Scheduling: The 2020 Belgian Grand Prix

Six down, eleven to go…

The legendary Spa-Francorchamps circuit in Belgium plays host to round seven of the 2020 Formula One season, and the start of the third triple header.

The big news from a UK perspective is that Channel 4 are back in the paddock on foreign soil, with Steve Jones and David Coulthard reporting on-location throughout the weekend.

Most of Sky’s coverage from Spa also airs on Sky Sports Main Event, including four out of the five F1 sessions.

Elsewhere, a packed weekend of sport across ITV’s portfolio of channels means that the latest British Touring Car Championship round from Knockhill airs live on ITV2.

The start of the Tour de France occupies ITV4, with horse racing coverage on ITV3, meaning ITV2 is the next best thing for BTCC. As usual, ITV have opted to show repeats on their main channel, in this instance an old Bond film and a Marple repeat.

Speedway returns to BT Sport this weekend, with the start of the Grand Prix season. The season starts with a double-header event in Poland.

Although the Belgium weekend promises to be action filled, there will also be an air of poignancy over the Spa paddock, as we remember Anthoine Hubert, one year on from the accident that claimed his life.

Channel 4 F1
29/08 – 18:30 to 20:00 – Qualifying Highlights
30/08 – 18:30 to 21:00 – Race Highlights

Sky Sports F1
Sessions
28/08 – 09:30 to 11:50 (also Sky Sports Main Event)
=> 09:30 – Welcome to the Weekend
=> 10:00 – Practice 1
28/08 – 13:45 to 15:45 – Practice 2 (also Sky Sports Main Event)
29/08 – 10:45 to 12:10 – Practice 3
29/08 – 13:00 to 15:35 – Qualifying (also Sky Sports Main Event)
30/08 – 12:30 to 17:00 – Race
=> 12:30 – Grand Prix Sunday (also Sky Sports Main Event)
=> 14:05 – Race (also Sky Sports Main Event)
=> 16:00 – Chequered Flag

Supplementary Programming
29/08 – 16:30 to 17:00 – The Story so Far
02/09 – 21:00 to 21:30 – Midweek Debrief

BBC Radio F1
All sessions are available live on BBC’s F1 website
28/08 – 09:55 to 11:55 – Practice 1 (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
28/08 – 13:55 to 15:35 – Practice 2 (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
28/08 – 21:00 to 22:00 – Preview (BBC Radio 5 Live)
29/08 – 10:55 to 12:05 – Practice 3 (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
29/08 – 13:55 to 15:05 – Qualifying (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
29/08 – 14:30 to 15:05 – Qualifying (BBC Radio 5 Live)
30/08 – 14:00 to 16:00 – Race (BBC Radio 5 Live)

British Touring Car Championship – Knockhill (ITV2)
30/08 – 10:40 to 17:50 – Races

Formula Two – Austria (Sky Sports F1)
28/08 – 11:50 to 12:45 – Practice
28/08 – 15:55 to 16:30 – Qualifying
29/08 – 15:35 to 16:55 – Race 1 (also Sky Sports Main Event)
30/08 – 10:00 to 11:05 – Race 2 (also Sky Sports Main Event)

Formula Three – Austria (Sky Sports F1)
28/08 – 08:30 to 09:20 – Practice (also Sky Sports Main Event)
28/08 – 13:00 to 13:45 – Qualifying
29/08 – 09:20 to 10:10 – Race 1
30/08 – 08:35 to 09:35 – Race 2

IndyCar Series – Gateway (Sky Sports F1)
29/08 – 20:00 to 23:00 – Race 1
30/08 – 20:00 to 23:00 – Race 2

Porsche Supercup – Spain (Sky Sports F1)
30/08 – 11:20 to 12:05 – Race (also Sky Sports Main Event)

Speedway Grand Prix – Poland
28/08 – 17:30 to 21:15 – Races – Round 1 (BT Sport 1)
29/08 – 17:45 to 21:15 – Races – Round 2 (BT Sport 2)

