New Racing Channel in Britain Drops Plan to Charge

The Horse Racing Channel, one of Britain's two new planned dedicated horseracing television channels, has dropped the idea of charging subscribers a monthly fee, at least initially, and intends to launch as a free-to-air service, maybe by the end of the month.

This means it will now compete on the same terms as the new At The Races, which has announced plans to launch in June.

British racing has lacked a dedicated channel since the end of March when the original attheraces announced heavy losses and withdrew from the £307-million media rights agreement with 49 racecourses.

There are 27 tracks signed with The Horse Racing Channel, which will be owned and run by the racecourses involved, and they account for some 48% of the annual British fixture list.

At The Races, now run by Sky Television and Arena Leisure, has 26 courses under contract, responsible for nearly 50% of the British fixtures, and will also show live racing from South Africa and America.

Six British courses -- Cartmel, Hamilton, Newton Abbot, Plumpton, Ripon and Salisbury -- have yet to commit to either THRC or At The Races.

It remains to be seen whether it is commercially viable for two rival broadcast companies to be showing live horseracing.