Attheraces Plans to Continue Negotiating With Tracks

Attheraces, the racing channel in Great Britain that is scheduled to go off the air March 29, said it plans to continue broadcasting United States races in the evening and would continue to negotiate with British racecourses to carry their product.

In a release, attheraces said it appears there is "little chance" of striking a deal with the 49 racecourses. Without new contracts in place, attheraces will cease to broadcast live racing in Great Britain.

Attheraces wants to continue to license British racing for broadcast in betting offices and other overseas customers, and has written a letter to the racecourses requesting a one-month contract relating to overseas rights.

Attheraces said it also intends to continue to operate its betting business, which has grown rapidly over the last year and recently achieved record handle during the three days of the Cheltenham Festival. All account-holders will continue to be able to bet via telephone and Internet after March 29.

"We have been working hard to ensure that the channel does not go off air but, as it stands, we will have no choice but to shut down the broadcast of the UK racing product," said Ian Hogg, managing director of attheraces. "The attheraces channel has been of considerable benefit to the racing industry in this country, and over 850,000 people watched our coverage of the Cheltenham week. Attheraces remains the industry's only viable option looking forward."

Attheraces, originally made up of racecourse owners Arena Leisure, Sky Television, and Channel 4 Television, negotiated a 10-year-deal worth £307-million to the racecourses in 2001. The free-to-air channel started operating in May the following year.

The business model was based on attracting a very significant part of Great Britain's betting turnover through interactive television, by telephone, and on the Internet. That has failed to materialize, as people have watched the channel but stayed mostly loyal to their existing betting outlets.