In Focus: What should we expect from ITV Racing?
We’re fast approaching the New Year and as has been well-documented there will be a ‘new’ terrestrial home for horse racing.
Well, that is to say the sport will be returning to ITV after a 31 year absence. But what can we expect following the handover from Channel 4?
ITV Racing has got its stellar cast in place with former Ladbrokes employee and top presenter Ed Chamberlin fronting the action.
He’ll be ably assisted by the likes of the fresh-faced Oli Bell and bubbly Matt Chapman in the betting ring.
Even our man Frankie Dettori will be dropping by so there’s no shortage of star power.
However, what should we look forward to from the New Year’s Day meeting at Cheltenham and onwards?
Fresh broom but not shock treatment required
The vast number of column inches and sanguine obituaries written for Channel 4 Racing tell you everything you need to know about the fondness racing fans held for the broadcaster’s efforts.
However, while its coverage was worthy of celebration, there’s no point ignoring the fact that the format needed freshening up. That in itself sounds quite bizarre given the fact that Channel 4 only took sole ownership of terrestrial racing coverage in 2013.
But where can ITV take the ‘product’?
We know Chamberlin is a terrific frontman with Bell more than just a youthful understudy while Chapman will offer the welcome braggadocio and irreverent bluster.
Meanwhile, the analysis provided by the likes of Mick Fitzgerald, AP McCoy, Hayley Turner and old hand Brough Scott will also be an integral part of proceedings.
In terms of introducing gimmicks, we’ll have to wait and see. It seems no-one was a fan of the fiddly, new-fangled video screen that made its way into the Channel 4 studio.
So, injecting more fun without skimping on the heavyweight opinion would appear to be the key objective.
Will racing move into or away from the mainstream?
It’s no secret that racing viewing figures have been in decline for a number of years with myriad reasons put forward for this.
Unfortunately, Channel 4 couldn’t arrest the slide with the 2015 Derby watched by just 1.47m, less than half of what the BBC achieved in its final year of coverage in 2012.
And with over half of the near-100 days of ITV’s coverage set to be on ITV4, what hope for reversing the current trend?
The sister station may only be a few zaps away on a remote control but nothing beats the lustre afforded by a main television channel.
Thankfully, ITV have promised to cross-promote racing via many of their high-profile shows.
Davy Russell on This Morning or Ryan Moore on Loose Women may not appeal to some. But anything racing’s biggest figures can do to raise the profile of the sport has to be welcomed.
We certainly wish ITV all the best as we embark upon a new era.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing