Motorsport Network reverses Autosport magazine price hike with immediate effect

Motorsport Network has reversed its decision to increase the price of Autosport magazine with immediate effect, whilst also reassuring readers about the future of the print edition.

The corporation announced in October that it was increasing the price of the weekly magazine from £3.99 to £10.99, in a move seen by many within the industry as an attempt to kill off the magazine.

Now, following negative feedback from fans and stakeholders alike, the corporation has confirmed that Autosport will again be £3.99, starting this Thursday.

In a statement posted on Autosport’s Twitter feed, Motorsport Network explained the rationale for the reversal.

“Since we announced we will be prioritising a digital-first approach we have closely listened and spoken to many of our highly engaged audience; some of whom have read the magazine throughout their lives,” the statement read.

“It is evident that, for some readers, the print edition of the magazine is not only the preferred format but the only format. The strong connection is clear.”

“We will be continuing to focus on growing Autosport Plus, as that is where the largest proportion of our audience now engages with our features, but this approach is not suitable for all readers.”

“Therefore, from this week, and for the foreseeable future, the print edition will be returning to the previous price of £3.99.”

“We have listened carefully and are committed to continuing our weekly print magazine as long as we can, whilst it is financially viable.”

“We welcome any further feedback from readers suggesting how we can grow Autosport magazine as we move into our 70th year of being the authority on motorsport.”

A surprising shift
To say that Motorsport Network’s statement comes as a surprise is an understatement. What is clear is that the reaction from fans has caused an embarrassing climbdown from the organisation.

It also shows a shocking lack of user research from the Network, by failing to talk to and engage with their consumers in the first place, meaning that they reached a badly thought out conclusion, resulting in a PR disaster.

McLaren boss Zak Brown resigned from his role as non-executive chairman less than 24 hours after the original announcement in October (although arguably Brown’s resignation was 18 months too late given the conflict of interest between his two roles).

One of the concerns about the price rise was that, in the event of the magazine’s demise, national championships in the UK would lose out the most.

Analysis conducted Motorsport Broadcasting showed that most of the magazine features at a national level did not translate over to the website.

However, Motorsport Broadcasting understands that initiatives have begun to increase the amount of coverage that national championships receive on the Autosport website, safeguarding it for the future.

The shift started during the final British Touring Car Championship weekend at Brands Hatch, which is expected to continue into 2020. I understand that this piece of activity was already underway before Motorsport Network made the price announcement.

Anecdotal reports suggest that the sales of the print magazine plunged because of the price rise.

Bringing those lost consumers back on board will be difficult, but maybe that is desired if they want to dissolve the magazine in the short to medium-term.

We must ask the question though: has Motorsport Network’s long-term strategy changed in the past month because of the Autosport backlash, or do they consider this merely a roadblock to their long-term aspiration?

If Motorsport Network wanted to kill the brand, would they have not pursued with the price rise?

Only those on the inside high-up in the chain will truly know what the endgame really is here.

F1 Racing magazine staying, but Autoweek’s print magazine closes stateside
Whilst Autosport’s print future is clear (for now), one brand hoping to engage more with their audience moving forward is F1 Racing magazine, who Lifestyle Media Group are in the process of purchasing off Motorsport Network.

Writing in last month’s edition of F1 Racing, Lifestyle’s chairman Clive Nørgaard Norton reassured fans about F1 Racing’s future.

Norton said “These are challenging times for printed media, but Lifestyle Media House is committed to supporting the magazine and trying to grow its readership.”

“We look forward to closing the transaction. Following completion, there is no imminent price rise planned, and we will be keen to engage with the F1 Racing readers and supporters to better understand what kind of magazine you want to read.”

Elsewhere, in an almost parallel development stateside, Crain Communications, who publish Autoweek, are to cease publication of the print magazine, which had been printing on a bi-weekly basis.

Hearst Magazine are to take over the digital and experimental side of the Autoweek business with immediate effect in a multi-year licencing deal with Crain.

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News round-up: F1 to remain on ESPN in US; Eurosport UK to air British Speedway

In the latest Motorsport Broadcasting round-up, ESPN extends their relationship with F1 stateside, whilst British Speedway finds itself with a new home in the UK…

The round-up gives a bite sized view of the latest news making the waves, as well as interesting snippets that I have picked up along the way.

ICYMI: Round-Up #6 (October 15th): New Brabham film released; MotoGP moves towards HDR resolution

ICYMI: Round-Up #5 (September 12th): Bratches set to exit F1 role; Eurosport executive joins Formula E

ICYMI: Round-Up #4 (July 23rd): New Formula Two documentary coming soon; Facebook touts MotoGP success

ICYMI: Round-Up #3 (July 1st): Sky F1 to air special Williams documentary; Formula E wins award for TV product

Site update
Some of you may remember the site update I posted at the end of September, with details on a major change for me (not for the site). The good news: I moved into my own house in the middle of October! So far, I am pleased to say that everything has gone according to plan, with no hitches.

