Jul 20, 2013
© 2014, Roadracing World Publishing, Inc.
by David Swarts
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AMA Pro riders in action at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. Photo by Brian J. Nelson/AMA Pro Racing.
A last-minute deal between AMA Pro Racing, Chet Burks Productions, Dorna and Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca has made it possible for the National Guard Superbike and GoPro Daytona SportBike races at the track to be broadcast tape-delayed on CBS Sports Network at a yet-to-be-determined date and time.
Roadracingworld.com first learned of the extraordinary possibility of no TV coverage of the AMA Pro Races at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca on July 12 while covering the AMA Pro Road Race event at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. For several days, AMA Pro Racing officials would not address questions about the issue.
On July 16, Roadracingworld.com called Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca CEO and General Manager Gill Campbell to ask her what she knew about the possibility of the AMA Pro road races at her Red Bull U.S. Grand Prix, a combined AMA Pro/MotoGP World Championship event, not being broadcast on television. Campbell said the races were to be televised, as far as she knew. But just to be sure, Campbell called AMA Pro Racing boss David Atlas about the claim, and Atlas told Campbell it was true that there was no deal in place to televise or even provide live at-track video feeds of the AMA Pro races at her event.
“I am speechless. I don’t know what to say,” Campbell told Roadracingworld.com July 16. “When it is the premier motorcycle [road racing] series in America that is unable to produce a television program from their largest single spectator event of the year and the largest motorcycle gathering of the year, I think that is extremely sad and lacking in forethought.”
The problem, according to John Mullin, the producer of the AMA Pro road race broadcasts on CBS Sports Network, was “originally our approach was to do seven events starting after Daytona. As the contracts were being negotiated, AMA had not yet determined they were going to run at this event [Red Bull U.S. Grand Prix at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca]. So their instruction to us collectively and Chet specifically was don’t include this because we don’t know if it’s going to be there.”
Mullin’s statement was also news to Campbell, who told Roadracingworld.com on July 18 that she made a commitment to host AMA Pro Racing again at the 2013 Red Bull U.S. Grand Prix on Sunday evening of last year’s U.S.G.P. weekend. She then added that the deal was “formalized” in October of 2012. But somehow Campbell’s event was not including in AMA Pro Racing’s deal with Chet Burks Production and CBS Sports Network.
So for the last several days, AMA Pro Racing, Chet Burks Productions, Campbell and Dorna have been negotiating to get the races on TV and on the video screens at the track this weekend. Because most of the TV cameras and production equipment at the track belong to Dorna, that deal was centered on the amount of money Dorna was to be paid for the use of their equipment and personnel.
That deal was finally closed Saturday morning and announced via an AMA Pro Racing press release that simply confirmed that the Superbike and Daytona SportBike races at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca would be aired tape-delayed on CBS Sports Network at a time and date still to be determined. The release, however, did not explain why the broadcasting of the races was ever in doubt and it did not explain why Campbell, the promoter of the Red Bull U.S. Grand Prix and AMA Pro Racing at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, was never informed the broadcasts were in doubt.
Campbell was first informed of the situation by Roadracingworld.com, which she credits with bringing the issue to light so that it could be resolved in time.
“I think it [Roadracingworld.com’s coverage of the issue] absolutely helped in a lot of ways,” Campbell said Saturday. “In my opinion, the fans need to be informed as to what’s going on in the series that they support. I think Roadracing World has done a tremendous job in informing them and keeping them updated as to the status. This is a crucial element that goes along with Pro racing. Having television coverage, us being able to provide live feeds to our customers are critical elements at our event. Roadracing World, in my opinion, has done a tremendous job in keeping our fans informed along the way. I am certainly grateful to AMA Pro Racing and Chet Burks Productions for getting this done. It is in the 11th hour. It is done, and I think we can all look forward to seeing AMA on the big screen.”
Asked what can be learned from this experience to use going forward, Campbell said, “I think we certainly need to sit down after this event and come up with a solid strategy so that we’re not going through sleepless nights again before World Superbikes or next year. And I think we need to have some very specific language that addresses just exactly what the expectations are from both sides. I’m sure that we will be having those conversations shortly.”
After days of avoiding comment on the sensitive topic and negotiations, AMA Pro Racing Director of Communications Gene Crouch—a huge player in the success of the negotiations—tried to answer some of Roadracingworld.com’s questions on the situation.
Why were the TV broadcasts of the AMA Pro road races at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca ever in question?
“TV negotiations are a difficult thing,” said Crouch, “and this one in particular took a long time and a lot of hard work by a lot of people. Although the Laguna broadcast was not originally included in the contract, we have worked very hard to get coverage of this event, recognizing the importance of it. And we’re glad we have been able to secure coverage and provide this event on CBS Sports as part of the CBS Sports Spectacular.”
Why was this event not included in the original TV deal?
“I wasn’t privy to those negotiations,” said Crouch. “I’m not sure what the reason is. I can ask around to my superiors to get you additional information on that, but I don’t have any information on that right now. Sorry.”
Why was Gill Campbell not informed that the TV broadcast of her AMA Pro races was even in doubt and why was the first she heard about it from the media?
“Again, I wasn’t privy to any of the conversations about that, so I don’t have any information on that,” said Crouch.
Why did AMA Pro Racing put out a press release confirming there would be TV broadcasts of the races at this event even though AMA Pro Racing made no indication that there would not be TV coverage of the event?
“There was some buzz in the industry and we received some e-mails from fans,” said Crouch. “So in order to answer any questions and to inform the fan base and the paddock about what we’ll have on TV for this event we wanted to go ahead and get that information as soon as possible once we had all the details confirmed.
“The rest of the events on the schedule, aside from the Indianapolis event at Harley-Davidson races, the remainder of the schedule is covered. And we’re working on broadcast times for those events, and we’ll get those published as soon as possible.”
Will the Harley-Davidson races at Indianapolis be on TV anywhere?
“To be honest, I don’t know,” said Crouch. “I don’t have an answer for you on that.”
Crouch then added that he was working on getting Saturday’s AMA Pro SuperSport race streamed live on the internet at .