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Record viewing figures for Cheltenham Festival help ITV secure new broadcast deal

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Record viewing figures in 2023 have helped UK TV station ITV secure a three-year deal to be the official broadcaster for racing’s iconic Cheltenham Festival. The annual four-day event brings together the best National Hunt runners, riders, and trainers in the world and, in 2023, a record number of people watched the action on ITV.

Viewing figures are a boon for ITV

ITV’s lead presenter  Ed Chamberlin called the 2023 Cheltenham Festival a “positive” for the sport of horse racing after 1.7 million viewers tuned in to watch the Gold Cup. Across the 14 hours of live coverage on ITV, the average viewership was 941,000. That means it’s one of the most watched Cheltenham Festivals in history.

This interest in Cheltenham wasn’t confined to TV screens. Horse racing betting sites were buzzing with activity between March 14 and 17. Although horse racing betting markets, including those for local events in Newmarket, Caen, Monmouth Park, are always popular, activity typically increases when big festivals happen.

Activity and interest in racing remains high

Horse racing betting turnover in the UK alone is over $3 billion and significantly more worldwide. This alone is a useful metric when assessing the popularity of racing. Now, however, thanks to ITV’s announcement following the final race of Cheltenham 2023, we have another metric. The record viewing figures are not only a boon for the sport of racing but ITV. The British broadcaster has been given a three-year extension on its current contract with the Cheltenham Festival.

The deal means racing fans in the UK will get free coverage of live racing until 2026. This means ITV will broadcast 100 days of free racing content per year across its network of stations, including ITV1, ITV4, and ITVX (an online streaming platform). This coverage goes hand-in-hand with live streams offered by dedicated online platforms and the previously mentioned racing sportsbooks.

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Increased access leads to horse racing renaissance

Fans of the sport now have more access to live racing action than ever before. It used to be the case that fans either had to wait for replays and coverage in local newspapers or watch races in a betting store. Now, things are different. Anyone can go online and tune into live races via their computer or phone. Not only are these streams broadcast from virtually every major track around the world, they feature expert commentary.

In addition to streams, video replays proliferate across social media whenever an impressive race concludes. From YouTube and Twitter to Instagram stories, there are plenty of ways to watch horse racing. The availability of racing content appears to have a self-perpetuating effect. In other words, access to more content has created more interest in the sport. This, in turn, has driven up viewing figures on stations such as ITV and, in turn, increased demand. The latest news from ITV is a reflection of the current state of racing and its popularity. Interest is high and, for those in the sport, that’s a positive.

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