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Following in the slipstream of losing out on Formula 1 terrestrial FTA rights to Channel 4, UK pubcaster ITV has wrested the exclusive free-to-air deal for British horseracing from Channel 4 starting January 1st 2017 after winning the tender process for a new four-year term.
Observers had questioned Channel 4’s ability to maintain its continued commitment to horseracing in light of its securing the contract to be the UK terrestrial home of the FIA Formula One World Championship from 2016-2018. ITV had been rumoured to be in pole position to take over the deal from the BBC as the Corporation sought to reduce costs.
ITV has secured the rights to show nearly 100 days of racing each year, including all the marquee events on ITV main channel, such as the Cheltenham Festival, the Crabbie’s Grand National Meeting from Aintree, the Investec 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 Ladbrokes St Leger from Doncaster.
According to ITV, no other sport in the UK will enjoy that level of live free-to-air coverage and the contract, which runs through to December 31, 2020, will provide an increase in revenues to British racing.
ITV will show a minimum of 34 fixtures on ITV main channel and 60 on ITV4, in addition to a magazine preview programme broadcast each Saturday morning on ITV4.
The deal further enhances ITV’s portfolio of world-class sports rights, which includes the Tour de France, the French Open and exclusive live coverage of the England football team. Following the success of ITV’s exclusive Rugby World Cup coverage in 2015, this new announcement kicks off another huge year of sport on the channel, as 2016 sees ITV broadcast 6 Nations Rugby for the first time starting February 2016, followed by Euro 2016 in the summer.
ITV says its commitment to sport and use of cross-programming promotion will help further position racing as a leading sport and appeal to ITV’s wide and diverse audience, as well as the established racing audience.
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.”
Niall Sloane, ITV Director of Sport, said: “ITV is delighted to be the home of British horseracing 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.”