Fox Sports, a subsidiary of Foxtel, is Australia’s leading producer of sports television coverage, beaming over 14,000 hours of live sports programming into 2.5 million Australian homes each year.
It delivers the very best sport from Australia and around the world, ranging from cricket, football, rugby and tennis to golf, Formula One, Superbikes and Supercars.
The Supercars Championship is a touring car race series run under Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) regulations. Now sponsored by Repco, Australian Supercars is widely regarded as one of the best and most entertaining motorsport categories in the world.
Fox Sports broadcasts the every race in Supercars Championship exclusively live on channel 506, as well as streaming live content on Kayo.
Gravity Media has been the Supercars Broadcast Services & Facilities partner for the past eight years – a partnership celebrated for pioneering new production solutions, including Australia’s first 4K UHD live broadcast in 2018. Ever since, innovation has remained firmly on the agenda, not least for the 2020 season and the unique challenge of delivering live sports coverage in the middle of a pandemic.
All Gravity Media production teams practise COVID-19-safe work precautions, including the use of hand sanitiser, gloves and face-coverings, as well as stringent safe-distancing measures in all work environments. For the Supercars team, COVID-19 management has been a huge consideration onsite, with temperature checks, zoning, ‘sneeze screens’ in OB trucks, safe hygiene practices and the use of PPE strictly enforced.
For the 2020 season, Gravity Media was contracted to facilitate the World Feed and Unilateral broadcasts for Fox Sports and Network 10.
Onsite, our services were to include full track camera coverage, pit lane wireless and specialty cameras, in-car camera services (fully integrated 10 x TX paths with 120+ cameras in all categories), broadcast GFX, and team radios.
Meanwhile, we were also engaged to look after Event Communications, providing a complete onsite non-broadcast communications solution covering 15+ circuits and 1,300+ UHF handsets.
But on Black Friday March 13, we felt the immediate and devastating impact of COVID-19. The team was at the Melbourne F1, where round 2 of the 14-round Supercars season was due to take place. All racing was cancelled due to the worsening pandemic, and the 2020 calendar was ripped up.
During the hiatus that followed the entire sport was in jeopardy. So, to keep the fans engaged and the drivers out of mischief, Gravity Media facilitated the first-ever Eseries racing season out of The Production Centre Sydney. Running over the months of April, May and June, the drivers competed in a groundbreaking 10-race series from the comfort of home, each set up with the iRacing computer simulation platform. Read our full Eseries case study here.
The wait to resume real-world proceedings was finally over on Saturday 27 June 2020, as the cars and drivers returned at last for the SuperSprint race at the Sydney Motorsport Park in Eastern Creek, New South Wales.
The restart saw two rounds in Sydney, before the entire Supercars circus headed north to escape the southern states and the winter season. The calendar was a week-by-week proposition, with race meetings pencilled in and shuffled about whilst all crews and teams coped with strict isolation requirements set by state governments combating regional outbreaks across the country.
Where it was impossible to travel from state to state due to COVID-19 border closures, we swapped our onsite setup for remote hostings run out of Sydney: Fox Sports from its studio broadcast centre, and Network 10 from one of our global Production Centres.
As much as 2020 has been a year defined by survival, it has also helped cement the role of smart technology in motorsport. Core operations based in Sydney have supported onsite operations in Darwin, Townsville, Tailem Bend… with venues as much as 4,000 kilometres apart. Not one fail in technical delivery in any of the services provided, and all delivered on time and on budget.
From remote control rooms and studio hostings, to remote race control and remote QC, each vital production element has been delivered flawlessly from afar to keep the season on track, the fans engaged and the sponsors interested. Indeed, Foxtel and The 7 Network penned new broadcast deals with Supercars in September 2020, remaining the Championship’s Pay-TV and Commercial Network providers respectively until 2025.
Supercars is part of the fabric of Australia, attracting huge TV and online audiences, and we’re delighted to have played a part in its continued success through this most turbulent of years.
What’s more, motorsport in general has never been more popular in the country – audiences are up 35% overall in 2020 compared to 2019, with streaming growth for the category on Foxtel Now, Foxtel GO and Kayo up 82%. All at Gravity Media look forward to helping continue this trend well into the future.
“This has been a season like no other, and the guys at Gravity Media have been with us all the way – from the season start, through the Eseries during lockdown, and then into the restart with all the isolation and restrictions and unique challenges that COVID-19 has thrown up. Keeping the Supercars product a premium experience for fans has been our main priority throughout – and we simply couldn’t have done it without them.” Nathan Prendergast, General Manager Television & Content, Supercars Media