21 July 2017 – The Racing Post
The commercial stand-off between racecourse group Arena Racing Company (ARC) and bookmaking giant Ladbrokes Coral that led to a blackout of some race meetings in thousands of betting shops is over. A media rights deal, believed to be for five years, for betting shop channel The Racing Partnership (TRP) was agreed between the two sides on Thursday, which means action from all Britain’s courses will be shown again in the Ladbrokes Coral’s retail estate of 3,820 betting shops.
Arc chief executive Martin Cruddace said: “We are delighted to have agreed this deal with Ladbrokes Coral. “It is testament to the symbiotic nature of racing and betting that we have been able to agree a deal based on sound commercial principles for both parties. I’m very grateful for the patience and support of my shareholders.We look forward to working with everyone at Ladbrokes Coral as we move into a new era of collaboration and co-operation.”
TRP said the deal is a first of its kind, being based purely on a profit-shared model. Ladbrokes Coral chief executive Jim Mullen, said: “We are pleased to have struck a deal with The Racing Partnership that gives us a joint incentive to grow the sport. Horseracing is part of our heritage and despite the vast choice of sports to bet on in the modern era it remains a core product for our business, so it’s a positive development that once again all our customers, in shops and online, can enjoy a full range of horseracing action.”
From the start of the year six Arena Racing Company courses –Doncaster, Lingfield, Southwell, Windsor, Worcester and Wolverhampton – switched from SIS to new channel TRP, followed from May 1 by Fakenham, Hexham and Towcester. A further 13 courses are set to join the service from the start of 2018, including Chepstow, Newcastle and Uttoxeter.
William Hill and Paddy Power signed up to the new channel but Betfred and Ladbrokes Coral did not, meaning their customers were faced with blank screens when the racecourses involved were in action. The firms involved sought other ways of providing a service to their customers, including off-tube commentaries, and tensions rose when TRP issued legal proceedings against them over claims the firms were misusing their data, as well as over the commentaries. Ladbrokes were ordered to close all their betting shops on the six ARC tracks involved as part of the dispute, while Ladbrokes Coral were also informed they were no longer licensed to provide online streaming of races from ARC tracks.
Backing of billionaire owners
The stand-off has had a financial impact on both sides. It was estimated ARC would be hit to the tune of £16 million in lost media rights fees if 2017 passed without deals being done with the bookmakers. However, it had the backing of its billionaire owners the Reuben Brothers, which gave it the resources to hold out for a resolution.
And while Ladbrokes Coral said not having the service was actually proving to be a positive in terms of the savings from media rights payments, the fall in their over-the-counter business accelerated. Further pressure on the bookmakers came in May when ARC swooped to buy Newcastle and Sunderland greyhound stadiums from bookmakers William Hill, who had previously agreed a deal with rival service SIS in February.
ARC also joined Greyhound Media Group (GMG), which was responsible for 70 per cent of greyhound fixtures shown in betting shops through the Bookmakers Afternoon Greyhound Service (Bags), which has subsequently ended its distribution deal with SIS.