Supercross signs deal with Fox Sports
Supercross has made huge strides in recent years with top riders, major mainstream sponsors, television coverage and rising attendance.
The latest step could be the biggest in the history of the sport: live television.
Feld Motor Sports, which operates Supercross, has signed a five-year deal with Fox to show all of its races live on Fox Sports 1 and 2, giving the sport a huge boost in exposure.
"The evolution of any sport is kind of legitimized when it's all live," said Ken Hudgens, chief operating officer at Feld. "It's something that we certainly have been working toward on a yearly basis and this sort of solidifies that, so for us it's just a further next step for legitimizing the sport."
The deal calls for 115 hours of original programming and 51 hours of live coverage, including all 17 Supercross races, starting with the season opener in Anaheim, Calif., on Jan. 4.
The deal also includes coverage of Feld's other motor sports properties, including the FIM World Championship, $1 million Monster Energy Cup Arenacross and Monster Jam monster truck shows.
Outdoor motocross will continue to be carried on NBC Sports and NBC Sports Network.
Fox Sports 1 and 2 launched in August, broadcasting events in college sports, European soccer, UFC mixed martial arts and a variety of motor sports. Viewership for many programs has been limited so far, but the schedule will expand next year to include NASCAR, USGA events, major horse races and, now, Supercross.
The events "deliver not only strong ratings, but strong ratings in a very desirable demographic," said Fox Sports executive vice president David Nathanson. "We have a long-running relationship with the team at Feld, and we believe that together we can build on what is a very fresh and exciting product with an extremely passionate fan base."
Moving to Fox should be a huge boost for Supercross.
The Supercross season averages nearly 850,000 spectators per year, but reaching large TV audiences has always been an issue.
For years, Supercross could be found only on tape delay at random times. The sport had its first live TV event in 2005, and last season 11 races were shown live on the Speed network.
Going to a multisport network should help as well.
When Supercross was shown on Speed, it was to a very specific audience; the channel carried only motor sports, so there wasn't a whole lot of variety in fans.
With Fox Sports 1 and 2 carrying such a mix of sports, Supercross has the chance to reach an audience that had mostly been out of reach before.
"For the Anaheim opener, you have five live events going on throughout the day on Fox Sports 1 and we'll be pretty heavily promoted in everything they're doing that day that leads up to it," Hudgens said. "The promotion and the exposure the sport and the individual athletes to new, bigger and broader audiences is probably for us the most important part of the deal."
Better lead-ins should also help.
On Speed, Supercross would follow some live events, but many times the show before was some type of reality series or a racing-related movie.
With Fox, Supercross will often have the benefit of coming after a live event from a major sport, sometimes several in a row.
"We're going from lead-ins of old Cannonball Run movies to live sports," Hudgens said. "I think every one of our lead-ins (in 2014) will be college basketball, Major League Baseball or UFC. That's so dramatically different and so dramatically better for Supercross."
Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press
This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index