Live MotoGP to return to free-to-air TV in two race deal with ITV

Live MotoGP will return to free-to-air television in the UK this season, Motorsport Broadcasting can exclusively confirm.

ITV, which currently airs highlights of every MotoGP race on ITV4, will air live race day coverage from two rounds in 2021.

The first, from Le Mans on Sunday 16th May, will see ITV4 air all three classes, Moto3, Moto2 and MotoGP itself live from 09:45 to 14:10.

In addition, the British MotoGP round, currently scheduled for Sunday 29th August, will air live on ITV’s main channel.

ITV will take MotoGP’s World Feed offering for their live coverage, with Steve Day and Matt Birt on commentary, and Simon Crafar down in pit lane.

It is the first time that MotoGP has aired live on free-to-air television since the BBC’s coverage ended following the 2013 season, and the first time ever that MotoGP has aired live on one of ITV’s television channels.

Since then, coverage has aired exclusively live on pay TV outlet BT Sport, with free-to-air highlights switching between ITV4, Channel 5 and Quest over the years.

Motorsport Broadcasting has reached out to ITV for comment.

A surprising development…

The news that live coverage of MotoGP is heading to ITV and ITV4 caught many fans off guard, as well as this writer, but as they say, everything happens for a reason.

As mentioned, BT Sport have aired live coverage of MotoGP since 2014, and while there is no doubt that their coverage is excellent, audience figures have not changed in the 7 years since.

According to audience data from BARB, around 200,000 viewers tune in to each MotoGP race on BT, fluctuating between 150,000 and 250,00 viewers depending on the competition.

An average of 236,000 viewers tuned in to watch Ducati’s Jack Miller win in Jerez on Sunday 2nd May on BT Sport 2, the race likely peaking with around 300,000 viewers.

Outside of live Premier League and UFA Champions League football, BT’s MotoGP audience was their biggest during that week across their portfolio of channels.

BT’s figures are more impressive when you consider that there are no British riders on the grid for the first time since 2010, with neither Bradley Smith or Cal Crutchlow competing this year.

So, why bring ITV into the live fold now? Clearly MotoGP’s commercial rights holder Dorna believe that BT’s audience is extremely loyal, and unlikely to drop if a handful of races air on ITV or ITV4. They have 7 years of audience evidence to back up that point.

However, Dorna also have the same data to prove that airing live on BT alone is not going to bring long-term audience growth to the UK market. If anything, BT’s audience is stagnant, and needs a refresh.

While we can debate all day whether Formula 1 moving to Sky has harmed the sport in the long-term, what we cannot argue is that F1’s audiences on Sky are increasing, and the evidence to support that statement is clear.

…and one that may benefit BT’s MotoGP coverage

What Dorna will be hoping for is that, by airing some races live on ITV or ITV4 in a much more attractive EPG slot, BT’s audience figures for the remaining races will benefit indirectly, helping to bring a fresher, potentially younger, audience to the BT product.

ITV can promote live MotoGP round their other motor sport programming, such as the British Touring Car Championship, which will only help. At this stage though, we are only talking about two race days airing free-to-air live, the picture for 2022 and beyond is unknown.

Some of you may be wondering how ITV or ITV4 are able to air the series live when BT Sport’s contract with Dorna is for ‘exclusively live’ coverage of MotoGP.

One industry insider has suggested that BT’s deal with Dorna only covers exclusivity across the pay TV spectrum.

In other words, no other pay TV broadcaster can air MotoGP live, but a free-to-air broadcaster could if Dorna offered the rights package out.

It is not in Dorna’s interest to do the latter on a full season basis, because it devalues the existing BT contract, and would inevitably result in BT walking away from the sport.

At the end of the day, BT brings a lot of money into the MotoGP paddock, and Dorna will want to keep them ‘on side’ throughout this whole process.

So, while a handful of races may air live on free-to-air television moving forward (if this is indeed part of a new strategy from Dorna), do not expect every race to suddenly air live, free-to-air.

BT are in MotoGP for the long haul: they recently extended their contract to cover MotoGP until the end of the 2024 season.

But this development is a welcome one for MotoGP fans as Dorna looks to expand the reach of the sport through both traditional and over-the-top methods moving forward.

Updated on May 14th to reflect the fact that the British Grand Prix will air on ITV and not ITV4.

