Attheraces, the satellite TV channel which has been broadcasting live racing for almost two years, confirmed yesterday that its coverage of British racing will come to an end at midnight on Monday (29 March).
The company has struggled to make money from live racing since it signed a 10-year deal with the Racecourse Association in 2001.
Attheraces announced its termination of the £307m media rights deal earlier this year, and the contract expires on 29 March. The consortium has failed to agree new media rights deals with 49 of the country’s racecourses, so the daily broadcasting of British racing is to come to an end.
As yet, there is little clue as to whether any kind of deal could be reached, although attheraces is not optimistic about this scenario. In a statement issued yesterday, attheraces explained that “although discussions are still ongoing with all parties, attheraces believes there is little chance of achieving a successful outcome before Monday’s deadline”.
The consortium brought the deal to an end via a get-out-clause which stipulated that the gross margin on Tote bets must be 20% during any three-month period. The margin fell below this figure after the Tote decided to reduce its take-out on some bets last year.
Ian Hogg, managing director of attheraces is optimistic about future prospects for the channel. Its betting business may remain unaffected, and it is hoped that the channel itself will not disappear quite yet.
“The attheraces channel has been of considerable benefit to the racing industry in this country with more than 850,000 people watching our coverage of Cheltenham week. Attheraces remains the industry’s only viable option looking forwards,” he explains.
However, as attheraces appears to be folding, contingency plans have been set in motion, and a new TV channel dedicated to British racing could be ready to launch within weeks.
A business plan for The Horseracing Channel has been developed by a number of leading independent racecourses, which is said to be “practical, realistic and financially sound”. Expected to be subscription-based, it will provide a no-frills service, which could develop as appropriate.
Mark Kershaw, managing director of Newbury explained the concept of what he describes as a “credible alternative” to attheraces: “If attheraces does not manage to reach new agreements with the racecourses and the BHB, racing has to be ready for life after attheraces. Our priority is to ensure that racing fans are able to turn on their television sets and watch a wide selection of racing from courses across Britain.”
Several racecourses are already involved in the project, and communications are ongoing with other racecourses, in the hope that they could become involved as the channel gets up and running.