Virgin Australia Supercars – Townsville (BT Sport 2)
Also airs live on SuperView (£)
29/08 – 06:30 to 08:00 – Race 1
30/08 – 04:15 to 05:30 – Race 2

World Superbikes – Aragon
Also airs live on World Superbikes’ Video Pass (£)
28/08 – 09:30 to 10:30 – Practice 1 (Eurosport 2)
28/08 – 13:55 to 15:35 – Practice 2 (Eurosport 2)
29/08 – 09:45 to 12:00 – Qualifying (Eurosport 2)
29/08 – 12:30 to 15:00 – Race 1 (Eurosport 2)
30/08 – 09:45 to 15:00 – Support and Race 2 (Eurosport 2)
01/09 – 20:00 to 21:00 – Highlights (ITV4)

If schedules change, this post will be amended.


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Scheduling: The 2020 Indianapolis 500

“And we go green for the 500!”

There may be no fans in attendance, but the Indianapolis 500 promises to remain a spectacle on the circuit as 33 cars head into turn one for the start of the famous race.

The race itself begins in a primetime slot for UK fans at 19:30, later than in previous years owing to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Marco Andretti followed in the footsteps of grandfather Mario, taking pole position last Sunday. Can he convert that to race victory this Sunday?

As they did last year, Sky Sports F1 are taking NBC’s stateside offering, with Leigh Diffey leading the commentary alongside the likes of Townsend Bell.

Sky are supplementing NBC’s commentary with their own commentary during the US ad-breaks. Tom Gaymor joins Formula Two lead commentator Alex Jacques to discuss the action from the UK.

Elsewhere, MotoGP concludes its triple-header of races with a second race weekend at the Red Bull Ring in Austria.

Closer to home, the British Touring Car Championship heads to Oulton Park, with the action starting on ITV4 slightly later than usual at 11:50 on Sunday.

IndyCar Series – Indianapolis 500 (Sky Sports F1)
21/08 – 16:00 to 18:30 – Carb Day Practice
23/08 – 18:00 to 23:00 – Race

MotoGP – Styria (BT Sport 2)
Also airs live on MotoGP’s Video Pass (£)
21/08 – 08:00 to 10:45 – Practice 1
21/08 – 12:00 to 15:00 – Practice 2
22/08 – 08:00 to 15:15
=> 08:00 – Practice 3
=> 11:00 – Qualifying
23/08 – 07:30 to 15:00
=> 07:30 – Warm Ups
=> 09:15 – Moto3
=> 11:00 – Moto2
=> 12:30 – MotoGP
=> 14:00 – Chequered Flag

MotoGP – Styria (Quest)
24/08 – 18:00 to 19:00 – Highlights

British Superbikes – Snetterton
22/08 – 13:00 to 18:00 – Qualifying and Race 1 (Eurosport 2)
23/08 – 13:00 to 18:00 – Races 2 and 3 (Eurosport 2)
26/08 – 19:30 to 21:00 – Highlights (ITV4)

British Touring Car Championship – Oulton Park (ITV4)
23/08 – 11:50 to 18:35 – Races

DTM – Lausitzring
22/08 – 12:15 to 14:00 – Race 1 (BT Sport 1)
23/08 – 09:45 to 10:15 – Qualifying (BT Sport/ESPN)
23/08 – 12:15 to 14:00 – Race 2 (BT Sport/ESPN)

As always, I will update this article if broadcasters change their plans.


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Scheduling: The 70th Anniversary Grand Prix / Formula E season finale

Formula 1 celebrates seventy years, with a second race at Silverstone owing to the COVID-19 pandemic, which forced a revamp of their schedule.

The second Silverstone race will not air live on Channel 4, as their contract with Sky only allows them to air the race given the formal ‘British Grand Prix’ title live. As thus, the broadcaster reverts to their usual highlights format, however, their team will remain in the paddock, for the 70th Anniversary round at least.

