BT Sport are to show every stage of the 2019 World Rally Championship live, this site can confirm.
In previous years, BT only aired stages that WRC covered live via their World Feed. The boundaries changed in 2018, as the series launched their over-the-top platform All Live, which covered every stage of the championship live. Despite this, BT and other pay-TV broadcasters did not air the All Live content.
Now in its second season, the UK are amongst three markets (the others being France and Greece) that are taking the All Live output. The plan is for BT to air the All Live content behind their Red Button service.
Speaking to me at the Autosport Show, WRC Promoter Oliver Ciesla explained the reasoning behind the year-on-year change.
“Last year the service was new, so we first needed to check the technical stability,” Ciesla said. “We wanted to make sure that the product, and the way we shape it, is good for the market. With the product being mature now for 2019, we bring it to the market.”
“There is a big appetite in the market from digital and pay channels for live content at world championship level. It’s not to broaden the audience, it’s more an additional service for the hardcore fans, they want more, they get more.”
“For domestic events in the home country however, we’re always trying to make sure that they get the maximum free-to-air coverage.”
Channel 5’s UK TV rights up in the air
Question marks remain over which UK broadcaster will air free-to-air coverage of the championship with Ciesla unable to confirm a broadcaster, despite the first round in Monte Carlo being less than two weeks away.
Regular highlights returned to free-to-air television in March 2013 on ITV4, with Channel 5 picking up the baton since 2016.
Ciesla ruled out the possibility of airing stages live via social media, to try to attract a different audience towards All Live. “There is an opportunity to put live streams on our social media channels, but at the moment this is not part of our media mix, we commercialise that in a different manner,” Ciesla added.
“We have increased the global television audience by 40 percent since we started on the job, plus introduced all of the digital and pay services,” Ciesla said. “There is still some space for us to grow on either side.”
In addition, WRC announced during the Autosport Show that All Live will air in the Spanish language for the first time, a natural step for a series that has four rounds in Spanish speaking countries (Mexico, Argentina, Chile, and Spain).
Update on January 18th – WRC organisers have confirmed that BT Sport have extended their contract, in a new multi-year deal to cover the championship.