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MotoGP bought by F1 owners Liberty Media for €4 billion

Written by Owen Bradley, Edited by Meghana Sree

Credit: Mirco Lazzari


MotoGP has been bought by Formula One owners, Liberty Media, for €4 billion, the equivalent approximately to 3.5 billion GBP. 


It is a deal which hopes to unite the pinnacle of motorcycle racing, with the pinnacle of motorcar racing, being Formula One. MotoGP has been in a slightly difficult period, attempting to adopt features that Formula One itself has already implemented, such as high aerodynamic and electronic adaptations to the motorcycles, as well as their weekend format now including Sprint Races, a Saturday feature at every single race on the 22-race calendar.


It’s no secret whatsoever that less eyes have been drawn to MotoGP in recent years. Valentino Rossi, the nine-time MotoGP Champion and MotoGP Legend, drew in millions of viewers to MotoGP throughout the early 2000s and continued to be their main star right up until his retirement at the end of the 2021 season. To illustrate his significance for the sport, at the British Grand Prix in 2022, MotoGP saw 100,000 people across the weekend which was a major drop of 42,000 people from 2021. Various factors have led to this decline, but MotoGP has been slowly recovering. A detailed piece on MotoGP’s troubles from 2022 in reaction to the British Grand Prix of 2022 can be found here: MotoGP is in Trouble 

Credit: Guido De Bortoli


One of the other stars of the sport, Marc Marquez, had spent a couple of years trying to recover from an injury sustained in the opening to the 2020 season, and he didn’t fully recover until roughly 2023, meaning he was absent from certain races and rounds of the championship. Without the star power of both Rossi and Marquez, who have 17 Championships between them, and also the retirement of other legends such as Dani Pedrosa, Andrea Dovizioso, and Jorge Lorenzo – who had all dominated the late 2000s and early to late 2010s – MotoGP has been scrambling to figure out how to rack in more viewership and interest.


For British viewers, Cal Crutchlow was the rider to support as the home hero. However, Crutchlow also officially retired at the end of the 2020 season, without a crowd due to the pandemic. Jake Dixon is likely the next British superstar, currently competing in Moto2 and having an ITV Docu Series focusing on the young Briton. This is another area that MotoGP has been struggling to keep up with — the media. Formula One has their own Netflix series, Formula 1: Drive to Survive, and it has been a major success in drawing new viewers in, especially over the pandemic period.    


MotoGP attempted their own version of this, based on the 2021 season, titled MotoGP Unlimited, which was a very familiar format and was produced by Amazon Prime. However, due to the series being subtitled, it was a bit more difficult for a new casual audience to sink their teeth into. Therefore, after just one series, MotoGP Unlimited has been put on a pause, and it seems slightly unlikely for a return; though attending the British Grand Prix in 2023, Amazon Prime crews could be spotted throughout the paddock.

Credit: Guido De Bortoli


In 2023, MotoGP managed to regain some lost ground. 2021’s Silverstone crowd of approximately 150,000 was a sell-out crowd. But 2022 was a huge blow, back to 100,000 across the weekend. 2023 saw roughly 116,000 fans across the weekend, which was certainly a positive for Dorna, who owned MotoGP from 1991-2024 and helped shape the sport into a commercial success across the decades.    


Liberty Media purchased Formula One for roughly $4.5 billion back in 2017, and have made a lot of important decisions in how F1 is perceived presently. In 2018, Netflix filmed the “Drive to Survive” series which gained a lot of traction just a couple of years later. It was also Liberty Media who added the Sprint format, which have had their fair share of criticism, however also did make each day of the F1 weekend a bit more important and have put more eyes on the sport for Fridays, which for certain races, is now the Qualifying day for the main Grand Prix.

Credit: Guido De Bortoli


Liberty Media have made their venture into Formula One a success. In the first quarter of 2022, they made approximately $360 million, close to half a billion dollars, just in that quarter alone. F1 is now one of the leading sports in merchandising, media, and a lot of other aspects. Merchandise for example, in the UK, is now quite easy to come across. A lot of clothing companies now regularly sell F1 shirts, hoodies, and other memorabilia. In terms of camera angles, F1 is seriously pushing the boundaries. Drivers now have cameras inside their helmets, and almost every angle of the car has a camera put onto it, or into it. MotoGP have also had their own experiments with this, such as new cameras on the rear of the bikes for 2024, and heart rate monitors too.


Fans are sceptical on this deal however, and rightfully so. As much as Formula One has had a soar in popularity, the fundamentals of the sport itself have changed quite drastically. More races added to the calendar, Sprints added, occasionally racing on a Saturday, and a lot of other media duties for the drivers – every aspect of F1 is now incredibly different to how it was even one decade ago, and is hugely different to the period of the 1970s, 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s. Fans who grew up with the sport over those decades have been apprehensive and don’t want the sport to lose its authentic identity whilst making these huge deals with other companies. Money is a huge factor now in everything Formula One does, and this is another issue that worries MotoGP fans too, with Liberty Media’s recent purchase.

Credit: Mirco Lazzari


Moreover, the “Americanisation” of the sport could prove to have its own advantages and disadvantages, but the tough thing for MotoGP is that the sport has been in a decline over the years, and as much as they may well be trying to find their next British talent, their next major star, their next Valentino Rossi, or their next successful Documentary or Docu Series, these things will take time.

   

Hopefully, the unison of Formula One and MotoGP under one management will help in bringing the two fan bases together for the better. F1 has seen a lot of new fans, who may also start watching MotoGP now. MotoGP has almost certainly got the better racing action and therefore, the better product on display which may lead to these fans suddenly discovering their passion for the sport. F1 and MotoGP do actually share a lot of the racing circuits already, namely Barcelona-Catalunya, Lusail in Qatar, Silverstone in Britain, and a handful of others too. This could be more of an incentive for F1 fans familiar with these tracks to watch MotoGP’s racing action on these tracks that they know and love.


However, like many, all of the fans, journalists, and everyone involved hope that MotoGP does not sink any further following this deal. A mixture of optimism and realism is the current feeling amongst MotoGP associates and fans.


What do you think of the MotoGP-Liberty Media deal? Let us know in the comments down below!


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