In the eight years since Motorsport Broadcasting launched, this is probably the most congested scheduling piece I have written, with Formula 1, MotoGP, Formula E and World Superbikes all taking place on the same weekend.

Beneath that the British Touring Car Championship, British Superbikes, as well as all the Formula 1 and MotoGP support races, are all fighting for column inches.

The clashes mean that Jack Nicholls will not be part of the BBC’s 5 Live F1 coverage for the weekend.

Nicholls is out in Berlin for the Formula E finale, which concludes on Thursday 13th August, again another quirk due to the pandemic. The middle two races from Berlin also air live on free-to-air channel Quest. Nicholls’ 5 Live F1 replacement has yet to be confirmed.

It is worth mentioning that many people behind the scenes, whether it is camera operators, directors, floor managers, and so on, would normally work multiple of these events in a given year, the clashes meaning that some lose out on work that they would have otherwise have had.

For example, some of BT Sport’s MotoGP production team also works British Superbikes and World Superbikes for Eurosport – a clash makes it impossible to work both. Similarly, some of those working on the Formula E production may work other events during the year.

However, the net positive is that it means others within the industry may receive opportunities that they may not have received in a normal racing year, which is worth bearing in mind if some of the direction elsewhere is sub-standard over the next two weeks…

For Sky, Ted Kravitz is not with the team now until the Italian Grand Prix next month, meaning that there is no Notebook for the next three races.

Back on the scheduling front, IndyCar organisers have cancelled their Mid-Ohio double header due to the pandemic, which is one less scheduling headache for Sky Sports. Elsewhere, the Euroformula Series is absent from BT Sport’s schedule, so fans wanting to prioritise that series will need to watch on YouTube.

A huge apology below if anything is incorrect: due to the amount of sport taking place now (and cancellations), schedules are subject to change at short notice.

Channel 4 F1
08/08 – 19:30 to 21:00 – Qualifying Highlights
09/08 – 18:30 to 21:00 – Race Highlights

Sky Sports F1
Sessions
07/08 – 10:30 to 12:50 (also Sky Sports Main Event)
=> 09:30 – Welcome to the Weekend
=> 10:00 – Practice 1
07/08 – 14:45 to 16:45 – Practice 2
08/08 – 10:45 to 12:10 – Practice 3 (also Sky One)
08/08 – 13:00 to 15:35 – Qualifying (also Sky One)
09/08 – 12:30 to 17:00 – Race
=> 12:30 – Grand Prix Sunday (also Sky Sports Main Event)
=> 14:05 – Race (also Sky Sports Main Event)
=> 16:00 – Chequered Flag

Supplementary Programming
07/08 – 17:30 to 18:00 – The Story so Far
12/08 – 21:00 to 21:30 – Midweek Debrief

BBC Radio F1
All sessions are available live on BBC’s F1 website
05/08 – 19:30 to 20:30 – Preview (BBC Radio 5 Live)
08/08 – 10:55 to 12:05 – Practice 3 (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
08/08 – 12:00 to 15:00 (BBC Radio 5 Live)
=> 12:00 – Build-Up during 5 Live Sport
=> 14:00 – Qualifying
09/08 – 12:00 to 16:00 (BBC Radio 5 Live)
=> 12:00 – Build-Up during 5 Live Sport
=> 14:00 – Race

