The challenges facing BT Sport and MotoGP during 2023

Ten years ago, the landscape of MotoGP for fans in the UK changed when it was announced that the series would be moving behind a paywall to BT Sport for the 2014 season and onwards.

Since then, the premier bike series has undergone changes both on and off the circuit. The stars of yesteryear have retired, making way for a new fresh breed of talented riders at the forefront of the field.

Over the same time period, the way fans consume sports has evolved, with rights holders seeking to attract a more diverse audience across a plethora of different platforms: linear and live, vertical viewing, highlights, YouTube, TikTok, and feeds tailored to the fans of tomorrow.

Some sports have adapted to the changing landscape better than others, while some have found themselves left behind.

Although MotoGP managed to navigate the pandemic successfully, the series is faced with a fresh set of challenges if it is to thrive into the future. As Motorsport Broadcasting explores, the sport needs to stay ahead of the curve and adapt to changing fan expectations and media consumption habits.

Understanding why MotoGP moved to pay television

MotoGP enjoyed a long period of live free-to-air coverage in the UK, with a passionate fan base watching the likes of Valentino Rossi, Casey Stoner, Nicky Hayden, Dani Pedrosa and Jorge Lorenzo through the 2000s.

The MotoGP era we know and love today began in 2002, with coverage of the series airing for UK fans on Channel 5, and a more extensive offering available via Eurosport. Free-to-air coverage moved to the BBC from 2003, initially on a two-year agreement.

At the time, MotoGP joined both the British Superbikes and World Superbikes on the Beeb, making the broadcaster the home of bikes for a short period until both Superbikes championships moved to pastures new.

MotoGP’s presence on the BBC expanded year-on-year, from just three races airing live in 2003 (Donington, Motegi, and Valencia), to every race airing live in 2006 via either the BBC’s Red Button service or BBC Two.

The demise of Sunday Grandstand led to MotoGP coverage airing in a standalone 90-minute slot on BBC Two, with further coverage available on the Red Button.

Suzi Perry, Jennie Gow, and Matt Roberts led the BBC’s on-site team through the years, steering viewers through every twist and turn. Their coverage attracted an audience of around one million viewers per race. Charlie Cox and Steve Parrish provided commentary for every race, giving new fans a gateway into the sport.

Opening titles for the BBC’s MotoGP coverage in 2010.

For fans who wanted more, Eurosport was the place to be.

The trio of Toby Moody, Julian Ryder, and Randy Mamola rank among this writer’s all-time favourite commentary teams, bringing their own raw style to Eurosport’s offering.

Eurosport’s involvement in MotoGP faded thanks to a deal that granted BBC more exclusivity from 2009, with the broadcaster’s offering increasing to include Moto2 and Moto3 via the Red Button, as well as exclusive coverage of the MotoGP race.

Soon after, the financial crisis hit MotoGP, and Dorna opted to prioritise money over reach, as BT Group’s pay TV proposition, attached with it a significant amount of money, was too good to refuse for Dorna. BT Group was prepared to pay far more than what both the BBC and Eurosport were able to at the time for MotoGP.

Instead of taking a step-change approach to let audiences adjust, like what happened with F1 (forced by the BBC’s and Sky’s hand in the matter or not) from 2012 onwards, Dorna went ‘all-in’ on the pay TV approach in the UK.

The story that this writer has heard on multiple occasions is that, without pay TV money, several outfits further down the grid in Moto2 and Moto3 would have struggled to survive. Put simply, the teams needed the money to keep the show on the road, and in some cases still do.

Since 2014, every race has aired live on BT Sport, with free-to-air highlights airing on either ITV4, Channel 5, or Quest on Monday nights.

Marquez shines on social media

Since moving to BT, MotoGP’s viewership in the UK has declined. Under a quarter of the BBC’s MotoGP audience made the jump, with a typical race attracting 200,000 to 250,000 viewers on average.

The free-to-air highlights package has made up some of the deficit, but even this has shrunk over the past decade, due to changes in broadcasters and scheduling, making it difficult for the casual fan to catch-up with the sport.

On-track factors have impacted the sport too. The stars of yesterday – Rossi, Stoner, Hayden, Pedrosa, Lorenzo – have all retired, with their replacements struggling to break through into the mainstream, partly thanks to the subscription model used in countries like the UK and Spain.

Spanish rider and Repsol Honda star Marc Marquez is the exception. Marquez lit up the track as soon as he entered the sport, and since 2013, Marquez has won 6 of the 10 possible MotoGP championships.

Analysis by Motorsport Broadcasting shows that Marquez is to MotoGP what Lewis Hamilton is to Formula 1 from a social media perspective, across Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Marquez has 3.84 times more followers compared to MotoGP’s next best, while Hamilton has 2.92 times more followers than the second most followed F1 driver, showing how their on-track performances have perforated through onto social media.

Slide the bar across left and right to compare the top 10 F1 and MotoGP stars on social media.

But this is where the similarities between Marquez and Hamilton, MotoGP and F1, BT Sport and Sky, end. While F1 has built stars around Hamilton, MotoGP has failed to do so.

Across social media, the 2022 MotoGP champion Pecco Bagnaia is the sixth most popular rider on the grid, with 1.83 million followers.

