition of MotoGP by BT means that they join Eurosport and Sky Sports in having covered the series. Sky Sports were involved in MotoGP (then 500cc) in the early 1990’s, with Keith Huewen and Julian Ryder commentating. Martin Turner, now Sky Sports F1 executive producer, was producing the programs. When Sky chose to focus on the Superbike World Championship, Eurosport picked up coverage of the 125cc, 250cc and 500cc series. Since 2003, BBC have covered MotoGP live alongside Eurosport, BBC taking over from Sunset+Vine’s Channel 5 coverage which was presented by Steve Scott. BBC’s rights to screen the MotoGP race became exclusive from the beginning of 2009 when Dorna opted to axe British Eurosport’s coverage. Amusingly, that press release contained the words: “The decision is part of Dorna´s new strategy of working with national network broadcasters around Europe, always focusing first and foremost on free-to-air coverage to bring MotoGP to wider audiences.” Unfortunately for fans across the United Kingdom, Dorna’s deal with BT Sport goes completely against that grain. As it turned out, the decision to axe British Eurosport’s coverage was overturned in February 2009, with sessions being broadcast live and the MotoGP race being shown on a tape delay.
The announcement of BT Sport’s coverage notes how viewers will be able to “see races from the riders’ perspective and with more interactive features showing off the most technologically advanced bikes, giving UK fans a whole new MotoGP viewing experience, immersing them in every aspect of the Championship”. This puts the coverage alongside Sky Sports’ F1 coverage and BBC’s F1 coverage which has a similar set-up behind their respective interactive services. Manel Arroyo, Dorna Sports, Managing Director, said: “We’re proud that MotoGP will be part of such a huge and exciting project as BT Sport.” Simon Green, Head of BT Sport, added: “The agreement with MotoGP is really exciting. We want BT Sport to offer a wide range of sports that appeal to many different audiences and MotoGP is a thrilling sport with a massive and committed fan base in the UK and Ireland.”
Jake Humphrey, former BBC F1 presenter and BT Sport presenter, said: “As a motorsport lover I was also so excited when I knew we might be able to pull off quite a coup and beat a number of other broadcasters to bag exclusive rights to Moto GP from 2014. I am certain we will give you the commitment, consistency and creativity you deserve from the sports’ broadcaster, and I think there is so much we can do to give you a better insight into Moto GP than you’ve ever had before. The way F1 is covered has changed beyond recognitionin the past few years and it’s time to bring much of that to Moto GP. Insight, analysis, breaking down the technical barriers, getting to know the riders – I think it can all be better and we’ll work really hard to make it the most comprehensive coverage you’ve ever had. Moto GP is so compelling, so exciting, and after 4 years in the F1 pit lane I know it deserves the best possible coverage. We are also well aware how much passion there is for bikes in this country and I want you to trust that we will do you, and the sport you love, justice. It was particularly great to have Monster Tech3 Yamaha rider Cal Crutchlow at our launch and he is really enthused about what BT Sport can bring to the table, as am I.”
It remains to be seen whether BT Sport take some, if any, of BBC’s or Eurosport’s current line-ups. BBC’s line-up consists of Matt Roberts and Azi Farni in the pit lane with Charlie Cox and Steve Parrish in the commentary box. Over on Eurosport is the familiar trio of Toby Moody, Julian Ryder and Neil Spalding. One option, and probably the best option, would be to have Roberts and Farni for before and after the sessions, with Moody, Ryder and Spalding in the commentary box. But in the same way BBC brought in fresh blood for their Formula 1 coverage in 2009 and Sky in 2012; I imagine that BT may want to bring in some fresh faces. As always, time will tell. Given that BT are starting off from scratch though, they will definitely be hiring people from somewhere, so I can imagine at least some of the current line-up at BT Sport next year. An article from Broadcast says that coverage will be produced by North One Television, with a small on-site presence at every round. Whilst the official announcement today does not confirm who is producing it, it does say that there will be “on-site [presence] with additional studio coverage from BT Sport’s state of the art facilities at the Olympic Park in Stratford, East London”. In between race weekends, there will be additional motorcycle related programming.
On the whole though, I cannot see any positives out of this deal, apart from Dorna getting an extra bit of money. The dedicated motorcycling fan will like the interactive features – if they can get their hands on the channel, but anyone else will be left phased out. MotoGP currently gets about 1.2 million viewers on BBC Two. Those that regularly follow my Formula 1 ratings reports will know that Sky Sports F1’s exclusively live races get less than that. I can’t see MotoGP’s viewership increasing here, unfortunately the viewership will probably go in the opposite direction.
Eurosport have confirmed to The F1 Broadcasting Blog that they did bid to retain their existing rights for 2014 onwards. BBC on their own website say “We are very proud of our Moto GP coverage and submitted a competitive bid to retain the broadcasting rights beyond our current contract.”
Do you think this deal is good or bad for MotoGP? Have your say in the comments below.