With Formula 1 and MotoGP, motorsports are attracting a growing audience

Since the epilogue of Ligue 1 football, May 23, Canal + no longer has its flagship product in sport on its antennas. But the encrypted channel has nothing to worry about: while waiting for the resumption of the season, at the beginning of August, motorsports will animate, over the coming weekends, the schedule of its sports programs. And this, from Sunday June 6 with the Azerbaijani Formula 1 Grand Prix and that of Catalonia in MotoGP.

Since the start of the 2021 season, at the end of March, the two disciplines have regularly broken audience records on Canal +, to the point, sometimes, of exceeding those for Ligue 1 matches. During the Monaco F1 Grand Prix, on May 23 , An average of 1.35 million viewers watched the race, and 1.1 million were watching the MotoGP French Grand Prix a week before.

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Audience records which reflect a growing attraction for motorsports. For Formula 1, it’s a logical continuation of the 2020 season which was incredible in every way. Regarding the MotoGP championship, it is true that we are more surprised , recognizes Thomas Sénécal, deputy director of sports writing for Canal +, broadcaster of both disciplines since 2013. In the world of two-wheelers, this sudden interest is mainly explained by the emergence of the duo Fabio Quartararo-Johann Zarco. The two French currently occupy the first two places in the drivers’ world championship.

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Quartararo, just 22, exploded in the eyes of the general public by winning three of the first six races of the season. His friend Zarco found, at 30, a stability that allows him to aim higher than usual for his 5e season in the world’s motorcycle elite. “A sporting discipline is always carried by champions. And the fact that there are two French in the top category, that offers a sounding board ”, welcomes Sébastien Poirier, President of the French Motorcycling Federation (FFM).

Pilots appreciated by young audiences

In Formula 1, Esteban Ocon and Pierre Gasly carry the colors of France high in the paddock. Gasly became the first French to win a Grand Prix since 1996, when he won in Italy in 2020. Their success is eye-catching, as is their accessibility, freshness and propensity to appear on social networks. These are young people who have personalities, who form a strong pillar of the motor sports community in France. , assures Thomas Sénécal.

Other pilots, like Lando Norris, George Russell or Charles Leclerc are also very popular with young audiences who follow them during live broadcasts on the video streaming platform Twitch. From a sporting point of view, the duel between Max Verstappen, leader in the drivers’ standings before the Baku Grand Prix, and Lewis Hamilton also captivates, after several years of domination of the Briton and his team, Mercedes.

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Like all the other pilots, Hamilton was the subject of an episode in the third season of Drive to Survive on Netflix. A real phenomenon since 2019, the series, which plunges viewers into the heart of the life of the paddock, has converted a large audience to Formula 1. Canal + has taken advantage of the phenomenon: “Even if we did not wait for 2019 to create our own content”, retorts Sénécal. “But anything that can attract and arouse people’s curiosity about F1, we welcome it with kindness.

The Liberty Media turning point

Like Netflix, Canal + took advantage of the takeover of Formula 1 by Liberty Media in 2017. The American group does not hesitate to roll out the red carpet for the cameras to offer content inside (in immersion) to viewers. A 180-degree turn compared to what the discipline had offered up to now, it has undoubtedly paid off. A success that is jealous of Dorna Sports, promoter of the MotoGP world championship, which would be close to an agreement with Amazon to produce a similar series.

The discipline in which Quartararo and de Zarco excel has the advantage of being more accessible, with a race duration varying between thirty-five and forty-five minutes, less strategy, more intensity and twists and turns … This short format fits well with today’s sporting spectacle , says Sébastien Poirier, who is proud to see “That we reach more viewers”. “It’s new since we perceive fans in the federation who are not bikers.

Read also With “Formula 1: Drive to Survive”, Netflix puts F1 in pole position

The FFM is also seeking to take advantage of this momentum to democratize the practice of two-wheelers, while motorsports are still perceived as elitist. While the majority of sports have suffered financially since the start of the pandemic, MotoGP and Formula 1 were little impacted in the sense that the sporting spectacle was not altered by the absence of the public ”, explains Thomas Sénécal.

With the improvement underway, Canal + could see some competitors position themselves in the years to come on the two disciplines – whose broadcasting rights are still cheap (60 million euros per year for formula 1 and 8 million for the MotoGP) compared to the 365 million euros disbursed by the group for the 2020-2021 season of Ligue 1. But, by then, the encrypted channel intends to take advantage of it and, why not, beat other audience records from this season.