MotoGP to remain on BT Sport until end of 2024 season

BT Sport is to remain home of MotoGP until the end of the 2024 season, after agreeing a new three-year deal with the series, the two parties announced today.

The pay-TV broadcaster has held exclusive live rights to the championship, including the feeder series Moto2 and Moto3 since the 2014 season, taking over from the BBC and Eurosport.

Their latest deal with MotoGP’s commercial rights holder Dorna was set to expire following the 2021 season.

Now, both parties have confirmed that their relationship will stretch an additional three seasons, taking their partnership through year nine to eleven.

BT will continue to screen live and exclusive coverage of MotoGP, Moto2 and Moto3, as well as the electric MotoE series.

Fans unwilling to pay for BT can purchase a Video Pass directly from MotoGP, at a cost of €199.99 (Β£176.58) covering the whole season.

BT’s MotoGP viewing figures rise

The news of a new three-year deal comes off the back of a positive year for BT.

Analysis conducted by Motorsport Broadcasting on consolidated audience data released by BARB shows that an average audience of 186,000 viewers watched MotoGP action on BT Sport during 2020, an increase of 15 percent on the equivalent 2019 figure of 161,000 viewers.

The good news for BT spreads to all three categories, with Moto2 and Moto3’s audiences rising by 49 percent and 80 percent respectively, mirroring similar increases to that of Formula Two and Formula Three.

An average of 111,000 viewers watched Moto2 action in 2020, compared with 74,000 viewers in 2019, while Moto3’s average rose from 53,000 viewers in 2019 to 96,000 viewers last season.

The Styrian Grand Prix was BT’s high point during 2020, as an average of 254,000 viewers watched their MotoGP race broadcast on August 23rd. The feeder races that day averaged 107,000 viewers and 128,000 viewers respectively.

Not only did MotoGP benefit from viewers staying at home during the pandemic, the rise comes in the face of many clashes with Formula 1: 9 of the 14 races clashed with F1 in some way last season.

The news of BT’s renewed commitment to MotoGP will be great for those that enjoy BT’s offering, but disappointing for those that were hoping that MotoGP would return to free-to-air television.

Whilst BT does offer excellent coverage, their figures are lower than those achieved when the championship aired on the BBC, when an average of around one million viewers watched each MotoGP race.

As The Race outlines, pay television broadcasters have considerable sway in the paddock due to the money they invest in the championship, and without that money, some teams or riders would simply be unable to race.

If anything, the COVID-19 pandemic means that pay-TV money becomes even more important for championships such as MotoGP.

What they say

In a statement, Simon Green, Managing Director at BT Sport, said “We are extremely proud to continue as the home of MotoGP in the UK and Ireland.”

“BT Sport has the best presentation team delivering the most comprehensive MotoGP coverage that UK fans have ever enjoyed, with every single practice, qualifying and race broadcast in full.”

“I would also like to congratulate Dorna on safely and successfully completing the 2020 season, one of the most exciting we have seen, and thank them for collaborating with us to bring some great new programming to our audiences during last year’s lockdown,” Green added.

Manel Arroyo, Managing Director at Dorna Sports, said “BT Sport are one of our most important partners and we are delighted to see MotoGP remain with them until at least 2024, securing top quality coverage for the sport in one of our most important markets. Fans in the UK and Ireland couldn’t ask for more.”

“After a thrilling but challenging 2020 season, we are proud to see this partnership confirmed to continue and mark a decade of collaboration.”

“We would also like to thank BT Sport for their support in 2020 and look forward to at least another four seasons working together,” Arroyo concluded.

The 2021 season is currently set to begin with a double header in Qatar on March 28th and April 4th.

BT will begin the new season with a new lead commentator following Keith Huewen’s decision to step down from his role. The identity of the new lead is currently unconfirmed.

Keith Huewen steps down as BT Sport’s MotoGP lead commentator

Note from David – Another big development on the commentary front, this time on two wheels.

Keith Huewen has announced that he will stand down from his role as BT Sport’s MotoGP lead commentator with immediate effect.

He is the second high-profile commentator to leave his role in recent weeks, following Ben Edwards’ decision to leave Channel 4’s F1 team. Huewen, 64, has been part of BT’s team covering the sport since the broadcaster took over coverage from the BBC in 2014.

