Ascot could lose over a third of its TV audience if it shuns ITV
Ascot could lose over a third of its TV audience if it shuns free-to-view TV according to a Racing Hub poll on Twitter.
The track faces a deadline from ITV on whether or not to stay with the free-to-view channel for its racing coverage, or place all its media rights with Sky Sports Racing, with a possible deal with another broadcaster to show featured fixtures, eg Royal Ascot.
The vast majority of racecourses are in agreement to award ITV a three-year contact extension to run from 2021. They have seen healthy increases in audience figures for coverage which has won plaudits not only from viewers but also a BAFTA and a broadcast journalism award for Ed Chamberlain (pictured) and Francesca Cumani.
The reason why Ascot have been slow to join other tracks is that, because the way the media rights have been negotiated through different racecourse group representation, Ascot have ended up with a smaller share of the media fee despite ITV paying more for the contract.
If Ascot decide to go it alone, they face a significant drop in people watching racing from the Berkshire track.
A Twitter poll by The Racing Hub asked if Ascot were only to be available on Sky Sports Racing, would people still be able to watch the coverage.
Over a third, 37%, said they would not.
Given that a poll of The Racing Hub’s Twitter followers is likely to comprise a high percentage of racing enthusiasts with access to specialist racing channels, it’s probable an even bigger number of casual racing viewers would be denied the opportunity to watch racing from Ascot.
Indeed, an earlier Of Course column (http://wp.me/p8e3Dl-1ss) noted that over 11m households do not have access to cable and satellite TV.
Ascot must clearly weigh-up what is best for them, but they’ll need to take on board not just the effect of losing a large chunk of their TV audience, and the damage to the sport, but the reduced value to race sponsors when a potential drop of sizeable proportions takes effect.
If they have an eye on another free-to-view broadcaster, their options seem to be limited. The crown jewel is clearly the Royal meeting, but other fixtures hold less appeal. And Champions Day is outside Ascot’s control. They host the meeting but do not own the rights outright.
Ascot’s position has an air of posturing.
It’s caused unnecessary delay to renewing the contract with a supportive broadcaster, irritated the incumbent broadcaster, suggests the sport cannot pull together, and left Ascot in an awkward position to say the least.
♦With Champions Day an event which is jointly owned by racecourses, maybe there would be merit it alternating its venue between Ascot and York. York continues to win plaudits for its racedays, and it would do the sport no harm to take the end of season finale up north.
In the interests of the sport?
In the run-up to York’s Ebor Festival, the Racing Post asked the course’s chairman, William Derby, if he was happy for the meeting to be continued to be sponsored by the county’s tourist promotion agency, Welcome to Yorkshire.
The reason for the question was that the not-for-profit organisation had found itself at the centre of controversy, including allegations of misuse of public funds and staff bullying.
Whatever happens with the Welcome to Yorkshire sponsorship, which is set to continue for a further three years, there was only going to be one answer from the racecourse. William Derby said:
“We’re very proud of our partnership with and support by them [WtY] of the biggest sporting venue in Yorkshire. We work very closely with the team there and they do tremendous work.”
Fair enough if the Racing Post thought it worth raising the question in the interest of the sport. But it’s a moot point.
Curiously, the Post has been somewhat reticent in noting a series of goings-on which would seem rather more pertinent to the interests of racing.
The department at Weatherbys, racing’s secretariat, which logs who owns what horses has been kept rather busy in the past few weeks.
At the end of June, the registered ownership of the 3yo Promissory was transferred from Princess Haya to HH Sheikha Al Jalila Racing, the racehorse ownership vehicle for the 11-year-old daughter of the Princess and her husband, Sheikh Mohammed (pictured, on the right).
Days later, Promissory was now in the ownership of Godolphin. Events took another turn, when, the next day, Promissory was back in the ownership of Princess Haya.
The timing was good, as Promissory won a race for the Princess at Doncaster.
Around the same time, Turgenev became a Godolphin owned horse only for it to be registered back with Princess Haya 48-hours later. Duneflower and Emblazoned similarly added to the Weatherbys workload.
None of these events made it to the pages of the Racing Post, not even the piss-poor Dikler column, which looks to have gone to ground.
The background to the racehorse ownership hokey-cokey is that Princess Haya left her Dubai marital home in Dubai where she was one of Sheikh Mohammed’s wives. Subsequently, she made a High Court application in London for a non-molestation order against her husband.
Whilst Sheikh Mohanned has no commercial involvement with the Racing Post, he is still the owner of the paper’s name. There’s also the matter of some bloodstock advertising which comes the Post’s way from Darley.
Whatever the level of interest such ownership comings and goings are to the sport, it seems they are deemed of limited interest to Racing Post readers.
You gain a million, you lose a million
So, York staged its first £1m Sky Bet Ebor Handicap. How was it for you? Was there greater anticipation for the race with the winner collecting £600k (not really a £1m race in my opinion if the headline amount is spread amongst the placed horses)?
I’ll be taking more away from the Ebor Festival than Mustajeer winning Saturday’s feature race, however mertiable it was.
Battaash, Enable, Mum’s Tipple and Stradivarius (pictured) are clearly top of the list.
I’m pleased for Mustajeer’s connections – it’s no mean feat to have one ready for the iconic handicap, but I don’t feel it’s been a better achievement because £600k has been won.
Day-in, day-out horses at small yards owned by small owners race for next to nothing, and that’s where £1m would be so much better allocated.
Similarly, there’s £1m waiting to be distributed after Weatherbys Hamilton have been twice bitten by offering a £1m stayers’ bonus which has been won by Stradivarius for the second year running. They’ve now pulled the plug on the £1m stayers’ bonus.
It had more merit than the £1m Ebor because the bonus went outright to the connections of a horse which won four designated stayers’ races. Trouble was, it wasn’t thought possible that the bonus would be won.
So that’s another £1m which could be redirected elsewhere. Creating a stayers’ bonus series of races around the country wouldn’t be a bad idea, maybe on Saturdays at the ‘second meeting’ with ITV coverage.
It’s not as if Weatherbys Hamilton need to raise brand awareness outside the racing fraternity, which was always a curious aspect of their pumping such a large amount into the top-end of the sport in the first place.