Network Ten and the Victoria Racing Club are in discussions about the different ways that the Melbourne Cup could be broadcast if restrictions created by the coronavirus are still in place and fans cannot attend on the day.
Ten commenced a $20 million five-year broadcast deal with the Victoria Racing Club last year for the four day Melbourne Cup week, but the value of the deal could be diminished if restrictions remain in place when the carnival begins in late October.
Industry sources close to the discussions said that Ten had not specifically requested a reduction in the broadcast rights, but was working though four scenarios with Victoria Racing Club to assess the financial impact the restrictions could have on the week. The worst case scenario would be the Melbourne Cup without any crowds, while other scenarios involve different levels of attendance. The Victoria Racing Club was contacted for comment.
If the event was significantly impacted by the pandemic, Ten and the VRC could look at alternative ways to make up lost value, such as an extension of the broadcast deal beyond 2023. But audiences watching the Melbourne Cup on Ten are likely to increase if the restrictions are in place, which could arguably provide more value to advertisers and sponsors. Victorians were placed into a six-week lock down early last week due to a spike in coronavirus cases. Until that point Ten was expecting medium-sized crowds for the carnival.
Ten had been in discussions with Victorian Racing Club about acquiring the media rights to other premium race days such as the Caulfield Cup and Cox Plate, which were held by Seven West Media until June 30. But industry sources said the deal is likely to be re-signed with Seven. Ten’s current rights include the AAMI Victoria Derby Day, Lexus Melbourne Cup Day, Kennedy Oaks Day, and Seppelt Wines Stakes Day. Seven also holds the rights to Racing NSW’s events such as The Everest.
“We are in regular communication with the VRC and continue to monitor the situation closely,” a Network Ten spokeswoman said. “Should a decision be made that would affect broadcast activities, we would work directly with the VRC on the implications.”
Ten warned last week that the coronavirus pandemic would have a material impact on its financial position as it released its latest financial results. The ViacomCBS-owned network made $602 million in the year to December 31, 2019 but slumped to a $266.6 million loss as it moved its sales team inhouse and invested in expensive shows and sports deals.