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

MotoGP – Czech Republic (Quest)
10/08 – 18:00 to 19:00 – Highlights

Formula E – Berlin
Shakedown, Practice and Qualifying air live on YouTube
All sessions are available live on BBC’s website
05/08 – Event 1 – Race 1
=> 18:00 to 19:00 (Eurosport 2)
=> 18:00 to 19:00 (BBC Red Button)
06/08 – Event 1 – Race 2
=> 17:45 to 19:00 (Eurosport 2)
=> 18:00 to 19:00 (BBC Red Button)
08/08 – Event 2 – Race 1
=> 17:30 to 19:30 (Quest)
=> 18:00 to 19:00 (Eurosport 2)
=> 18:00 to 19:00 (BBC Red Button)
09/08 – Event 2 – Race 2
=> 17:30 to 19:30 (Quest)
=> 18:00 to 19:00 (Eurosport 2)
=> 18:00 to 19:00 (BBC Red Button)
12/08 – Event 3 – Race 1
=> 18:00 to 19:00 (Eurosport 2)
=> 18:00 to 19:00 (BBC Red Button)
13/08 – Event 3 – Race 2
=> 17:45 to 19:00 (Eurosport 2)
=> 18:00 to 19:00 (BBC Red Button)

British Superbikes – Donington Park
08/08 – 13:00 to 14:00 – Qualifying (Eurosport 2)
08/08 – 15:00 to 17:30 – Race 1 (Eurosport 2)
09/08 – 13:30 to 14:30 – Race 2 (Eurosport 2)
09/08 – 15:30 to 18:00 – Race 3 (Eurosport 2)
12/08 – 20:00 to 21:30 – Highlights (ITV4)

British Touring Car Championship – Brands Hatch (ITV4)
09/08 – 10:20 to 18:15 – Races

Formula Two – 70th Anniversary F1 (Sky Sports F1)
07/08 – 12:50 to 13:45 – Practice
07/08 – 16:55 to 17:30 – Qualifying
08/08 – 15:35 to 16:55 – Race 1
09/08 – 10:00 to 11:05 – Race 2

Formula Three – 70th Anniversary F1 (Sky Sports F1)
07/08 – 09:30 to 10:20 – Practice
07/08 – 14:00 to 14:45 – Qualifying
08/08 – 09:20 to 10:10 – Race 1
09/08 – 08:35 to 09:35 – Race 2

Porsche Supercup – 70th Anniversary F1 (Sky Sports F1)
09/08 – 11:20 to 12:05 – Race

Virgin Australia Supercars – Darwin (BT Sport 3)
Also airs live on SuperView (£)
08/08 – 06:45 to 08:00 – Race 1
09/08 – 04:30 to 05:45 – Race 2
09/08 – 06:45 to 08:00 – Race 3

World Superbikes – Algarve
Also airs live on World Superbikes’ Video Pass (£)
08/08 – 10:45 to 13:00 – Qualifying 1 (Eurosport 2)
08/08 – 14:00 to 15:00 – Race 1 (Eurosport 2)
09/08 – 10:45 to 13:30 – Qualifying 2 and Race 2 (Eurosport 2)
TBC – Highlights (ITV4)

If the schedules do change, this post will be updated.

Updated on August 7th as the Supercars round from Darwin has been moved by a week.


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Scheduling: The 2020 British Grand Prix

Formula 1 heads home for the second of its triple-headers this season, with the British Grand Prix!

As usual, the race airs live on free-to-air television, this year’s race airing across Channel 4, Sky One, Sky Sports F1 and Sky Sports Main Event, as well as on radio via BBC Radio 5 Live, giving fans plenty of options.

Although the Silverstone circuit in Northamptonshire hosts two races this season, only the first one will air live on Channel 4.

As revealed by Motorsport Broadcasting earlier this year, Channel 4’s contract with Sky only allows them to air the race titled the ‘British Grand Prix’ live, and not any race held at Silverstone live.

However, the site can confirm that Channel 4’s live coverage from both Silverstone races will come from the paddock for the first time this year, the team having based themselves from the Silverstone Experience during the first triple-header.

Joining Steve Jones from Silverstone will be David Coulthard, Ben Edwards, Mark Webber, Billy Monger and Lee McKenzie.

Over on 5 Live in the build-up to the weekend, Jennie Gow presents a special show looking back at 70 years of Silverstone, with guests including Coulthard, Webber and double World Champion Mika Hakkinen joining her.

