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ATR’s Matthew Imi insisted on Friday afternoon that the digital platform was not in a position to extend its video archive facility beyond January 1

The prospect of a breakthrough in the impasse that has seen Irish racing’s video archive prior to January 1 disappear from view improved on Friday night following discussions between Racing TV and At The Races.

Racing TV, which began showing Irish racing’s live coverage and subsequent replays on New Year’s Day, is understood to be tabling a proposal that would enable ATR, which remains the digital brand of the television channel now trading as Sky Sports Racing, to reactivate its historical archive for an agreed duration of time. 

Should ATR’s board agree to the deal, which would also be subject to SIS’s seal of approval as the rights holder to Irish racing’s pictures, ATR would provide RTV with ready access to two years of the Irish racing video archive. 

If negotiations go well, it is possible that the replays could return some time next week.

The respective parties were not willing to comment on Friday, but the fact that discussions are taking place constitutes some light at the end of a tunnel that has infuriated Irish racing stakeholders, fans and punters alike.

Before it emerged that fresh talks were taking place, ATR insisted it is limited in its power to resolve the situation, as it responded to claims made by Horse Racing Ireland’s chief executive Brian Kavanagh that it is partly to the blame for the outage.

On Thursday, Kavanagh stated it was a failure by SIS – which won ownership of Irish racing’s direct-to-home television rights in 2016 – and the former rights holder ATR to come to an arrangement about the video archive that was at the root of the blackout.

At the beginning of 2018, SIS sold the rights to broadcast Irish racing to Racing TV from January 1, since when the back catalogue of replays has become unavailable, as have those of Chelmsford, which made the same switch.

ATR sources insist that in December ATR attempted to enter discussions with SIS about leaving the archive on its website for a period of time, but were frustrated by a lack of engagement.

Because no agreement was in place, on January 1 ATR no longer had a contractual right to broadcast Irish racing videos. 

ATR’s chief executive Matthew Imi would not be drawn on the matter on Friday, but he issued a statement to the Racing Post at lunchtime stating that the archive issue was out of the company’s hands.

“As of January 1, At The Races has no media rights in relation to any live or archive Irish racing,” Imi said. “The matter is, and has been for almost a year now, one for RTV, SIS and HRI.”

SIS has possession of the Irish video archive, but, because of the failure to arrange anything in advance of ATR losing its rights, the Racing Post understands that the process of populating a brand-new archive for RTV is a costly and time-consuming exercise. 

As had been the case on Thursday, efforts to contact SIS for comment were unsuccessful.

When it was put to Kavanagh on Friday evening that SIS operating as a third party in its guise as rights holder compromised Irish racing’s control of its own pictures, he insisted otherwise.

“You describe it as a third party, I would describe them as partners, valued partners for Irish racing since 1987,” he said. 

Asked if he felt RTV could have done more over the past year to ensure it had access to the archive, he replied: “They would probably say that themselves as well.”

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