British racing agrees exclusive domestic TV rights deal with C4

19th March 2012

The John Smith's Grand National will be broadcast on Channel 4 from 2013 to 2016

The John Smith's Grand National will be broadcast on Channel 4 from 2013 to 2016

2013-2016 deal will see Channel 4 broadcast the crown jewels of Britain’s 2nd biggest spectator sport

British horseracing will be broadcast on UK terrestrial television exclusively by Channel 4 from 2013 for at least the next four years after the broadcaster tabled a winning bid to expand its current portfolio, which was accepted by representatives of Britain’s second biggest spectator sport.

A highly competitive domestic TV rights bidding process saw interest from a range of broadcasters, with Channel 4 winning the right to air the John Smith’s Grand National Meeting from Aintree, the Investec Derby Festival from Epsom Downs, Royal Ascot and QIPCO British Champions Day from Ascot - which are currently televised by the BBC - alongside the existing 80 days of racing it broadcasts.

The new deal provides substantially increased revenues for British racing, which successfully attracted nearly 5 million extra viewers from its domestic TV coverage on Channel 4 last year (42.2m 2011 v 37.4m 2010) while attendances grew to a record 6.15 million people in 2011, in contrast to many other sports in the UK. Britain continues to attract the best horses in the world and the sport has come together to market itself more effectively than ever before.

Channel 4’s financial commitment to racing over the next four years amounts to one of its largest programming outlays. As part of its wider commitment to the sport and a stated focus to strengthen its relationship with broader and younger audiences, Channel 4 will seek to creatively enhance the production values of its racing programming over the course of the new rights period.

Negotiations were headed by Racecourse Media Group (RMG), alongside The Jockey Club, Ascot Racecourse and British Champions Series Ltd as rightsholders, with Martin Baker, Director of Commercial Affairs, at the helm of the Channel 4 team.

Richard FitzGerald, Chief Executive of Racecourse Media Group (RMG), who headed racing’s negotiating team, said:

“Channel 4 has shown a total commitment to our sport.  This new deal will not only deliver increased revenues for British racing, but with all of our sport’s crown jewels in its portfolio, Channel 4 offers a compelling vision to innovate the way racing is broadcast. They have also committed to use diverse programming platforms to promote our sport more widely. This is a great opportunity for racing in the long-term.

“The BBC has been a fantastic partner for British racing and helped the sport to grow its attendances and TV audience in recent times. We look forward to continuing to work together through radio, online and TV news coverage over the next four years until the next TV negotiation period.”

Jay Hunt, Channel 4’s Chief Creative Officer, said:

“We are delighted Channel 4 is to become the sole destination for British horseracing after securing such iconic events as Royal Ascot, the John Smith’s Grand National and the Investec Derby.

“These will sit alongside our established coverage of The Cheltenham Festival and major Flat meetings such as Glorious Goodwood and the Ebor Festival and means we can extend our distinctive approach to all the crown jewels of the sport.”

Jamie Aitchison, Channel 4’s Sports Editor, said:

“I am delighted Channel 4's 28-year association with racing has now arrived at the point where the industry has demonstrated such confidence in our ability to showcase its complete portfolio.

“This is an opportunity for us to work together to grow the sport, painting the full picture of both the Flat and Jumps seasons to attract new viewers whilst rewarding those loyal viewers we value so highly. Channel 4 fully understands the heritage and cultural importance of British racing, but also the sport’s thirst for a bright future, and we relish the challenge ahead.”

Simon Bazalgette, Group Chief Executive of The Jockey Club, which owns 14 racecourses including Aintree, Epsom Downs, Cheltenham and Newmarket, said:

“Channel 4 has been a tremendous partner for British racing to date and this new deal is a huge boost for our sport.  I believe the vision and nature of this new arrangement will help to make a step-change in the way we broadcast the sport. Armed with racing’s crown jewels, including the John Smith’s Grand National Meeting and the Investec Derby Festival, Channel 4 now has the platform to enhance the promotion of our sport all-year-round.”

Charles Barnett, Chief Executive of Ascot Racecourse, said:

“This is a tremendous announcement for racing. The sport is in a great place at the moment and the editorial appeal and popularity of both codes has been apparent through what has been a competitive tender process. A one channel scenario will enable us to tell our stories clearly and consistently, and obviously Royal Ascot is fundamental to that. I would personally like to thank BBC Television for everything they have done for racing and we look forward to continuing to work with their other platforms.

The new arrangement will see all 35 races in the QIPCO British Champions Series of premier Flat racing broadcast on Channel 4.

Rod Street, Chief Executive of British Champions Series Ltd, said:

“Since its inception, we’ve aimed to showcase the very best of British Flat racing within the QIPCO British Champions Series via a single domestic terrestrial broadcaster. We believe this new deal with Channel 4 will make the Series even easier to follow for the racing and wider sports fan. Hugely exciting times lie ahead.”

William Derby, Chief Executive of York Racecourse, said:

“As an existing partner with Channel 4 throughout the 28 years of their coverage of the sport, York looks forward to this latest chapter in the broadcasting of famous races from the Dante and Ebor Festivals, as well as major Saturdays on the Knavesmire. The ability to tell the story of the Flat racing season from start to finish, with all the flagship meetings and Saturdays in between and under one umbrella, is a newand exciting opportunity that we look forward to being part of."