Seven ‘finalising deal’ for Supercars rights

Australian free-to-air broadcaster Seven West Media is finalising a media-rights deal for the Australian Supercars Championship motor-racing series.

The Sydney Morning Herald reports Seven will soon announce a five-year deal, from 2021 to 2025, covering rights to show six races per year including the biggest annual race, the Bathurst 1000. Seven will replace Ten as the series’ domestic free-to-air broadcaster.

Pay-television broadcaster Foxtel remains in negotiations with Supercars for a new deal from 2021 onwards. The broadcaster has been reported to have sought to move the Supercars season to a later point in the year as part of the talks.

In 2013, the series struck six-year deals with Ten and Foxtel covering the 2015 to 2020 seasons, worth a total of A$241m (€146m/$173m). Ten took over the rights from Seven, which had held them since 2007.

Seven is expected to pay a lower rights fee in the new deal than that paid by Ten in the current cycle. The Herald reports that the deal was likely to include a revenue-sharing element linked to sponsorship and advertising sales.

Supercars has been in talks with broadcasters about the rights since last year, although it paused the process in February when Covid-19 caused its 2020 season to be suspended.

Ten withdrew from the discussions earlier this year. The company, like several of its peers in the Australian television business, is grappling with financial problems that have been exacerbated by Covid-19. In July, it reported a loss of A$226.6m in the 2019 financial year. It has cut staff, including former head of sport and on-air Supercars presenter Matt White.

Supercars is one of Ten’s biggest sports properties. Its other major properties are Melbourne Cup horse racing, Super Rugby, Formula 1 motor racing, and MotoGP.

Seven is also addressing financial challenges, including debt of over A$540m. Its chief executive James Warburton is a former chief executive of Supercars – he led the series when the current media-rights deals were agreed.

Warburton is also a non-executive director and stakeholder in Australian Racing Group, which runs the TCR Australia motor-racing series. Seven acquired rights for TCR Australia and other motor-racing properties owned by ARG in a multi-year deal agreed last year.

The Herald reports that the motor-racing rights acquisitions are part of efforts led by Warburton to reach new audiences. He has also revived several entertainment formats, including Big Brother, in an effort to reach younger audience. Seven has also been offloading assets in an effort to improve its business position, including a magazine publishing business and its headquarters building in Perth.

In June, Supercars renewed a deal with pay-television broadcaster Sky New Zealand for the five years from 2021 to 2025.

The 2020 Supercars season was suspended due to the Covid-19 pandemic after its first round in February. It returned at the end of June, but the comeback has been complicated by renewed outbreaks of Covid-19 which have threatened the remaining races this season.