Motocross’ television coverage roughly 20 years ago typically came a week after the race, unless a local station came out to the track to do a story.
About 10 years ago, the sport came a little closer to TV relevance when the races were shown on a one-day delay, then took a huge step in 2013 when competition went on live TV.
The evolution of motocross makes a mammoth move Saturday afternoon, when the Supercross race at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey, will be carried on Fox, the first time the sport will be shown live on a major network.
“It’s been a long history of us trying to steer the direction of Supercross to get here,” said Ken Hudgens, COO of Feld Motor Sports, which operates Supercross. “The idea was always television was such an important part of growing Supercross and taking it to the mainstream. To be live on a Saturday afternoon on big Fox is kind of a seminal moment.”
Despite its grass-roots popularity, motocross has always had to claw for attention.
While sports like NASCAR and IndyCar could get coveted weekend day slots, Supercross almost always played on Saturday nights.
Supercross also was carried for years by Speed, which was nice exposure, but limited the sport’s crossover appeal since the network carries only motorsports events.
But with the sport growing in popularity - over 850,000 spectators a year - the appeal for a non-motorsports network rose. Supercross got its big break two years ago, when the series signed a five-year TV deal to have all of its races shown live on Fox Sports 1 and 2.
Since then, Supercross has been the lead-in or lead-out for a variety of sports - baseball, college basketball, mixed martial arts - which allows it to connect with audiences that traditionally would not think to watch the sport.
Saturday’s race is the next big step, with Fox having the confidence in the sport to show the race live on its main network.
“The new deal is huge because it puts the sport of Supercross next to your typical stick-and-ball sports,” Hudgens said. “Just to be positioned with other “major sports” and have that exposure to their fan base where they might not be as familiar with Supercross as we would like them to be, it gives us a chance to promote and have Supercross exposed to that audience.”
Supercross found a new audience a year ago, when the first races were held in the New York area.
Not playing in the nation’s No. 1 media market had always been a huge gap in the sport’s ability to stretch its reach to new fans. Supercross became popular enough that it could move into the New York market last year and proved to be a huge success, with a record-shattering 30,000 fans showing up for the pre-race pit party four hours before the first gate dropped.
Supercross is back in the New York area this week and is hoping to build even more buzz, with the added bonus of playing live on Fox.
“All in all, it’s just a huge weekend for the sport,” Hudgens said.
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