The sixth most followed driver in F1 is Carlos Sainz with 9.5 million followers, and if you look at it from a raw number perspective, 1.83 million followers put Bagnaia alongside Alpha Tauri driver Yuki Tsunoda.

This is no sight on the riders at all, but rather a criticism of those responsible for not maximising its potential in the digital age.

One factor that hindered Dorna was Marquez’s accident as soon as the series returned to action post-COVID. It meant that organisers had to navigate 2020 minus their star, a challenging task considering his dominance. But it also shows the championship’s inability to prepare for such a scenario unfolding.

Perhaps the most significant moments that have captured widespread attention in MotoGP over the last decade are the controversial Sepang 2015 clash between Marquez and Rossi, and the horror accident that unfolded at the Red Bull Ring in 2020.

A decade ago, compared to F1, MotoGP was on the front foot where its television broadcasts and social media presence was concerned, however the tide has turned over the past five years.

What factors have contributed to F1’s success while MotoGP has struggled to gain momentum?

MotoGP Unlimited given the chop

F1’s new owners Liberty Media have prioritised growth across all platforms, with documentaries such as Netflix’s Drive to Survive launching in 2019.

MotoGP responded to Drive to Survive with their own documentary series. MotoGP Unlimited premiered on Amazon Prime in early 2022. But while Drive to Survive was a hit from early on, teething issues and a lukewarm reception plagued MotoGP Unlimited at launch.

The result was that the series failed to break through in the way that either Dorna or Amazon hoped. Sources close to this site have indicated that the series will not be returning.

As one person told me last year, once you have a failed product like MotoGP Unlimited in the market, it becomes a barrier to enter the market again for the next few years.

F1 has benefited from Drive to Survive across all platforms, helping the series to reach a younger, more diverse audience across social media and linear, with record crowds throughout 2022 as race circuits opened following the pandemic.

In the UK, Sky Sports F1 have seized the opportunity, grabbing some of the lucrative Drive to Survive audience. 2022 was their most watched season ever, recording a higher average audience than 2021’s titanic duel between Verstappen and Hamilton.

In comparison, BT Sport’s MotoGP audience figures have stagnated, while analysis from reveals that circuit attendances dropped last season compared to pre-pandemic levels.

With F1 clearly on the front foot and in the limelight, MotoGP has found itself very much in F1’s shadow in recent years.

And, while it is not BT Sport’s fault that Dorna have made some missteps, it is their responsibility to look at how they can broaden their own reach, with Dorna’s support where possible.

After fixing some early issues during their infancy, BT’s coverage of MotoGP has been of high quality. Their coverage, produced by North One Television (also responsible for ITV’s F1 coverage and Formula E’s television feed), gives all three tiers of MotoGP extensive coverage.

The BT team is talented and knowledgeable across the board. Gavin Emmett commentates across all three classes, joined by Michael Laverty, Neil Hodgson, and Sylvain Guintoli, with Suzi Perry and Natalie Quirk on presenting duties.

However, the broadcaster enters a time of change, which may have ramifications for the long-term future of their MotoGP programming, and for fans who watch it. BT Sport’s contract with Dorna finishes at the end of 2024, but before then, the landscape will change radically.

BT Sport and Warner Bros. Discovery (WBD) agreed to form a 50:50 joint venture last year, and will launch the TNT Sports brand in the UK this Summer. The new TNT brand, led by ex-Sky Sports F1 head Scott Young, will bring down the curtain on both the BT Sport and Eurosport brand names.

On the face of it, this is good news for motor sport fans, as content such as MotoGP, World Superbikes, British Superbikes, the World Endurance Championship and World Rally Championship will in the long term be available through TNT. WBD have yet to announce a pricing strategy for the new venture.

It gives TNT the chance to properly cross-promote their bike properties, something that has already started to happen on both BT and Eurosport ahead of the 2023 season, which should help drive up MotoGP’s viewing figures.

However, one question that Warner Bros. Discovery may ask is whether MotoGP justifies the price tag that BT Sport are currently paying for their investment, considering that their return on investment is low, and viewing figures have failed to move in the past decade.

How do Dorna plan to change the status quo?

Introducing the MotoGP Sprint

Like F1, Dorna has taken steps to make all three days of the race weekend a more attractive proposition for fans and broadcasters alike.

For 2023, a 20-minute sprint race takes place on Saturdays at each of the 21 race weekends, a contrast to F1’s ‘pick and choose’ approach.

While the sprint races have been full of thrills and spills, the distribution method is the same as the feature race for fans in the UK: behind a paywall. If Dorna genuinely wants to attract a new audience, this is not the right approach.

BT Sport’s highlights of the first ever Sprint race.

When announcing the decision to add sprint races to the calendar, Dorna said, “The introduction of Sprint Races allows every day of a race weekend to offer fans and broadcasters the best possible experience on track and off, with track action  on Friday, Saturday and Sunday focused on maximum spectacle to show off the best of MotoGP.”

“In addition, the new format will provide increased engagement opportunities for fans, broadcasters and media across the event and increase the profile of the MotoGP class without reducing that of Moto2 and Moto3,” they added.

In my view, the sprint races need to be more accessible, whether that is, in the case of the UK, through BT Sport airing the sprints on a ‘free to view’ basis, or streaming via YouTube, Dorna need to think outside of the box rather than sticking with tried and tested methods.

