Joined: 16 Jan 2018
|Posted: Tue Jan 16, 2018 5:11 pm Post subject: The Past, Present and Future of Racing on TV
|The premiership gets a over 250 million a year for TV rights, Cricket gets a over 50 million a year, Rugby gets a similar sum. Racing, well we pay to be on TV actually. Yes in the high stakes poker game of C4 vs. Racing, folded its hand and is now through the levy and the Tote paying Channel 4 over 4 million a year for the pleasure of being shown on terrestrial television.
So, how on earth did we reach this situation and what's the future for racings greatest advertising mechanism .
Back in the early days of TV racing, there was the BBC, then the ITV seven offered competition and finally, Channel 4 took on the racing baton alongside the BBC. In the betting shops however, there was simply a crackly extel radio commentary. Although difficult to imagine now, clips in Get Carter and Carry on at your convenience will bring back memories for our more mature punters.
Then 26 years after betting shops were legalised, the big bang came and the big online bookies bought us Satellite Information Services or SIS as it's now commonly known. Technology had arrived and suddenly punters could actually watch their horses run instead of huddling round an old radio speaker.
The situation remained pretty much static until the mid 90's when some bright spark came up with the idea of giving racing a platform on the sky network. Low and behold, the racing channel was born. For 20 a month, you could have all the British, Irish and even point to point racing beamed into your front room. The punter had never had it so good.
Then came the late 90's. The dot.com boom and suddenly media rights was the market to be in. The football league sold off TV rights for over 100million a year to ITV digital and racing. Then racing was presented with it's own golden goose. 307 million over 10 years courtesy of a sky, channel 4 and arena leisure consortium called Go Racing (and then Attheraces). 49 racecourses said yes, 10 said no, preferring to sign up to GG media headed by Lord Hesketh of Towcester racecourse. They received 22000 a fixture and remained on the old racing channel alongside Irish racing. The deals meant both channels were free to air on Satellite and on the 1st May 2002 a punters paradise was launched as the new Attheraces channel went live alongside the racing channel. However, as in other sports this situation couldn't't last the distance.
The first to crack was the Racing Channel. Their American owners TRNI decided to pull the plug soon after the Attheraces launch so armchair punters were deprived of pictures from the 10 GG courses and Ireland. Soon after this, the cracks were also starting to show in the Attheraces business plan. The consortium were planning on financing there massive investment via interactive betting. However, the technology took a long time to develop and then when it finally arrived, was slow. Whilst this was happening, internet betting took off and betting exchanges were launched. Attheraces suffered and started to look for a way of cutting its losses.
Attheraces then found a way to break the contract due to a get-out clause. This was triggered in the autumn of 2003 when the gross profit margin on Tote bets placed via the company fell below 20%. With no new deal negotiated, the screens went blank on the 29th March 2004.
Horse RacingA battle now ensued. Sky and Arena wanted to carry on producing a racing channel. The Racecourse Association and many of the countries top racecourses were unhappy at the previous contract being broken. A split was on the cards and indeed a split occurred.
Most of the super 12 racecourses (expect Ascot) decided to go down the route of a subscription racing channel owned and run by the racecourses. A few of the minor courses followed and on the 29th May 2004. Racing UK was launched. Initially by 27 course rising to an eventual 31.
Hot on its heels, The new At The Races now owned by Sky, Arena Leisure and it's racecourses launched. This channel offered 28 racecourses plus all the racing from Ireland. We were now back where we were before 1st May 2002.
The present deals potentially present problems however. Although Racing UK has an income stream, its audience is limited to those prepared to pay 20 a month. At The Races serves the ordinary punter well but there are still concerns about the funding of the channel without many of the big races to show.
Earlier this year, Channel 4 seized upon the uncertainty with sports media rights and started playing high stakes poker with the media rights for channel 4 racing. They stated that they wanted 10 million from racing if it was to continue showing horse racing. As they made a case that they lost 5 million in advertising and it cost 5million to produce the coverage.
In the end Racing caved in. The Tote along with the levy came up with just under half of the demand. This has come in for much criticism within racing as it's set a precedent. What's to stop BBC demanding a similar payment. Will Channel 4 demand more money next year?
So what's the future. I personally agree with former BHB chairman Peter Savill in the view that we need to auction off the major meetings (Cheltenham, The Derby, Royal Ascot ect) and with the digital revolution, use the proceeds to set up a free to air channel on freeview and the sky platform. This would enable racing to appeal to new punters and help maintain its share of betting turnover which is gradually being eroded away with different sports betting opportunities. Will this happen? I doubt it. The term common sense is rarely used within the running of Horse Racing.