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Channel 4/ITV

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Was very surprised to read this this evening. What are people's opinions? Personally I enjoy Channel 4's coverage in the main, especially Simon Holt's commentary. My main gripe really is the amount of time they seem to dedicate to the likes of Gok Wan at Ascot etc. rather than the racing...

THE televising of British horseracing will undergo a seismic revolution next year after ITV sensationally defeated Channel 4 to become the sport's new terrestrial partner and the next home of the Grand National, Cheltenham Festival, Derby and Royal Ascot.

Following months of intense negotiations ITV, the Racing Post understands, has secured an exclusive contract after agreeing to pay in the region of £30 million over four years for the right to regain access to a sport it last showcased 31 years ago.

More than three decades of continuous racing coverage on Channel 4 will come to an end when the network televises Newbury's Challow Hurdle card on December 31. Just 24 hours later ITV is set to make a dramatic return to racing with the New Year's Day card at Cheltenham, which on Friday opened what will be Channel 4's final year with the sport.

Flagging viewing figures could be boosted

Since controversially acquiring the BBC's crown jewels from the start of 2013, Channel 4's tenure as racing's sole terrestrial partner has been beset by disastrous ratings for most marquee fixtures. Royal Ascot has lost half its viewers, the Derby's figure last year plummeted to a record low, and British Champions Day has had its audience collapse from an average of 1.1m in the BBC's final year to just 367,000 last October.

By severing ties with Channel 4 the sport's rights holders - led by Racecourse Media Group, Jockey Club Racecourses, Ascot, British Champions Series and Arena Racing Company - will be hoping the transfer of racing's showpiece events to a more popular mainstream channel will help to regain many of those viewers lost on Channel 4.

However, although the very biggest fixtures will be showcased on ITV's main channel, it has long been believed the majority of racedays would be shown on ITV4, whose ratings would be expected to prove smaller than those achieved on Channel 4. Indeed, there had been unconfirmed rumours a proportion of ITV4's output would be largely studio-based.

Details of how ITV will split its coverage between its two platforms - and the total number of days involved - are expected to be announced when the new deal is officially unveiled. Also unclear is whether ITV will produce its own racing programmes or outsource to a production company. However, the broadcaster is already likely to have ideas about who will be its principal presenters, pundits and commentators.

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I just find Mick Fitzgerald, Graham Cunningham, Jim McGrath and the lot boring and predictable. All you here them is constantly talk about the solid favourite and rarely if ever talk about some interesting angles. And they're not even exciting or entertaining to watch so you might as well get Rory Delargy, Simon Rowlands, Tony Calvin and others with little TV experience to be on the show.

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I've never understood the connection between fashion and racing, i mean name another sport where they connect the two ?

Jim McGrath i find utterly boring and most of the others are blurting out stats and facts ''AFTER'' the race via an earpiece device, Simon Holt has always been the Daddy at calling any race and has natural passion, he would be a massive loss.

A racing show should be kept as racing, for racing fans, not 60% racing and 40% about Vivienne Westwood.

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From my own perspective, having RUK I'm not too bothered where racing is shown on terrestrial tv. However for racing as a sport it's vital that there is quality TV coverage to keep the sport attractive for sponsoring as well as to keep public interest alive, to some extend at least. Whether this change to ITV is good or bad; I'm not sure. Having more than half or the race days relegated to a channel watched by nobody doesn't sound all that positive. On the other hand, having the main feasts shown on a channel with a potentially bigger audience than before could be beneficial for the sport. Says, we've to wait and see how it pans out. 

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.........and a Morning Line style show on ITV4 on Saturdays seems to be on the cards

I think ITV4 is widely available.......it's on Sky, Virgin and Freeview so I don't think there's many people that don't have access to it

There's some discussion about possible clashes with things like the French Open tennis and Tour de France which ITV4 cover....I expect that if there are 'big days' racing which clash, like Royal Ascot with the Tour, they'll just have Ascot on ITV1 and the Tour on ITV4

If it's not big days they just won't show racing on those days 



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I expect the presenters on Ch4 will simply be poached over to ITV 1/4 and we wont see much difference. Ch4 coverage is IMHO pretty decent, but most of us would like it a bit more gambling oriented (less trainer's yards and jockey interview stuff for me). Years ago, I suggested Morning Line should have the last 10 minutes on sports betting. Apparantly, it was considered, but didn't happen. Maybe some remember a sports betting show that used to follow Morning Line, hosted by Derek McGovern.

Re UTV, I bought shares in UTV which declined, then I sold, at which point they started rising on speculation that ITV maybe interested in acquiring. I thought UTV programming would be 99% the same as ITV.

Picture quality is quite poor on ITV4 (low bit rate), simlar to ATR. Not comparable to Ch4 HD.

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Maybe some remember a sports betting show that used to follow Morning Line, hosted by Derek McGovern.


Jesus, Derek McGovern, remember it well, think it was called Sports Talk. 

I'd watch shows like that but unfortunately there wouldn't be a big enough audience. 

After thinking about this i don't reckon Channel 4 have done much wrong. They have got Nick Luck who is the best in the business at the moment and the format is ok i suppose. One or two bits i'd change;

Not sure we need to keep going to Tanya in the betting ring, she makes too many errors and is not comfortable in front of the camera. Not even sure i like the sticking a microphone in a jockeys face after the line either. One thing i hate is when interviewers keep the connections talking when they obviously want to be in the winners enclosure with their horse. Surely they can do it afterwards like they do on ATR.

ITV will no doubt help the big races like the Derby, National and Ascot but the normal Saturday action will get the same viewing figures.

Its the way of the world we live in at the moment. Everything is losing its audience, high street shops are struggling, tv shows are struggling and yes even forums are struggling.

Most just want to record everything and watch it in their own time on a faster speed to skip the Ad's. Just look at the old TV ratings if you don't believe me! 26m people watched Coronation Street at xmas 1989, about 8m watched this years xmas episode.

People shop online because they don't want to fight for a parking place, get ripped off by the charges and then find the shop are out of stock! People don't write on forums because they don't get a response because the members have all left as its easier to write two word replies on twitter and Facebook.

Its a lazy society we live in and it won't get any better anytime soon, we just have to lower our expectations i'm afraid and just be glad Horse Racing is still televised. We take ATR and Racing UK for granted.



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I personally rearly watch C4 racing anymore.  In the days of big mac, derek thompson and especially john francome, the coverage was both entertaining and informative.  If john francome put up a tip you would take notice as it would more often than not make the frame and they wouldnt be short price favourites either.  Since these guys were replaced I have found c4's coverage very boring.  The raport that was in abundance with the old presenters just isn't there anymore.  I also find it very annoying that the results section has been ditched.  You are watching a racing programme but never get any racing results. Can anyone tell me of any other televised sport where this happens

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