Chamberlin encouraged by response to festival coverage
Ed Chamberlin on Saturday reflected positively on the experience of fronting ITV's maiden coverage of the Cheltenham Festival.
ITV won the rights to take over from Channel 4 as racing's free-to-air broadcaster and, having started on January 1, the four-day spectacular was the channel's first stab at covering a major festival, with the Grand National, Derby and Royal Ascot coming up quickly on the horizon.
For the fourth successive day, viewing figures on Friday again eclipsed those of Channel 4's the previous year, as the average audience broke through the million mark for the first time of the week with 1.15 million tuning in, the equivalent of 15 per cent of the viewing audience.
The last-day programme peaked at 1.8m, more than 200,000 up on Channel 4’s total 12 months ago, when Victoria Pendleton's appearance in the saddle attracted a lot of outside interest.
Chamberlin, who attended the festival as a racegoer during his days at Sky Sports, said: "There was a lot of pressure at the start of the week because of the great job Channel 4 did before us, and the fact the Cheltenham Festival means so many things to so many people. I was nervous beforehand but had a great team behind me and absolutely loved it."
"I've presented at the World Cup final in South Africa but I've never experienced anything like it, and I said on day one it was for days like that why I left Premier League football."
As well as hailing the efforts of those behind the camera, Chamberlin picked out the insight of pundit and friend Sir Anthony McCoy, Gabriel Clarke's feature on JT McNamara and the presentation position from the heart of the paddock as high points of the coverage.
The reaction he has received has been overwhelmingly upbeat, he said. "I started in television in 1999 and I've never known anything like it. My timeline on Twitter, which is usually a good guide, has been full of kind messages in the last 24 hours and I've never experienced positivity like it."
"We tried a lot things this week. Some didn't work – the heat map was a trial which raised a few eyebrows – but we're only 11 weeks into a four-year contract and we'll be looking to keep improving."
Chamberlin, who nominated presenting his first Gold Cup as a personal highlight, added: "Hopefully we've found a few hooks for people who don't normally watch racing and if we've got a few more people into the sport this week then great, because that's what we're all about."