A consortium of racecourse owners appear to have stolen a march on BSkyB in the battle to get racing back on television and are about to announce a new dedicated racing channel and broadcasting rights deal.
Following the collapse of Attheraces, Sky's racing channel that was co-owned with Channel 4 and Arena Leisure, a battle has been waging between racecourse owners to secure the return of racing to television screens.
While Sky and Arena have attempted to start a "New Attheraces", the racecourse owners' The Horseracing Channel is preparing to announce its launch date next week. "We now have guaranteed support from 27 courses representing more than 50 per cent of betting turnover," Rod Fabricius, the general manager of Goodwood and leader of the THRC, said yesterday. "This has given us the critical mass to launch the channel and we expect to announce our start date next week. We will be up and running well before the end of the Flat season."
Initially consisting of Goodwood and Newbury, THRC received a major boost after receiving support last week from the Racecourse Holdings Trust, which controls 13 courses. Since then, a further 12 have come on board and more are expected this week.
The Horseracing Channel will initially be a subscription channel, charging customers £20 a month to view. Many in the industry would prefer a free-to-air channel, but THRC is confident it will generate strong audience figures.
"It will cost less than a copy of the Racing Post every day. But we do plan to move to free-to-air as soon as possible," Mr Fabricius said.
Chepstow, the UK's third largest course owner, yesterday said it had still to decide which channel it would support. "We are taking our time to consider which one is the best for Chepstow Plc and for horseracing," Rod Street, the managing director of Cheptow racecourse, said yesterday.