FRIEND OR FOE? WHY SUPERCARS AND TCR REMAIN DIVIDED

Supercars and TCR will feature on different events and TV networks in 2022. Pics: Nathan Wong and Supplied

THE Australian Racing Group’s move to become a part-owner of Supercars during the latter’s 2021 sale appeared a great unifying moment in Australian motorsport.

What loomed as a touring car turf war between a Supercars behemoth battling for ongoing relevance and ARG’s upstart two-litre TCR seemed over before it had really begun.

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TCR and a suite of other categories ARG had added to its arsenal over the previous two years came together for the 2021 season-ending Bathurst 1000 extravaganza.

The first event held under Supercars’ new ownership was an all-you-can eat festival of categories, sharing Australian motorsport’s biggest stage for mutual benefit.

But in 2022, the Supercars and TCR calendars share not a single event, and ARG has revealed a new broadcast deal that moves it away from Supercars partner Seven and onto arch-rival Nine.

Not only that, the ARG TV deal is largely based around Nine’s subscription service Stan Sport, which is in direct competition to Fox Sports’ Kayo offering.

Fans must now fork out $20 per month for Stan Sport as well as $25 per month for Kayo if they want their full fix of both Aussie tin-top classes.

So, what happened to the great alliance between ARG and Supercars that debuted with a bang at Bathurst just last December?

As with most things in motorsport, the answer lies in following the money.

ARG is putting its eggs in the Stan Sports basket. Pic: Supplied

Addressing the split calendars for TCR and Supercars during a media briefing following the broadcast deal announcement, ARG MD Matt Braid pointed primarily to conflicting sponsorships.

The most obvious of those is automotive parts retailers Repco and Supercheap Auto, which are the naming rights backers of Supercars and TCR respectively.

“TCR has grown to the point where it stands on its own two feet, it has its own commercial partners, different sponsors, and there was an absolute reluctance to merge on that basis,” Braid explained.

“While it would be good to bring the offering together in some aspects, they both have their own identities now and have support partners and so on which makes it very difficult to even consider.

“While on paper it could have been a more logical decision, it’s not going to be possible to bring those together.”

ARG chairman and recently installed Supercars Board member John McMellan confirmed ARG had the option of continuing with Seven in 2022.

That would have provided a level of integration and cross-promotion between the ARG and Supercars products and, until recently, was the widely expected outcome.

However, it’s understood Seven was not keen to pay for the rights to show the broadcasts, which ARG has contracted Supercars Media and its partner Gravity Media to produce at significant cost.  

“No one would want to make an easy decision to move from the Seven free-to-air platform, however, all businesses have to be commercially sustainable first and foremost and producing high quality motorsport TV is expensive,” McMellan admitted.

McMellan stressed the recent growth of streaming services such as Stan Sport as the other key reason for ARG going its own way with its broadcast deal.

The combined Bathurst spectacular of 2021 was a one-off. Pic: Supplied

“The offer at Seven was status quo on product and we know that the market, 62 percent of people are watching their product on demand,” he said of a streaming landscape currently dominated by Netflix.

“There’s a need to have a broader product base and we have to consider the needs of the business as it evolves from that commercial sustainability viewpoint.

“Clearly from a preference it would have been to have a whole of motorsport offer that aligned with Supercars, but that was not able to be secured.”

In addition to TCR, ARG’s category line-up features S5000, GT World Challenge Australia, Trans Am, Touring Car Masters and a revived V8 Touring Car Series for Project Blueprint-era V8 Supercars.

They are all part of the Stan/Nine deal and are tied together under the ‘SpeedSeries’ brand, which has been created as a more marketable alternative to ‘ARG’.

Unlike TCR, which is exclusively on the SpeedSeries bill, S5000 and TCM are slated to compete at two Supercars events each during 2022.

“We’ve always maintained we’d have this multitude of categories and events as part of our business, each of them has their own identity and own needs,” added Braid.

“We’ll always put the needs of the category first and wherever they deserve to run and will run best. We haven’t dictated that.

“TCR has established its own identity, it’s got its own exclusive calendar, but the likes of TCM, S5000, etcetera, there’s still a need, a demand and want from both sides to have a variety of events.

“The calendars on a category-by-category basis are largely independently planned to showcase the category in its best light.”

TCR Australia will get underway as part of the ‘SpeedSeries’ at Symmons Plains on February 11-13.

That event is set to be shown live on the Nine Network as well as Stan Sports, before Nine adopts mid-week highlights for the remainder of the calendar.