Sky-C4 racing venture faces hurdle

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An audacious BSkyB and Channel 4-backed horseracing joint venture could be forced to renegotiate a £307m deal with top racecourses after competition authorities said the contract was anti-competitive.
This is the latest setback for the Attheraces satellite service, which launched last year promising to revolutionise the sport and generate millions from TV gambling.

In a preliminary ruling today, the office of fair trading said it believed the 49 racecourses that have signed a 10-year deal with Attheraces acted anti-competitively in selling their rights together. Its £307m deal was struck following fierce competition with a Carlton-backed consortium.

The ruling against Attheraces, a joint venture between Arena Leisure, Channel 4 and BSkyB, was part of a wider OFT investigation into the running of the sport.

"We consider the OFT has not raised any concerns about the formation of the joint venture between BSkyB, Channel 4 and ourselves to purchase horseracing rights but has significant concerns that racecourses acted collectively to sell their rights during the negotiations," said the Arena group managing director, Ian Penrose.

"We all endeavour to work with all concerned to address the OFT's findings," he added.

Attheraces' 10-year deal with 49 of the UK's 59 racecourses was sealed in summer 2001.

Since then it has faced delays to the launch of its interactive television betting service and the value of the overseas rights market, a key part of its business, has plummeted.

However, Attheraces saw off its only real rival, The Racing Channel, which has had to console itself with the leftovers from the deal - coverage from 10 smaller racecourses.
 
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