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Sky Sports Racing and Ascot go the distance in new rights deal

UK pay-television channel Sky Sports Racing has agreed a three-year extension to its rights deal with Ascot Racecourse.

The agreement, which covers pay-television and digital rights in the UK and Ireland, will allow Sky Sports Racing to broadcast live coverage from all of Ascot’s 25 annual fixtures until at least 2024.

At The Races, the former identity of Sky Sports Racing and now a digital platform, will continue to manage licensing and distribution of Ascot races for live streaming to UK betting operators under a separate long-term agreement.

Sky Sports Racing’s current rights agreement with Ascot lasts until the end of this year and the three-year extension now commits Ascot rights to the channel until January 1, 2024. The previous deal, signed in July 2018, saw Sky Sports Racing replace rival Racing UK as the pay-television rights-holder for the leading British venue.

Matthew Imi, chief executive of At The Races, said: “Sky Sports Racing has been a real success in just a year and a half and our partnership with Ascot Racecourse has been an important factor. [Some] 3.3 million UK viewers tuned into the channel between April and June and over 1.9 million on average each month this year, despite the obvious impact of Covid-19 on domestic racing.

“We have helped Ascot grow some of its key media rights revenues in a short time and we will continue to use our pay TV and digital platform as well as the support of Sky Sports and Sky Sports News to drive profile and exposure for all Ascot events.”

Sky and Arena Racing Company are joint venture partners in the channel.

The announcement of the Sky Sports Racing deal comes after commercial broadcaster ITV this month renewed its exclusive free-to-air broadcast rights deal for British horse-racing events until 2023 after protracted negotiations.

The three-year deal, which starts in 2021, was agreed with rights-holders the Racecourse Media Group, Ascot and Arena Racing Company.

Juliet Slot, chief commercial officer at Ascot, said: “The growth in their [Sky’s] audiences across our time as our pay TV partner has supported our desire to bring Ascot and all our annual racing to a broader, wider consumer base alongside our terrestrial partner ITV. Reaching new audiences is an important part of our brand strategy.

“Alongside the excellent racing broadcast we benefit from the strong digital audiences with attheraces.com and the broader promotional support from the Sky Sports portfolio. It is a huge pleasure to be announcing this extension to the end of 2023 prior to my departure from Ascot.”

Slot, who joined Ascot in November 2012, will leave at the end of this month.