Some may feel that pay broadcasters would not benefit from such a move. However, I would argue that a strong, easily accessible sprint race on Saturdays would entice fans to seek out the main event on Sunday via pay TV, not only benefiting MotoGP but also Moto2 and Moto3.

F1’s pay TV audience has grown in recent years, so why should MotoGP be any different in this regard?

Dorna has adjusted their Saturday schedule so that the sprint is the last event of the day. MotoGP’s final practice session and qualifying have both moved to Saturday mornings, which has caused some broadcasters, such as BT, to change how they cover the day.

2022’s Saturday schedule (local time)2023’s Saturday schedule (local time)
09:00 to 09:40 – Moto3 Practice08:40 to 09:10 – Moto3 Practice
09:55 to 10:40 – MotoGP Practice09:25 to 09:55 – Moto2 Practice
10:55 to 11:35 – Moto2 Practice10:10 to 10:40 – MotoGP Practice
 10:55 to 11:30 – MotoGP Qualifying
12:35 to 13:15 – Moto3 Qualifying
13:30 to 14:00 – MotoGP Practice12:50 to 13:30 – Moto3 Qualifying
14:10 to 14:50 – MotoGP Qualifying13:45 to 14:25 – Moto2 Qualifying
15:10 to 15:50 – Moto2 Qualifying15:00 – MotoGP Sprint

Previously, BT began their Saturday presentation offering at 11:00 UK time (12:00 local time), giving them ample time to discuss all three classes, and analyse the crucial qualifying sessions.

Retaining this structure would have resulted in neither the final MotoGP practice session nor qualifying receiving the full ‘bells and whistles’ treatment as in previous years.

For the first round in Portugal, BT made a few adjustments to their MotoGP broadcasts:

  • Friday – Taking the World Feed commentary instead of producing their own commentary.
  • Saturday – Extending their presentation offering, coming on-air two hours earlier at 10:00 local time, allowing them to cover MotoGP qualifying through their own presentation team. All three morning practice sessions for the three classes aired via BT Sport 5 (the Red Button for viewers on Sky).
  • Sunday – Airing the post-race Chequered Flag programme later in the evening as a standalone show instead of following the MotoGP race.

 For BT, covering the MotoGP qualifying session in detail is essential, as it determines the starting grid for both Saturday’s sprint and Sunday’s main event.

A longer show means additional preparation time, not just for the production team, but also for those in front of the camera.

Five minutes of television do not happen by magic, and every segment or feature requires resources: a presenter, a camera operator, and someone to edit it all together to make compelling television.

While BT adjusted for Argentina and last weekend in America (notably producing their commentary feed for Friday’s and airing MotoGP practice on the main channel), the broadcaster is at the behest of series organisers who dictate the weekend schedules.

From a fan perspective, MotoGP qualifying feels too early in the weekend. From a broadcaster’s perspective, a difficult-to-fill 80-minute filler gap follows the session.

A better approach would be to move MotoGP qualifying to after the lunch break at 12:00 local time, with Moto3 and Moto2 qualifying following, the two series benefiting from having the main class immediately before it.

Some fans criticised the decision to move Moto3 and Moto2 practice off BT Sport 2 on Saturday mornings, which shows the need to strike a balance between appealing to the hardcore fanatic who wants every session live and the new fan who wants to know more about the stories in the main class.

While sympathising with those who do want to watch practice over additional MotoGP content, the fact is that airing the latter has a better chance of increasing the audience than the former.

A source compared the situation to thinking of it in a “multi-screen way,” giving viewers the choice of what they want to watch, like how Discovery treats other significant events, such as the tennis Australian Open tournament.

A similar problem exists on Sunday’s, but for a completely different reason: the Rider’s Parade would be better after Moto3 and Moto2, to benefit from a higher attendance rather than taking place in front of half empty grandstands.

The need to go further

Aside from the sprint, Dorna has made other changes for 2023, notably the introduction of a new signature theme for the series.

Academy Award nominee and Emmy-winning composer Marco Beltrami is the man behind the MotoGP theme. Beltrami approached MotoGP with his idea, saying that the new theme had to be “something simple, rhythmic, heroic.”

Beethoven inspired Beltrami for the theme. “The first place I looked was Beethoven, his ninth symphony, in the second movement you have a really simple rhythmic motif and I thought maybe that’s the starting place for my theme. That’s basically what I did.”

Comparisons with Formula 1’s opening theme are inevitable: Hollywood composers pitch both, with similar structures throughout both sets of titles.

F1’s theme, composed by Brian Tyler, launched in 2018, with F1 working with third parties on new opening titles each year since. Instead of comparing MotoGP’s first version with F1’s sixth, a better comparison would be to compare with MotoGP’s inaugural effort with F1’s 2018 titles.

The cinematography in MotoGP’s effort is superb, arguably better than some of F1’s recent efforts from a visual perspective. The intro does well to introduce the stars of the show, which is Dorna’s main intention.

Unfortunately, what lets the sequence down is that it is pedestrian, ironically the opposite problem to what F1’s first opening sequence encountered, which introduced the 20 drivers at breakneck speed. Shaving ten seconds off the opening titles would still get the message across to newer viewers watching at home.

