RMG in talks with TV3 over rights to show ITV Racing in Ireland
Irish racing fans are poised to have fears surrounding the accessibility of ITV Racing in the new year allayed with the news that a mainstream station is bidding for the rights to show the high-profile British racing on terrestrial TV.
The Racing Post understands TV3, which recently acquired UTV Ireland under the wing of Virgin Media, is currently involved in negotiations with Racecourse Media Group (RMG) over the rights to show ITV Racing. It is not clear whether or not another station is involved in any negotiations.
Director of PR for RMG Seb Vance said: "Talks are ongoing at present and we hope to make an announcement in the near future.”
ITV4 is available to Virgin cable homes in Ireland, but the ITV main channel at present is not.
Sky homes can get all ITV channels – including ITV3 and ITV4 – but only by going via the 'add channels' function, and the option to pause, rewind or record racing is not available. Saorview does not carry any ITV channels.
On average, 26,000 Irish viewers tuned in to watch each Channel 4 Racing broadcast this year and it seemed likely that those racing fans would need to digest their racing coverage away from terrestrial television. Now it seems as though a channel will be able to carry the coverage, possibly in time for the first ITV broadcast on January 1.
TV3 is believed to be in pole position to win the rights, although should it do so it is possible that a portion of the less high-profile fixtures could be shown on its current sister channel 3e, or the UTV Ireland replacement, be3.
TV3 has been broadening its sports portfolio in recent times, most noticeably by securing the rights to the Six Nations Championship for a period of four years from 2018 until 2021, taking it off national broadcaster RTE.
It also broadcast the Euros for the first time during the summer, and racing would be another major acquisition to its already blossoming sports package.
Virgin Media is reportedly set to pay €10 million for UTV Ireland, and it is understood that TV3 will take over the broadcasting decisions for its new station in early January.
ITV Racing is set to begin its production in just over three weeks' time and, as of yet, nothing has been confirmed as to its production plans for the Irish audience.
If TV3 or another Irish TV station were to be successful in negotiating an agreement, it would constitute a massive triumph for racing in general, as iconic meetings such as the Cheltenham Festival, the Aintree Grand National and the Epsom Derby would be readily available without having to sign up to either of the main subscription channels, Racing UK or At The Races.
Irish broadcasters are battling for a world feed, which will predominantly be made up by ITV pictures, and an announcement on who has won the race to show this feed is expected in the coming days.