V8 Supercars teams are busy. While they continue to roll through the 2012 V8 Supercars Championship – continuing this weekend at Sydney Motorsport Park – they are also busily preparing their brand-new Car of the Future campaigns for 2013.
But if you think the teams are busy, spare a thought for the sport’s chairman Tony Cochrane.
Not only does he have the COTF to see through, he has a new TV and digital rights contracts to secure, next year’s calendar, plus a fourth manufacturer to confirm – a deal he says is definitely happening.
Speedcafe.com’s Grant Rowley grabbed the chairman for a chat about TV rights, manufacturers and the return to Eastern Creek …
SPEEDCAFE: The NRL, the Nine Network and Fox Sports announced its billion dollar, five-year television broadcast deal yesterday. With that done, V8 Supercars’ deal is the next big one to drop. Can you give us an the update?
TONY COCHRANE: There’s no specific update. Our comment is that we have been working hard on the last four months on our rights. Everyone wants to focus on free-to-air, but there’s huge digital rights this time around, and also global rights involved in everything we do. We’re not just focused on purely Australia.
It’s a big task and we’ve been working on it for the best part of four months. When we are happy that we’ve got everything in order and satisfied of the final outcomes, we’ll publicaly announce something.
SPEEDCAFE: As soon as the NRL’s deal was confirmed yesterday, many people assumed V8s deal would be announced shortly after. How much of an impact does the NRL’s confirmation impact on V8’s deal being sorted and announced?
COCHRANE: We’ve been working independent of the NRL. That was a tremendous win for them yesterday.
What their deal did underpin was that prime-time, free-to-air sport in Australia is a prerequisite for any network in the country.
SPEEDCAFE: And does that remain a non-negotiable aspect of V8 Supercars’ TV deal – live, prime-time, free-to-air coverage?
COCHRANE: Well, V8 Supercars is one of the four largest annual sports in the country by its television hours and by its viewership. Given that three of them are now put to bed, and one isn’t, I think you’ll find that we’ll be occupying similar space to other sports.
SPEEDCAFE: So we shouldn’t look for any announcement in the short-term?
COCHRANE: We have never put a time frame on it. The media occasionally stick time frames to it and try and make out our time frames. We’ve never put a time frame on it and we’re not going to start now.
SPEEDCAFE: We’re just past the midpoint of the 2012 V8 Supercars Championship. It has been a busy year so far for the company and the teams involved. I’m sure you’d agree that it is only going to get even busier from here …
COCHRANE: I said at the start of this season that this was going to be a very difficult year for the sport. That is because we’re in a transitional year. We’ve got Car of the Future programs happening, which is an enormous task for our teams. It takes an enormous amount of time and cost. It’s a transitional year for all of our media rights, right across the board. It’s a transitional year with some changes to our calendar as well.
When we sum all of that up, it all makes for a difficult year, and I guess it has been made more difficult by the fact that the economic down turn is now absolutely affecting sponsors and sponsors decisions. It’s clearly affecting fans who are trying to find the extra few bucks to go to games, or events, or in our circumstance, motor races.
All of that has added another layer of complexity for the challenge we face and I’m very, very focussed, as are our entire management team, to get the right outcome and the right results so we can have a huge 2013 with the championship and the roll out of Car of the Future and new manufacturers.
SPEEDCAFE: You mention ‘manufacturers’ plural. V8 Supercars obviously has Nissan joining the fray next year. Mercedes looked close, but recently fell over. You’ve always said that we’ll see four next year. Are you still on track for that?
COCHRANE: I’m on the record, well and truly, stating there will be a fourth manufacturer on the grid in 2013. Nothing has happened that has changed my opinion on that. That’s been my statement. People are trying to dissect that statement and trying to add things to it and build things around it.
My statement remains; There will be four manufcaturers on the grid in 2013. I’m absolute resolute with that statement.
In all of my private discussions and all our meetings with various manufacturers, nothing has changed for me to change my view.
I’m not going to specifically discuss any manufacturer, because unlike the media, I do have respect for these manufacturers. I do have respect for the fact that they are going out making their decision in quiet, behind closed doors. They’ll break cover in a way that suits them, in a similar way to what Nissan did. I didn’t have any say in when they decided to make their public announcement. I’m not going to suddenly change my attitude or style and break any confidences that I have with manufacturers.
SPEEDCAFE: It’s almost September. Santa will be here soon. I can only assume that if a decision or announcement was to happen regarding a fourth maker entering the sport, it would have to happen soon …
COCHRANE: The thing is that you’re assuming that they’re sitting there contemplating making a decision today. How about if they have been sitting there for months working on it, diligently putting in the effort on the engineering and the branding that goes into it?
SPEEDCAFE: Well then they’ve kept a very good secret!
COCHRANE: This industry and the motoring industry is one that operates very, very secretively, and very cap in glove. They want to retain as much of a drop on their competitors as they can …
SPEEDCAFE: Lets talk about Eastern Creek. This weekend marks the first time in four years that we’ve been there. After a turbulent history, is this the first of many returns?
COCHRANE: No. We’ve signed a one year deal with them for us to have a good look at it, see how it plays out.
It has been, historically, a disappointing place for crowd numbers, and this time around, it’s very much in their hands. We’ve got nothing to do with the promotion of it. We’re obviously helping where we can with things we’ve been asked to do.
It’s entirely in their hands to see what they deliver for us. When they deliver the job, our senior managment group will weigh that up and consider it for the 2013 calendar and beyond.
SPEEDCAFE: Are crowd numbers the make or break factor?
COCHRANE: No, it is not. We look at lots of things. We’ll make a full evaluation right across the board on the whole return to Eastern Creek.
For the moment, I remain to be convinced. I’m open minded, but I remain to be convinced.
Of all the markets, Sydney is tough, and that’s just not me speaking – that’s the AFL, the NRL and most other sports – Sydney is the most difficult market to get people out of their homes and get them to an event, whatever that event may be. You have to have all your ducks in a row to get it right.