When F1 launched their new branding, it came at a time of change for the sport, and the sport’s owners wanted to emphasise that across the screen.

MotoGP is not in such a position: there are no new owners, and what we have on-screen this year is a mix between new and old. New sprint, new theme, same owners, same logo, same graphics, same over-the-top platform.

The latter is a sticking point where Dorna was once ahead of F1 but has fallen behind. The Video Pass service uploads sessions as soon as they have finished and has a rich archive dating back to 1992, which should make it a hot commodity for MotoGP fans.

F1’s direct-to-consumer (DTC) proposition is significantly cheaper than MotoGP. The MotoGP service costs €199.99 across a full season compared to roughly €74.99 (territory dependent) for the F1 equivalent. Meanwhile, MotoGP’s YouTube channel is light years behind F1’s channel.

Does MotoGP need an overhaul that goes far and beyond what current owners Dorna have delivered? Maybe that is what Dan Rossomondo, MotoGP’s new Chief Commercial Officer, will help deliver.

Rossomondo joins Dorna with a wealth of experience, having previously been Senior Vice President of Global Partnerships and Media at the NBA.

“Dan’s vision for the commercial future of MotoGP fits perfectly with our views: fresh ideas, increased reach, and commitment to take the sport to new heights,” said Carmelo Ezpeleta, CEO of Dorna Sports.

“At the helm, I’m confident he will provide existing partners with the best possible results and relationships, and at the same time will work to search out new, like-minded media, marketing and licensing partners.”

“We know Dan can bring a lot to Dorna and our biggest property, MotoGP, and on a personal level we’re also very much looking forward to working with him. We’re very excited to begin this new chapter.”

MotoGP has started 2023 off on the right note. Now, it is for the team at Dorna to continue that work so MotoGP can thrive into the future.

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Scheduling: The 2022 MotoGP and Supercars season openers

The motor racing season continues to roar back into action this weekend, with the return of MotoGP and Supercars action!

For UK fans, both championships air live on BT Sport, however, there are other viewing options available across the board for fans wanting to dip their toes into the action.

MotoGP – the coverage

2022 is BT’s ninth season covering MotoGP, along with feeder series Moto2 and Moto3, with every session airing live on BT Sport 2.

In addition to BT Sport’s pay TV offering, free-to-air highlights will air on Monday evenings on ITV4.

In a new element to the ITV deal that began last season, the broadcaster will also cover two races live. The British MotoGP race will air live on ITV, while ITV4 will cover action from one other round live.

Both BT’s and ITV’s current arrangements with commercial rights holder Dorna run until the end of 2024.

The new season begins in Qatar, which is the earliest for the championship, and its predecessors, since 1964. Back then, the first race took place on 2nd February in America, with Mike Hailwood coming out victorious.

Not only does the championship start earlier, but so does the race, with all sessions two hours earlier than last year for UK fans.

The switch from British Summer Time (BST) to Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) offsets one hour, with the sessions taking place one hour earlier than previously.

ITV4’s highlights package airs later than usual on Monday thanks to FA Cup action.

Alternatively, fans can watch MotoGP via Dorna’s in-house over-the-top platform. Priced at €199.99 across the year, or £167.13 based on current conversion rates, the price gives fans access to all the action live, and access to MotoGP’s rich and ever-expanding archive.

Considering the increase in races this season, the price represents better value for money than in previous years.

MotoGP – the personnel

It is in-house where the biggest changes come for MotoGP, following Steve Day’s decision to step down as lead commentator at the end of 2021.

Day, who succeeded Nick Harris in the role, stepped down after four years as World Feed lead commentator.

Writing on his Instagram at the time, Day said that he had made the “incredibly difficult decision to leave my role in order to spend some more time at home with my family, my friends and to work on some new and exciting projects.”

Replacing Day is Louis Suddaby. Suddaby is already a familiar voice to MotoGP’s fanbase, having been part of their social media presenting and editorial team in recent years.

Suzi Perry continues to lead BT Sport’s MotoGP offering, with Gavin Emmett and Neil Hodgson providing analysis throughout the weekend.

Friday 4th March
08:45 to 16:00 – Practice (BT Sport 2)
=> 08:50 – Moto3: Practice 1
=> 09:45 – Moto2: Practice 1
=> 10:40 – MotoGP: Practice 1
=> 13:10 – Moto3: Practice 2
=> 14:05 – Moto2: Practice 2
=> 15:00 – MotoGP: Practice 2

Saturday 5th March
08:15 to 11:15 – Practice (BT Sport 2)
=> 08:25 – Moto3: Practice 3
=> 09:20 – Moto2: Practice 3
=> 10:15 – MotoGP: Practice 3
12:00 to 16:15 – Qualifying (BT Sport 2)
=> 12:30 – Moto3: Qualifying
=> 13:25 – Moto2: Qualifying
=> 14:20 – MotoGP: Practice 4
=> 15:00 – MotoGP: Qualifying

Sunday 6th March
08:30 to 09:45 – Asia Talent Cup (BT Sport 2)
10:00 to 17:00 – Races (BT Sport 2)
=> 10:00 – Warm Ups
=> 11:15 – Moto3: Race
=> 13:00 – Moto2: Race
=> 14:30 – MotoGP: Race
=> 16:00 – Chequered Flag

Monday 7th March
21:45 to 22:45 – Highlights (ITV4)

Full scheduling details for the 2022 Qatar MotoGP. Scheduling details correct as of Monday 28th February and are subject to change.