Contribute to the running costs of Motorsport Broadcasting by donating via PayPal. If you wish to reproduce the contents of this article in any form, please contact Motorsport Broadcasting in the first instance.

Motor sport organisations join wider sporting world in social media boycott

Several motor sport organisations have joined the wider sporting world in boycotting social media this weekend.

The boycott, which began on Friday 30th April at 15:00 and runs until Monday 1st May at 23:59, led by key English football bodies including the Premier League, is in “response to the ongoing and sustained discriminatory abuse received online by players and many others.”

UK broadcasters, including Sky Sports, BT Sport and ITV Sport, are all joining in with the boycott, meaning that neither Sky or BT will publish content to their F1 or MotoGP channels during the Portuguese Grand Prix or Spanish MotoGP weekend respectively.

On the motor racing front, F1 drivers including seven-time champion Lewis Hamilton, George Russell, Lando Norris, Daniel Ricciardo and Esteban Ocon are among those that have announced that they will join in the boycott.

In addition, The Race’s media outlets, including their own website and WTF1 have announced that they will not publish material on social media through the weekend.

In a statement, they said “While we are fortunate not to be subjected to disgusting hate and abuse on a regular basis like so many sports stars and celebrities are every day, we believe it is right to join those taking a stand to raise awareness and urging social media companies and relevant authorities to do more to combat this problem.”

“At times over the last year it has often looked like our sport has waited to be guided by world champion Lewis Hamilton on these issues, but it should not be up to Hamilton to carry the weight of these matters on his shoulders every time.”

Independent motor sport website RaceFans have stated that they are taking a similar stance.

No F1 team, or F1 themselves have joined the social media blackout. However, in a statement posted to their Twitter account, F1 said “F1 is wholly committed to combatting any form of discrimination, online or otherwise.”

“We support the actions of the Premier League and other sporting bodies and athletes in highlighting that more must be done to eradicate online abuse that they are receiving directly.”

“We continue to work with all platforms and our own audiences to promote respect and positive values and put a stop to racism,” the statement concluded.

F1 Broadcasting tackles Silverstone’s Single Seater Experience

Most of the motor racing world this past weekend was in Goodwood for the annual Festival of Speed. However, instead of watching the festival in person or via Sky Sports, this writer instead took a trip to Silverstone…

Despite having watched Formula 1 and other forms of motor sport for nearly two decades, I have never been near a live single-seater racing car to race in. The nearest I had ever come was through various go-karting outings for leisure, or sitting in the Jaguar R2 at the local factory many moons ago. So, Silverstone’s Single Seater Experience was a first for me, one day after my 25th birthday. I should note that this article is not a paid article, or an advertisement for that matter, but instead just somewhere for me to jot my musings.

On-track at Silverstone.

Before the experience is a 30 minute debrief, which for the motor sport nut, is nothing of surprise, but instead it serves as a reminder about the inherent dangers that single-seater racing brings. The key terminology, such as understeer and oversteer, is described language that the layman can understand. It is fundamentally clear from the outset that any transgressions will be immediately dealt with: safety comes before enjoyment.

The experience around Silverstone’s Stowe Circuit is 30 minutes long: 10 minutes behind the pace car and 20 minutes without, with eleven other drivers alongside you. Sometimes you hear Formula 1 drivers’ say that after 10 minutes of testing, you know whether you have a good car underneath you. The same can be said here. The first lap out of the pits is frankly nerve wracking. Where are the braking points? Am I in the right gear? Do I feel comfortable? Am I too close to the pace car? It sometimes can look so easy from the outside, but from the inside it is like juggling multiple balls.

As the laps progress, you start to get a better understanding of the car and those around you. You take that line here, this line there. It gets easier, but concentration must remain throughout. The instructors do a brilliant job beforehand to prepare you for the experience, but on the track, it is you making the split-second decisions.

I required a helmet change to a smaller size half way through, mainly because the wind and fast speeds down the back straight was ‘lifting’ the helmet up. I could have soldiered on for a few more laps, but (as the above video shows) I did the right thing by changing helmets to a smaller size.

As the instructor said: safety before enjoyment, and in this case the helmet issues was slightly detracting from the overall enjoyment. As the laps progresed, the lap times decreased, confidence growing, although at one point the car underneath me did come perilously close to the gravel trap at the North hairpin!

