Motorsport Network are to close their television channel at the end of September, this site can exclusively confirm.
Launched internationally under previous ownership as Motors TV in 2000, the UK version of the channel launched in March 2001. As the UK channel grew, Motors TV played host to major events on the international circuit, such as live coverage of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, and the British Touring Car Championship.
In more recent years, the broadcaster aired coverage of the World Endurance and World Rally Championships, whilst also airing live coverage of domestic track days featuring racing at club level, an important asset with no other specialised motor sport channels at that level in existence in the UK.
Motors TV, however were not without financial difficulties, with the channel disappearing and re-appearing from the Sky platform during the end of their lifespan. Nevertheless, the channel continued to survive and move forward.
Following the acquisition of Haymarket’s motor sport portfolio, Motors TV was next on Motorsport Network’s radar. The network duly purchased Motors TV in November 2016, re-branding the channel to Motorsport.tv three months later, and in high-definition.
The television channel has remained on-air since then, however some championships, such as NASCAR, Virgin Australia Supercars and the Motocross World Championship have disappeared from schedules in recent weeks without any warning.
I understand that the decision to axe Motorsport.tv’s television channels applies worldwide, and not just for the UK outlet. Existing championships will continue to air on Motorsport.tv’s digital platforms. A second source has indicated that discussion-based programming will be discontinued as part of this move.
There is the human aspect to this, with those who were working on the channel worldwide now looking for alternative forms of work, either within Motorsport Network, or elsewhere in the motor racing world. Allegedly, there are currently outstanding debts related to the channel to be resolved.
For UK fans, the Blancpain GT Series and Virgin Australia Supercar are, as of October 1st, in limbo without a television home. In addition, Motorsport.tv has the lion’s share of live coverage of the World Endurance Championship with BT Sport and Eurosport; whilst they also air highlights of the World Rally Championship with BT. All could transfer to BT Sport, but this is unconfirmed as of writing.
Elsewhere in the Motorsport Network spectrum, this site has learnt that Chief Executive Officer Colin Smith is stepping down from his post. Smith, who previously worked in NASCAR’s digital media team as Vice President, steps aside with F1 journalist and former commentator James Allen taking over as President of Motorsport Network with immediate effect.
When Motorsport Network acquired Motors TV, there was always a distinct possibility that Motorsport Network were going to discontinue their television channel. The network referenced the transition “from traditional linear broadcasting to a Video on Demand (VOD) service” in their initial press release in November 2016.
The shock here is the abrupt timing, with no immediate warning that this was going to happen at the end of September, prior to the end of the motor racing season. The demise of the television network both in the UK and abroad brings down the curtain on 18 years of broadcasting.
Motors TV might not have had the best picture quality, or audio for that matter, but it brought to viewers championships from around the world week in, week out. The UK motor sport television landscape will be a worse place without it.
Update on September 14th at 18:45 – Following the publication of this article, Motorsport Network staff were informed of the news late on Friday afternoon in an internal news briefing. The briefing outlined Motorsport.tv’s on-demand future beyond September, and that its television network would be no more.
In addition, at 17:37 this afternoon, the Motorsport.tv UK Twitter feed tweeted “Motorsport.tv is moving to online and on demand exclusively. We’ve got all your favourite shows & races you enjoyed on TV, now on demand, any time. Visit motorsport.tv or go to our Apple TV, iOS & Android Apps today to take advantage of our free 30 day trial.”
I have requested comment from various rights holders on the current situation, and will update the site as and when I have more information. Blancpain is unaffected for 2018 as their season concludes at the end of the month.