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Kevin Smith

Racing UK, SIS Battle over Data Rights

25 August 2004

Racing UK says it will take legal action against Satellite Information Services (SIS) if it continues to supply racing data and audio coverage of Racing UK races. The group sent a warning letter to SIS this week.

SIS, which is owned in part by the bookmakers who use its service, broadcasts and produces daily output for Racing UK's chief competitor, At The Races' (ATR). It also broadcasts information (ranging from runners and riders to betting shows and starting prices, as well as audio and commentary of races) on races at Racing UK's tracks.

This, according to Simon Bazalgette, executive chairman of Racing UK, is against the law. And SIS, he said, has failed to provide a plausible explanation.

"We have written to SIS demanding to know their grounds for providing such data and commentaries," Bazalgette told the Daily Telegraph, "but have not received a satisfactory answer."

He added, "If they won't explain to us why they think they are authorized, we will have to make them explain to a court."

Piracy is a concern for the racing industry; bookmakers can't effectively run their operation without having the correct starting order or initial odds.

Bazalgette says the definition of piracy is clear.

"Piracy assumes someone is willfully using data to which they are not entitled for commercial gain," he said. "It may be that they are doing that, but we don't know because they have not answered our questions."

UK Racing's legal team has been going over its agreements with bookmakers, and Bazalgette said it appears that SIS is stealing its data and broadcasting it to international viewers.

"As far as we can see, they are certainly not authorized to use the data they are using," he said.

SIS believes it has legal rights to racing data. The group has a deal with all of Britain's 59 courses, but Bazalgette said the use of the information is limited only to domestic betting shops.

Racing UK, meanwhile, has exclusive deals with 31 tracks to carry data and signals to non-U.K. betting shops.

Terry Ellis, director of operations at SIS, said the contract that allows SIS to send data to betting shops within Britain also makes it possible for SIS to gather information at the tracks.

"There are implied rights which allow us onto racecourses to collect and produce data," Ellis said.

He added that SIS doesn't intend to stop sending data to other countries because "we are entitled to do so."

The situation was brought to Racing UK's attention a few weeks ago when one of its global partners was finding it difficult to sell the racing data to international users.

Racing UK, which draws 40 percent of its revenues from selling data rights to international affiliates, in May licensed Phumelela of South Africa to sell its U.K. racing coverage internationally.

Despite having exclusive distribution rights, Phumelela said the data was made available to potential clients through SIS. Companies that paid Phumelela for exclusive rights are upset because their competitors are offering the same information without having to pay for it.

Bazalgette said potential customers in major jurisdictions have been apprehensive about signing deals with Phumelela because they are aware of the situation.

But Ellis argues that SIS is entitled to produce commentaries associated with the pictures carried on free-to-air networks.

"We have a man sitting looking at the television picture of the race and using that as a basis for a commentary," Ellis explained. "We will continue to do that with races broadcast by Channel 4 and the BBC when Racing UK encrypts."

Ellis added that even Phumelela distributes information put out by SIS to its customers.

SIS has a long history in racing and broadcasting; the company launched the original "The Racing Channel," England's first channel dedicated to horseracing, in 1996.

Racing UK, SIS Battle over Data Rights is republished from
Kevin Smith
Kevin Smith