We will have ITV horse racing tips for all of the major meetings when their broadcast begins in 2017.
Last January saw the somewhat shocking announcement that after over three decades of broadcasting horse racing, Channel Four would lose the rights from 2017 to rival channel ITV.
The stakeholders involved in the broadcasting rights for British horse racing controversially cut out BBC from showing races in 2012, and since then viewing figures for Channel Four racing have been appalling. A good example is the King George Chase at Kempton, one of the highlights of the festive season, which was watched by 746,000 people in 2012, but slid to 475,000 viewers in 2015. One of the main criticisms of Channel Four was that it focussed too much on the betting side of things, with the main subjects for interviews being bookmakers or their representatives.
Magazine programme 'The Morning Line' also had seen a sharp falling in viewing figures in recent years, dipping below 200,000 viewers regularly. In 2013, Channel Four changed the production team from Highflyer to IMG, who axed a number of the show's popular regulars, including Mike Cattermole, John McCririck and Alistair Down. The replacements have had a staid feel, with alot of the fun being lost from the show.
One of the biggest concerns of the racing public about ITV showing racing from 2017 will be the line up of presenters. Clare Balding and Nick Luck have fronted Channel Four's coverage most recently, but recently it was announced that Ed Chamberlin was to front ITV coverage in the new year. Chamberlin has been the face of Sky Sports football coverage for five years, and their 'Monday Night Football' show was one of the most respected in the game. This move might not necessarily be seen as a step up the ladder for Chamberlin, but he has been very clear in his love for horse racing, and is a regular contributor to The Sporting Life website.He has a background before presenting as working as an odds compiler for Ladbrokes, so it better equipped than most for the job. Another name to be closely linked with a presenting role in the new ITV show is Jeremy Kyle, a known racing fan and owner, whose ties with ITV would make him an appealing choice, but nothing concrete has been announced to date.
ITV has committed to showing a minimum of 100 days of racing, but just 34 of these will be on the main channel, with the remainder consigned to ITV 4, which generally has even less viewership than Channel Four. They will also be doing their own version of the magazine programme on Saturday mornings. The 100 days is slightly more than what Channel Four show in 2016, and this boost in coverage is surely a plus for the sport. The deal is worth in the region of £30,000,000 over four years, with the tender due to come for renewal at the end of 2020.
The final Channel Four broadcast will be on the 31st December at Newbury's Challow Hurdle meeting. The following day ITV coverage will begin with a bang, at the home of jumps racing with a fixture on New Year's Day at Cheltenham. Most racing fans will reserve judgement until a few months into the new coverage, and hope that ITV can arrest the slide of the viewing figures and provide a proper platform for racing to regain some of its lost appeal to the general public.