RMG agrees media rights renewals with British racecourses

Racing TV will continue live coverage from 33 British courses until at least 2029, following the agreement of a new five-year term for audio-visual and data rights.

Racecourse Media Group (RMG), which operates RTV, announced the extended deal on Thursday – confirming showpiece meetings such as Aintree’s Randox Grand National, the Cheltenham Festival, the Cazoo Derby at Epsom, Goodwood’s Qatar Sussex Stakes and York’s Juddmonte International will all remain in the channel’s portfolio.

RTV also currently screens live coverage from all 26 Irish courses.

RMG chairman Roger Lewis welcomed the extended deal as a “pivotal moment for British racing”.

He said: “On behalf of the board of directors of RMG, I thank our shareholders for the trust and confidence they have once more placed in RMG.

“This is a pivotal moment for British racing. The RMG Racecourses, with a unity of purpose, have created business clarity and confidence for years to come.

“The certainty which this landmark, long-term agreement provides is very special for everyone involved in British racing.

“RMG now looks forward to serving its shareholder racecourses, which, in turn, benefits the sport of racing for the foreseeable future.”

The Jockey Club runs 15 UK racecourses – including Aintree, Cheltenham, Epsom and Newmarket.

Its chief executive Nevin Truesdale said: “RMG has consistently delivered significant value from media and data rights over a 17-year period and unlocked revenue streams in the betting space far more than any other sport.

“This has supported JCR’s ability to make significant investments into prize money and enhance the experience we offer to participants and customers.

“More recently, the income RMG has delivered to all its shareholder racecourses has been vital through the very difficult pandemic period without spectators and other on-course revenues.

“RMG has a really important role to play in our sport’s growth in the years ahead.”

Five-day Cheltenham Festival remains future possibility

Plans to extend the Cheltenham Festival are back under consideration, although the Jockey Club has ruled out any immediate change to the current format.

The fixture currently spans four days in March and is one of the most anticipated features of the National Hunt calendar, culminating with the revered Cheltenham Gold Cup on the final day of racing.

The suggestion that a fifth day of action was due to be scheduled was first raised in January 2020, when racecourse chairman Martin St Quinton said that he “wouldn’t rule anything out” with regards to extending the meeting.

Crowds were absent from Cheltenham this year - but it is usually a very different sight, as shown by this composite image of 2021 vs 2021
Crowds were absent from Cheltenham this year – but it is usually a very different sight, as shown by this composite image of 2021 vs 2021 (PA)

The idea is now being discussed once again after The Daily Telegraph reported the Jockey Club is intending to host a five-day Festival in 2023, with each day trimmed to a six-race card and therefore only two further contests required to fill the extra day.

There have been no developments on the matter and while a five-day meeting has not been expressly rejected, there are no immediate intentions to extend the fixture.

“It is always interesting to listen to the debate around a fifth day and the last time this was discussed in earnest in public some key stakeholders in our sport expressed their desire for a fifth day,” a statement from a Jockey Club spokesperson read.

“We will always explore every option to improve the Festival and support British racing, but we have made no decision to extend the length of the Festival.”

Champion trainer Paul Nicholls, however, would not be in favour of extending the Festival.

He told Sky Sports Racing: “My opinion is four days is enough for anyone, but if it’s going to be five it’s going to be five.

“It used to be three brilliant championship days, four days is good but we might get lucky and they might have two races just for UK-trained runners! Being serious I’m open-minded, but four is enough as it is.

“If Cheltenham are going to make plenty of money out of it and reinvest in the racing and prize-money then fair enough, otherwise there’s no point doing it and you don’t want to dilute what is a special four days.

“It is great racing, but there’s a risk you’ll dilute and then it’s not as special as it probably was.

“To be honest I’d like a mini-Festival at the end of January/middle of February at somewhere like Newbury as that would give us a trial and then go on to Cheltenham, an extra day there instead of Cheltenham, that would work

“I think there’s lots to talk about, but I’m dead happy with four as it is.”