UK broadcaster ITV has confirmed it will continue as the exclusive free-to-air broadcaster of British horse racing until 2023.
It means that in all likelihood the main events from British racing will continue to be shown in Ireland on Virgin media, as part of a wide-ranging content deal between the pair.
ITV has shown racing exclusively in Britain since 2017, has secured the rights to show nearly 100 days of racing each year for a further three years from 2021.
The deal includes all the marquee events on ITV’s main channel, such as The Festival at Cheltenham presented by Magners, the Randox Health Grand National Meeting from Aintree, The Derby Festival from Epsom Downs, Royal Ascot and QIPCO British Champions Day from Ascot, Qatar Goodwood Festival, Welcome to Yorkshire Ebor Festival from York and the St Leger Festival from Doncaster.
The ITV Racing team, led by Ed Chamberlin, along with co-presenter Francesca Cumani, will bring to viewers comprehensive coverage across ITV’s main channel, ITV4 and the ITV Hub, which can be accessed on all mobile devices.
As part of the deal, the Opening Show, ITV Racing’s magazine preview programme, will continue each Saturday morning and on each day at the Cheltenham Festival, the Grand National meeting and Royal Ascot.
The announcement follows a successful return to racing in June following many weeks during which the sport was paused for the lockdown period.
During this time, Royal Ascot, despite the absence of the traditional pageantry, drew eight-year high figures each day, the peak viewing figure for the Investec Derby 2020 was over 2.2 million, the highest viewing figure for the race since 2012, and most recently Stradivarius and Frankie Dettori’s record-breaking fourth success in the Al Shaqab Goodwood Cup last week was watched by over a million people on the first day of ‘Glorious Goodwood’ 2020.
ITV Racing’s coverage has seen significant increases in television audiences during its tenure.
So far in 2020, ratings for ITV’s coverage [main channel and ITV4 combined] are 22 per cent higher than in 2019 and 45 per cent higher than in 2016, when Channel Four last held the rights.
So far this year, viewing for ITV4’s coverage is 2 per cent higher than for the equivalent events shown on C4 in 2016. The biggest events in the calendar have seen large increases with the 2019 Grand National’s average audience up by more than 2m compared with 2016 and this year’s Cheltenham Festival hitting audience highs not seen since records began in 2003.
ITV’s racing coverage has also won acclaim. The ITV Racing team won a BAFTA for its coverage of the 2017 Grand National and Director Paul McNamara earned a BAFTA nomination for last year’s Cheltenham coverage. Ed and Francesca won the Broadcaster Sports Presenter of the Year award at the 2018 British Sports Journalism Awards.