Failed Dutch TV Deal Brings Molenaar 125cc Team To Brink Of Withdrawal

Sponsorship at all levels of motorcycle racing is a difficult proposition, as witnessed by the fact that the factory Yamaha team, home of the reigning MotoGP world champion, is yet to announce a title sponsorship deal, despite the tens of millions of fans that watch each race live on TV. How much more difficult then is it to find funding for the support classes, where a competitive 125cc entry may cost between 1 and 2 million euros a year, and TV coverage is far more restricted geographically?

If you are the Molenaar Racing team, the answer to that question is "nearly impossible". The Molenaar team, which fielded Randy Krummenacher and Luis Salom last season, and is schedule to run Jasper Iwema alongside Salom in 2011, is on the verge of withdrawing from the 2011 season, after several key sponsors pulled out during the past couple of weeks. The reason the sponsors gave for pulling of the project was simple: for the second year running, it looks like the Netherlands - the Molenaar team's home country - will be without TV coverage, as the hoped-for deal between Dorna and the satellite channel Sport 1 (no relation of the German-language sports channel of the same name) has failed to materialize. The withdrawal of Molenaar's sponsors leaves the team short some 350,000 euros for the entire season, meaning the team would just about make it to their home round at Assen, and then forced to pull out if no sponsorship was forthcoming.

This is the second year in a row that a TV deal for Holland has fallen through: last year, Dorna had agreed a contract with another cable channel, Car Channel, which was cancelled at the last moment after Car Channel failed to fulfill its financial obligations. The deal with Sport 1 looked much more promising - the channel has a solid financial foundation, and an extremely reliable reputation - but the deal finally foundered on the same rock that killed off the deal with the previous rights hold, RTL: Cost. Dorna is reported to want some 300,000 euros for the TV rights for the Netherlands, but neither Sport 1 or any of the other candidates believed they could recoup such an investment from the deal, especially as the obligation to fund full, free-to-air coverage of Holland's home MotoGP round (costing around another 300,000 euros) comes on top of the fee for the TV rights from Dorna.

Dorna faces a problem selling TV rights in countries such as the Netherlands: the country has a cable TV coverage of some 97%, and just about every single cable subscriber receives 20+ non-Dutch TV channels at no extra cost. Among those channels is the BBC, and given the near ubiquitous ability of Dutch people to understand English, and the fact that the BBC coverage has no breaks for adverts, competing for Dutch MotoGP fans against the BBC is a very tough sell. Both commercial channels needing to run adverts during the 45-minute MotoGP race, and pay-per-view channels charging an extra subscription fee to watch MotoGP races have a difficult time competing against the BBC, especially given the extensive coverage and high production values the British broadcaster puts into its MotoGP coverage.

The one thing missing from the BBC coverage is coverage of the support classes. The 125cc and Moto2 races are hidden away under the red button, and special access via the digital TV services is not available outside the UK. This means that while the stumbling block for most MotoGP TV deals in the Netherlands is the cost of competing against the BBC, Dorna still loses out if they do not secure a separate TV deal for Holland. While MotoGP's commercial rights holder need not worry about losing much audience for the premier class in Holland without a Dutch TV deal - Dutch fans can watch the races on the BBC, after all - the support classes go completely without coverage in Holland, other than for those fans willing to stump up the 80 or so euros that a season video pass on the MotoGP.com website requires.

And it is in precisely these support classes that the Dutch have an active interest. Dutch riders have competed in the 125cc class - some for the Dutch-based Molenaar team (once home to British rider Danny Webb), some for Spanish and Italian teams - and Dutch engineers, team managers, and a host of support staff have been involved in the series without interruption, almost from the start of the series back in 1949. Jorge Lorenzo's team manager Wilco Zeelenberg is a case in point: the Dutchman was part of a tight group of competitive 250 riders in the late 1980s and early 1990s, and had a large fan following in his home country.

With no TV coverage of the support classes, national media coverage of the Dutch riders in the 125cc classes is vastly reduced. Over the past couple of years, Dutch riders have found it increasingly difficult to raise sponsorship to compete in the series, as the benefits for sponsors in their home market are very limited indeed. Though sponsorship may still be an attractive prospect for Dutch businesses targeting Spanish or Italian customers, their needs are better served by sponsoring a Spanish rider, rather than a rider from their native land.

So the Molenaar team now has until Friday to find 350,000 euros in sponsorship. If they fail, then one of the best-organized and most technically adept teams in the paddock will be forced to pull out. The loss of the Molenaar team will be felt keenly: Hans Spaan, another giant of the 125cc class, will disappear from the paddock, after some 25 years of preparing (and formerly racing) 125cc two-strokes. With the loss of Jasper Iwema, the paddock will lose not just its last Dutch competitor, but also a rider widely expected to regularly break into the top 10 this season. And the loss of Luis Salom means that a rider tipped to compete for podiums in 2011 will be left without a ride. The lack of a TV deal in Holland may end up costing Dorna dearly in the long run.

