Sky to take up the reins in Attheraces absence
By paul
BskyB, the satellite TV broadcaster, is ready to win control UK horseracing on TV on the cheap. Sky wants to increase its stake in a new channel and to allow bookmakers to operate from it.

The company plans to broadcast a new racing channel through Satellite Information Services (owned by bookmakers), for little cost. The deal, which is not expected to go through for a couple of months, would mean the racecourses take responsibility for terrestrial television rights. BSkyB previously owned a stake in the failed satellite racing channel Attheraces, which leaves the screen tomorrow.

BSkyB wants deals with individual racecourses. The racecourses may be able to schedule their own race meetings if the UK Government takes up recommendations made by the Office of Fair Trading.

As Attheraces has gone, Sky wants to assume responsibility for selling televised racing abroad and betting. 'No one knows what will happen,' said a BSkyB source. 'There are so many moving parts. We are not dealing with one racecourse owner. There's no deal. Questions are about price and revenues going forward.'

Attheraces was set up in 2001 in a £307 million ($557million), 10-year media rights deal between the Attheraces consortium, made up of BSkyB, Channel 4 and Arena Leisure, and 49 of Britain's racecourses. The venture aimed to make money via interactive digital TV betting, but the revenues never materialised.

Sources close to the talks to set up a new racing channel say the negotiations are very complex, with each party having distinctly different requirements. Racecourse Holdings Trust, owner of some of Britain's leading tracks including Aintree, Epsom and Cheltenham, is believed to be readying its own channel. Insiders, however, say this could prompt legal action from Attheraces over loss of revenues.

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