2015 sees a significant change in the way V8 Supercars will be telecast. While there will be a 360 per cent increase in television content – to 1140 hours per year – on previous media deals, most of it will need to be paid for on Fox Sports.
The new six-year media rights deal will be shared between Fox Sports and Ten Network. While Fox Sports will show every practice session, qualifying and races live in high definition and ad-break free (excluding Bathurst), Ten will show six major events live, with the rest on a same-day delay in a regular afternoon and primetime slot.
Despite the significant increase in coverage, fans without Foxtel have raged at the need to pay for watching a series that has only ever been available on a free-to-air platform.
But the Fox Sports-Ten Network move was essential for the series. In terms of economic benefit, the record $241 million deal, the largest in the history of the sport, is a much-needed financial boost for teams who struggled to sustain their racing operations with limited funding from the last deal with Channel Seven.
Put simply, if teams cannot afford to sustain themselves, then there is no series to telecast. In the current Australian sporting landscape, a Fox Sports component is an economic necessity.
In terms of the coverage, V8 Supercars fans should compare their lot to other major sporting codes.
Fans of the AFL, NRL, A-League, NBL and Super Rugby must watch the majority – and in some cases all – of their matches on Fox Sports, while Australian cricket fans miss out on seeing their national team tour overseas on free-to-air.
V8 Supercars fans, so quick to criticise the delayed and truncated coverage on Channel Seven, will still see all the key racing action on free-to-air television, while those with Foxtel will get unprecedented levels of coverage.
The Ten Network component of the deal is essential for the wider exposure of V8 Supercars, maintaining a free-to-air presence on a network that can marry its Australian motorsport coverage with its coverage of international categories such as Formula One and MotoGP.
With the Clipsal 500 Adelaide, Townsville 500, Sandown 500, Gold Coast 600, Sydney 500 and, of course, the Bathurst 1000 live on free-to-air television, V8 Supercars’ main events can still be enjoyed as it happens by the wider public.
Ten Network and Fox Sports have already heavily promoted their 2015 V8 Supercars coverage in lead-in events such as the high-rating Big Bash League – a far greater promotional presence than Channel Seven ever mustered in recent years.
It may be a bitter pill to swallow for those who cannot afford Foxtel, but the new V8 Supercars media rights deal could have been a lot worse for fans when compared to other codes.