Aussie TV Rights Dispute Hits Turnover

Relations between TVN and Sky Racing have been rocky for years

james-packer-to-leave-macau

James Packer

James Packer-backed corporate bookmaker BetEasy plans to stream Victorian horseracing on its website amid a TV rights dispute that has scrubbed the broadcast of key meetings from pay-TV’s Sky Racing.

The move comes as Racing Victoria chief executive Bernard Saundry prepares for a series of crisis meetings with the state’s racing clubs this week following fears the stoush is beginning to hit betting turnover.

Sky Racing stopped televising Victorian and NSW race meetings on December 17 after a dispute between its owner, Tabcorp, and horseracing rights holder Thoroughvision (TVN).

TVN, owned by the Victorian and NSW industries, sold rights to Sky Racing in addition to running its own TV channel.

While TVN continues to show races on pay-TV and the internet, its future is clouded after a board meeting on Christmas Eve where directors resolved to hand broadcast rights back to the racing industries in Victoria and NSW.

Governing bodies Racing Victoria and Racing NSW are at loggerheads over how to sell the rights. While Victoria wants to make extra money by allowing bookmakers to stream live races, NSW wants to continue its longstanding exclusive relationship with Tabcorp.

It is believed BetEasy, a joint venture between Mr Packer and bookmaking veteran Matthew Tripp, is willing to sign up to the Victorian program.

TVN had been quoting corporate bookmakers a fee of 0.5 per cent of turnover on streamed races, with a minimum fee of $1.5 million, for access to both NSW and Victorian races. A market source said that with only Victorian races now available, the minimum fee was likely to be roughly halved. NSW races are reportedly likely to return to Sky Racing as soon as New Year’s Day if a deal is struck.

But Racing Victoria warned on Friday that the state’s racing clubs faced “short-term financial impacts” and “the current Sky Racing blackout period may extend throughout January 2015”.

Bernard saundry

Racing Victoria CEO Bernard Saundry

Meetings between Mr Saundry and the clubs — Moonee Valley Racing Club, Victoria Racing Club, Melbourne Racing Club and Country Racing Victoria — are due to start today.

Yesterday, speaking on turf radio station RSN, which Racing Victoria owns, Mr Saundry said there had been “some softening” in betting since the Sky Racing blackout but it was hard to be sure what had caused the downturn.

“We’re monitoring that. We’ll get a better feel for that towards the end of the week,” he said.

A Tabcorp spokesman declined to comment on turnover. In a statement to the stock exchange, the company said Sky Racing aimed “to ensure the resumption of coverage of NSW and Victorian thoroughbred meetings as soon as possible”.

“Sky Racing is committed to concluding long-term broadcast arrangements with the respective rights holders that underpin and support wagering, which is the racing industry’s biggest source of funding,” it said.

Relations between TVN and Sky Racing have been rocky for years. In 2010, a dispute over coverage rights ended up in the Victorian Supreme Court and it is believed that for the past two years they have only been able to strike short-term deals, each covering as few as three months.

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