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2021 Racing Season on Television, Version #1

Oakville, ON, Feb 3/21: Once again the annual racing season has begun and we can look forward to seeing most of the important races on television - even if the prospects of being able to attend these races in person is still somewhat uncertain due to COVID.

Each year, I vow that this will be my last year to compile my television listings for Canadian race fans but, once again, I have broken my vow and I have made a commitment to produce ‘George’s Race Fan TV Listings’ for another year. Already, the racing season has resumed with a pair of IMSA races at Daytona in January – a 100-minute qualifying race and the traditional Rolex 24 – both broadcast on Discovery-Velocity as before.

Here in Canada, I believe that I am the only one who is putting together TV listings dedicated to the race fans here. And, given this, only some of the networks bother to send out advance press releases letting me know what their plans are for the coming season. Often I have to wait until the race broadcasts are actually scheduled on the consumer TV listings before I can be sure of their plans to broadcast races in a given series.

But, enough of my whining. Here is what I know about the upcoming racing season on television in Canada this year. Remember to check out the Race Fan TV listings on this website (prnmag.com/tv-listings) each week to get the latest updates. Also, this year, I plan to produce a series of ‘RACE FILES’ for each major race which will provide directly (or via links) a lot of useful information, including live timing and scoring.

1. IMSA.

Expect all of the IMSA WeatherTech Series races to be broadcast live and in their entirety on the Discovery-Velocity channel this year. TSN is also again broadcasting a one-hour highlights show a week of so after each event is run.

The IMSA Michelin Challenge races, which usually run on the Saturday prior to the WeatherTech races, is not available here via regular TV. However, you can watch these races live in Canada via streaming on imsa.tv

2. NASCAR

TSN has sent out long-lead listings showing their plans to broadcast the Cup Series and the Xfinity series races again this year. The Camping World Truck Series races will be on Fox Sports Racing (FSR). I addition, FSR will broadcast quite a bit of the NASCAR-related broadcasting (Race Hub, practice, qualifying and previews) that is produced by it FOX affiliates in the US. I expect that TSN will pick up some of these pre-race broadcasts once the US-based TV switches over from FOX to NBC mid-season.

3. Formula One.

While I have not heard anything definite yet, I assume that TSN will continue to be our source for F1 broadcasts (practice, qualifying and races) through the year.

4. IndyCar.

The first IndyCar race is scheduled for Barber in Alabama on April 18. I doubt that I will know what plans there are for specific ‘Canadian’ broadcasting of this series until close to that date.
We do know that nine of the season’s 17 scheduled races will be broadcast of regular network NBC channels which most of us get via our cable or satellite television service providers (TSP).
Last year was un usual. Given the disruption of many of the sports series due to the COVID pandemic, the sports channels were looking for fresh, live content and this resulted in most IndyCar races being available here on the ‘regular’ SportsNet channels rather than on ones like SN-World which required a hefty additional special subscription.
You may recall that, in 2019, before the pandemic, many of the IndyCar races were available to Canadian residents only via SN-World or another premium-cost SportsNet channel. At this time, I have no reason to believe that the situation in 2021 will be any different from the frustrating one of 2019.
I’ve just now stumbled on a source online which states that in Canada the IndyCar broadcasts will ONLY be on the premium SportsNet channels (Sportsnet World and SN 360). If true, this is terrible news. On the face of it, we won’t even be able to watch the Toronto Indy race except via pay TV (just the nine on network NBC). Let’s hope it works out to be a bit better than that!
Surely we can hope that the powers-that-be see fit to make the Toronto Indy available on one of the standard SportsNet channels as they did when there was a similar situation in 2019.
It’s all well and good to point out that this policy of making most of the IndyCar races only available on premium cost channels that only a minuscule portion of race fans subscribe to is a recipe for losing the series’ audience in Canada – but it’s hard to refute the financial logic of the small viewership this series has which has to be at the root of neither SportsNet or TSN being prepared to make the series part of their base channel program lineup.
Perhaps a concerted effort by IndyCar fans to lobby SportsNet might encourage them to reconsider and to add all the IndyCar races to their mainstream channel lineup. The contrast between this back-of-the-hand treatment of IndyCar fans and the comprehensive and complete coverage of NASCAR Cup, NASCAR Xfinity and (I presume) Formula One by TSN is stark! Now is the time to speak up before SN’s plans for the season are carved in stone.
A friend of mine, who is an ardent IndyCar fan, studies the US IndyCar TV schedule to see which of the races he can get via network NBC and then he selectively subscribes to SN-World for only those weeks that include an IndyCar race he can’t get on NBC. It costs him $100 or so a season – but what’s that compared to the cost of actually traveling to just one of these US-based races and buying the race-day tickets as well? But there’s no escaping that fact that by relegating the IndyCar broadcasts to the premium-priced SN channels, IndyCar is guaranteed to record a minuscule TV audience in Anglophone Canada.
You might want to check out the NTT Indycar Series channel on YouTube (https://www.youtube.com/c/indycar/featured). At least you can get some highlights replays there after the fact.

