Attheraces to cease coverage

Attheraces is set to stop broadcasting British racing on Monday after failing to agree new media rights deals with 49 of the UK’s racecourses.

The £307m (€460.7m) deal will terminate at midnight on Monday and, although the channel has been trying to agree new deals with the tracks, officials do not think a new contract will be sorted out in time.

A statement from attheraces said: “Although discussions are still ongoing with all parties, attheraces believes there is little chance of achieving a successful outcome before Monday’s deadline.

“Although negotiations with the 49 tracks continue, without new contracts in place on March 30, attheraces will cease the broadcast of live UK horse racing.”.

The statement continued: “In this event, attheraces hopes to continue with its evening broadcast of the popular US racing programme, albeit a cut-down version.

“Attheraces intends to remain in negotiations with all parties to try and secure a new agreement even if the broadcast of UK racing ceases.

“In the meantime, attheraces hopes to be able to continue to license UK racing for broadcast in betting offices and other overseas customers and has today written to the courses requesting a one-month contract relating to overseas rights.

“Attheraces is fully aware of the value that these rights bring the racing industry in this country and does not wish the ongoing media rights discussions to jeopardise UK racing’s standing in the international market.

“Attheraces also intends to continue to operate its betting business, which has grown rapidly over the last year and recently achieved record turnover during the three days of the Cheltenham Festival.

“All account holders with Bet attheraces will continue to be able to bet as normal on the phone and via the Internet after March 29 and will be unaffected by the protracted media rights negotiations. All customer account balances are protected.”

The 10-year deal, which was signed by attheraces in June 2001, is ending after a get-out clause was triggered following a fall in the overall gross-profit margin recorded by the Tote.

The broadcaster said that betting into the Tote’s pools has “always been crucial to attheraces’ bottom line”.

In October, attheraces served a statutory 90-day notice on the British Racecourse Association to terminate the contract, and further discussions were then held between the two, but no agreement was reached.

A further 60-day termination notice was then issued, with that period ending on Monday.

Ian Hogg, managing director of attheraces, underlined that negotiations have been on-going and he believes that attheraces remains the best option for digital coverage in the future.

He said: “We have been working hard to ensure that the channel does not go off air but, as it stands, we will have no choice but to shut down the broadcast of the UK racing product.

“The attheraces channel has been of considerable benefit to the racing industry in this country and over 850,000 people watched our coverage of the Cheltenham week.

“Attheraces remains the industry’s only viable option looking forwards.”

Channel 4, part of the attheraces consortium that also includes Arena Leisure and BSkyB, has reaffirmed its commitment to attheraces and will continue showing racing on terrestrial television.

A Channel 4 spokesperson said: “Channel 4 remains a committed shareholder in attheraces.

“We are in negotiations with the individual racecourses to ensure that horse racing in the UK continues to be broadcast on Channel 4.”

The first meetings they are scheduled to cover when attheraces go off the air are at Hereford, Lingfield and Newcastle on Saturday week.

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