ALL Irish racing will be shown live on Racing UK from January 1st 2019 for at least five years.
Details of the deal were confirmed on Tuesday afternoon following a general meeting of the Association of Irish Racecourses. The arrangement signals the end of live Irish racing on At The Races [ATR].
A statement issued jointly by Racing UK's parent company Racecourse Media Group (RMG) and Sports Information Services (SIS) confirmed that SIS is also switching live coverage of all-weather track Chelmsford City from ATR to Racing UK.
The statement said that SIS and RMG have agreed that SIS’s horseracing rights will be broadcast on Racing UK from next year. They will also be added to Racing UK’s streaming service for online bookmakers in the UK and Ireland.
Racing UK will broadcast all Irish races in high definition [HD] and there are no plans in place to increase the Racing UK monthly subscription fee from €31 and £24.98.
Addressing claims that At The Races was free-to-view, Racing UK said that the minimum subscription point to access Irish racing via At The Races is normally €39 and £20 on the Sky platform and a further £9.99 and €12.99 to watch online.
On the issue of Racing UK's ability to give all its tracks comprehensive coverage, Racing UK said it will provide a live dedicated racecourse feed from every Irish and British racecourse, including paddock, ‘going down’ and unsaddling pictures. These will be shown via Racing UK Extra, which is available on Racing UK digital platforms and, like all other content, can be ‘cast’ (streamed) to TV.
Based on the 2018 fixture list, the 2019 Racing UK schedule would include only 11 blank days (reduced from 25), with 93 new evenings and 12 new afternoons of live racing.
"Much work will be undertaken to ensure minimum congestion and clashes on race fixtures and times," the statement said. "Recent history shows that Irish and British racing can be successfully accommodated on one channel. Racing UK will ensure Irish racing is showcased via on-site presentation, detailed previews, insightful analysis, dedicated Irish feature programming and extended broadcast hours, while every British and Irish race will be part of the Racing Replay ‘highlights’ programme."
Racing UK also said it "will engage the best Irish talent and will be re-branded to reflect the importance of Irish racing to the channel." Further details will be revealed later this year.
Brian Kavanagh, chief executive of Horse Racing Ireland, said: “This deal is a very positive one and is in the best commercial interests of Irish racing. It secures income streams for media rights for the next six years and aligns all of our rights across all platforms with the same strong partners.
“The bulk of those income streams will go to racecourses with the balance going to Horse Racing Ireland – but all of the income will go back into Irish racing. The benefits of this deal will be seen across the entire industry.
“This deal means we have moved from a situation of uncertainty in relation to direct to home, streaming and international rights, to arrangements that now have been agreed and locked down until the end of 2023.
“We are conscious of the concerns that have been raised, but are confident that this arrangement is in the overall best interests of the Irish racing industry. We look forward to working with RMG and SIS to address any concerns and to ensure that the coverage of Irish racing is of the highest possible standard.
“I would like to thank At The Races for their positive contribution to Irish racing and wish them every success going forward.”
RMG chief executive, Richard FitzGerald, said: “This agreement means, for the first time, viewers can enjoy the major storylines of both jumps and flat seasons in Ireland and Britain on one HD channel. Our 50,000 members and 6,000 pubs and clubs in Britain and Ireland will also enjoy the increasingly popular racing from Chelmsford City, which continues to grow in quality and consistently attracts the best horsemen.
“A package of all Irish racing, Chelmsford City and RMG's horseracing rights will also prove a popular proposition for our streaming bookmaker partners and international broadcast partners worldwide. Irish racing fits perfectly into the long-term RMG strategy. We look forward to working closely with HRI, AIR and SIS in showcasing and marketing such a varied and premium product.”
Ruby Walsh, 12-time champion jockey in Ireland, commented: “I’ve been associated with Racing UK for eight years now and can vouch first-hand for their high-quality production and presentation values.
“Racing UK’s in-depth, insightful, and extensive coverage of the major British festivals is the template for other broadcasters to follow, and it never ceases to amaze me how much hard work, research and enthusiasm goes into each production. I can assure you Irish racing will be showcased brilliantly on Racing UK HD.”
SIS chief executive Richard Ames said: “We are delighted to announce this reciprocal agreement for horseracing content, which will see a comprehensive schedule of UK and Irish racing as part of the Racing UK direct-to-home channel, as well as Racing UK’s streaming service for online bookmakers in the UK and Ireland.”
SIS and RMG are about to embark on a five-year deal on April 1st for the distribution of audio-visual pictures and data to betting shops across Britain and Ireland and the two organisations last week extended the partnership to encompass international pool betting and fixed odds rights (including retail and online).
MORE ON THIS STORY IN THE IRISH FIELD NEXT WEEKEND