SportRacing

Channel 4 loses rights to British racing to ITV

RacingBy Sunday World
Pineau de Re ridden by Leighton Aspell wins the 2014 Aintree Grand National
Pineau de Re ridden by Leighton Aspell wins the 2014 Aintree Grand National

ITV has signed a four-year deal to become the exclusive terrestrial broadcast partner for British racing from 2017, replacing Channel 4.

Having won the tender process, ITV will begin broadcasting from Cheltenham's New Year's Day fixture on January 1. Channel 4's last broadcast will be of the Betfred Challow Hurdle meeting at Newbury on December 31.

Channel 4 said it wished racing "all the best from 2017".

ITV is committed to showing nearly 100 days of racing each year, with the Cheltenham Festival, the Crabbie's Grand National meeting at Aintree, the Investec Derby at Epsom and Royal Ascot among the marquee events that will be shown on the main ITV channel.

In total ITV will show a minimum of 34 fixtures on ITV's main channel and 60 on ITV4, in addition to a magazine programme broadcast each Saturday morning on ITV4, replacing the current Channel 4 version 'The Morning Line'.

Richard Fitzgerald, chief executive of Racecourse Media Group (RMG), who headed racing's negotiating team, which included UK racecourses and British Champions Series, said: "ITV has made a strong and compelling four-year commitment to British horseracing. ITV places itself at the heart of popular culture and we look forward to working closely with the broadcaster in ensuring racing remains in this fantastic shop window.

"This is a great opportunity for everyone in the industry to support ITV in jointly promoting the sport and telling the stories throughout the year to as wide an audience as possible. The unprecedented level of interest in the tender shows what an attractive proposition the sport is. This is reflected in the new deal, which will generate increased revenues for racing.

"We would like to thank Channel 4 for the huge support they have given horse racing over the years, and particularly their investment in coverage over the last three years.

"Channel 4 has been a fantastic partner for British racing and we look forward to continuing to work together in delivering a captivating and enthralling year ahead."

Channel 4 itself acquired exclusive broadcast rights in 2013, meaning showcase events such as Royal Ascot and the Derby moved from the BBC.

Much has been made of viewing figures for the sport on Channel 4, which will show Formula One motor racing this year after the BBC cut short its contract.

Niall Sloane, ITV director of sport, said: "ITV is delighted to be the home of British horse racing from 2017 and we are thrilled that the sport has chosen us to be their partners.

"ITV and ITV4 will showcase more than 90 days of races, which include some of the best days in the British sporting calendar and we want our coverage to reach not only its loyal, core audience, but beyond, by capturing the full enjoyment of this most wonderful of sports."

ITV has an historical link with racing, going back to the days of the 'ITV Seven' bet, a key component of the Saturday afternoon 'World of Sport' programme.

ITV's coverage moved to Channel 4 in 1985, together with well-known presenters such as Derek Thompson and John McCririck.

The sport has two dedicated channels in Racing UK and At The Races.