2023 in review: Seven stories that defined the motorsport season

As a tumultuous year comes to a close, BlackBook Motorsport looks back on the storylines that dominated the motorsport industry over the past 12 months.

1. Nascar secures lucrative TV contracts in trade-off for greater fragmentation

30th November: Stock car racing series Nascar sprung a surprise with it latest media rights deal, managing to secure a US$7.7 billion total package across five broadcast partners. An average annual return of US$1.1 billion is a 40 per cent increase on its current deals and is particularly impressive considering the current media rights landscape.

However, achieving this was only possible through further fragmentation of the series’ live content. From the start of these new deals in 2025, fans will need to navigate five broadcasters and up to ten different platforms – across linear and digital – to watch the entirety of the Cup Series and Xfinity Series.

In addition, fewer races will be available on network TV as a result, which may be concerning for a series that has seen viewership numbers drop rapidly since the turn of the century. It will take some highly effective marketing to ensure casual viewers’ are able to track which channels are showing what, while the midseason gap in coverage between Fox and NBC may induce a lull from traditional viewers. Read more.

More on this subject:


2. Las Vegas makes long-awaited debut on F1 calendar in lavish inaugural event

More on this subject:


3. Prospective Andretti entry highlights deepening tension between F1 and FIA

3rd October: The news that the International Automobile Federation (FIA) had approved Andretti Global’s entry to Formula One was not a surprise, but it is certainly a decision that has been met with disapproval from teams and series executives alike.

While much of this has been private, Formula One chief executive Stefano Domenicali has been consistent in his belief that there should be no more than ten teams on the grid. But, despite its reservations, the series is now tasked with approving the final aspect of Andretti’s bid: the commercial benefits.

With General Motors confirming its intention to produce a Formula One engine by 2028, and the support of Guggenheim Partners, which has an estimated US$300 billion of assets under management, it is hard to argue that Andretti’s bid won’t benefit the grid as a whole.

However, with FIA and Formula One relations already frosty after a series of incidents, this latest development appears to have created a hostile environment. The FIA’s mismanagement of the rumours around a conflict of interest between Susie and Toto Wolff has only served to exacerbate things. Read more.

More on this subject:


4. 24 Hours of Le Mans success signifies new era for WEC

More on this subject:


5. The demise of the W Series highlights there’s still more to be done

16th June: We knew it was coming, but administration for the groundbreaking all-female racing competition was tragic nonetheless.

W Series joined the Formula One support grid for eight races in 2021 and was set to feature as part of another eight Grand Prix weekends in 2022 before financial difficulties curtailed that season. While fingers will be pointed at the causes for W Series’ early demise, it also highlights that a lack of support remains a prevalent issue for women in motorsport.

Out of this disappointment, though, a spiritual successor was founded: the F1 Academy. While there is still much work to be done, this new series is setting plans in place that should benefit representation across motorsport in the future. Its season finale was broadcast live in more than 100 territories, while it is in the process of creating a karting pathway for young female drivers.

It is clear we are making steps, but we are not there yet. Read more.

More on this subject:


6. MotoGP shows signs of life as focus turns to US expansion

More on this subject:


7. Formula E secures pay-TV deal in the UK, but at what cost?

7th December: Moving behind a paywall may seem like a strange move for Formula E but, despite its viewership gains around the world, it has struggled to develop momentum in the UK.

Going into its tenth season, perhaps the all-electric series feels that audience growth has stagnated, so securing income from TNT Sports makes sense. This also grants Formula E an audience of motorsport fans that already subscribe to the platform for MotoGP.

Whether this converts into viewers remains to be seen, but targeting former soccer player Jermaine Jenas as its new host is a clear attempt to convince the wider sports fans on the platform to at least give the all-electric series a try.

But, losing out here are the existing fans. The series may have struggled for momentum, but the loyal fanbase it did create in the UK are now shut out, forced to subscribe for content that used to be freely available on free-to-air (FTA) TV and YouTube. If TNT Sports fails to see adequate numbers to renew, will that loyal audience still be there by the time Formula E returns to FTA? Read more.

More on this subject:

Share

Related content