ITV to replace Channel 4 as broadcaster of horse racing

Television coverage of horse racing is set to undergo a massive change next year with ITV replacing Channel 4 as the sport’s broadcaster.

The broadcaster has secured the rights to air events such as the Cheltenham Festival, Grand National, the Derby and Royal Ascot from January 2017.

It reportedly cost £30m to gain the rights and will see the races appear a minimum of 34 days annually on the main ITV 1 channel, with another 60 shown on ITV4.

"The unprecedented level of interest in the tender shows what an attractive proposition the sport is," said Richard FitzGerald, chief executive of Racecourse Media Group (RMG), who headed racing's negotiating team.

"This is reflected in the new deal, which will generate increased revenues for racing."

Channel 4, which has been showing racing for more than 30 years, will screen 91 days of coverage in 2016, concluding with the Challow Hurdle event in December. The broadcaster has struggled to stem the decline in viewing figures although demand for the popular Grand National has proved strong.

Figures for the Royal Ascot have almost halved according to reports, while the Derby is down. To make matters worse, Channel 4’s coverage has been criticised in previous years, with former host John McCririck slammed for his “panto style”.

Channel 4 will be hoping Formula One can bring in additional viewers after it scooped up the rights after the BBC cut short its deal.

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