Last Friday, Motorsport Network announced that Motorsport.tv is moving to an online only platform, effectively closing its television channel from the end of September. The news brings down the curtain on 18 years of television broadcasting, covering Motorsport.tv and its former guise Motors TV.
Personalities that worked on the channel expressed their sadness at the announcement via social media, including Ben Constanduros and Channel 4’s Formula 1 commentator Ben Edwards, both of whom worked with Motors TV during its early years.
As widely expected, technical expert Craig Scarborough confirmed over the weekend on Twitter that Motorsport Network have axed his Rapid Tech programme. The network has also cut Peter Windsor’s weekly Motorsport Show, which featured a plethora of original content.
David Addison, who was a regular commentator on Motors TV’s ‘Race Day’ events for the Hayfisher production company, said that some championships could struggle because of Motorsport Network’s decision.
“What Motors TV and more recently Motorsport.tv did was bring lots of different championships to the enthusiast. It was a platform for different championships to be able to get exposure,” explained Addison, who spoke to this site during last weekend’s BTCC event at Silverstone.
“It was also an opportunity for different championships to use that as a sales tool to try to attract more people in. You might argue that it was a bit niche, because if you’re watching a motor sport channel, you’re already a motor sport fan.”
“But, it does take away a platform for championships in the UK and around the world. There are so many championships that need, and have benefited from, Motorsport.tv’s television coverage, that are now going to struggle.”
Frank Johns, whose company Frank Johns Associates provided national-level content to Motorsport.tv’s various guises, wrote a comment on this very site stating “As a regular programme provider to Motors TV from its earliest days and more latterly to its successor the sudden closure of this channel is sad news indeed.”
Johns noted in his comment that their programming would continue to air on Motorsport.tv’s on-demand service, but suspects that the audience figures “will be a shadow of its former self.”
For many national and international championships which aired exclusively on Motorsport.tv and want to retain a television presence, they will now need to look elsewhere for that exposure.
This site has reached out to both the World Endurance Championship and World Rally Championship for comment, as well as Supercars in Australia, all three impacted by last week’s development.
A spokesperson for the Supercars series has since told this site “Motorsport.tv will continue to show all highlights and selected events. Freesports will be showing highlights.”
“We also have a subscription called SuperView for our viewers outside Australia and New Zealand to live stream every Virgin Australia Supercars Championship qualifying and race session in 2018 (excluding the sessions at the 2018 Formula 1 Australian Grand Prix), live and uninterrupted on your mobile, tablet or desktop.”
To cut a long story short, Supercars do not plan to change their existing UK rights (which presumably applies across Europe), meaning that events such as the Bathurst 1000 will not air live in the UK on television.
Motorsport.tv could be ahead of the curve
Addison was keen to emphasise that, whilst some championships could struggle, Motorsport.tv could end up being a trend setter in the on-demand space, and that Motorsport Network’s decision might not be doom and gloom.
“My age group used to sit in front of the television once upon a time, on a Sunday afternoon watching motor sport. But now, we consume motor sport on so many different platforms, on the phone, on the train, you name it.”
“If Motorsport.tv is a subscription pay-TV platform only on the internet, actually it’s probably not that far removed from where we are now anyway,” Addison told me.
“It takes away that free service, yes, and it takes away that ‘channel punching’ ability to happen across motor racing. But for the real die-hards that want to watch it, they’ll probably still watch it, even if they have to pay, and have to watch it via the internet.”
“Who is to say that in five or ten years’ time, people are standing in a paddock reminiscing about when motor racing was actually on the TV! It might be that they [Motorsport.tv] are ahead of their time.”
“We’re not saying that they are dead, not showing motor racing, they’ve just changed the way it is going to be presented and how one accesses it.”
Addison, who currently commentates on ITV’s British Touring Car Championship coverage, argues that some championships, such as the club events that featured prominently during Motors TV’s heyday, might be better suited to coverage on the internet.
“To some degree, and this is where one sounds in danger of sounding rather snobbish, there is an argument to say that your big, high profile glamour, well-attended categories, such as F1, touring cars, Blancpain, World Endurance continue to air on television, as they make for good television.”
“However, three and a half people at Anglesey watching half a dozen BMW’s is not great television. And that, with all due respect to the people in it, the people involved in the television production, does not look brilliant on TV.”
“Those races are of specific appeal to the participants and their families. National racing, club racing, cars, bikes or rally cross, oval racing, put it on the internet, it is of a specific appeal and it can exist quite happily there.”