Of course, that does mean I have spent less time on the site front in recent weeks, a situation I expect to continue until the festive period before the usual New Year cycle kicks in.

In the meantime, I hope you enjoyed the guest articles from Jack Ainslie and Nigel Chiu focusing on IndyCar and World RX respectively, giving a different perspective on motor sport broadcasting. A huge thanks to both Jack and Nigel for their contributions in recent weeks.

If anyone else is interesting in writing a guest article over the next few months, please drop me a line, all ideas are welcome.

Formula 1

  • ESPN have retained the rights to broadcast F1 in the US through to the end of 2022 in a new three-year deal. The broadcaster will again simulcast Sky Sports’ UK offering commercial free, covering every F1 session as well as F2, F3 and the Porsche Supercup.
    • Despite earlier suggestions that NBC were interested in reclaiming the rights they lost back in 2017, I understand that NBC and F1 were some distance apart from both a financial and forward-thinking perspective.
    • F1’s US audience figures have increased significantly since ESPN came on-board, increasing by 24 percent since NBC’s final season in 2017.
  • Netflix’s Drive to Survive, which returns for season two in early-2020 has undoubtedly helped the surge in interest stateside.
    • The increased interest also applies to Mexico where circuit organisers say has caused an increase in the number of women attending the Mexico race.
    • Speaking to RaceFans, Mexico’s race promoter Alejandro Soberon said “We noticed that we have like a 30 percent increase in interest [from] women. We have tested and it’s related directly related to the Netflix series. And they answer and they comment and at least in Mexico, it was wildly successful.”
  • By far the biggest story in terms of column inches surrounded a new graphic which debuted at the Japanese Grand Prix showing the condition of each tyre. The graphic depicted the condition in intervals of ten, in percentage form from 100% (full grip) to 0% (no grip).
    • However, the graphic came under heavy criticism, with Pirelli’s Mario Isola calling the graphic “misleading“, and that they are not supplying F1 with the data.
    • It did not take F1 to respond, issuing a press release just an hour before the Mexican Grand Prix, with a full explainer of what the ‘improved’ graphic contained.
      • In their explainer, F1 noted that the graphic, powered by AWS, uses several public sources, such as live timing data, live telemetry data, tyre compound and stint length to build the overall picture.
    • RaceFans have a detailed article on F1’s thinking on the graphics front, featuring comment from Dean Locke, who is F1’s Director of Broadcasting and Media.
  • Leeds Crown Court have jailed a man for 18 months after he threatened to shoot BBC F1 commentator Jack Nicholls and journalist Clive Myrie.
    • Ian Hargreaves, 66, sent threatening messages about both Nicholls and Myrie through the BBC’s online complaints form.
    • Writing on Twitter, Nicholls said “Some people really don’t like my commentary. A huge thanks to the BBC who have been amazing throughout.”
  • Good news for fans of the official F1 season reviews: Duke Video have confirmed that the 2019 season review is reverting to the 2017 format after heavy criticism of the 2018 review.
    • As in 2017 and before, additional content will supplement the feature-length four-hour review.
  • The F1 team performed what was a herculean effort to get operations back up and running following Typhoon Hagibis ready for race day at the Japanese Grand Prix.
    • interviewed Andrew James, who works as F1 centre’s technical director to get the inside story.
  • F1 came away as winners from the Broadcast Tech Awards, winning ‘Best 360 / VR Production’ award.

Formula E

  • As first revealed by e-racing365, Bob Varsha will not be part of the Formula E commentary booth for the upcoming season, which begins on Friday 22nd November in Saudi Arabia. Jack Nicholls and Dario Franchitti remain with the team on commentary.
  • I am expecting Formula E to announce this week the destination of several television deals for season six, including their UK free-to-air partner.
    • Last season, the championship aired across the BBC, Quest, Eurosport and BT Sport. The Eurosport arrangement is a two-year agreement that started last season, but the status of the other three are unknown as of writing.

Meanwhile on two-wheels…

  • A new MotoGP television graphic debuted during the Japanese Grand Prix weekend. First focusing on Yamaha rider Maverick Vinales, the graphic shows the heart rate of a rider during the heat of the action.
    • In the example Vinales tweeted, his heart rate is at a rather calm 112 beats per minute.
  • Eurosport in the UK have secured the rights to British Speedway until the end of the 2024 season.
    • British Speedway for many years aired live on Sky Sports, gaining a passionate following, but since 2017 has aired to a smaller audience on BT Sport.
    • The move to Eurosport, along with free-to-air highlights on Quest and DMAX, will help revitalise speedway in the UK, which has been on the decline in recent times.

See anything else worth mentioning on the news front? Drop a line in the comments section below.

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