I had a huge amount of respect for motor racing drivers before I completed the Single Seater Experience. No matter how many times you watch motor racing on television, nothing can prepare you for the real machinery. The likes of Lewis Hamilton and Daniel Ricciardo make it look easy, when in reality it is completely the opposite, even when going down the one kilometre straight in Baku.

If anything, my experience at Silverstone solidifies the admiration I have for the drivers that race to entertain the viewing audience at home and in the grandstands. I would strongly recommend this (or any other Single Seater Experience) to other fans of the sport, it is seriously worth the price tag. Overall, it was a pretty amazing experience.

A few words about Danny Watts, and why it matters

Before I get into the main subject, I want to make it clear that this piece strays away from motor sport broadcasting to a degree. Whilst this is a broadcasting site, if there are other elements that I wish to talk about, then I will do so.

If you have read the AUTOSPORT or website in the past few days, you will have learnt that ex-Le Mans driver Danny Watts has announced that he is homosexual. Whilst the reaction was largely positive, a few wondered why motor sport outlets were covering this as news.

A bit of back-story as to why this matters to me: I can relate to Danny’s story, having come out as bisexual last year after debating whether to for a long time. It was a weight off my shoulders, as it probably is his. Coming out should never be trivialised in the media, behind every decision is a long battle that each individual has faced.

People accepted me for who I was, bisexuality is not a taboo subject in my circle of influence. Generally, in society, LGBT matters are becoming less of a taboo subject. Now let us look at the motor sport world. How many LGBT role models are there in the motor sport landscape? As far as I am aware, there is not one LGBT role model for LGBT fans to look-up to. That changed this week. For LGBT motor racing fans, this matters.

Watts’ comments suggest to me that LGBT matters are a taboo subject in motor sport. For a variety of reasons: the media attention, the sponsorship, the countries that motor sport visits that might not be so receptive, even down to the grid girls that gives off a badly out-dated impression and so on. I can understand the predicament that Watts faced during his motor racing career.

With no major LGBT representation in the paddock, it makes it difficult for people, such as Watts, to be themselves in the eye of the media and the paddock, which in turn could affect an individual’s performance. You have to make a stand, and that is exactly what Watts has done. I applaud him for being brave and coming out. The idea of stars not coming out for fear of a negative reaction, or worse still losing their job or drive is frightening.

Is it a news story? In general culture, I would be starting to argue, not really. However, in motor sport, when you consider the taboo nature of LGBT in motor sport and what Watts faced, it absolutely is news. Danny brings into the public spotlight issues that were previously not in the spotlight. With that in mind, the stance that AUTOSPORT and took in covering Danny Watts’ announcement was spot on.

Congratulations Danny 🙂

A high-level overview of who owns what in the motor sport media landscape

With many different take overs and acquisitions recently, it is easy to forget who actually owns what. To my surprise, there was not an easy to view diagram which shows all the different connections.

As a result, I thought it was worth putting together a handy diagram to show the relationships:

Link to full sized version here.

The above shows that control lays in the indirect hands of a select few people. Mike Zoi is an unrecognisable name to myself, but appears to be a key figure as the Pitpass link below shows.

The diagram has been sourced using information from the following links:

Formula E secures minority investments from Liberty Global and Discovery Communications (March 2015, Formula E website)
Motorsport Network – About
Discovery Communication agrees to take full control of Eurosport (July 2015, Discovery Communications)
Liberty Media: Who are Formula 1’s new owners? (September 2016, BBC News)
Zak Brown joins McLaren as Executive Director (November 2016, Sky Sports)
Liberty Global to buy Virgin Media for $23.3bn (February 2013, BBC News)
Liberty Global and Discovery Communications Renew Long-Term, Comprehensive Distribution Partnership (August 2016, Discovery Communications)
– Motorsport Network buys Autosport (October 2016,
– Chase Carey key to F1 digital media success, says Zak Brown (September 2016,
US media firm Liberty Media to buy Formula 1 (September 2016, BBC News)
– Rupert Murdoch’s Fox makes Sky bid five years after hacking scandal (December 2016, The Guardian)

This is a second version, there may be parts that I’ve missed off. I’ve omitted anything without an indirect connection to motor sport. If anyone does find any additional links, please add a link to the source in the comment and I’ll produce further iterations.

Version 2 updated on Sunday 8th January 2017 at 19:00.