ITV Sport has picked up the rights to broadcast highlights of the 2014 MotoGP season to free-to-air audiences.
All 18 races from the premier class will be covered with an hour-long programme on ITV4 and ITV4 HD which will be broadcast in a primetime slot on the Monday following each event.
The season-opening Qatar Grand Prix takes place on March 23 and the broadcaster has confirmed that ITV4’s first highlights show is scheduled to air on Monday, March 24, at 8.00pm on ITV4.
The ITV deal will be welcomed by motorcycling fans without access to BT Sport, who are the new exclusive live rights holders to the championship for the next five years.
It will give free-to-air viewers the chance to continue following the fortunes of the sport’s biggest stars such as reigning world champion Marc Marquez, Jorge Lorenzo, the legendary Valentino Rossi and British riders Cal Crutchlow, Bradley Smith, Scott Redding and Michael Laverty.
MotoGP highlights also boosts ITV Sport’s position as the home of motorsport outside Formula 1 on free-to-air television, with its portfolio being led by live action from the British Touring Car Championship, a series which it has covered since 2002.
Alongside the BTCC, ITV4 also screens highlights of the World Rally Championship, British Superbikes, Isle of Man TT, DTM German touring cars and BRDC Formula 4, plus coverage of the Goodwood Festival of Speed and Revival meetings.
It is the first time that ITV has covered grand prix motorcycling in its current MotoGP guise and series organiser Dorna’s new deal with the channel guarantees free-to-air coverage of every MotoGP race in 2014, including the British Grand Prix at Silverstone in August.
The format and presentation for each one-hour highlights programme is not yet known.
An ITV spokesperson told Sport On The Box: “We are currently finalising a deal for MotoGP highlights on ITV4 and an announcement should follow in the next few days. A deal has been agreed in principle, subject to contract.”
It looks set to be another exciting year for MotoGP as Marc Marquez aims to defend the title he won last year at the record breaking age of 20.
He again faces strong competition for his crown from Honda team-mate Dani Pedrosa and Yamaha rivals Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi.
It promises to be a bumper season for British riders with four lining up on the grid this year with Cal Crutchlow and Bradley Smith aiming to contest for regular podium places.
Ducati’s new signing Crutchlow, who is Great Britain’s best bet to claim the country’s first race victory grand prix motorcycling since the days of the late Barry Sheene.
Scott Redding makes his MotoGP debut for the Honda Gresini team after an impressive season in Moto2 last year, while Michael Laverty lines up for Paul Bird Motorsport.
BT Sport has taken over from the BBC and Eurosport as rights holders for MotoGP races after the UK’s newest sports broadcaster claimed the live rights last year.
The BBC covered every premier class race from the series between 2003 and 2013 while Eurosport’s association stretched back to the mid-1990s.
In 2014, Melanie Sykes will anchor BT Sport’s live coverage alongside former World Superbike champions Neil Hodgson and James Toseland, with commentary coming from Julian Ryder and Keith Huewen.
BT Sport’s first live MotoGP action will be the practice sessions from the season-opener at the Losail International Circuit in Qatar on Thursday, March 20, with all qualifying and race coverage set to air across the weekend of March 20-23 on BT Sport 2, including race day on Sunday, March 23.
ITV4 will then screen highlights of every MotoGP race on the Monday evening following each event.
For more information about MotoGP, including race calendar, rider profiles and the latest news from the paddock, visit the official website.
UPDATE: ITV has confirmed it has agreed a deal for the rights to show highlights of MotoGP in 2014.
The series forms part of ITV4’s top-level line-up of motorsport in 2014 which has been enhanced further by live coverage of the inaugural Formula E championship.
ITV4’s highlights coverage will feature extended action of the MotoGP race, as well as the best moments from the supporting Moto2 and Moto3 races.
The programmes will use the BT Sport commentary feed of Keith Huewen and Julian Ryder, with reporter Gavin Emmett providing the voice-over.
ITV’s Director of Sport Niall Sloane said: “I’m delighted we will be able to bring viewers live coverage of wheel-to-wheel racing in the world’s most famous cities in Formula E, and the high-octane action of the MotoGP circuit.
“These new deals, along with those for domestic events, highlight the importance of motorsport to ITV4 and add to the wealth of free to air coverage we’re able to bring motorsport fans throughout the year.”
As well as packed weekend schedules of live motor racing, weeknights will now boast highlights packages including MotoGP on Mondays at 8.00pm, following BT Sport’s live coverage over the weekend, World Rally Championship on Tuesdays at 8.00pm, and British Superbike Championship on Wednesdays at 8.00pm.
“We’re pleased that British fans of MotoGP will now have the chance to watch highlights from each round of the Championship on free-to-air television in the UK,” said Manel Arroyo, Dorna Managing Director.
“Combined with the extensive live and in-depth coverage provided by BT Sport from each grand prix, British fans will now be treated to more coverage of MotoGP than ever before.”