It has been almost a year now since ITV struck a deal to show live horse racing on British terrestrial television — commencing in January 2017. This also means removing it from channel four screens, which had been racing’s long term home since 1985. After retaining the rights in 2012, channel four in most parts failed to elevate viewing figures beyond previous years, that despite plenty of fresh new innovations in its coverage and introductions of some high profile presenters and pundits.
So what can we expect from ITV’s new venture…
ITV will screen 41 days of live horse racing on its main channel, including: The Grand National, The Epsom Derby, Cheltenham, Royal Ascot and all the Classics. Furthermore, they will also show additional meetings on ITV4, so in total ITV sport will screen a 100 race days each year. In addition to this a weekly magazine preview show will be a permanent fixture each Saturday morning on ITV4.
The New Team
The face of the main coverage will be fronted by Ed Chamberlin. Ed will be joined by Francesca Cumani for flat season coverage and At The Races Matt Chapman will bring his unique and enthusiastic approach as the betting and trackside reporter. Oli Bell will front the weekly magazine show, while Richard Hoiles and Mark Johnson will man the commentary box. Other members will include: Frankie Dettori, Hayley Turner, AP McCoy, Jason Weaver, Luke Harvey, and Rishi Persad.
Coverage starts on New Years day with action from Cheltenham and Musselburgh. It will be an interesting time for racing coverage and I look forward observing ITV’s transition and the way it chooses to present its material. Maybe they can turn the scales and improve the decreasing viewing figures that haunted its predecessor.