Major players in British horseracing have issued a warning about the potential dangers of ditching terrestrial TV and handing exclusive broadcasting rights to Rupert Murdoch’s BSkyB.
MoÃÂ«t Hennessy, a major sponsor of the sport, and the Racehorse Owners’ Association (ROA) have reinforced the concerns of sponsors Vodafone and Capel Cure Sharp that a switch from Channel 4 will slash the potential TV audience.
The warning comes in the same week that Whitbread announced it will be pulling out of the sport after failing to reach its 18- to 24-year-old target market.
Rupert Lendrum, director of sponsorship and corporate events at MoÃÂ«t, sponsor of the Gold Cup at Newbury, says: “If it went solely to Sky, we might have something to say. We would have to take a look at the implications.”
ROA chief executive Michael Harris says: “The move to Sky would be a major concern for the whole industry because it could limit sponsorship opportunities.”
Negotiations are taking place between the “Super 12” race courses – which control the lion’s share of the coverage – and the two broadcasters: C4 and Sky.
The Super 12 aim to secure a ground-breaking deal to include TV rights and future interactive betting opportunities. The 47 smaller courses have said they will abide by their decision.
One sponsorship source says: “Some believe Sky will boost racing in a similar way to its Premier League football coverage. But football already had a solid customer base, and racing is desperate to attract a new, younger market, so it needs maximum exposure.”
A decision is expected next week.