‘Sleeping giant’ MotoGP awakens in Qatar, with eyes on US – and a little help from rapper Pitbull and AI

CNNHe worked for the NBA, so he knows plenty about sporting audiences in the US. Now, MotoGP chief commercial officer Daniel Rossomondo is trying to work out how to capture the eyeballs of a nation with a population of over 330 million.

He knows it won’t be easy, but as MotoGP returns to the track this weekend in Qatar – celebrating its 75th anniversary with what promises to be a hotly contested opener in the Lusail desert – Rossomondo believes artificial intelligence could be a trump card for the sport in the coming years.

“I say all the time, we have two gladiatorial figures – we have the riders and the teams – and they’re both pushing towards the limit,” the American told CNN’s Becky Anderson from Qatar on Friday.

“Now, we’ve done a lot and we continue to do a lot to ensure safety, and AI is useful in that space, so we’re constantly tracking where these guys are on the circuit, how the bikes are performing, all of our on-air graphics are generated by AI in a lot of ways.”

Rossomondo views MotoGP as an “unbelievable testing ground” for tech.

“Things on the bike are ultimately going to make their way onto the street, but also for tech companies to just look at what we do in terms of delivering our races in a really technologically advanced way,” he said.

“AI is at the forefront of what we’re doing right now to try to figure out a way to make this sport even more attractive.”

New broadcasting deal

On the track this weekend, Francesco ‘Pecco’ Bagnaia will begin his bid for a third successive MotoGP title on his factory Ducati, with fans eyeing a fresh challenge from six-time champion Marc Márquez, who left Honda behind in the winter to join his brother, Álex, at the Gresini Ducati team.

Jorge Martín, the charismatic Spaniard who was runner-up to Bagnaia in 2023, is expected to push the Italian hard once again, while Moto2 champion Pedro Acosta presents a mouthwatering prospect as a fresh entrant making the step up to MotoGP.

The 19-year-old from Murcia is regarded as a generational talent, with many observers drawing comparisons to Márquez, who famously clinched the 2013 world title aged just 20, in his rookie year, becoming the youngest ever premier class champion.


But the series made headlines off the track this week when it announced a new broadcasting deal in the United States with Warner Bros Discovery-owned TNT Sports.

The deal will see all races across the season, as well as qualifying sessions, broadcast or streamed in the crucial US market.

The 2024 season will also see the debut of a US based-team, Nashville’s Trackhouse Racing, which is co-owned by musician Pitbull.

“[The new TV deal] is hugely significant for us,” Rossomondo said. “For us, what makes it so special is that this sport is custom made for the American audience, so we’re thrilled about that.”

MotoGP saw the best attended season in its history in 2023, with three million fans going to events across the year.

But the sport has struggled to make inroads in the United States, where Formula One has recently enjoyed burgeoning interest and popularity.

‘Primed for growth’

Rossomondo, whom MotoGP rights-holder Dorna lured from the NBA last year, hopes this season will be a springboard for F1’s two-wheeled equivalent.

“This sport is primed for growth,” he told CNN. “It’s a little bit of a sleeping giant, and what we want to do as we approach this 75th anniversary is innovate and do different things on the circuit, and also do different things in terms of fan engagement, in terms of delivering products to fans.

“Our business is one where we want our core audience to feel like they’ve seen something special every day, but also to attract that new audience and get that new audience to be loyal fans,” added Rossomondo.

Part of that revolution began last year with the controversial introduction of half-distance Sprint races.

Rossomondo says these have been a hit with fans.

“I have three children of my own – 14, 16 and 18 – and I know their attention spans. Both of our products, our 45-minute race on Sunday and our 24-minute race on Saturday, are custom made for today’s generation of entertainment and sports consumers.”


The American sees the Sprints as a gateway to the main race for new fans.

“What we wanted to do was create a product that people can use as a trial for our main race, so it’s been wildly successful, leading to over 20% global growth in our television viewership.

“The teams have embraced it, the riders have embraced it and it’s going to be continued at every Grand Prix this year.”

‘Spectacular experience’

The season-opener in Qatar takes place at night, offering a unique spectacle under the lights, but also an advantage for global audiences, the American continued.

He says the newly refurbished Qatar facility, which also hosts F1, is a boon for the participants, too.

“Riders and teams wish that every paddock looked like this,” Rossomondo explained.

“The race at night is something that was [the Qataris’] idea 20 odd years ago, and they did it.

“It’s a spectacular experience for the fans here, but also for the fans all over the world, because a night race in the Middle East is a midday race in the US, a mid-afternoon race in Europe, so it’s great for all our fans.”