Seven Network walks away from Melbourne Cup coverage
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Seven Network walks away from Melbourne Cup coverage

Bruce McAvaney will no longer anchor coverage of the race that stops a nation, with the Seven Network losing rights to the Melbourne Cup Carnival from 2019.

Though the Victoria Racing Club would not confirm the switch on Friday afternoon, it is understood that the four-day program at Flemington, the centrepiece of the Spring Racing Carnival, has been picked up by Network Ten.

Ten would not confirm the deal either on Friday, but Seven was less circumspect, painting the parting of the ways as one over which the network had been in complete control.

"We are proud of our award-winning racing coverage, but as we have consistently said about the economics of sports rights, the deal must make commercial sense or we will step away," a network spokesman said.

"While another party has placed a far higher valuation on these four afternoons of television, we will do what is financially responsible and right for our shareholders."

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Fairfax Media understands that the Victoria Racing Club, under chairman Amanda Elliott, had decided earlier this year to put the broadcast rights to its premium racing week out to competitive tender.

Seven, which has held the rights to the week as part of its overall racing coverage since 2002, is said to have been furious at the move.

Race leaders Cismonte (right), Boomtime (second right) and Gallante (centre) on the first lap of the 2017 Melbourne Cup.

Race leaders Cismonte (right), Boomtime (second right) and Gallante (centre) on the first lap of the 2017 Melbourne Cup.

Photo: AAP

Though the four big races of the Melbourne Cup Carnival – Derby Day, Cup Day, Oaks Day and Stakes Day – are the centrepiece of the deal, Ten is understood to have also picked up the rights to the rest of the VRC’s racing calendar. It is likely, however, that the other events will be screened on One rather than the main channel.

Rumour has it that the deal is worth around $10 million a year, though Ten is unlikely to be paying anything like that amount in cash.

Much of the fee will comprise "contra" deals, primarily in the form of advertising space, nominally valued at full rate. Doubtless mention of the Carnival will work its way into great swathes of the network’s broader programming, too.

The Melbourne Cup was the 15th most-watched event on Australian free-to-air television last year, attracting an audience of 1.821 million viewers in the five mainland metropolitan capitals, according to OzTam. With regional markets included, it was watched by more than 2.5 million viewers – a figure that does not take into account the many people crowded around shared TV screens in offices, pubs and betting shops around the nation.

Seven will continue to broadcast the other Spring Racing Carnival events to which it holds rights. A spokesman said 21 "premium racing days" remained in the network's stable.

You can hear Karl on the weekly pop culture podcast The Clappers and follow him on Facebook at karlquinnjournalist and on twitter @karlkwin

Karl has been a journalist at Fairfax Media since 1999, in a variety of writing and editing roles. Karl writes about popular culture with a particular focus on film and television.