The BBC has lost yet another sport from its portfolio, the stable door on its diminished horse racing portfolio finally bolted thanks to a resurgent Channel 4.
The BBC has for many decades prided itself of first being the voice and then the eyes of horse racing in the UK and despite losing the televised most of meetings had stubbornly clung on to landmark races the Grand National and Royal Ascot.
Yet Channel 4 has secured a new deal for the entire UK horseracing terrestrial rights for 2013-2016 with the Racecourse Media Group (RMG), in association with Jockey Club Racecourses, Ascot Racecourse and other independent racecourses. As a result, the BBC will no longer showcase British racing on its terrestrial platforms.
Channel 4 will now exclusively broadcast all the crown jewels of the racing calendar as from 2013 - Aintree's three-day John Smith's Grand National meeting, the Investec Derby Festival from Epsom Downs, Royal Ascot and the QIPCO British Champions Day from Ascot come to the Channel. They will sit alongside long-established coverage of Cheltenham Festival, Newbury, York, Chester, Glorious Goodwood racecourses and the Flat Season QIPCO British Champions Series. The four-year partnership will deliver around 90 days a year of terrestrial coverage of horseracing on Channel 4.
Negotiations were led by Racecourse Media Group (RMG) alongside The Jockey Club, governing body of UK horse racing, Ascot Racecourse and British Champions Series Ltd as rightsholders with Martin Baker, Director of Commercial Affairs, at the helm of the Channel 4 team.
Commenting on the deal, 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."
Jay Hunt, Channel 4's Chief Creative Officer, added: "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."