FitzGerald: new series promises to take racing to a whole new audience
It has historically been quite a challenge to get all racing's myriad stakeholders to back innovation in the sport but the Championship Horse Racing concept received encouraging words from across the industry on Monday.
The Jockey Club is helping Jeremy Wray's team develop the concept of a team-based series of ITV-televised Thursday night meetings, and their chief executive Simon Bazalgette is enthusiastic about its potential to attract new audiences and open new sources of revenue.
Two key broadcasting figures, ITV Racing presenter Ed Chamberlin and Racecourse Media Group chief executive Richard FitzGerald, stressed the importance of gearing the CHR concept towards fans the traditional elements of the sport have yet to reach.
The blueprint for the CHR series calls for eight meetings across as many weeks, with a two and a half-hour primetime television slot.
Chamberlin said: "I'm always a little bit unsure how much the team aspect lends itself to racing but the point I’d make to counter that is I'm absolutely in favour of anything that will innovate and bring racing to a wider audience. That's what ITV is all about.
"If it’s going to get off the ground and people are getting behind it, we'd certainly jump on board."
RMG negotiates a variety of broadcast contracts on behalf of British racing across mainstream and specialist television as well as for the betting industry.
"The series promises to be a compelling spectacle for viewers and has the potential to take racing to a whole new audience," said FitzGerald.
Aside from attracting new viewers and fans to the sport, Bazalgette stressed the importance of additional sources of prize-money at a time when bookmakers are warning proposals for a more heavily-regulated gambling sector could cause their contribution to diminish.
He said: "If done right, we think the series has the potential to interest existing racing fans and attract new ones, bring in new investment from brands with the power to promote our sport, and boost prize-money for owners of handicap horses.
"So we support the concept and are lending our experience to help guide its development."
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