Supercars returns

Down under in Australia, the Supercars series gets back underway with the Sydney SuperNight event!

Triple Eight’s Shane van Gisbergen is looking to successfully defend his championship after winning his second title last year.

While BT Sport airs every race live for UK based readers, fans wanting to get closer to the action can do by subscribing to the SuperView service. New for 2022, fans can also access SuperView via YouTube.

The service, which costs £38.14 across the year based on current conversion rates, gives fans access to every race, including feeder series, as well as on-demand replays of qualifying and the race itself.

Like MotoGP, Supercars has their own in-house broadcast team, which international broadcasters use.

> Full details: the 2022 Supercars broadcasting line-up

Neil Crompton and five-time champion Mark Skaife lead the commentary line-up, supported by an expert team including three-time champion Craig Lowndes and Triple Eight endurance co-driver Garth Tander.

Friday 4th March
02:00 to 08:00 – Practice
=> 04:15 – Practice 1
=> 07:10 – Practice 2

Saturday 5th March
01:15 to 10:45 – Race 1
=> 03:45 – Qualifying, Race 1
=> 05:30 – Top 10 Shootout, Race 1
=> 08:10 – Race 1
=> Race 1 airs live on BT Sport Extra 1 from 08:00 to 10:45

Sunday 6th March
21:00 (Saturday) to 07:00 – Race 2
=> 23:50 (Saturday) – Qualifying, Race 2
=> 01:05 – Top 10 Shootout, Race 2
=> 03:30 – Race 2
=> Race 2 airs live on BT Sport/ESPN from 03:30 to 06:00

Full scheduling details for the 2022 Sydney SuperNight event. Scheduling details correct as of Tuesday 1st March and are subject to change.

If scheduling details change, this article will be updated.

Additional Supercars details provided by Joshua Kerr.

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Tracking the social media fortune of motor sports leading championships

Motor sport has successfully navigated the COVID-19 pandemic, with leading championships managing to put together championship seasons throughout turbulent times.

Off the track, each individual series has fought for the attention of viewers around the world, some more successful in others.

Across social media, the battle for followers has intensified, with real-world championships turning to eSports to try to hook the next generation of fans.

This writer has followed the battle every step of the way, and can now present a deep-dive into each series, including who is hot, and who is not…


Since March 2017, Motorsport Broadcasting has collected and analysed metrics on 14 of the world’s leading motor sport series, dissecting their performance across the leading social media platforms.

The data gives us a greater insight on which championships are increasing their social media following the most comparatively speaking against their rivals, and which entities risk slipping out of the limelight in the years ahead.

The metrics focus on the number of followers for each series, across Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, aggregating these totals together to form a wider view, as this is easily accessible data within the public domain.

The championships covered are:

  • British Superbikes
  • British Touring Car Championship
  • Formula E
  • Formula 1
  • Formula Two
  • IndyCar Series
  • MotoGP
  • Roborace
  • W Series*
  • World Endurance Championship
  • World Rally Championship
  • World Rallycross*
  • World Superbikes
  • World Touring Car Championship

* Added in September 2019

By analysing international and domestic series within the same time series, we can see what the natural ‘floor’ is, and whether any international championships are performing worse than anticipated against their rivals.

As thus, the surprise is not when the British Superbikes or British Touring Car Championships are at the back of the pack, but rather when someone else is.

By comparing multiple data points, we can analyse how much a championship has grown over a given period, ranking this data to see which series is the best and worst performer within the data set (1st means fastest growth of the championships tracked within the period, 15th means slowest growth).

The methodology is imperfect, but helps us identify how championships are performing over a longer period against their rivals in the marketplace.

Formula Two and W Series rises show benefits of current F1 support package

The chart above shows how Formula 1, Formula Two and the W Series have performed in direct comparison to their rivals recently.

As expected, Formula 1 has led the way, only briefly dipping behind their nearest rival twice. Formula E overtook F1 in the back end of 2018, with MotoGP doing the same two years later.

More interestingly is the consistent rise of Formula Two since Liberty Media purchased F1 and their subsidiary organisations.

In early 2017, Formula Two was lacklustre in the social media space, ranking 13th (and last) in the series that Motorsport Broadcasting is tracking. To put it simply, Formula Two was growing slower in terms of raw volume than its key rivals.

Since then, Formula Two’s reach on social media has risen faster than its rivals: gradually increasing to 8th in July 2018 and 3rd in Autumn 2019 and 2020 respectively.

Formula Two’s rise has not matched the dazzling heights it saw last year (a statistic supported by Sky’s UK audience figures for the series year-on-year), however we can attribute this to the poor calendar format as opposed to any misstep on the social media front.

Social media figures have grown for the leading feeder series by 748% in the past four years: from 156,000 followers in May 2017 to 1.33 million followers at the end of October, a massive achievement.

It shows not only how well Liberty Media have treated the series across their platforms, but also how much of an afterthought Bernie Ecclestone’s F1 treated the feeder championships.

