Jthe embarrassment of a horse race without horses at Newbury on Saturday, apparently the result of a boycott by trainers to protest the prize money offered, is already drifting away in the rearview mirror and, since this is the wacky world of racing, the next unseemly infighting will no doubt be along soon enough.
But a line that has emerged amid claims and counterclaims over the £6,500 run that didn’t happen deserves closer scrutiny. While doing what it could to defend its overall prize offer in the aftermath of the pandemic, Newbury stressed that it plans to significantly increase prize funds from 2023 “when our new media contract comes into effect. “.
The media deal in question is a five-year deal, signed just over a year ago, which will see Newbury’s media rights pass from Racecourse Media Group (RMG), its headquarters since 2004, to its main rival, The Racing Partnership (TRP), which is linked to Sky Sports Racing. Major tracks owned and operated by The Jockey Club – including Cheltenham, Aintree, Epsom Downs and Newmarket – are the foundation of the RMG portfolio, while Arena Racing Company (ARC), with 16 courses, is the key player in TRP .
The only significant difference most punters are likely to notice once the new contract takes effect will be that Newbury’s racing program – including the Group One Lockinge Stakes in May and the Ladbrokes Trophy Handicap Chase in November – will move from Racing Subscription TV. to Sky Sports Racing from 1 January 2024.
But there is much more than that, as this decision also includes image rights for betting purposes, both in retail – i.e. betting shops – and in the sector. increasingly dominant online game, which surged when betting shops were closed during the lockdown. and now accounts for around 70% of UK racing revenue.
Over the past two years, meanwhile, there has been a move towards a turnover-based model for paying for online broadcast rights, with betting companies agreeing to pay a fixed percentage of their turnover. business to broadcast races live on their sites. In theory at least, this protects against the possibility of their races being used as a loss leader, to attract accounts which can then be directed to other betting and gaming products.
The exact terms of these agreements are a closely guarded secret. But with an overall racing betting turnover of around £11bn a year – and the online sector accounting for at least two-thirds of the total – the difference between, say, a deal for 1% of the turnover and a deal for 2% could run to tens of millions of pounds every year. In other words, tens of millions of dollars would otherwise be pumped into the racing economy, increasing prize money, paying wages, and inducing owners to buy horses.
Sky Sports Racing’s claimed reach, which reaches 14 million UK homes, is unchanged from 2018, suggesting that Newbury’s expectations of what its chairman, Dominic Burke, describes as “a significant price increase in money” from next year depend on another aspect of their new contract. With retail betting steadily declining, online revenue share is by far the most obvious candidate.
Newbury is an independent PLC and the scale of its increased media and betting fee revenue following the move to TRP should finally become apparent in around three years, when the track releases its 2024 results. the recent figure, covering 2021, was £4.38m.
Until then, we can only speculate whether RMG – which owns the betting rights to the majority of the country’s most famous, and therefore high-grossing races – has settled for a smaller slice of the pie than its main rival. And if so, how and why, and how much may have been lost to sport?
When asked if RMG believes it has obtained the best possible value for stakeholders in its media rights deals for online streaming, Seb Vance, Director of Communications and International Television Distribution at RMG, replied: “ Absolutely. It should also be noted that there is minimal leakage [outside the sport] because we have no external shareholders. Our business is 100% owned by the racetracks, with 100% of the profits going to the racetracks through license fees and dividends paid at the end of each year.
“Thirty-four racetracks have signed long-term agreements through 2029 and we will continue to seek to extract maximum value for our shareholder racetracks, while driving betting revenue through innovative and innovative production and presentation. premier source of quality, basic horse racing content for bookmakers and their audiences.