New Supercars CEO Sean Seamer expects discussions about the category’s next media rights agreement to start this year, but insists there’s no rush to finalise a deal.
Supercars’ current six-year deal, signed under the reign of James Warburton in 2014, runs until the end of 2020.
Widely regarded as one of the most significant in the category’s history, the agreement marked a move towards pay television, with all sessions live on Fox Sports.
The deal with Fox Sports includes six live events being aired with a free-to-air partner, currently Network Ten, which also carries same-day highlights of all other races.
Warburton’s $241 million TV deal was heralded as crucial to keeping several teams sustainable during the 2014-15 period.
Seamer joins Supercars from MediaCom, one of the world’s largest media agencies, and acknowledges that steering the next media deal will be a key part of his role.
“Given my background people will be expecting me to be looking at that. I think that's a natural expectation,” he said.
“First of all, I'm not going to rush it. Second of all we'll look at what we can learn from other codes and other motorsport entities globally, in terms of how they're approaching it to get the best value for their fans, partners, sponsors.
“We would expect those conversions would start in earnest this year, given the timelines we're working towards. But like I said, we're not going to rush it.
“The primary focus is how to we maintain a fantastic product – and the viewing product, anyone who comes and looks at the cars will tell you how good this product is and the way we produce it – then it's making sure our fans and sponsors can extract as much value from the platform as possible.”
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Supercars’ split pay/free-to-air model followed similar moves from the likes of Formula 1 and MotoGP in key European markets, and other Australian sports such as the AFL and NRL.
While a hot topic among fans, Seamer says there’s “probably a bit too much focus on pay versus free-to-air.
“We've got to take a step back as Supercars and say how do we maximise reach delivery across all media for our fans and our sponsors?
“How do we look at a mix of digital, free-to-air, pay TV, and all of the different assets and routes to a consumer that we have and maximise that, rather than getting caught up in the pay TV battle.”
Over-the-top distribution (OTT) platforms are an increasingly important part of the puzzle, which Seamer says must also be considered.
That includes the championship’s ability to connect directly with fans through its own digital assets, which were strengthened during Warburton’s tenure.
Formula 1 recently launched its own F1 TV service for 2018, offering live streams of races and exclusive access to onboard angles for a subscription fee in selected markets.
Supercars has operated its SuperView service since 2013, currently streaming race broadcasts to customers outside Australia and New Zealand.
External media companies are also circling OTT sports rights, including non-traditional players.
“Amazon Prime has made a big play for sport, Facebook has started to talk about it,” noted Seamer.
“Even the traditional players here, whether it’s free-to-air or Fox, are looking at it.
“We've got to keep an eye on NBN rollout and making sure we've got the bandwidth, because reach is important.
“There is the ability to deliver it, and then there's the ability to receive it for the consumer. That's the balance we have to look at as we go through the process.”