Outside of the F1 sphere, both the World Superbikes and Formula E seasons get back underway, the latter restarting on Wednesday 5th August.

Scheduling clashes with the Snooker World Championship mean that Formula E’s first two races from Berlin will primarily air across Eurosport 2 and the BBC Sport website, the snooker taking priority for both.

The British Touring Car Championship also begins its campaign, with ITV4 providing extensive coverage from Donington Park.

Channel 4 F1
31/07 – 10:55 to 12:35 – Practice 1
31/07 – 14:55 to 16:35 – Practice 2
01/08 – 10:55 to 12:00 – Practice 3
01/08 – 13:00 to 16:00 – Qualifying
02/08 – 13:00 to 17:00 – Race
=> 13:00 – Build-Up
=> 13:45 – Race
=> 16:15 – Reaction

Sky Sports F1
Sessions
31/07 – 10:30 to 12:50
=> 10:30 – Welcome to the Weekend (also Sky Sports Main Event)
=> 11:00 – Practice 1 (also Sky Sports Main Event)
31/07 – 14:45 to 16:45 – Practice 2
01/08 – 10:45 to 12:10 – Practice 3 (also Sky One)
01/08 – 13:00 to 15:35 – Qualifying (also Sky One)
02/08 – 12:30 to 17:30 – Race
=> 12:30 – Grand Prix Sunday (also Sky One and Sky Sports Main Event)
=> 14:05 – Race (also Sky One and Sky Sports Main Event)
=> 16:00 – Chequered Flag
=> 17:00 – Notebook

Supplementary Programming
31/07 – 17:30 to 18:00 – The Story so Far (also Sky Sports Main Event)
05/08 – 21:00 to 21:30 – Midweek Debrief

BBC Radio F1
All sessions are available live on BBC’s F1 website
28/07 – 20:00 to 22:00 – 70 Years of Silverstone (BBC Radio 5 Live)
30/07 – 21:00 to 22:00 – Preview (BBC Radio 5 Live)
31/07 – 10:55 to 12:55 – Practice 1 (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
31/07 – 14:55 to 16:35 – Practice 2 (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
01/08 – 10:55 to 12:05 – Practice 3 (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
01/08 – 14:00 to 15:00 – Qualifying (BBC Radio 5 Live)
02/08 – 14:00 to 16:00 – Race (BBC Radio 5 Live)

Formula E – Berlin (Eurosport 2)
Shakedown, Practice and Qualifying air live on YouTube
All sessions are available live on BBC’s website
05/08 – Race 1
=> 17:45 to 19:00 (Eurosport 2)
=> 18:00 to 19:00 (BBC Red Button)
06/08 – Race 2
=> 17:45 to 19:00 (Eurosport 2)
=> 18:00 to 19:00 (BBC Red Button)

British Touring Car Championship – Donington Park (ITV4)
02/08 – 10:35 to 18:15 – Races

Ferrari Challenge – Portimao (Sky Sports F1)
01/08 – 16:55 to 17:55 – Race 1 (tape-delay)
02/08 – 17:30 to 18:30 – Race 2 (tape-delay)

Formula Two – Britain (Sky Sports F1)
31/07 – 12:50 to 13:40 – Practice (also Sky Sports Main Event)
31/07 – 16:55 to 17:30 – Qualifying
01/08 – 15:35 to 16:55 – Race 1
02/08 – 10:00 to 11:05 – Race 2 (also Sky Sports Main Event)

Formula Three – Britain (Sky Sports F1)
31/07 – 09:30 to 10:20 – Practice (also Sky Sports Main Event)
31/07 – 14:00 to 14:45 – Qualifying (also Sky Sports Main Event)
01/08 – 09:20 to 10:10 – Race 1
02/08 – 08:35 to 09:35 – Race 2

