Ondigital style crisis unfolds as TV racecourse channel deal trips on the hurdles 

29 March 2004 tbs.pm/646

TV racing channel reins in coverage

Attheraces the TV channel set up to provide digital TV coverage of races not covered by the major TV networks, itself a consortium of broadcasters including BSkyB, Channel Four and track operator Arena Leisure, is terminating its TV rights deal worth £307 million pounds with 49 UK race courses, with immediate effect. In effect, Attheraces is ending its Media Rights agreement with the Racecourse Association.

Talks between the company and the Racecourse Association broke down last week, amid claims by the company that slimmer profit margins recorded by the state-run pooled betting service – the Tote – had triggered the get out clause. However, according to industry insiders interviewed on BBC TV’s Breakfast News Business (this morning), this crisis will be of similar proportions to the racing fraternity, as the collapse of the Ondigital service was for ITV.

It was initially hoped that digital viewers would use the Red Button option, to directly conduct race betting during live relays from the 49 participating courses. However, punters have prefered the traditional method of going into local bookmakers to place their bets. Interactive placing of bets direct from television screens, has not been the success or brought in the business that was originally envisaged.

Some racecourses are now hoping to negotiate individual contracts with Attheraces, in the light of the network deal faltering. It was hoped that some larger courses making their own deals will not be to the detriment of smaller race courses.

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