It is great news that ITV has managed to secure a new deal to cover British racing until 2023. With more and more of the sports we love to watch being aired on paid platforms, ITV retaining some of the biggest racing festivals is a huge relief for fans.
Those old enough to remember can recall the days when the Grand National used to be televised on BBC. When they decided to slash their sports coverage, Channel 4 stepped in and took over the reins in 2013. Despite a large viewing audience they never quite matched the figures of the BBC. So it came as no surprise that the deal didn’t extend beyond four years.
Fast forward to 2017 and the rights to air the Grand National, among other race meetings, went to ITV. Their figures have remained steady with approximately nine million tuning in to watch the Aintree spectacular each year. However, they did see a boost in 2019 with fan favourite, Tiger Roll, going for his second win in the race.
Undoubtedly, those figures would have risen again in 2020 but unfortunately, the race was canceled. That said, ITV did put on a Virtual Grand National in its place and despite the fact that it was computer-generated, five million Brits still tuned in to watch Potters Corner take the virtual honours. It also helped that bookmakers agreed to donate all profits from the betting to the NHS Charities.
ITV New Deal
Extending the tv rights was not a straight forward process. Instead the negotiations were quite drawn out but following a prolonged period of talks, a deal was agreed. Now, ITV will be covering nearly 100 days of racing each year for a further three years from 2021.
So what events can we look forward to watching? The 100 days of racing will include the Cheltenham Festival, Grand National, Derby, Royal Ascot, Champions Day, the Ebor meeting, Qatar Goodwood Festival and the St Leger on the main ITV channel. Coverage also be on ITV4 and the ITV Hub.
Additional content includes the Opening Show, ITV Racing’s magazine preview programme. That will continue each Saturday morning and on each day at the Cheltenham Festival, the Grand National meeting and Royal Ascot.
This is a deal that benefits everybody. 2020 viewing figures for the Cheltenham Festival were the highest since 2003, up 22% on 2019. Likewise for Royal Ascot which drew the highest viewing figures for eight years. As did the Investec Derby, with over 2.2 million tuning in to watch Serpentine win the race for trainer Aidan O’Brien.
Reaction To New Deal
Of course, as you would expect, the response was very, very positive when the new deal was announced. Niall Sloane, ITV director of sport, said: “ITV is delighted to announce the continuation of free-to-air coverage of a sport that is loved and followed by so many.
“To do so following a successful resumption of the sport with wide audiences returning to our coverage after such a long lay-off is particularly welcome and we look forward to bringing the very best this wonderful sport has to offer to viewers over the next few years.”
Richard FitzGerald, Chief Executive of Racecourse Media Group (RMG), said: “ITV has been a terrific partner for British horseracing over the last three years and ITV has earned the right to renew the contract for a further three years.
“Its award-winning productions are reflected with increased audiences, in contrast to wider TV audience trends, and they have succeeded in attracting a new, younger audience, without alienating in any way the existing fanbase.
“We look forward to working closely with the broadcaster in ensuring racing remains in this fantastic shop window provided by ITV and all its platforms.
“I’d also like to thank all the sport’s participants, particularly the jockeys, for the positive roles they have played in engaging with the ITV coverage.”
Grand National Coverage
For millions of people, the Grand National is a huge annual event. Steeped in British history, it is one event that entire families watch together with delight and excitement. But in order for the race to be a success, it’s coverage and the team we see on TV have to be able to bring their A game.
Thankfully, we have that with the ITV Racing team. Led by Ed Chamberlin, along with co-presenter Francesca Cumani, they expertly cover every aspect of the race. With famous faces like AP McCoy, Ruby Walsh and Bryony Frost (in 2019) on hand to add gravitas to the interviews and assessments, it makes for a well rounded day of racing.
With the new deal secured, the Grand National 2021 will be a massive event, if only to make up for the disappointment of 2020. You can watch it on Saturday, April 10th 2021 at 5.15pm on ITV.
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