Nine takes Melbourne Cup Carnival free-to-air in deal with VRC and Tabcorp

The Melbourne Cup Carnival will be broadcast by mass media firm Nine Entertainment following a deal with the Victoria Racing Club (VRC) and Tabcorp.

Nine will cover the annual thoroughbred racing series, one of the biggest horse racing events in the sport’s Australian calendar, until2029 as the tournament’s free-to-air (FTA) partner.

Tabcorp – Australia’s largest bookmaker which also has a significant role as a horse racing media outlet – will continue to broadcast the race via its Sky Racing channel as well as streaming on its TAB sportsbook app.

Nine replaces Network 10 as the FTA broadcaster of the Melbourne Cup, providing a significant boost to its sports programming, which includes the Australian Open tennis tournament and this year’s Olympic and Paralympic Games.

The company has previously broadcast the National Rugby League (NRL) and Australian Football League (AFL), two of Australia’s most popular and widely-viewed tournaments, although it lost these rights back in 2006.

Steve Rosich, VRC CEO, remarked: “The partnership with Tabcorp and the arrangements with Nine have been developed by our close strategic alignment and a desire to grow and innovate in our industry.

“We are thrilled that in 2024 the Melbourne Cup Carnival will join the Nine big event stable alongside the Paris 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games, Australian Open and State of Origin.

“Nine’s capability to showcase coverage of Melbourne Cup Carnival racing and events across the depth of their leading broadcast and streaming assets make for a compelling partnership outcome.”

Breaking down the media rights package, Nine will cover the Penfolds Derby Day, Lexus Melbourne Cup Day, VRC Oaks Day and the TAB Champions Stakes day across all four days of the carnival. The races will be broadcast via Channel 9 and the 9 Now streaming platform.

The Melbourne Cup Carnival will take place between 2-9 November this year. The annual event forms part of the VRC’s Spring Cup Carnival held in October and November, an event comparable to the UK’s Cheltenham Festival.

The VRC plans to use the partnership and enhanced exposure of the event to conduct strategic investment in ‘key areas’ of the carnival. This will include member engagement, the year-round racing programme, tracks and facilities and Flemington Racecourse, and the sports’ community.

Nine CEO, Mike Sneesby, said: “The Melbourne Cup is an iconic Australian sporting event and has been part of our nation’s cultural fabric for more than 160 years. It has a rich heritage, synonymous with legendary sporting names such as Phar Lap and Makybe Diva, and Nine is honoured to be able to broadcast this world-renowned event across our platforms from 2024.”

Nine can likely expect positive viewing figures from its acquisition of rights to the tournament, with the VRC citing figures showing that one in two adult Australian’s engaged with the Cup in 2022 and in 2023 the race was broadcast to 209 countries with a potential global reach of 750 million. 

The deal is, of course, also significant for Tabcorp, however, which retains a position as a leading media outlet for horse racing in Australia, covering both local tournaments but also international events from countries such as the UK.

Tabcorp CEO Adam Rytenskild, said: “Tabcorp’s partnership with the VRC and Nine is the most innovative in Australian sport and we can’t wait to bring our entire digital, broadcast and retail ecosystem together to grow and promote the Melbourne Cup Carnival together.”

“This partnership builds on Tabcorp winning the 20-year Victorian exclusive wagering licence and will be a key pillar of our growth strategy. 

“Together with our Brand and Customer transformation, this partnership gives us a terrific platform to grow in Victoria, throughout Australia and around the world as we beam the Cup to more than 60 different countries through Sky Racing.”

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