5. World Endurance Championship.

Last year, Discovery-Velocity carried race broadcasts from this series. The first race of the 2021 season will not happen until April 4 in the Algarve in Portugal (replacing the cancelled Sebring WEC race). At this time, I have no information about the WEC’s broadcast plans. I assume this will become more clear as the time for the first race come close. My guess is that it will be back on Discovery-Velocity again.

6. REV TV Canada.

This is a new racing-oriented channel servicing the Canadian market via your TSP.
Their blurb says, “REV TV Canada is a 24/7 motorsports network featuring over 40 live races from around the world and right here at home. From two wheels to four, REV TV features fast-paced dirt and track racing, up-to-date news coverage, prominent interviews with talent and industry insiders, how-to and behind the-scene programs and so much more! REV TV is Canada’s Own Motorsports Network.”
I’ve never seen any live race coverage on this channel and while they do show many races (via tape-delay) over the season, they do a very poor job of identifying the broadcasts by race series, race event and date – so yo are left struggling to figure out what race you actually seeing and when it was run. That said, they do show a lot of current year short track racing of various types. In addition, they seemed to run a series of broadcasts last year about the 2021 World Rally season and some other related programs.
Given the non-live nature of their programming and the limited info that I can glean about specific upcoming broadcasts, I don’t include their broadcasts in my listings – but, nevertheless, I recommend that you check out this channel.

7. CBS Sports

This channel, which I get as part of my TV package (it seems to be bundled with Fox Sports Racing), has a wide variety of sports broadcasts including quite a few related to motorsports. I pick out a few specific ones for my listings such as DTM, and the SRO GT races but there are many other motorsports broadcasts on this channel – mostly tape-delayed – such as short dirt track racing (e.g World of Outlaws) and off-road stuff.
And some motorcycle sport as well. I recommend the motorcycle road racing from Ireland. It is genuine actual road racing on narrow twisty roads with a minimum of safety provisions (Think the Isle of Man TT races). Why this very hazardous style of road racing has not been banned outright long since, I don’t know. But, in the meantime, you might what to check it out.

8. SRO GT World Challenge America

In addition to the SRO races shown on a time-delayed basis on CBS Sports, SRO does broadcast many of its races live (and via tape-delay afterwards) via its dedicated website (https://www.gt-world-challenge-america.com/). Click on ‘videos’.

I get a bit frustrated by SRO’s preponderance of different race series and race formats around the world – but this is a big organization which sanctions an awful of GT-based racing – including some big events like their 24-hour races at Spa and the Nürburgring. The SRO does visit Canadian Tire Motorsport Part as part of their Victoria Day race weekend.

9. Other Streaming services:

Motor Trend streaming service (MotorTrendOnDemand.com). Discovery Velocity is related to Motor Trend in the US, but there does not seem to be a lot of overlap in their programming. It carries a lot of different ‘car’ content, including many race series. I think that they show some of these series as live broadcasts as well as after-the-fact replay broadcasts. Series here that I like to watch include the British Touring Car Championship, the DTM (German-based super-sedan series), WEC, Australian Supercars (mostly V-8 sedans) – but their list is long.
• MAV TV. This US channel is separate from REV TV Canada, with which it was once affiliated, so it carries its own programming which may or may not overlap with REV’s programming. It does carry the WoO Chili Bowl live, the All-Star sprint cars (an alternate series to the WoO sprints) and the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series live.
• F1 TV. This is a subscription-only streaming service (F1 TV Pro) which provides all the Grands Prix live, including all F1 sessions PLUS F2, F3 and Porsche SuperCup. This is a valuable service if you can’t watch the races on your television at home, because you can watch it on your mobile devices as well as on your computer at home. There is also a package of related data such as live scoring without the live video, in lower-priced (F1 TV Access) or free versions.

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