Seven is poised to become the new free-to-air home of Supercars in Australia after the 10 Network confirmed a decision to walk away from the sport.
TV Blackbox understands a new broadcast deal is now just weeks away from being announced.
Motoring publication Auto Action recently reported the new deal would see Seven broadcast live a minimum of one race per round. Foxtel would remain as the primary broadcaster with full access to all races and practice sessions.
Foxtel recently extended its NRL broadcast deal until 2027, and the decision to extend with Supercars provides further long-term certainty for its sports streaming venture Kayo.
The new deal is expected to be for a shorter time period and a smaller financial figure than the current six-year $241 million deal between Foxtel and 10.
Supercars is understood to be hopeful the increased free-to-air exposure will see sponsors return to the sport. The existing deal allows for just six rounds to be broadcast live by 10 and has proven challenging for team owners to sell sponsorships.
Due to Seven’s existing sports commitments to broadcasting existing sports including AFL, Horse Racing and local state-based footy leagues, its expected much of Seven’s Supercar coverage will be broadcast on HD multi-channel 7mate and streaming platform 7plus.
The male-oriented 7mate is considered a good fit for the sport with the channel already the home of several motoring programs. Since becoming CEO of Seven in August last year, James Warburton has already signed a deal to make 7mate the home of ARG Motorsport.
Warburton is a keen fan of motoring and was the CEO of Supercars from 2013 to 2017. As part of that role, he negotiated the current broadcast agreement between Foxtel and 10. Warburton is also still a minor shareholder in Archer Capital, the parent company of Supercars.
The decision by 10 to exit Supercars at the completion of the current broadcast deal comes after it was recently revealed the network had lost $227 million in 2019.
TV Blackbox understands 10’s decision to walk away from Supercars was due to the broadcast being unprofitable for the network. The structure of the deal created an environment where 10 had been competing against Foxtel and Supercars for a limited slice of the advertising market.
The end of the Holden vs Ford rivalry and loss of drawcard driver Scott McLaughlin had added to a believe ratings for the sport were likely to decline.
10 recently parted ways with its Head of Sport, motoring enthusiast Matt White. Production budgets for weekend motoring magazine program RPM have also been slashed.
A Network 10 spokesperson confirmed the decision to exit the sport telling TV Blackbox;
“Network 10 has enjoyed a great relationship with the Virgin Australia Supercars Championship over the past six years and it’s been a privilege to bring our audiences world-class racing.
“We look forward to finishing on a high with the 2020 Bathurst 1000 in October. We wish the drivers, crews and all those behind the scenes the very best for the 2021 season.”
When CBS first took ownership of 10 in 2017, many within the network were hopeful its new American owners would spend big on sports rights to attract a broader audience.
The early signs were positive with a significant investment from CBS to secure the Melbourne Cup carnival. However, with the parent company completing a merger with Viacom late last year, 10 is now being managed from the UK by a team that also controls low-cost broadcaster Channel 5.
10’s focus is now on primetime entertainment content, while sport is considered an unnecessary, costly expense.
Representatives from Seven and Foxtel declined to answer questions when approached by TV Blackbox.