Motorsport Broadcasting has not tracked Formula Three’s figures, but expect a similar pattern to have emerged in that space.

Pleasingly, the W Series is also performing well on social media, rising at a faster rate than some of their bigger rivals this season, including F2, as the chart shows.

The championship has doubled their following in the six months to October: rising from 165,000 followers to 331,000 followers. The total volumes are still small, but there is reason to be hopeful that W Series is about to break out on social media.

An expanded calendar, to give the championship more ‘growth opportunities’ would help in that regard as we head into 2022.

Formula E and IndyCar’s stats show mixed results

While Formula Two and W Series have generally seen a positive swing in momentum, Formula E and IndyCar have experienced turbulence in recent years.

IndyCar’s social media movement has fluctuated in recent years, with a strong 2017 and 2018 followed by a sharp slump in 2019, possibly influenced by Fernando Alonso’s first Indianapolis 500 appearance in 2017.

The series recovered throughout the pandemic, but failed to reach their earlier heights, in comparison to its rivals at least.

Whereas international championships such as MotoGP and F1 have increased their calendar length, IndyCar’s typical season lasts six months, the season beginning in March and finishing in September.

The result, from a social media perspective, has been a much sharper ‘off-season decline’ compared to their rivals, thanks to the length of their off-season. There is some evidence in the data that a long off-season hurts IndyCar to gain momentum at the start of the following season.

IndyCar’s trough came at the start of the pandemic, a surprising statistic considering how successful their eSports Series was in attracting attention, with McLaren F1 driver Lando Norris to the party. Evidently, Norris’s appearance in the video world had little impact on IndyCar overall.

Formula E’s trajectory is well supported by their decline in audience figures through the pandemic. At one point, in late 2018 at the start of the Gen2, Formula E was growing faster than most of their rivals, but has since slipped down the order. Although Formula E retains a higher reach (for now), the likes of Formula Two are currently growing at a faster rate than the electric series.

Reigning champion Antonio Felix da Costa acknowledged in an interview with The Race recently that the series has “took a few punches” recently, something that the championship needs to rectify heading into season 8.

World Superbikes performs well

The leading two-wheel championships have generally performed well in recent years. MotoGP sits behind Formula 1 as expected; however, the bigger surprise is World Superbikes.

Despite Jonathan Rea’s dominance from 2015 to 2020, the series has always been there or there abouts, consistently in the top six for social media growth since the start of 2019.

2021 has built on the strong foundations, with Rea’s time at the top of the series halted, for now at least, by Turkish rider Toprak Razgatlioglu, helping push World Superbikes into a top three spot for social media growth, only behind F1 and MotoGP.

MotoGP will be hoping that the impact of their new Amazon Prime documentary series, alongside the rest of their product offering, will help not only their social media offering, but also the broadcasters too.

“We’re not the target of these new products,” Manel Arroyo, MotoGP’s Managing Director told me earlier this year. “The purpose is to bring in a new audience of people that are normally visiting different platforms.”

“And then, they find these kind of products and documentaries, discovering us in the process. Our main target with our platforms is to create new audiences and to bring these audiences to our broadcasters, whether in Spain, Italy, Germany, UK, everywhere.”

“It’s not just about social media growth, but looking at how we deliver the growth as well to our broadcasters.”

Another consistent performer is the World Rally Championship, with the All Live platform helping. However, a poor Summer saw the series drop to 7th in the social media standings, its lowest ranking in three years.

The overall picture

What does this mean when all the data points are crunched together into one chart?

Highlighted are some of the series with the biggest fluctuations referenced in this article.

IndyCar’s standing has not necessarily declined from 2017 to 2021, but what has happened is that both it, and Formula E, have encountered competition from what an unlikely source in Formula Two.

This makes it more difficult for both IndyCar and Formula E to stand out from the crowd, with Formula Two now on the social scene. 2022 is critical for the latter, who have now fallen behind the likes of the World Endurance Championship on social media.

Overall, it shows just how important it is to have momentum on track, and how that then translates into the social media metrics.

Statistics last updated on October 31st, 2021.

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Scheduling: The 2021 United States Grand Prix

With 6 races to go in the 2021 Formula One season, just 6 points separate Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton as the championship returns to Texas for the United States Grand Prix!

For UK viewers, the weekend offering from both Sky Sports and Channel 4 looks a little different to usual – hence why Motorsport Broadcasting has opted to publish a full schedule for the weekend.

F1 – the coverage

Channel 4’s offering is the weakest from a free-to-air broadcaster in decades, partly by choice, and partly inflicted upon them.

With qualifying starting at 21:00 UK time on Saturday, Channel 4 have opted to air qualifying on Sunday morning instead of a late-night Saturday slot, as they did in 2019.

Meanwhile, the race edit begins just after midnight on Sunday, the earliest Channel 4 can contractually air the race.

Channel 4 have trimmed both shows back compared to usual: a one-hour qualifying show airs on Sunday with an 85-minute programme covering the race. Expect limited commercials, and a weekend featuring primarily World Feed content.

The actual race edits should be the same length as usual, except without the usual bells and whistles that production company Whisper usually provide.

Given the closeness of the championship race, one wonders whether Channel 4 should have negotiated with Sky to bring the free-to-air highlights package forward, even by an hour to 23:05.

