Group Created with Sketch.
Volume 21 No. 6
  • Created with Sketch.
  • Created with Sketch.
  • Created with Sketch.

Motorsport Network CEO gets up to speed

While working for NASCAR, former executive Colin Smith was talking to Motorsport Network executives about expanding their relationship when he got an offer he said he couldn’t refuse.

Instead of simply striking a partnership between the two sides, Motorsport Network executives Mike Zoi and Zak Brown wanted Smith to be CEO of their media outlet.

Prior to joining the media outlet in June, Colin Smith led NASCAR’s digital media operations.
Photo by: MOTORSPORT NETWORK
Smith had been at NASCAR for more than five years, building out the sanctioning body’s digital media operations after it started taking rights in-house from Turner Sports in 2013. Smith saw an opportunity to move from a job that was mostly focused on North American stock car racing to one that covers practically every form of racing. The Miami-based network, which also has an office in London, says it generates 172 million page views per month across 28 global editions in 17 languages.

“It was a great experience and I learned so much throughout the process, but at the same time, it started to become a pretty mature business,” Smith said of NASCAR Digital Media. “After five years of helping build and run that business, seeing this opportunity [with Motorsport Network], it was a no-brainer for me to do sort of the same thing but on a global level.”

Smith joined Motorsport Network in June. In addition to his work at NASCAR, he has previous media experience from a stint at Raycom Sports.

Zoi and Brown have charged Smith with building out Motorsport Network into a global outlet not only in the racing world but in the overall automotive sector. Zoi, a businessman and racer himself, thought that the motorsports fan base was underserved globally in terms of media coverage, and that automotive media was mature in the U.S. but less so in many countries around the world.

Motorsport Network content includes articles, video, photo galleries and live race action and is produced by approximately 600 people worldwide, including freelancers.

The site is in growth mode and not yet profitable, in no small part because of an eye-opening 31 acquisitions in fewer than three years. As it builds out e-commerce and over-the-top video streaming capabilities, Motorsport Network’s acquisitions include venerable European publication Autosport and broadcaster Motors TV, which was rolled into Motorsport.tv.

“Half my job is helping Motorsport Network after two years of tremendous growth really get structured and organized around the business leaders, reporting lines and different lines of businesses,” Smith said. “When you acquire that many companies, you have to make sure you’re integrating them.”

In his first few months on the job, Smith has been focused on working all the acquisitions onto a single platform and seeking out possible additional acquisitions and partnerships. Smith is also looking for live race content to help program an OTT network, though it will likely be restricted to smaller racing properties such as the Race of Champions tournament it aired last year. The OTT network, set to launch this quarter, will charge users about $4 per month.

In addition to hiring Smith, Motorsport Network has beefed up its commercial team with the addition of former Financial Times executive Dominic Good, as well as a handful of others who will work on the commercial side.