In what was one of the less well kept secrets in the motorcycling world, BT Sport today unveiled its presentation and commentary team for its MotoGP coverage of the 2014 season. As had been widely rumored, main commentators will be Keith Huewen and Julian Ryder, reunited after a spell commentating on the World Superbike series back in the 1990s. Former MotoGP.com commentator Gavin Emmett will be the series' MotoGP reporter, and the threesome will be joined by Motorcycle News GP correspondent Matt Birt for the Moto2 and Moto3 sessions.
TV presenter Melanie Sykes will front the coverage, together with former World Superbike champions and MotoGP riders Neil Hodgson and James Toseland. The presentation team will be present at all of the races around the world, with coverage coming from each circuit.
BT Sport will also be hosting an hour-long show each Tuesday evening, called MotoGP Tonight. That show will be presented from BT Sport's London studios, and hosted by Craig Doyle and Iwan Thomas. The show will be a mixture of review, talk show and feature guests from the world of motorcycling. BT Sport's coverage will kick off on 18th March with a special preview show, covering preseason testing and looking ahead to 2014.
The BT Sport coverage is part of Dorna's long-term gamble on pay-per-view channels covering MotoGP. The Spanish rights holders switched away from its previous strategy of pursuing free-to-air coverage as much as possible, in order to broaden the base of the sport. However, the global trend has been for the money involved in broadcast rights from free-to-air channels to drop, as pay-per-view channels have increased their spending on sports. Dorna has also followed this route, with MotoGP moving to pay-per-view channels in Spain, Italy and the UK. They have had little choice, as Movistar, Sky and BT Sport are the only channels capable of matching or increasing the amounts paid for broadcast rights.
Like the Movistar deal in Spain, BT Sports is only available to viewers in the UK who have signed up with BT as a broadband provider, or who have purchased a separate package with Sky. The goal of the sports coverage is to help sell broadband services, and tempt customers away from rival telecoms and TV suppliers. The downside to all of the pay-per-view deals is that audiences tend to drop drastically. It is harder to attract casual viewers when the audience is limited to paying customers. However, given the extremely broad range of sports being offered by BT Sports, the chance to capture casual sports fans - as opposed to casual TV viewers - is still very much present. How successful this will be in the long term remains to be seen.
Editor's note: David Emmett also has a column on the BT Sport MotoGP website. That fact does not influence our editorial independence.