Doing so would unlikely deplete Sky’s live audience, but boost Channel 4’s figure significantly, resulting in a net gain overall. Thankfully this is not a championship decider, because having the F1 title won at 01:00 on free-to-air television is not in anyone’s interests.

By way of comparison, 30 years ago, the BBC aired a 50-minute highlights package of the US Grand Prix from Phoenix in a late night time slot on BBC Two.

Sky have seemingly reacted to Channel 4’s qualifying conundrum by opting to simulcast their live coverage on their new Sky Showcase channel, enabling more viewers to watch qualifying across Sky, Virgin Media and BT TV.

F1 – the team and W Series

With a reduced offering comes a change in presenter, as Lee McKenzie steps into Steve Jones’s presenting shoes for Channel 4.

Martin Brundle returns to Sky’s coverage after missing both the Russian and Turkish rounds, with Jenson Button also joining the team out in Austin.

For the first time, IndyCar and NASCAR star Danica Patrick joins Sky’s offering. One person not with Sky is Ted Kravitz, Kravitz part of the W Series team during the US Grand Prix weekend.

Live coverage of the W Series airs across More4 and Channel 4, the Saturday race airing on More4 with the season finale airing on Channel 4.

All F1 sessions are available to listen live via BBC’s F1 website

Thursday 21st October
21:00 to 22:00 – The F1 Show (Sky Sports F1 and Sky Sports Main Event)
22:00 to 22:30 – F1: Preview (BBC Radio 5 Live)
23:00 to 00:30 – F1: Drivers’ Press Conference (Sky Sports F1)

Friday 22nd October
17:00 to 18:45 – F1: Practice 1 (Sky Sports F1)
20:45 to 22:30 – F1: Practice 2 (Sky Sports F1)

Saturday 23rd October
18:45 to 20:10 – F1: Practice 3 (Sky Sports F1)
=> also BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra from 18:55 to 20:05
20:30 to 21:00 – Hamilton vs Verstappen: The Season so Far (Sky Sports F1, Sky Sports Main Event and Sky Showcase)
21:00 to 23:45 – F1: Qualifying (Sky Sports F1, Sky Sports Main Event and Sky Showcase)
=> Sky Showcase until 23:15
=> also BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra from 21:55 to 23:05
23:05 to 00:25 – W Series: Race 1 (More4)

Sunday 24th October
08:00 to 08:30 – W Series: Race 1 Highlights (Channel 4)

08:30 to 09:30 – F1: Qualifying Highlights (Channel 4)
16:30 to 18:00 – W Series: Race 2 (Channel 4)

18:30 to 23:00 – F1: Race
=> 18:30 – Grand Prix Sunday (Sky Sports F1 and Sky Sports Main Event)
=> 19:55 – Race (Sky Sports F1 and Sky Sports Main Event)
=> also BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra from 19:45 to 22:00
=> 22:00 – Chequered Flag (Sky Sports F1)
00:05 to 01:30 – F1: Race Highlights (Channel 4)

Full scheduling details for the 2021 United States Grand Prix. Scheduling details correct as of Friday 15th October and are subject to change.

Meanwhile, MotoGP heads back to Misano, the Emilia Romagna race filling the void left by the cancellation of the flyaway rounds.

With a 52-point advantage, Fabio Quartararo is odds on favourite to win his first MotoGP World Championship. As always, live coverage of every session airs on BT Sport 2, with highlights airing on ITV4.

Elsewhere in motor racing, the British Touring Car Championship concludes with all the action from Brands Hatch airing live on ITV4.

Friday 22nd October
08:00 to 15:15 – Practice (BT Sport 2)
=> 08:00 – Moto3
=> 08:55 – MotoGP
=> 09:55 – Moto2
=> 12:15 – Moto3
=> 13:10 – MotoGP
=> 14:10 – Moto2

Saturday 23rd October
08:00 to 15:00 – Practice and Qualifying (BT Sport 2)
=> 08:00 – Moto3: Practice 3
=> 08:55 – MotoGP: Practice 3
=> 09:55 – Moto2: Practice 3
=> 11:35 – Moto3: Qualifying
=> 12:30 – MotoGP: Practice 4
=> 13:10 – MotoGP: Qualifying
=> 14:10 – Moto2: Qualifying

Sunday 24th October
07:30 to 14:30 – Races (BT Sport 2)
=> 07:30 – Warm Ups
=> 09:15 – Moto3: Race
=> 11:00 – Moto2: Race
=> 12:30 – MotoGP: Race
=> 14:00 – Chequered Flag

Monday 25th October
20:00 to 21:00 – Highlights (ITV4)

Full scheduling details for the 2021 Emilia Romagna MotoGP. Scheduling details correct as of Friday 15th October and are subject to change.

If plans change, this article will be updated.

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BT’s MotoGP series editor Kevin Brown on their post-COVID return to the paddock

MotoGP returned to Silverstone at the end of August following a year away due to the COVID pandemic, with Yamaha’s Fabio Quartararo dominating the race.

For UK broadcaster BT Sport life, in the MotoGP sense, is returning to some sort of normality.

The full team returned to the paddock for the Austrian double header, after spending all of 2020 and half of 2021 presenting coverage off-site back in the UK.