Porsche Supercup – Britain (Sky Sports F1)
02/08 – 11:20 to 12:05 – Race (also Sky Sports Main Event)

World Superbikes – Jerez
Also airs live on World Superbikes’ Video Pass (£)
01/08 – 09:45 to 12:00 – Qualifying 1 (Eurosport 2)
01/08 – 12:30 to 15:15 – Race 1 (Eurosport 2)
02/08 – 09:45 to 12:15 – Qualifying 2 (Eurosport 2)
02/08 – 12:45 to 15:15 – Race 2 (Eurosport 2)
06/08 – 21:00 to 22:00 – Highlights (ITV4)

If the scheduling details change, this post will be updated.

Update on July 31st – Good news: the first two Formula E races from Berlin will now also air live on the Red Button after all.


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In conversation with Stuart Higgs

During the down time, Motorsport Broadcasting is taking the opportunity to review content that never made it past the drawing board due to time constraints.

Back in 2017, this writer went behind the scenes at a British Superbikes event at Silverstone. As well as looking around the outside broadcast (OB) truck, I spoke to the brains behind British Superbikes, Series and Race Director Stuart Higgs (@StuartHiggs).

Although I published snippets at the time, I never published the full 40-minute extract. Some snippets are no longer relevant, but many of the topics discussed at length are still applicable to the present day, discussing broadcasting and beyond.

To begin with, me and Stuart chat about the hurdles British Superbikes has faced over the past 25 years…

We relaunched British Superbikes in 1996, and it’s gone through several evolutions of promoter and organiser since, most recently 2008, when MSV acquired the commercial rights. I’ve been involved in the championship for most of the twenty-year period beforehand.

2008 saw a convergence of promoter, circuit, and organisational entities all into one group, which really changed the commercial and media landscape because it allowed us to be unfettered in terms of our deal making capability and the ability to promote the championship.

Back in 1996, the circuits all got together to form an organisation called the Motorcycle Circuit Racing Control Board (MCRCB), and that gifted itself by negotiation, the promotional and organisational rights for British championship level motorbike racing in the UK on permanent circuits.

Previously it was left to individual promoters, all run under the regulation body the ACU, but 1996 was the moment when it all changed. We had a single promoter and organiser, led by Robert Fearnall at Two Four Sports, who operated Donington.

This was around the same time I think that Superbikes was making a splash on free-to-air television, which must have helped the championship.

BBC Grandstand really propelled two wheels back into the living rooms, and it followed what happened a couple of years previously with British Touring Cars. It was a nice, snappy 30-minute programmes, with three or four million people watching on a Saturday afternoon. It was the rebirth, and as everyone saw, attendances went up, sponsors like Cadbury, Old Spice and Red Bull came in for the first time, it was the sea change moment.

That brings us up to 1999, when the group of circuits all thought that, given the success so far, they would take touring car and superbike and become this huge motor sport promoting entity.

That all dovetailed at the same time with a company called Octagon, who were owners of the circuits that are now MSV. Octagon acquired the Formula 1 British Grand Prix rights that were going to Brands Hatch, which never happened, and it was a bit of a mess.

Octagon eventually flogged all the circuits to Jonathan Palmer (MSV) in early 2004, and we as a championship were looking for a home. Robert Fearnall negotiated with Dorna, agreeing that they would handle BSB’s commercial rights. And then we created an organising body which would run the sporting side of the championship, led by myself.

Was the partnership successful between yourselves and Dorna?

It was, but the next challenge was a battle between Dorna and ourselves, as the sporting and promoter of the championship, and some of the circuits, now with Jonathan Palmer at the helm, where we’d do a deal with a sponsor, for example Monster, but a track may have a deal with Red Bull for example.

As a championship, we would say “we must have a clean circuit, no billboards,” and they’d say “well we’ve sold this bridge to Vauxhall,” it was constant loggerheads.

