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Cost-cutting appears to be behind the New Zealand Racing Board's decision to stop broadcasting its Trackside television channel on free to air TV.
Trackside is now broadcast on the Freeview and Sky TV platforms, but from April will be available only via the pay TV network - a move that has annoyed some punters.
"I reckon it's a bloody bad move," said punter Gil Brown. "It's free and good publicity for the racing industry and now they are forcing people to get it on a subscription basis."
The Herald understands a desire to save money on broadcasting fees paid to Freeview and Kordia was behind the Racing Board's decision.
TAB executive manager Glen Patrick said that while money was a factor, a plan to split content across two channels - which will be rebranded Trackside 1 and Trackside 2 - could be achieved if they were broadcast on the same platform.
"It is a better commercial deal and that was one factor - the change aligns with our mandate under the Racing Act to maximise returns to the racing industry," he said.
"But it is also about customer experience. Moving to Sky enables us to deliver an enhanced content offering and aligns with our strategic vision to make racing the best entertainment business for New Zealand."
Mr Brown said the move was indicative of the declining services the TAB offered to punters and he was annoyed there had been no consultation with customers.
Freeview general manager Sam Irvine said the platform was disappointed to lose the channel.
"There are a whole lot of people who don't want to pay for Sky or can't afford it. They are the ones who are going to be missing out," he said.
Sky corporate communications head Kirsty Way said Sky already broadcast TAB TV in conjunction with Trackside and the offerings of both channels would now be enhanced.
- Steve Deane of the New Zealand Herald