Writing on Twitter, Huewen cites the “unexpected positive effect of the pandemic restrictions” as his main reason for stepping aside.

“At a highpoint in both MotoGP coverage and my commentary career, I have decided after much consideration, and with the agreement of BT Sport, to step away from their brilliant coverage,” he said.

“It is my intention to be trackside again soon, but there has been an unexpected positive effect of the pandemic restrictions – spending more time with my family.”

“This upside helped me to decide to spend more time in the UK in the future, but I’ll echo the words of Julian Ryder not that long ago: β€˜I am not retiring'”

Huewen’s broadcasting career, like Edwards, has spanned four different decades, across a variety of different broadcasters. His MotoGP role in recent years has thrown Huewen back into the limelight, after spending most of the 2000s away from the motorcycling paddock in a commentating capacity.

Julian Ryder has partnered Huewen in the commentary box for most of his commentary career, before Ryder himself stepped aside following the 2017 season.

Since then, the likes of Gavin Emmett, Michael Laverty and Neil Hodgson have partnered Huewen to take viewers through the three classes during a race weekend.

“My sincere and heartfelt thanks go to BT, Dorna, IRTA [International Road-Racing Teams Association], North One, Tall Audio, and all my lovely colleagues for their company through the last seven years,” Huewen added.

“They are the best in the business and I’m sure they will continue to bring you outstanding coverage of MotoGP. I’ll now do what we all do – shout at the TV and tell anyone in the room the things the commentators have missed. It’s easy when you’re sat at home on the sofa!”

“Thank you for your support, I’ll see you trackside again soon.”

BT Sport will confirm Huewen’s replacement in due course for the 2021 season, the last year in their current arrangement with Dorna.

The parallels between Huewen and Edwards, and the COVID impact
The decisions by both Huewen and Edwards in recent weeks to leave their respective commentary positions have caught many by surprise, but underneath the surface, their careers have followed very similar paths.

Both started their broadcasting career around 25 to 30 years ago. Edwards quickly became a popular figure leading Eurosport’s Formula 1 offering alongside John Watson, whilst Huewen did likewise as part of Sky’s World Superbikes coverage alongside Ryder.

But both spent most of the 2000s outside of the spotlight comparatively speaking. Huewen fronted most of Sky’s motor sport offering on four wheels from Chiswick. Edwards remained in the commentary both, helping the profile of A1 Grand Prix towards the end of the decade.

It was only during the 2010s, however, when the two returned to their roots. Edwards was a beneficiary of the Sky and BBC split of Formula 1 rights, joining the BBC’s F1 team.

For Huewen, the move of MotoGP from BBC and Eurosport to BT Sport opened the doors for him to return to where he wanted to be: the motorcycling paddock, and the MotoGP commentary booth, reuniting with Ryder.

Fast-forward to 2020, and the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in both Huewen and Edwards commentating on two and four-wheels respectively from off-site.

And both have reached the same decision after a period of reflection: to step down from their respective duties, spending more time at home with their families.

Whether we are likely to see more changes is unclear, but what is clear is that the pandemic has caused some in the industry to reflect on the current situation, and conclude that they do not want to be part of the travelling circus (at least in a permanent capacity moving forward).

F1’s record-breaking 23 race calendar for 2021 has been the main talking point in recent weekends, but MotoGP too has a record-breaking season scheduled, with 20 race weekends on the agenda.

Whilst broadcasters are adapting behind the camera because of the pandemic, they also need to adapt in front of their camera.

In my view, as discussed previously, broadcasters need to be willing to rotate their on-air talent, keeping not only their programming fresh, but also avoiding the potential of having more talent walk away in the future.

The candidates to replace Huewen
The person Huewen beat to the BT position, Toby Moody is likely to be a front runner to step back into the commentary booth, having led Eurosport’s MotoGP coverage for many years in the 2000s.

Current MotoGP World Feed commentator Steve Day could be another contender for the BT role. Alternatively, BT may decide to look in-house, promoting Gavin Emmett up to the lead commentary position.

If BT Sport and production company North One already know the answer to the question then we may well find out the answer very soon, and knowing my luck, we probably will…

Keep an eye out for an exclusive interview with Keith Huewen when Motorsport Broadcasting re-launches in 2021.

