ITV has won the broadcast rights to UK racing and will become the terrestrial broadcaster of British racing from 2017 in a four-year deal. It is a deal that has caused some surprise in the betting and racing sector and will see the end of Channel 4’s involvement with British racing.
It has been a busy period for terrestrial broadcast sports rights because Channel 4 recently picked up the television rights for Formula 1 races from 2016 after the BBC ended its agreement early.
Channel 4’s success in winning the motorsport rights might have hurt its bid to renew its horse racing deal because of concerns that racing would lose out on scheduling when F1 qualifying and races clashed with horse races.
ITV’s horseracing deal will begin on 1 January 2017 and will run until 31 December 2020. Fixtures will be shown on both ITV’s main channel and ITV4. There will also be a preview programme shown on ITV4 on Saturday mornings, similar to Channel 4’s Morning Line show.
One criticism of Channel 4’s coverage, which began in 2013, has been the declining audience figures, especially for the major meetings like Royal Ascot and British Champions Day, which were previously shown on the BBC.
GBGC’s Director Lorien Pilling commented, “Whilst the races shown on ITV will likely attract a larger audience, it is hard to see how races shown on ITV4 will garner a larger audience than those currently achieved by Channel 4.”
“The change of broadcaster comes at a crucial time in discussions over the future funding of horse racing and the response of advertisers, sponsors and bookmakers is awaited with interest.”