It became clear that Dorna was not in it for the long-term, for them it was a good way to get into superbikes, by pumping some investment into a superbike product that was not World Superbikes at the time.

Domestically in the end, I was working on one side and Palmer was very interested in BSB, so we got together, and everything went across to MSV. Suddenly, the handcuffs were off, which leads us to where we are today.

Jonathan [Palmer] as the promoter realised, what I always believed, that you needed the championship rights to prevail, which made the venues wake up and blossom as well.

It allowed us to make long-term deals commercially, long-term television deals, and if you have long-term television deals then you can go to sponsors with confidence. If you can say to a sponsor “this is our current broadcast footprint and circuit attendance,” you can say to a potential partner this is what it is going to in the next five years and immediately people start to think.

That’s where the stability has come from, and obviously we will work on behalf of the teams to help procure their commercial partners and just to support them where we can. It’s a nice position to be in.

Dorna are now starting to invest in support series around the world, the British Talent Cup [started in 2018] which is only a good thing for motorcycle racing in this country.

They acknowledge the UK has been a critical market, one of the most knowledgeable fan bases in the world, and they want to develop further opportunities for the young riders. The series will ride across Dorna’s championship events in the UK, which is World Superbikes and MotoGP, and some races with us, we’re happy with that.

Having the world’s foremost two-wheel motor sport promoter, and having the UK’s biggest venue operator and again promoter all working on the same page is a very interesting development.

Let us move on to a hypothetical scenario for a moment. I am a motor sport fan, who lives in the UK, but never been to a British Superbikes event. What is the draw?

You’re spoilt for choice for what you spend your money on, so value for money is the key here. There’s no other comparable premier sport in the UK that has the value for money for what you see on a day, the access you have to it and the people. We are a national or international level event, priced at a national or even regional sport level.

It’s a spectacle, it’s escapism from the regulated world. I think people appreciate motorcycle racing more when you understand the human side of it as well. The most important thing is the access between the spectator and the rider, and vice versa, that’s one reason I got involved in racing, I idolised Barry Sheene.

I always want to present our championship in a way where, whether people come for the first time or repeated times, they still get that feeling of seeing their heroes. The show can attract you, but like any sport, you enjoy it more when your heart is racing and you have someone to support.

Behind the scenes in the BSB OB truck: the monitor wall
Behind the scenes in the BSB OB truck: the key roles and responsibilities

Looking at the schedule here at Silverstone, there’s loads of action on from early in the morning to late in the afternoon.

Track time is key.

I think the diversity of what is on show, from kids on Moto3 bikes through to one brand series we have like Ducati, many races we also have the sidecar series, which is one of the biggest in the world.

It’s keeping the racing industry going, it’s a churn of riders at all levels, teams of different standards. It’s very important to be able to showcase that to fans watching trackside.

Finances are always a concern irrespective of what level of motor sport you participate in. Are things more stable for British Superbikes under MSV?

Motor sport is still an expensive past time no matter how many cost controls you try and put in. There’s the crash damage cost, the human cost which can’t be reduced that much, and then you get external variables which affects people’s budgets.

Our aim has always been to have an international-level championship performing on a geographical base that’s national, with a bit overseas like Assen. We operate in a small geographical space, but our broadcast footprint is global which means we can offer a unique proposition for teams and investors.

Teams and investors in the championship can pay a fee equivalent to the level of operation but it gets this incredible visibility and reach. If it costs £500,000 to run a decent, mid-range superbike team and you can get the budget to cover that, the money you’re asking of people will still deliver a return that’s probably better than someone investing five times as much on the world stage.

For those who don’t know, British Superbikes has something called the ‘Showdown.’ Talk to us a little bit about the idea behind it.

All sports over the last 30 years have had slight format changes, even in football, you used to get two points for a win, now you get three points for a win. Cricket has gone from sort of test matches to one-day games over the years.