Scheduling: The 2020 Portuguese Grand Prix

For the first time in 24 years, Formula 1 heads to Portugal for the Portuguese Grand Prix!

Instead of heading to Estoril, which hosted the last race there in 1996, the championship instead heads to the 2.9-mile circuit in the Algarve for its inaugural visit.

Live coverage of the race airs as usual on Sky Sports F1, the Grand Prix itself beginning at 13:10 UK time.

Later, the IndyCar Series concludes with the race that was meant to begin its COVID-19 disrupted year in St Petersburg. Scott Dixon looks set to clinch the crown, but Josef Newgarden is close in his mirror.

As if that was not enough, Sky are also airing live coverage of the Spa 24 Hours on Sky Sports F1! The majority of the 24 hours air live on the channel. I would expect the remainder to air live behind the Red Button, but this is unconfirmed as of writing.

With F1 and IndyCar, it means there is over 37 hours of live motor sport on Sky next weekend.

Elsewhere, the British Touring Car Championship starts earlier than usual on ITV4, as the nights draw in heading into the Winter months.

NOTE: Clocks go back one hour on Sunday 25th October, with the change from British Summer Time to Greenwich Mean Time. The times listed are for BST on Saturday and before; GMT for Sunday and afterwards…

Channel 4 F1
24/10 – 17:30 to 19:00 – Qualifying Highlights
25/10 – 18:30 to 21:00 – Race Highlights

Sky Sports F1
Sessions
23/10 – 10:30 to 12:45 (also Sky Sports Main Event)
=> 10:30 – Welcome to the Weekend
=> 11:00 – Practice 1
23/10 – 14:45 to 16:45 – Practice 2
24/10 – 10:45 to 12:10 – Practice 3
24/10 – 13:00 to 15:30 – Qualifying
25/10 – 11:30 to 16:30 – Race
=> 11:30 – Grand Prix Sunday
=> 13:05 – Race
=> 15:00 – Chequered Flag
=> 16:00 – Notebook

Supplementary Programming
23/10 – 16:45 to 17:15 – The Story so Far
25/10 – 16:30 to 17:30 – Race to Perfection
28/10 – 21:00 to 21:30 – Midweek Debrief

BBC Radio F1
All sessions are available live on BBC’s F1 website
25/10 – 13:00 to 15:20 – Race (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)

MotoGP – Teruel (BT Sport 2)
Also airs live on MotoGP’s Video Pass (Β£)
23/10 – 08:00 to 10:45 – Practice 1
23/10 – 12:00 to 15:00 – Practice 2
24/10 – 08:00 to 15:15
=> 08:00 – Practice 3
=> 11:00 – Qualifying
25/10 – 07:45 to 15:00
=> 07:45 – Warm Ups
=> 09:30 – Moto3
=> 11:30 – MotoGP
=> 13:15 – Moto2
=> 14:30 – Chequered Flag

MotoGP – Teruel< (Quest)
26/10 – 18:00 to 19:00 – Highlights

24 Hours of Spa (Sky Sports F1)
Also airs live on YouTube
24/10 and 25/10 – Race
=> 15:30 to 20:00
=> 21:30 BST [Saturday] to 11:30 GMT [Sunday]

British Touring Car Championship – Snetterton (ITV4)
25/10 – 10:05 to 16:55 – Races

IndyCar Series – St Petersburg (Sky Sports F1)
24/10 – 20:00 to 21:30 – Qualifying
25/10 – 18:30 to 20:30 – Race

If details change, this article will be updated.


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Scheduling: The 2020 Eifel Grand Prix

Formula 1 returns to the NΓΌrburgring for the first time in seven years this weekend, for the inaugural Eifel Grand Prix!

Live coverage of the race weekend airs on Sky Sports with Ted Kravitz and Simon Lazenby re-joining the team. It is unclear if Martin Brundle is also back with the line-up as of writing.

Elsewhere, with Triumph’s visitor experience centre in Hinkley reopening to the public, BT Sport’s MotoGP coverage is moving.

The crew are relocating to the BT Tower in central London for the remainder of 2020.

The main races for F1 and MotoGP this weekend both begin an hour earlier. F1’s change is driven by the earlier sunset times as the European season concludes later than usual, dictating a change for MotoGP to avoid a head to head clash.

