Horse racing: BBC to end all live racing coverage from 2013

Channel 4 will show all terrestrial racing – including the Grand National, Royal Ascot and the Epsom Derby – for “at least the next four years” from 2013, the broadcaster said yesterday in a statement.

The BBC have shown just 13 days of live racing since 2010 and have now relinquished all of their live televised interest in the sport due to reported budgetary cuts. Instead, BBC funds will be directed towards retaining events such as the Six Nations rugby union and Formula 1, which they now share with Sky.

Channel 4 can now add what are seen as the “crown jewels of the sport” to their schedule after winning the bidding rights to expand its current portfolio.

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Jamie Aitchison, Channel 4 sports editor, said: “I am delighted Channel 4’s 28-year association with racing has now arrived at the point where the industry has demonstrated such confidence in our ability to showcase its complete portfolio. This is an opportunity for us to work together to grow the sport, painting the full picture of both the Flat and jumps seasons to attract new viewers whilst rewarding those loyal viewers we value so highly. Channel 4 fully understands the heritage and cultural importance of British racing, but also the sport’s thirst for a bright future, and we relish the challenge ahead.”

The deal means British Champions Day at Ascot, the culmination of the season-long British Champions Series, will also feature on Channel 4 for the first time.

Charles Barnett, chief executive of Ascot, said: “This is a tremendous announcement for racing. The sport is in a great place at the moment and the editorial appeal and popularity of both codes has been apparent through what has been a competitive tender process.

“A one channel scenario will enable us to tell our stories clearly and consistently, and obviously Royal Ascot is fundamental to that.”

The BBC said it was “disappointed” to lose the televised rights, but still looked forward to its coverage in what is Diamond Jubilee year for the Queen. A statement from the BBC read: “The BBC are proud of their long heritage of broadcasting horse racing and did put in as competitive a bid as possible in the current climate. We are of course disappointed that we have lost the rights, but we are pleased that all the races in the contract remain free to air.

“We of course still look forward to broadcasting the Grand National next month and then of course the Derby and Royal Ascot which have special significance in the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee year.”