Television coverage of racing in Great Britain seems safeguarded for at least the next two years following the announcement that Channel 4 is in exclusive negotiations about sponsorship with Dubai Holding, whose chairman is leading owner/breeder Sheikh Mohammed.
The deal would end speculation regarding a commercial backer for Channel 4’s coverage of about 80 racing days a year. Several bookmakers were thought to been keen to sponsor the programming, as was betting exchange Betfair. Other bidders included Satellite Information Services, which produces specialist channel Attheraces and provides pictures for betting offices.
Conglomerate Dubai Holding, which has 19 subsidiary companies involved in 11 industries, will probably have to pay about £2 million (U.S. $4 million) a year. A deal would ensure the continued broadcasting of racing highlights such as the Cheltenham Festival and Glorious Goodwood.
It wouldn’t mark the first time Sheikh Mohammed has invested in the British racing media world. He funded the newspaper Racing Post from its launch in 1986 until1998.
Channel 4 previously warned it could axe the racing coverage due to high costs. The tote stepped in June 2005, with a £3-million sponsorship deal but chose earlier this year not to renew its backing from the end of 2007, following the decision of the newly-formed Gambling Commission to allow bookmakers to advertise on television rather than just sponsor programs.
Channel 4’s rival terrestrial broadcaster, the BBC, will continue to show racing from several courses throughout 2008, including the “crown jewels”' of the Grand National and the Epsom Derby, though its level of coverage has fallen in recent years.