Australian commercial broadcaster Nine Entertainment has secured free-to-air (FTA) rights to the Melbourne Cup, Australia’s top horse racing event, until 2029 after striking a deal with event hosts Victoria Racing Club (VRC) and betting company Tabcorp.

As the Melbourne Cup’s FTA partner, Nine has picked up audio-visual rights for broadcast, streaming, mobile, digital, and social platforms. It will show the event on its linear Channel 9 and through the 9Now streaming platform, starting from this year’s edition on November 4.

The deal also includes rights to all other race days within the five-day racing carnival such as Oaks Day, Stakes Day, and Derby Day.

The event will also be broadcast across Tabcorp’s Sky Racing channel and the TAB app, with Tapcorp having the right to on-sell the coverage to wagering providers as part of its wide-ranging rights deal with VRC.

Tabcorp secured a deal with VRC which saw it take control of all broadcast rights for the first time, including FTA television, digital, and pay TV. Under that agreement, Tabcorp will then sub-license the FTA rights for the Cup, as per the requirements of the federal government’s anti-siphoning rules.

Tabcorp also has control of international rights for the next two years under a separate deal with VRC.

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The Melbourne Cup is protected under federal anti-siphoning legislation and must be FTA for all Australians.

Nine chief executive 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 honored to be able to broadcast this world-renowned event across our platforms from 2024.”

Nine replaces fellow commercial broadcaster Network Ten, which dropped out of negotiations to retain its rights last June citing changes on the back of the agreement between Tabcorp and VRC as key to its decision. As the incumbent, Ten had first refusal on the rights for 2024 to 2029.

Citing several sources with knowledge of the process, Nine-owned news outlet the Sydney Morning Herald said the new deal is not worth as much as Ten’s previous contract but that the total package, which includes broadcast, media, and sponsorship, is more lucrative for the VRC, with Tabcorp picking up the majority of the bill.

Ten’s record five-year AU$100 million ($72.1 million) cash and contra deal ran from 2019 to 2023, ending after last year’s edition on November 7. That edition secured a national audience of 1.3 million, according to figures from rating agency OzTAM.

When Ten announced it was pulling out of its bid to retain Melbourne Cup rights, sources told The Australian news outlet that potential sponsors were uncertain they wanted to advertise during the event if gambling ads dominated the programs.

They added that the VRC and Tabcorp had also insisted on controlling production and commentary during race day coverage to showcase talent and branding from the Tabcorp-owned Sky Racing channel.

VRC chief Steve Rosich has commented: “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.”