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Comments

I can't believe they regard the BBC as competition for Dutch broadcasters. Sure, some may find the commentary better, but I am positive 90% of all Dutch MotoGP followers will still want to watch the coverage in their own language.
I know this is just the way things work these days, but I really do hope they find that sponsorship.

Total votes: 115

I'm reminded of the saying, " With friends like that , who needs enemies ! "

Dorna's short sighted greed and unbelievable f***king incompetence seem to have no limits. Talk about shooting yourself in the foot............

They will be bleating soon about the lack of teams for Moto 3 soon.........

Time for a breakaway series methinks.

Total votes: 124

For teams to pull out because they can't sign up sponsors is unfortunately a sign of the times, but to have those sponsors in place and willing to part with cold hard cash, only to lose them because the TV exposure they were counting on fails to materialise as a result of Dornas excessive demands for the Dutch "home" round, seems borderline criminal.

If this is the case Dorna loses 650k Euro, Molenaar goes bust, and the Dutch fans have to watch a third of the weekends racing in a foreign language...what about potential sponsors being tempted to back Molenaar and others in the future having seen the show and wanting to get involved?
Bad business all round and this particular gaffe seems to be entirely down to Carmelo and his merry band of headless chickens.

Total votes: 121

Such a sad story but no problems we has Moto3 or whatever it is next year (sigh rolleyes)

Total votes: 119

it`s a shame that we can`t see moto gp here in holland,but there are alternatives and thats not moto gp tv on the computer.
a complete satelite set cost 70 euro here and than you can recieve german SPORT1.DE which is a FREE TO AIR channel!
i can see all qualifications from all classes and all the races in superbe quality from friday to sunday.
also F1 QUALIFICATIONS live and the race is whith a delay about 3 hours.
the commentators on SPORT1 is very good(for a dutchman, we do understand the language) there`s only 1 disadvantage,and that is the many commercials on it!
coverage of sport is below par on all parts except when its silly sports as skating or cycling.
that we have enough :-(
we are a pathatic country when it comes to pay for tv coverage unless its footbal or skating !

Total votes: 108

Can't help feeling that Dorna should reach some bigger arrangement with Eurosport and allow them full live coverage across the whole of Europe, either via the national version and/or the trans-europe version. I don't know but it seems very likely that those Dutch cable subscribers get Eurosport already.

Total votes: 111

Yes, we get Eurosport, the international version, both the main channel and Eurosport 2 (via digital subscription). But MotoGP is only on British and French Eurosport, not on the main channel, sadly. 

Total votes: 116

If you can receive UK "FreeView", i.e. digital over-the-air (DVB-T), TV in the Netherlands, then you should be able to watch the support races. The UK "red button" Vmenu-stuff is non-standard (MHEG) and might not be supported by all DVB receivers, however even then the additional "red button" TV is simply being on channels 30x (301 or 302 usually) as normal MPEG streams, and so should be accessible to *any* DVB receiver. They usually even put the right descriptive text in the EPG data for it.

Course, nearly all dutch TV viewers are on cable and might not even have an aerial hooked up. Further, the signal from the UK might not be strong enough. I remember the old analogue signals could be quite weak, with snow and interference - digital might not work at all. The other thing to try do is to persuade the cable carrier (the near ubiquitous Casema, or whatever they're called now) to carry the additional BBC 30x channels.

Total votes: 111

An important missing word:

“then the additional "red button" TV is simply being broadcast on channels 30x (301 or 302 usually) as normal MPEG streams, and so should be accessible to *any* DVB receiver.”

If you're in NL, go buy a cheap DVB-T USB stick and attach it to a decent size aerial in your attic or above your house. Might just work, particularly if you're actually in Holland (in the sense of the part of the Netherlands that's closer to the UK ;) - and since when is Assen in Holland? :) ). Another option possibly is FreeSat - UK digital TV delivered via satellite. The footprint for which likely must extend to most of the Netherlands, for practical reasons. This URL seems to suggest FreeSat should be receivable in NL:

http://www.satellitemagazine.com/?action=nieuws&id=1012

If you already have a satellite dish, worth pointing it in right direction and hooking up a DVB-S receiver to see if it works.

Total votes: 124

I am a cloggie. For me personally a Dutch channel won't make a difference as I will always prefer English commentating for any sport (my only exception is F1 but that will probably change with the new BBC line up). I also subscribe to MotoGP.com, as much as I despise Dorna, simply because I think it is excellent value for money and don't think I will drop that any time soon. In short, I am the best argument for any Dutch channel NOT to broadcast MotoGP ;-)

But I do think this is worrying for the future of MotoGP, and not just for the Molenaar team. Holland is not the only European country that with the demise of the International Eurosport coverage lost its motogp coverage. Eurosport, while being a cable channel, is widely available in Europe, in most cases much more so than the national pay-per-view channels it replaced and with whom Dorna, who decided to cancel the Eurosport deal as it was not free-to-air- is now talking.
Dorna needs to wake up and realise it is not Formula 1 but much more a niche sport and needs to get as much audience as possible. Not broadcasting won't help the sport getting a LARGER audience.

Total votes: 111