“It isn’t certain to go, the options are still being assessed, but it is more likely to go than not.”
The thoughts of an industry insider on the potential closure of Greyhound TV.
Ever since the announcement of the ARC/Entain deal which led to the formation of Premier Greyhound Racing, I have warned that the after-effects would be considerable but not necessarily immediate. They would be dependent on delayed ‘post D-Day decisions’ leading to a wide variety of possible alternatives.
Last week I drew attention to Entain’s illogical position. They are one of the main sponsors of Greyhound TV (Sporty Stuff/RPGTV) but their shops and website no longer take bets on SIS meetings.
At the time I wrote the piece, I was entirely unaware that a number of the people affected by the potential closure of the service had already been briefed.
The basic problem lies in GTV’s funding structure which based on ‘revenue share’. Bet365 are the biggest contributors, followed by Betfair, followed by Entain. Unibet are at the bottom of the pile with a contribution of “roughly a round of drinks”.
The details of the contract between Entain and Greyhound TV have, understandably, never been made public. However, it now appears that Entain will cease sponsoring from the end of March.
However, the channel may not even last that long.
“It could be gone by the end of this month” I was warned. The end of February has also been suggested.
Can it be saved?
Possibly – though unlikely.
The last best hope would be that the remaining sponsors all agree to increase their contribution, and the channel cut its operating costs.
Cutting production costs would be almost impossible. Given its live content, the channel runs on a shoe-string budget already.
An alternative sponsor would be another option though there wouldn’t be any obvious candidates.
The big issue though – to be brutally honest – is the overall decline in quality of racing.
With respect to the remaining SIS contracted venues, the quality of racing is already facing a huge hit with the loss of ‘Entain the greyhound promoter’. Not all Entain product is top draw of course – and Doncaster and Oxford are giving them a Friday/Saturday run for their money. But their Entain Cat One package is exceptional.
Additonally, there has been some talk knocking around the industry about Entain’s decision not to take bets on SIS tracks and its effect on industry welfare funding.
That could potentially have some merit, though it would need to show that greyhound punters would switch to another sport rather than bet on the PGR product.
It is also suggested that Entain could be barred from BGRF funding, though realistically, their retail business contributes far more than their tracks take out.
Besides – it is the industry’s worst kept secret that Entain would increase their fund donations to 1% of turnover if their commercial rivals would follow suit.
(That remains highly unlikely without Government waving a big stick. The other bookies’ current whiney defence is ‘it wouldn’t be fair because Entain would be paying themselves since they own dog tracks’.)
Scummy two-bob bunch of snides.
Sponsorship. Five years ago RPGTV announced a £100,000 open race sponsorship package. Two years ago, they were throwing money at Irish racing.
For me though, the bigger concerns are :
a) How much betting revenue will be lost to the industry with no dedicated greyhound TV channel?
At this stage, I understand that there are no plans for a PGR equivalent to GTV. They are relying on coverage from SKY Racing and Attheraces. How much editorial bandwidth they are able to seize from horseracing is debatable.
Expect decisions to be made in the following months as the picture becomes clearer.
b) The effect on the tracks.
The loss of GTV will have a big effect on the tracks – and not in a good way. There are many many owners who, for one reason or another, seldom attend the tracks, knowing that they can watch their hound from the comfort of their sofa. That applies to Entain owners as much as those remaining with the SIS contracted venues. How many will bail?
c) Industry profile
Joni Mitchell warbled “you don’t know what you’ve got until its gone”. When the industry lost its regular slot on SKY Sports (don’t blame BGRB, SKY were taking the piss on how much they charged us after they sold their souls to Formula One!) we lost a high quality platform.
I have waited patiently in the queue to criticise GRV/RPGTV over some of its decisions (a 4-runner Crayford A9 cutting into an English Derby support card!), and I stand by them.
But that doesn’t mean that it hasn’t done a valiant job.
Dave and Clive Lawrence are outstanding in their profession as producers – Dave was in charge of SKY production don’t forget. Their love of racing has seen them stretch every quid to breaking point (nobody would ever choose a collection of bookies as paymasters!)
In a world where it has never been easier (though more competitive) to digitally get your message broadcast, greyhound racing is regressing.
So what does this mean for the SIS tracks?
Apart from losing their TV profile – however big that is in a world with literally thousands of TV and internet channels to choose from! – it won’t affect them massively, financially.
While it is true that the loss of Entain income has fed through to the SIS tracks’ revenue stream, my understanding is that the remaining venues are operating on a different funding model since January 1.
Under the old structure, there was huge variation in the fees paid at different times of the day and to different providers. The four Entain tracks were paid more per meeting and were given the majority of the prime betting shop and TV slots.
The big prizes were always Friday and Saturday nights since tracks could attract the racegoing public and still get ‘treble bubble’ with the SIS and GTV income.
Now – the SIS meetings receive uniform payments – morning, afternoon or evening – weekday or weekend.
As an average, they are slightly higher than last year, and even without TV coverage, Harlow, Doncaster, Oxford and Towcester will share out the betting shop slots on Friday and Saturday nights.
Plus of course, they are racing more often, thus offering economy of scale.
There is a lot still to play out here . . . .
Last of all, a big thanks to all our readers for their continued and growing support.
We had some major issues last when changing the site host late last year but are rapidly getting it all back together thanks to the sterling efforts and expertise of David Mitchell.
The graphic below is an update from the last seven days.
Some of the monitoring software has failed in recent weeks so the percentage figures are wrong. (Yes we would love regular increases of 42% and 62%)
In reality though, even these figures will be on the low side since not all recent interactions are recorded by this one monitoring system.
But it gives some indication of forward travel