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Broadcast rights to behind-closed-doors Ascot distributed in 124 territories

Presentation podium ahead of Royal Ascot 2020 (Photo by EDWARD WHITAKER/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

Broadcast rights to Royal Ascot, which will take place this week behind closed doors, have been distributed in 124 countries.

The international broadcast rights are being sold by HBA Media, the horse racing media-rights agency, in the first year of its new five-year agreement after taking over from the Pitch International agency in the role. Rights in some markets are sold by Ascot Racecourse independently.

Along with a deal with NBC in the US market (including Saturday coverage on the main NBC network), distribution across 17 countries in the Middle East and North Africa region is ensured through deals with Dubai Racing Channel and Yas TV.

In Europe, deals have been agreed in the Balkans (SportKlub), Italy (Rai), Georgia (Silknet), Poland (Polsat), Russia (Match TV), Spain (Movistar TV) and Turkey (S Sport). Elsewhere, coverage of the entire Royal Meeting will once again be offered in Israel by Charlton.

Coverage in Latin America will be showcased by sports broadcaster ESPN with pay-television broadcaster SportsMax to offer action of the meeting in the Caribbean. Interest among African viewers in the new Saudi Cup, the rights to which were also distributed by HBA Media, led to a new agreement with pay-television broadcaster SuperSport across sub-Saharan Africa.

In Asia, deals have been agreed with Shanghai TV and Beijing TV in China, plus Eleven Sports in Taiwan, while free-to-air coverage will be available in Australia via Racing.com. There is also a deal in place in Japan with the Green Channel, the specialist horse racing channel.

The Discovery-owned Eurosport India, which recently changed its name from DSport, has picked up the rights in India.

Last year, the rights to Royal Ascot were distributed in around 200 countries.

However, the curtailed rights budgets of broadcasters hit hard by the Covid-19 pandemic has been a hindrance for HBA Media in trying to get certain deals over the line, notably in Europe. The rights being sold this time to an event without spectators also make direct comparisons difficult.

Juliet Slot, commercial director at Ascot Racecourse, said: “The strength of Royal Ascot is once again demonstrated by the breadth of international broadcasters taking our pictures despite the meeting being held behind closed doors. It will be a unique event, as it always is but one that can be enjoyed by an ever-increasing global audience.”

Henry Birtles, chief executive of HBA Media, added: “We are delighted with the distribution secured during these unusual times, with Royal Ascot taking place behind closed doors, and we look forward to building upon this going forward.”

For the 2019 event, a highlights and news rights agreement with Eurosport ensured distribution across Europe and the Asia-Pacific region.

Pitch signed a long-term deal with Ascot and Racecourse Media Group in 2012, through which it distributed international non-betting media rights (excluding the Middle East and North Africa) to events at the track, alongside races at 33 other UK racecourses under the Racecourse Media Group umbrella.

RMG then took its rights distribution in-house in 2017 but Ascot retained Pitch to sell its international non-betting media rights.

Domestic broadcast rights to Royal Ascot are held by ITV, the free-to-air commercial broadcaster, and Sky Sports Racing, the channel that is a joint venture between pay-television broadcaster Sky, Arena Racing Group and other racecourses.

Over 20 online betting operators in the UK and Ireland have also secured the rights to stream coverage. The sale of online betting rights does not form part of HBA Media’s agreement.

In February, Ascot Racecourse awarded international betting rights to Sky Sports Racing and SIS, a provider of end-to-end products and services to the betting and broadcast industries. The deals run through to the end of 2021 and allow the respective parties the exclusive right to show live racing coverage, for betting purposes as well as into licensed betting offices within their territories.