We caught up with BT’s MotoGP series editor Kevin Brown via Zoom during the Silverstone weekend to see how things have been since the team returned to the paddock, and what challenges still lie ahead.

We last spoke earlier in the year, and at that point the team was working remotely. How are things now you are back on site, compared to before COVID?

It’s not an awful lot different. The main thing is that the paddock is not so busy, it’s a very different Silverstone paddock. It’s lovely to see so many fans back in the grandstands, but obviously it’s a very tight and strict paddock bubble that we have to respect and we do respect.

As far as we’re concerned, [MotoGP’s commercial rights holder] Dorna have done a brilliant job to keep the sport running throughout the pandemic, and if it [helps] keep everyone safe, then that’s the main thing for us.

Yeah, and I imagine from your perspective, you have all the relevant contingencies in place if you do need to come back off-site later in the season for whatever reason.

Indeed. If there’s anything that we’ve been extremely pleased with over the last 18 months it is our ability to adapt. I think that every time we think about something we must think about what would happen ‘if’. It has sharpened us up in that respect.

Every time you plan, you make a second plan in case the first plan can’t happen. I don’t think we did that as much in the past, and now it is just constantly making sure you’re one step ahead.

We talked last year about the benefit of having on-air people on site, and this weekend really proves that with the face-to-face interaction with the riders.

We’re getting the benefits of being on site massively. It allows us to follow stories much easier, our commentators can go and talk to people, abiding by paddock rules. You can’t just go into someone’s motorhome and talk to them, you have to wear masks and be super careful, but at the same time the information flow is easier when you’re not having to rely on messages and phone calls.

I think that getting those little pieces of information that enhance a commentary or a presentation are easier when you’re here so certainly for our presenters, I think they are really getting the benefit of being back on-site.

Here at Silverstone, both Jake Dixon and Cal Crutchlow are racing in the main class, and of course it is Valentino Rossi’s last British MotoGP. I imagine you’re pleased that you can be on site to cover Rossi’s last races, and get the Suzi [Perry] interview with him.

I mean from Suzi’s point of view; she’s been there for the whole of [Valentino’s] 26 years. She’s been there from the time that Loris Capirossi used to interpret her questions for him when his English wasn’t very good!

It’s that sort of thing where their careers in MotoGP have kind of run in parallel so I think it’s quite fitting that we’ve been able to do a proper sit-down interview in the BRDC, and it was lovely that Silverstone made the facility available to us.

We had the best part of 40 minutes with him on Thursday, which was lovely because he’s got such a great relationship with the British public. It’s nice to feel like we can do the occasion justice.

[Note from David – the full interview will air on BT Sport soon, scheduling details to be confirmed.]

The BT team has returned to the paddock, but Silverstone also marks the final weekend in one respect for the production team. Just talk me through the changes in that area.

We’re all here [at Silverstone], but from Aragon onwards, we go to a full remote solution. Our presenters and commentators will all go to the track, with a support team of cameras, sound and technical, and then the rest of the production, the gallery, the edits, will be back in Stratford [BT Studios at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park] for the rest of the season. We’re embracing the new technology and moving into the future with it.

We’ve talked before that this was always going to happen at some point, but COVID has accelerated that.

And, we’ve learnt from COVID. We’ve learnt that we’re able to do things without sending so many people around the world and at the moment where travel isn’t so easy, to have the flexibility to have people in the UK as well as on site is fantastic.

I think for us it’s something that we were going to do anyway, but with COVID we’ve just had to get on with it a lot quicker than we otherwise would have done. We very quickly learned that so many things are possible. It feels like we’re just taking another step, every so often.

We went from doing The Greatest Race on people’s phones at people’s homes, to Hinkley at Triumph, then we went to the BT Tower. Then we started sending some people on site, then we’ve all gone back to site just to get us through this little period, and then here we are from the next race we’ll go full remote.

It’s actually felt like a very sensible progression, but it came about by circumstance, it wasn’t a planned move to do it like this. Each time you look at the rules and you look at what’s safe and you look at how best to do the best we can in the circumstances, and this is just where we’ve got to.

There’s a lot of very clever people at BT who are able to engineer it seems almost anything. When we need a solution, they’ve backed us all the way, and found the right way to do it. We’ve worked together, via North One and BT, to get it all right as much as we can and to try and serve the viewers and the subscribers as well as we can.

We had a brilliant championship last year, this year has been terrific too with some brilliant races, the last one in Austria was extraordinary.

It’s just a privilege to be able to cover it. I think we all feel very lucky really and I think we feel lucky that our sport has kept going, and is still going but with fans as well. Fingers crossed it can just keep on progressing back towards something that resembles normality, and we’ll just be covering it in our new way.

Yeah, absolutely. Will you be on site, or in Stratford?

Initially at Stratford. We need to get this bedded down and set up but again there are ways of me not being in Stratford. We know that there are ways of producing the programmes from wherever we want to, and I think that’s quite important.

If there’s a race I feel that I need to be at for editorial reasons, or for meetings, then I can still do my job but I’ll just do it remotely. When so many clever solutions are available to us, we have that flexibility which is terrific.

BT Sport’s coverage of the 2021 MotoGP season continues from Friday 10th September, with live coverage of the Aragon weekend on BT Sport 2.

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