Channel 4 F1
10/10 – 17:30 to 19:00 – Qualifying Highlights
11/10 – 18:30 to 21:00 – Race Highlights

Sky Sports F1
Sessions
09/10 – 09:30 to 11:50
=> 09:30 – Welcome to the Weekend
=> 10:00 – Practice 1
09/10 – 13:45 to 15:45 – Practice 2
10/10 – 10:45 to 12:10 – Practice 3
10/10 – 13:00 to 15:35 – Qualifying
11/10 – 11:30 to 16:30 – Race
=> 11:30 – Grand Prix Sunday
=> 13:05 – Race
=> 15:00 – Chequered Flag
=> 16:00 – Notebook

Supplementary Programming
09/10 – 16:30 to 17:00 – The Story so Far
09/10 – 17:00 to 18:30 – F1 Pro Series Draft
10/10 – 21:00 to 22:00 – Race to Perfection
14/10 – 19:30 to 21:00 – F1 Pro Series Race 1 and 2
14/10 – 21:00 to 21:30 – Midweek Debrief
15/10 – 19:30 to 21:00 – F1 Pro Series Race 3

BBC Radio F1
All sessions are available live on BBC’s F1 website
09/10 – 09:55 to 11:35 – Practice 1 (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
09/10 – 21:00 to 21:30 – Preview (BBC Radio 5 Live)
10/10 – 10:55 to 12:05 – Practice 3 (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
11/10 – 13:00 to 15:00 – Race Updates (BBC Radio 5 Live)

MotoGP – FranceΒ (BT Sport 2)
Also airs live on MotoGP’s Video Pass (Β£)
09/10 – 08:00 to 10:45 – Practice 1
09/10 – 12:00 to 15:00 – Practice 2
10/10 – 08:00 to 16:00
=> 08:00 – Practice 3
=> 11:00 – Qualifying
=> 15:00 – MotoE
11/10 – 07:45 to 15:00
=> 07:45 – Warm Ups
=> 09:30 – Moto3
=> 11:30 – MotoGP
=> 13:15 – Moto2
=> 14:30 – Chequered Flag

MotoGP – FranceΒ (Quest)
12/10 – 18:00 to 19:00 – Highlights

British Touring Car Championship – CroftΒ (ITV4)
11/10 – 11:30 to 18:05 – Races

World Rally Championship – ItalyΒ (All Live)
Also airs live on WRC+Β (Β£)
09/10 – 06:45 to 16:45 – Stages 1 to 6 (BT Sport Extra 1)
=> 06:50 – Stage 1
=> 07:44 – Stage 2
=> 09:40 – Stage 3
=> 10:34 – Stage 4
=> 15:14 – Stage 5
=> 15:59 – Stage 6
10/10 – 06:00 to 17:45 – Stages 7 to 12 (BT Sport Extra 3)
=> 06:38 – Stage 7
=> 07:30 – Stage 8
=> 09:07 – Stage 9
=> 10:00 – Stage 10
=> 15:00 – Stage 11
=> 16:02 – Stage 12
11/10 – 06:15 to 12:45 – Stages 13 to 16Β (BT Sport Extra 1)
=> 07:15 – Stage 13
=> 08:00 – Stage 14
=> 10:10 – Stage 15
=> 11:00 – Stage 16

World Rally Championship – Italy
10/10 – 00:30 to 01:00 – Day 1 Highlights (BT Sport 3)
10/10 – 07:30 to 08:30 – Stage 8 (BT Sport 3)
10/10 – 10:00 to 11:00 – Stage 10 (BT Sport 3)
10/10 – 15:00 to 16:00 – Stage 11 (BT Sport 3)
11/10 – 02:00 to 02:30 – Day 2 Highlights (BT Sport 3)
11/10 – 08:00 to 09:00 – Stage 14 (BT Sport 1)
11/10 – 11:00 to 12:30 – Stage 16 [Power Stage] (BT Sport 1)
11/10 – 20:30 to 21:00 – Day 3 Highlights (BT Sport 2)
TBA – 19:00 to 20:00 – Highlights (ITV4)

World Touring Car Cup – SlovakiaΒ (Eurosport)
11/10 – 07:55 to 12:00 – Race 1
11/10 – 11:30 to 12:30 – Race 2

This article will be updated if schedules change.


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Scheduling: The 2020 Russian Grand Prix

The Sochi Autodrom in Russia plays host to round ten of the 2020 Formula One season.

