Consortium offers £750m for media rights on horse-racing

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The Independent Online

British horse-racing was yesterday offered £750m for the media rights to the sport by Go Racing, a consortium made up of Channel 4, BSkyB, and Arena Leisure, the betting and race courses company.

British horse-racing was yesterday offered £750m for the media rights to the sport by Go Racing, a consortium made up of Channel 4, BSkyB, and Arena Leisure, the betting and race courses company.

The move, to cover the next 10 years, appeared to trump an earlier £530m bid for the rights from Carlton Communications, the television company. But Carlton said that the guaranteed cash element of its own bid was greater, at £350m. Carlton will also spend £50m on marketing and has forecast an extra £130m in shared revenue payments.

Go Racing's offer yesterday consisted of £320m in cash, £80m worth of marketing expenditure and £350m in predicted shared revenues over the 10-year period. These shared revenues will come from betting and the selling on of media rights. That compares with the £6m or so that racing currently gets a year for media rights from Channel 4 and the BBC.

One City analyst said: "Go Racing is the more compelling, more complete vision. This is not just about money, it's about who can offer the biggest future. On that basis, Go Racing looks odds-on to get it."

The bids have been submitted to the Racecourse Association, which represents the country's 59 horse-racing venues.

Go Racing has set a 10 November deadline for a decision on its bid, but the contest is likely to be drawn out if Carlton comes back with a counter-offer. A spokesman for Carlton claimed the total value of its bid would be greater than Go Racing's, if its shared revenues forecasts were compiled on the same aggressive basis as its opponents'.

Ian Penrose, finance director of Arena Leisure, said: "You're going to be able to place bets from your TV remote control, sitting in your living room, or on your computer. The new technology of interactive TV, the Web and wireless is offering a new revenue stream to the sport."

Go Racing will set up a dedicated channel, produced by Channel 4, which will run nine hours a day, seven days a week. It will be available on Sky Digital and digital terrestrial TV, with an interactive betting service. Regular terrestrial coverage will come though Channel 4.

Go Racing's ambition is to have a 24-hour channel, broadcasting racing from around the world. It is currently in talks with American racecourses.

Global coverage will also allow it to provide pari-mutuel betting, which works like the lottery in having a large pool that can be won by an individual. By placing bets on a series of races, it is possible to win millions. Mr Penrose said prizes of £100m on a single bet would be possible.

One analyst said: "Go Racing is offering a worldwide betting hub. You'll be able to place a wager on any race, on any race course in the world. That's a radical vision."

Go Racing questioned how much terrestrial viewing Carlton would be able to deliver. ITV is unlikely ever to carry racing 100 days a year, as Channel 4 currently does.

The Carlton offer depends on the company selling on the rights to the BBC and Channel 4, with showcase events shown on ITV. It will also need to take on a betting partner.

Racing sources said Carlton would have to come back with an improved offer.

Merrill Lynch, the investment bank, has estimated that £65bn was bet on horses around the world last year. That is before the impact of new technology, which is expected to vastly increase gambling on the sport.

A separate contract is being offered to beam live pictures of racing to betting shops, which is expected to be worth another £300m to horse-racing. An unrelated consortium has bid for those rights.

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