Churchill Downs Lawsuit Against TVG Involves International Deals

Churchill Downs has filed a two-tier lawsuit against the operating company of TVG, seeking damages connected to the racetrack operator's joint broadcast venture in Great Britain and Ireland called "Racing World."

The lawsuit, which was filed Nov. 20 in the U.S. District Court division in Louisville, Ky., claims that Churchill Downs pursued interest in the racing program only after TVG said it had no plans to expand internationally, and that TVG broke certain sub-licensing agreements with Churchill when it signed on to be a partner in the new program called "The Racing Network International."

Damages being sought weren't specified, though the lawsuit claims that Churchill Downs had invested at least $750,000 "and significant personnel resources" into the development of "Racing World," which was launched in March. Magna Entertainment and a consortium of about 30 British racetracks called Racing UK are also part of the interests involved in "Racing World."

The specific defendant in the suit is ODS Technologies, which is the limited partnership that does business as TVG. ODS Technologies is a subsidiary of Gemstar-TV Guide International.

Churchill Downs claims it questioned TVG officials about its intentions for international development last December in a meeting that included then-Churchill Downs CEO Thomas Meeker and TVG president Ryan O'Hara. The lawsuit claims that O'Hara told Meeker "TVG's expansion would come from the United States domestic market, and it was not actively considering any international expansion."

"We had had discussions over time with TVG, and predicated on those discussions, we made the decision to go in with Magna and Racing UK," said Julie Koenig-Loignon, Churchill's vice president of communications.

The legal action also claims that TVG violates certain contractual agreements by not seeking sub-licensing approval from Churchill Downs to provide racing content for TVG's new venture with British broadcast company At The Races, which claims to be in 11 million homes in Great Britain and Ireland.

A TVG official contacted Nov. 21 said the Los Angeles-based company had not been served with a copy of the lawsuit.

"But we believe we have complied with all of our contractual obligations, and we will defend ourselves from any contrary allegations," said John Hindman, TVG's vice president of communication

ATR has yet to carry TVG-generated content, and it is unclear when the broadcasts are scheduled to begin.

When the deal with ATR was announced in October, a news release noted British audiences would be able to view "premier U.S. tracks such as Aqueduct, Belmont Park, Del Mar, Hollywood Park, Keeneland and Saratoga, to name but a few..." None of the specific tracks mentioned in the announcement were Churchill Downs properties, but the lawsuit notes that in promotional material, TVG claims to have exclusive agreements with Churchill Downs and its affiliated racetracks.