The company, which owns the championship’s commercial rights, has capitalised on thrilling battles for the drivers’ and manufacturers’ titles this year to confirm agreements in France and Finland.
In France, where world champion Sébastien Ogier returns to Citroën Racing and fellow countryman Sébastien Loeb makes a championship comeback with Hyundai Motorsport, WRC Promoter has agreed a new and exclusive long-term contract with premium TV network Canal+.
The broadcaster will deliver comprehensive live action and highlights programmes on its platforms as WRC becomes an integral part of its top-level motorsport coverage, which also features Formula 1 and MotoGP.
France is one of the WRC’s hubs. The season-opening Rallye Monte-Carlo (24 - 27 January) ventures into the French Alps before finishing in Monaco, while the Tour de Corse (28 - 31 March) features tricky asphalt roads on the Mediterranean island.
Canal+ will broadcast at least two live stages from both rounds, including the Sunday lunchtime rally-closing Power Stage, on its free-to-air C8 or CSTAR channels. There will be additional live coverage on Canal+ Sport.
Canal+ Sport will also deliver an unprecedented level of live action from the WRC’s other rounds, together with comprehensive highlights on C8 and CSTAR.
The broadcaster will also provide the latest daily news coverage on its Infosport+ and CNEWS channels, ensuring French fans can keep abreast with the latest developments as they happen.
Rallye Monte-Carlo is a jewel in the WRC’s crown and one of the year’s most unpredictable. Narrow mountain roads corkscrew through the Alps with winter weather producing stunning scenery and frequent drama.
The opening three days are close to Gap before it journeys south to Monaco ahead of Sunday afternoon’s finish at the Principality’s Place du Palais in the presence of Prince Albert II.
Canal+ viewers can look forward to backing a rejuvenated Citroën Racing squad in 2019 following the arrival of six-time champion Ogier and fellow new signing Esapekka Lappi to drive its C3 World Rally Car.
They will also enjoy the surprise return of WRC legend Loeb, who will tackle a six-round programme with Hyundai Motorsport, starting at Rallye Monte-Carlo.
Public broadcaster YLE will return the WRC to its channels in Finland in a move guaranteed to delight audiences in another series hotspot.
World champion Toyota Gazoo Racing, led by Tommi Mäkinen, is based in the country, which also has three drivers in frontline teams in 2019.
Jari-Matti Latvala is again an integral part of the Toyota squad after playing a key role in its manufacturers’ title success. Excitement surrounds Lappi’s switch to Citroën Racing, while young hotshot Teemu Suninen will spearhead M-Sport Ford’s campaign.
Neste Rally Finland is another of the WRC’s classic fixtures and will feature strongly in YLE’s schedules.
The network will air all the rally’s live stages on either YLE1 or YLE2, together with the best of each day’s action on YLE2. All programmes will feature YLE’s own expert commentary and analysis.
The Power Stage from all other WRC rounds will also be broadcast live on YLE channels, together with same day highlights on YLE Areena.
WRC Promoter managing director Oliver Ciesla said both deals were excellent for the WRC.
“The dramatic twists and turns in the drivers’ championship enthralled fans across the globe. The sheer excitement of WRC over the past two seasons has also enthused Canal+ and YLE, which are eager to bring the sport into their portfolios,” he said.
The latest available figures from analyst Nielsen Sports show global TV audience rose to almost 850 million in 2017, a 20 per cent rise on the previous year. The figure has increased by 44 per cent since 2013.
The number of broadcast hours soared to 13,452 last year, a 10 per cent jump from 2016. The total has risen by 127 per cent since 2013. Continued growth in 2018 is expected when the year’s figures become available next month.
“Our live TV output has also grown considerably in recent years with the result that WRC is attractive to pay channels. Consequently live airtime has increased by almost 60 per cent since 2014,” Ciesla added.
“These partnerships buck the trend. While viewers and broadcast hours grow on pay TV and streaming outlets, the WRC has successfully sealed agreements for free-to-air coverage which guarantee access to a broader audience in two of motorsport’s key markets.”