As the paddock heads to Russia, Sky’s presentation team will look a little different for the race, with neither Simon Lazenby or Ted Kravitz with the team.

For Lazenby, it is his second absence of the season following Spain in August; expect Natalie Pinkham to step into the presenting shoes again.

After having to depart Mugello early due to family issues, Steve Jones returns to his role as Channel 4’s F1 presenter for Russia, alongside the likes of David Coulthard and Mark Webber.

The time difference means that the F1 race starts at 12:10 UK time. As thus, MotoGP from Catalunya moves an hour later to 14:00 UK time, avoiding a clash with the F1.

Elsewhere, the British Touring Car Championship season continues from Silverstone, and remains on ITV2, but this time due to the French Open.

The French Open also causes problems for Eurosport’s coverage of the World Touring Car Cup. Owing to the tennis, the touring car series airs exclusively live for UK fans via Eurosport’s online Player, with late night highlights airing on their linear TV channels.

Channel 4 F1
26/09 – 18:30 to 20:00 – Qualifying Highlights
27/09 – 17:30 to 20:00 – Race Highlights

Sky Sports F1
Sessions
25/09 – 08:30 to 10:45 (also Sky Sports Main Event)
=> 08:30 – Welcome to the Weekend
=> 09:00 – Practice 1
25/09 – 12:45 to 14:45 – Practice 2
26/09 – 09:45 to 11:10 – Practice 3
26/09 – 12:00 to 14:30 – Qualifying
27/09 – 10:30 to 15:00 – Race
=> 10:30 – Grand Prix Sunday (also Sky Sports Main Event)
=> 12:05 – Race (also Sky Sports Main Event)
=> 14:00 – Chequered Flag

Supplementary Programming
25/09 – 15:30 to 16:00 – The Story so Far
26/09 – 14:30 to 15:45 – Race to Perfection
30/09 – 21:00 to 21:30 – Midweek Debrief

BBC Radio F1
All sessions are available live on BBC’s F1 website
25/09 – 08:55 to 10:55 – Practice 1 (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
25/09 – 12:55 to 14:35 – Practice 2 (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
26/09 – 09:55 to 11:05 – Practice 3 (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
27/09 – 12:00 to 14:00 – Race (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)

MotoGP – Catalunya (BT Sport 2)
Also airs live on MotoGP’s Video Pass (Β£)
25/09 – 08:00 to 10:45 – Practice 1
25/09 – 12:00 to 15:00 – Practice 2
26/09 – 08:00 to 15:15
=> 08:00 – Practice 3
=> 11:00 – Qualifying
27/09 – 08:30 to 15:30
=> 08:30 – Warm Ups
=> 10:15 – Moto3
=> 12:00 – Moto2
=> 13:30 – MotoGP
=> 15:00 – Chequered Flag

MotoGP – Catalunya (Quest)
28/09 – 18:00 to 19:00 – Highlights

British Touring Car Championship – Silverstone (ITV2)
27/09 – 11:00 to 18:25 – Races

GT World Challenge – Zandvoort (Sky Sports F1)
27/09 – 15:00 to 17:00 – Race (tape-delay)

Ferrari Challenge – Misano (Sky Sports F1)
26/09 – 16:10 to 17:10 – Race 1
27/09 – 17:00 to 18:00 – Race 2 (tape-delay)

Formula Two – Russia (Sky Sports F1)
25/09 – 07:30 to 08:20 – Practice (also Sky Sports Main Event)
25/09 – 11:55 to 12:35 – Qualifying
26/09 – 08:05 to 09:20 – Race 1
27/09 – 08:45 to 09:50 – Race 2 (also Sky Sports Main Event)

Virgin Australia Supercars – The Bend (BT Sport 3) TBC
Also airs live on SuperView (Β£)

World Touring Car Cup – Germany
Only available live via Eurosport Player

As always, this post will be updated if plans change.

Update on September 26th – Whilst Pinkham is on site for Sky, it is in fact Rachel Brookes presenting their programming. As mentioned on his Instagram, Martin Brundle is not with Sky either, with Karun Chandhok partnering David Croft in the box. Meanwhile, Channel 4 are not out in Russia, instead they are presenting the weekend from Red Bull’s HQ in Milton Keynes.


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