ITV renews broadcast deal for British horse racing to 2023
ITV, the UK commercial broadcaster, has concluded a new three-year deal to maintain its exclusive free-to-air coverage of British horse racing until 2023.
The deal between ITV and venue owners Racecourse Media Group, Arena Racing Company, the Jockey Club and Ascot Racecourse, was agreed following a marathon period of negotiations, with the rights fee to increase from the current £7.5 million ($9.8 million) per year to £9 million per year, according to The Racing Post.
Under the new agreement, ITV will continue to broadcast nearly 100 days of British racing annually, with all major events, including those from Ascot, Cheltenham and Aintree, shown on the network’s main channel ITV1, with others on ITV4.
As part of the deal, the Opening Show, ITV Racing's magazine preview programme, will continue to go out each Saturday morning and on each day at the Cheltenham Festival, the Grand National meeting and Royal Ascot.
Horse racing was one of the first sports to resume in the UK, albeit behind closed doors, in June, following a break caused by the coronavirus pandemic and has attracted significant audiences for ITV.
Niall Sloane, ITV director of sport, said today: "ITV is delighted to announce the continuation of free-to-air coverage of a sport that is loved and followed by so many. To do so following a successful resumption of the sport with wide audiences returning to our coverage after such a long lay-off is particuarly welcome."
Richard FitzGerald, chief executive of RMG, said: "Its [ITV's] award-winning productions are reflected with increased audiences, in contrast to wider TV audience trends, and they have succeeded in attracting a new, younger audience, without alienating in any way the existing fanbase."
Today's development will come as a relief for stakeholders, who have been hit hard by the financial effects of the coronavirus pandemic with a long list of meetings cancelled or postponed.
Viewing figures have grown since ITV replaced Channel 4 as the free-to-air home of horse racing in the UK at the start of 2017, and there was a peak audience of 2.2 million for this year's Derby, the highest figure for the race since 2012, and more than 1 million for last week's Goodwood Cup.
So far in 2020, ratings for ITV's coverage are 22 per cent higher than in 2019 and 45 per cent higher than in 2016 when Channel 4 was the rights holder.
There had been hopes that a contract extension would be announced as far back as the start of 2019.
However, negotiations have been protracted and extended by issues such as disagreements over what rebate ITV should receive for the cancellation of this year’s Grand National, and the broadcaster’s reported refusal to guarantee coverage of the Derby Festival at Epsom Downs on its main channel due to clash with an England soccer match.