Highlights of the MotoGP championship will air on Quest for the next two seasons, the broadcaster has confirmed, in an eleventh hour announcement.
The package previously aired on ITV4 from 2014 to 2016, before the contract went to Channel 5 in time for the 2017 season. Now, the 60-minute highlights package, produced by BT Sport, heads to the free-to-air branch of Discovery Communications. Discovery also owns Eurosport, with coverage of the British Superbikes series also airing on their portfolio of channels.
The 60-minute highlights show will also be available via Quest’s on-demand platform QuestOD, with highlights of Qatar airing this Monday (11th March) at 18:00.
It has been a roller-coaster three years for Channel 5, who appear to have fell in and out of love with motor sport very quickly. The order of events suggests that there has been a decision taken at a higher level to wind down their motor racing commitments, rather than each individual series choosing to part company with Channel 5.
The free-to-air broadcaster picked up, and promptly stopped showing MotoGP and Formula E within the space of two and a half years, with highlights of the World Rally Championship almost suffering the same fate.
Channel 5’s recent motor sport history
> January 2016: Secures WRC highlights
> September 2016: Secures Formula E
> March 2017: Secures MotoGP highlights
> November 2018: Loses Formula E
> January 2019: Loses WRC highlights (briefly)
> March 2019: Loses MotoGP highlights
Simon Downing, Quest’s Head of Channel, said “We are delighted to add MotoGP to our premium sport portfolio. It’s the highest profile two-wheel event on the calendar and we are proud to be able to offer this exclusively free-to-air to our viewers – not just on linear but across our digital platforms too.”
“We’re really looking forward to the upcoming season on what I’m sure will once again provide many exciting moments across all three Championships.”
MotoGP highlights brought in solid viewing figures on Channel 5 over the past two seasons, regularly peaking with over half a million viewers. The two seasons that Channel 5 aired averaged 406k (2.4%) and 404k (2.3%) respectively according to overnight viewing figures supplied by Overnights.tv.
It is highly unlikely that MotoGP will reach those numbers on Quest. ITV4’s final season covering MotoGP in 2016 averaged 285k (1.4%) in a Monday evening time slot at 20:00. The earlier time slot on Quest, combined with the channel’s lower standing may mean that averages struggle to get above 250,000 viewers.
It is unclear whether ITV4 was an option, which MotoGP passed upon, or whether ITV were simply not interested. Having a free-to-air presence is always excellent news, and MotoGP fans should be glad that the package remains. The eleventh hour announcement though suggests that Dorna have struggled to find a home for the free-to-air package.
With the Quest contract being a two-year deal, however, the days of MotoGP reaching a large audience are large gone, and look unlikely to return any time soon.