Having a flutter on the horses or the dogs is about to get even more expensive if you want to watch the races unfold from the comfort of your lounge.
The TAB announced yesterday that its racing channels Trackside and TAB TV will be moved off Freeview and will be available only on Sky Television from April 14.
That means punters will eventually have to fork out a minimum of $18.70 a month for a Sky rental package that includes Trackside and free-to-air channels.
Sky currently offers Freeview subscribers free installation and a free basic package for the rest of this year.
The move to place Trackside behind a paywall was disappointing news for Whanganui pensioner Laurie Penn, who said he had few pleasures in life outside watching the racing on Freeview.
"I just don't think it's right," he said.
He doubted his pension would cover the cost of Sky and he was not sold on the idea of constantly heading down to the pub or his local TAB, especially since he no longer drives.
"I'm 79 years of age now and not quite as bright and sparkly as I used to be . . . I could watch the races at the TAB, but I don't want to spend all bloody day down there."
TAB executive general manager Glenn Patrick said the organisation planned to revamp its coverage so it could show about 5000 more races, as well as magazine-style features.
Broadcasting through a single television provider would make this easier, and using Sky would save the "millions" each year it would cost the TAB to offer the service through Freeview.
"At the end of the day, this is not a money grab by the TAB," he said. "It's about giving customers what they want, which is less duplication and more race content, and making sure it's commercially viable to do so."
Punters would still be able to watch racing free online and at their local TAB, as well as listening in via the radio, he said.
Fifteen premier races would also be available on Freeview and Prime TV, including the Melbourne Cup and the New Zealand trotting and galloping cups, but not the entire race meetings.
- The Dominion Post
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