Channel 4 has announced it is to devote more days to live horse racing than ever before in 2014 as it confirms its broadcast schedule for the new year.
As the broadcaster enters its second full year of a four-year deal to be the UK’s exclusive terrestrial partner of the sport, the 2014 schedule will increase to 90 days from its current total of 88.
Notable changes to the schedule include Newmarket’s Future Champions Day moving to Friday, October 17, to support the fourth running of QIPCO British Champions Day at Ascot the following day.
The 90 days includes all of British racing’s marquee events, including the Cheltenham Festival, Grand National Meeting, Royal Ascot and King George VI Chase.
Also included are two international contests in the shape of the Dubai World Cup in March and the famous Prix de l’Arc Triomphe in October, both of which Channel 4 screened live in 2013.
In 2014, Channel 4 will screen over 285 hours of British racing with action from around the UK taking in some 31 racecourses, with a number of courses securing multiple visits.
The annual hours include 63 editions of Channel 4′s long-running Saturday preview show ‘The Morning Line’, plus action from all the major British festivals.
Despite its new-look racing coverage receiving mixed reviews from the press and a selection of the sport’s hardcore fans, Channel 4 says its output has attracted new viewers to racing in a year which has seen the broadcaster cover its first Grand National and Royal Ascot.
Over 23 million viewers have watched Channel 4 Racing at some point over the year-to-date, based on BARB reach figures, a 41% increase on the same period for 2012.
If you exclude the new race meetings, viewing is down 6% on a 2012 dominated by very strong racing stories such as Frankel, but the gap has closed significantly since the inclement weather disrupted some of Channel 4′s live meetings in early 2013.
A peak of almost nine million viewers tuned in to Channel 4′s Grand National debut earlier this year, representing a 61% share of the television audience at the time of the running of Britain’s biggest horse race.
Jamie Aitchison, Channel 4’s Sports Editor, says: “In 2014, Channel 4 will broadcast over 528 British races plus the traditional supplements of top Irish contests and extra material such as the earlier Shergar Cup races live on More4.
“Channel 4 provides unprecedented terrestrial coverage of horseracing which no other sport can boast.
“Our financial investment in racing is matched by our commitment to the sport and we look forward to working with the industry to continue to strengthen our group objectives.”
Channel 4′s new look racing coverage has been fronted this year by Clare Balding and Nick Luck, with the likes of Mick Fitzgerald, Graham Cunningham and Rishi Persad joining familiar Channel 4 Racing faces Jim McGrath, Emma Spencer, Tanya Stevenson and Simon Holt.
Alongside traditional television coverage, Channel 4 has also used a number of tools to enhance its online and interactive offering, including a new look website and accompanying Channel 4 Racing app, plus the innovative Horse Tracker app which made its debut at the Grand National.
Richard FitzGerald, CEO of Racecourse Media Group, adds: “The Channel 4 fixture list reinforces the broadcaster’s commitment to the sport.
“No other country can boast as much racing on terrestrial TV as we enjoy here in the UK.
“We look forward to working with Channel 4 in further developing horse racing on terrestrial TV.”
Rod Street, Chief Executive of Great British Racing & British Champions Series, says: “We feel extremely positive about racing’s relationship with Channel 4.
“A key part of the sport’s strategy was to ensure we had consistent, quality coverage of horseracing.
“With Channel 4 we get 52 Saturdays a year and all our major midweek festivals broadcast. This level of terrestrial coverage is unrivalled worldwide.
“Adding further value, Channel 4 has actively promoted our major meetings this year with innovative adverts, documentaries and special features.
“We did not expect plain sailing in year one, of course, as both the broadcaster and audiences adapted to the new coverage.
“But we’re confident that both audiences and wider interest – in the sport – will continue to grow and when we can help Channel 4 we will. It’s a partnership.”
From November 2013 to April 2014, the best of the jumps action takes centre stage live on Channel 4 Racing.
Coverage will incorporate 37 race days devoted to the gallant sport, plus three additional summer racing fixtures from Haydock Park and Market Rasen racecourses.
Incorporating 40 days in total, Channel 4 will screen live action from 20 racecourses across the country.
These include Ayr and Musselburgh, Chepstow and Ffos Las, the South West of Cheltenham, Warwick and Wincanton, to Ascot and Newbury, the borough of London with Kempton Park and Sandown Park and northern tracks such as Haydock Park, Aintree, Doncaster and Newcastle and more.
Some 128 hours of terrestrial exposure will be pledged to jump racing with the regular Saturday Morning Line also on-air for the Cheltenham and Grand National Festivals.
Afternoon racing will continue to benefit from a two and a half hour broadcast slot taking in from six to eight high quality and competitive races.
KEY 2014 CHANNEL 4 RACING DATESMarch 11-14 Cheltenham Festival April 3-5 Grand National Meeting June 6-7 Epsom Derby Festival June 17-21 Royal Ascot August TBC Glorious Goodwood October 17-18 Future Champions Day / British Champions Day