Middlesbrough based media company XCel Broadcast has successfully climbed the great firewall of China to become one of very few ‘foreign’ organisations to send live digital broadcasts into the communist country.

With a population approaching 1.4 billion people, China boasts a huge audience for media content, however almost all foreign information is blocked from entering the country by the government’s formidable digital firewall, a challenge XCel had to successfully overcome in order to broadcast the first of 36 international motor racing events into the country.

It did that successfully this weekend by streaming live the opening two rounds of the Blancpain GT World Challenge, which took place at the Austin based Formula 1 venue, Circuit of the Americas, in Texas, USA.

XCel Managing Director, Dave Roberts said, “It’s an extremely proud moment for both XCel and Teesside. It’s fairly straightforward to make digital broadcasts today but China is one of a few countries that imposes very strict controls on all ‘foreign’ media content, very little content is allowed in.

“We effectively had to punch a digital tunnel through the firewall to deliver the USA based broadcast through to our Beijing production centre. To think a Middlesbrough based operation has been able to successfully achieve such a unique feat is testament to the hard work and creative thinking of all involved. Teesside has again proved its digital enterprise is as good as anywhere.”

The races are part of a new agreement between XCel and race organiser SRO Motorsports to digitally broadcast 36 GT motor races from USA, Europe and Asia live into China. All but two of the races are located outside of the world’s most populist country with Mandarin commentary being added to all.

Digital platforms in China that are broadcasting the races include, Huya, Douyu, SMG, PandaTV and the country’s largest digital video platform, Youku.

Mike Scott, Head of Television for SRO Motorsports, said, “China is a huge market for the Blancpain GT World Challenge and with XCel’s expertise we will now reach many millions of more motor sports fans.

“XCel has been an integral partner of ours since 2015 and again they have delivered. Not only do they produce our entire Asia series they have now stepped up again to take the entire 2019 season across USA, Europe and Asia into China. It’s a fantastic achievement.”

The series sees 14 races in the US, 12 in Asia and 10 across Europe, ending in Las Vegas in October.

In April XCel will begin the second year of its two-year host broadcaster agreement to provide all broadcast equipment and personnel for SRO’s Blancpain GT World Challenge Asia series. April’s broadcast comes from Malaysia’s Sepang Formula 1 circuit.