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Volume 6 No. 212


Leading racecourses "are set for huge windfalls after two big bets on the televised popularity of the sport came in," according to Robert Lea of the LONDON TIMES. Their winner is Racecourse Media Group, the company set up by 34 courses -- including the big ones -- "to manage and sell their televised rights." Its main operations are Turf TV, a provider of live feeds to more than 10,000 bookies' shops co-owned with Bahamas-based billionaire Joe Lewis; Racing UK, a pay-TV channel that costs subscribers £20.80 ($31.68) a month; "and the management of racing's decision to hand terrestrial coverage to Channel 4." According to "RMG's annual figures, circulated to its racecourse shareholders this week," a record £46M was paid by it to the course owners in '12 -- but that is going to soar this year to £64M ($97M). RMG courses "are the big winners from the Channel 4 contract:" RMG figures show annual income to the courses will rise from £700,000 under the previous BBC/Channel 4 regime to £5M ($7M) in '13 (LONDON TIMES, 4/18).

In the Premier League, an "exchange of insults is taking place in the broadcast booths," and British fans "could be the losers," according to Eric Pfanner of the N.Y. TIMES. BSkyB and BT "have been battling for position off the field, exchanging a few barbs in the process." This month, BT "complained to regulators after Sky blocked BT from advertising its new sports channels on Sky Sports." Sky said that "it should not be forced to carry ads for a rival service." The two companies "are also battling each other over access to pubs" -- a lucrative business, because some bars pay thousands of pounds a year for the right to show Premier League matches, "which often pack the house with thirsty customers." The appeal of Premier League football was demonstrated last week when NBCUniversal said that "it had signed a three-year U.S. broadcast deal" worth an estimated $250M. BT CEO Marc Watson said, "People would be mistaken, however, if they think this is just about TV or sport. Broadband is the real battleground here." British fans "are watching the latest fight closely because it could make it more cumbersome for them to follow their favorite teams." While NBCUniversal will carry all 380 Premier League matches live on various channels in the U.S., BT and Sky together "will show fewer than half as many games in Britain, because of an arrangement intended to maintain ticket sales at soccer stadiums." For the past few seasons, British fans "were at least able to catch all the live games offered by Sky and ESPN with a single subscription," because ESPN made its broadcasts available to Sky to resell to its customers. Sky and BT "are talking to each other about a similar agreement." If BT and Sky are unable to reach a deal, viewers who want to see all the available games "might have to take out two separate subscriptions" (N.Y. TIMES, 4/21).

Members of an ITV News team were "forced to leave Bahrain" ahead of last weekend's "controversial Formula One race following a dispute with the authorities," according to Mark Sweney of the London GUARDIAN. Former BBC foreign correspondent and ITV journalist Rageh Omaar, an ITV News cameraman and producer, "left the country on Friday morning after being detained by the police." The Somalia-born Omaar, "who became a household name" during the '03 invasion of Iraq while reporting from Baghdad, and his team "were in the Gulf state on official visas to cover news" including potential political protest surrounding the race. An ITV News spokesperson said, "Our news team were on assignment with visas approved by the Bahraini authorities. Having filed a report last night [Thursday], they were stopped while filming this morning and taken to a local police station for discussions with officers. They have since been asked to leave the country, which they are in the process of doing" (GUARDIAN, 4/19).

World Snooker Chair Barry Hearn has lodged a complaint with the BBC "after it pulled the plug on coverage of Ronnie O'Sullivan's opening Crucible match on Saturday night when victory was in sight" (PA, 4/21). ... Riedel Communications has been named the official radio communications services provider for the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games. Riedel was the company behind Felix Baumgartner's record-breaking skydive from the edge of space in '12 (Glasgow 2014).