We took a hard look at the end of ’09, after Leon Camier dominated and wrapped the series up by the end of August at Cadwell, and the last three races were like non-events. He won the series on merit, but the reality is people don’t generally win sport on the first day.

There must be a way to make the championship decided on the final day of the competition. I don’t think it’s a bad thing if there is a bit of artificiality injected into it because ultimately it is about entertainment.

April to October is a very long time to maintain the story, particularly when you’re competing against loads of other sports. The Ryder Cup for example can capitulate an entire audience because, you’re not worried about what happened last week, you don’t care about next week, it is one weekend.

Motor sport has championships which go on for a very long time. 24 riders, 12 teams in a championship, you know in a traditional format who your top two or three are going to be before the season.

At the start of our season, 75% of the teams believe they can get to the top six at this stage of the season, which is the reason for doing it. It is not just about the guy at the top of the championship any more, there is all the subplots going into Showdown.

The more talking points you create, the more interest you get. The more interest you get, the more sponsors, awareness, controversy, and even for the people that hate it, I say “good! I’m glad you hate it, because you’re talking about it, and that’s great!”

This weekend [last weekend at Silverstone before Showdown in 2017], we’ve got nine people mathematically chasing six places, and that’s played out over three races, so yes, it elevates this round, then we reset ready for the Showdown.

Some people used to say “well rounds three and four, they don’t count,” well actually they do, because all those podiums are very meaningful to what the outcome will be.

It’s got an artificial element to it, but it makes us stand out from the crowd. WSB are tying themselves up in knots trying to wrestle with their current situation having two dominant teams, they have the reverse grid format, which is all right, it’s just not that radical, and yet they got the uproar for it anyway.

On the UK TV front, how are things looking? Currently you’re with Eurosport and ITV4 in a long-term deal [until the end of 2020].

The longer the television deal, the more stability you get, it works for all parties. Eurosport have been very good to us, we’ve been very good for them.

We joined Eurosport at a time when they were not taken very seriously, and then Discovery took them over. Their presentation standards have massively improved, they will acknowledge that at the start, the EPG and the pictures that you were watching would not always match up! Now, they have some serious rights, the US Open tennis, the Olympics, and we are a big part of their platform.

We took a load of crap at the end of 2007 when it was obvious that ITV didn’t want non-flagship sport on ITV1, they just really wanted football and the odd boxing match. After 2007, I thought Eurosport would do a better job than ITV4, and we’ll back it up with a free-to-air partner, which in the first year was Channel 4. By the end of that year, ITV realised that we were important and we formed part of their ITV4 portfolio, just at the digital cut-over time with Freeview.

Although we’re a long way away from 2020, are you already talking to Eurosport about what the future holds?

We’re talking now to our current partner, understanding what things are in the pipeline for them, and equally they will be asking questions of us in terms of the direction of the championship. It’s keeping it fresh, and bear in mind that people like Eurosport are not just broadcasters, but they have their own event rights as well.

At the same time, it’s trying to work out where the media landscape is going. The maturing sports fans of 2020/2021 are 14-15 years old now in terms of new audience. I’ve got a twelve-year-old daughter, and she doesn’t watch television, not interested. She’s busy watching things on YouTube or talking on social media. The critical thing for all sports is how to engage and make your product more engaging, more understanding.

Television is the most important visibility platform that we have and it will be for the foreseeable future. It’s building the content around that; it’s integrating between social media and other delivery platforms. Some sports are massively advanced in that, you’re seeing it appear in weird places like Twitter or Facebook.

It’s how everyone fits into that, there’s expectation now from people that you click on something and you see it, which conflicts with the pay-TV model where you pay to view it. The whole monetisation of sport, content, and broadcasting, I don’t believe anyone has the right answer. There’s a number of theories, you’ve just got to get through it and see what works for your audience.

My thanks go to Stuart Higgs for spending the time with me on the above piece. Interview was conducted in 2017 prior to the COVID-19 outbreak.


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