Channel 4 yesterday backed down from its threat to abandon coverage of racing as it agreed a deal with the Racecourse Holdings Trust (RHT), ensuring racing continues on terrestrial television.
The RHT, which owns 13 racecourses including Aintree, Cheltenham and Newmarket, announced yesterday that it had “agreed terms for an 18-month contract for terrestrial television coverage with Channel 4”.
ITV had been angling for rights to the Cheltenham Festival, although Channel 4 had made it quite clear that rights to Cheltenham were fundamental to their continued dealings with the RHT. The broadcaster threatened to pull out of racing earlier this year if ITV gained the rights to Cheltenham.
The association between Channel 4 and the RHT was further complicated when the media rights deal struck between Attheraces with 49 racecourses was terminated. The RHT was forced to renegotiate as a group, and sought to exploit its rights to several of British Racing’s most lucrative meetings.
Although final confirmation of the deal was not expected until Friday, RHT managing director Richard Johnston was pleased that the issue had been resolved, at least for the time being.
He said: “Channel 4’s commitment to racing and the breadth of their coverage has enabled us to make this decision. Channel 4 has played a key role in championing racing and in raising the profile of a sport with an expanding audience and we are delighted to continue our 20-year relationship.”