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C4 setback over double-header; Contract dispute hits coverage of Warwick.

CHANNEL 4 Racing's plan to provide double-header TV coverage on Saturdays as the basis for a new Superbet has met with a setback, writes Richard Griffiths.

The company had hoped to show two races from today's card at Warwick to supplement four from Haydock, but a contractual dispute has scuppered the plan.

The Warwick card had already been lined up to be shown on the Racing Channel, but Channel 4 wanted exclusive coverage of two races-a two-mile- three-furlong handicap hurdle and three-mile-two-furlong handicap chase.

The Racing Channel confirmed yesterday that it had no objection to dual coverage of the Warwick races, but Channel 4 Racing stood its ground over the exclusive requirement.

Andrew Franklin, joint executive producer of Channel 4 Racing, said: "It is a long-standing commercial decision that we do these things on an exclusive basis.

"It is a commercial principal of broadcasting that when you pay for live rights, you expect them on an exclusive basis."

Franklin added that Racecourse Holdings Trust, the Jockey Club subsidiary that owns Warwick, "didn't want to sell us the exclusive rights to those two races".

David Hillyard, managing director of RHT, said of the scuppered deal: "The problem really stems from the fact that the Racing Channel contract is negotiated by the Racecourse Association on behalf of the courses.

"The contract with the network TV companies is negotiated by the individual courses. There is some difficulty with the overlap and who has which rights. We weren't able to sort it out within the time scale of this particular case."

Hillyard added that RHT was "generally extremely supportive" of Channel 4 plans to provide coverage from two meetings on Saturdays.

The introduction of `double- header' broadcasts was put forward by Channel 4 as a sign of its commitment to horseracing at the time it announced its surprise deal to cover Test cricket from next year.

The increased coverage has also been linked to the introduction of a `Saturday Special' accumulator bet run by the Tote, for which consistent coverage of at least six Saturday races is considered essential.

On the question of whether Channel 4 Racing might run into similar setbacks in the near future as it attempts to provide coverage from two meetings, Franklin would only say: "We are taking it step by step."

Franklin did say, however, that Towcester had already been signed up for coverage alongside Sandown next weekend, while Cheltenham and Doncaster had been lined up for the following week.
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Title Annotation:Sports
Author:Griffiths, Richard
Publication:The Racing Post (London, England)
Date:Nov 28, 1998
Words:411
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