ITV plugs gap in World Cup schedule with broadcast of Newcastle evening card
Fear not sports fans. The eagle-eyed who were already having palpitations regarding the lack of terrestrial sporting action on June 29 – the only day from the start of the World Cup next Thursday until July 3 – need not worry as ITV will fill the void by broadcasting Newcastle's evening card.
Fresh from last month's successful first dabble into broadcasting evening fixtures at Sandown's Brigadier Gerard meeting, ITV has seen fit to add another.
The blank in the World Cup fixture list, along with ITV's presence in Newcastle for the following day's Northumberland Plate, and what is a strong card in its own right – featuring the Group 3 Stobart Energy Hoppings Fillies' Stakes and Stobart Energy Gosforth Park Cup – has created an opportunity for racing.
It is one of several opportunities that ITV believe their coverage of Britain's two most popular sports by attendances can present, with racing editor Richard Willoughby excited by the cross-promotional opportunities of the World Cup.
"The evening meeting announced demonstrates our commitment to racing – and sport in general – and is a brilliant opportunity to further showcase the sport," he said on Tuesday.
"The first evening show from Sandown went really well and we were happy with how the broadcast went, so we're delighted to be able to bring more racing to the ITV audience.
"We're always looking for opportunities to enhance and improve our coverage and these evening slots are exciting.
"This meeting didn't just merit consideration because of the good racing on show and what comes the following day, but also where it sits in the greater sporting landscape and the opportunities that gives us for cross-promotion."
He continued: "The World Cup is a fantastic opportunity for us – it's a great sporting marriage between racing and the biggest sporting event in the world – and we're glad we can cover both as it's also a big cross-promotional tool.
"The World Cup attracts big audiences and we can say in the next few days, 'There's all this brilliant racing happening at Royal Ascot and Newcastle', and utilise it to try to bring people across to our racing broadcasts."
Bet365's Pat Cooney is strongly of the opinion the additional broadcast will be a boost for bookmakers, as well as ITV and racing.
He said: "It's very good news. If you look at Sandown, we saw an increase on what we thought turnover would be that night. In spite of smaller fields due to the rain-soaked ground there was a definite increase.
"Now it's on a Friday night I'd say it's likely to be even more successful and, when you throw in the fact it's a rare blank day in the World Cup schedule, I think the whole industry will be delighted. It's a win-win for everyone."
Coral spokesman David Stevens added: “It'll be interesting to see how much impact the coverage has on turnover, and we'll be able to compare this Friday card to the Sandown one.
"But, most importantly, any efforts to increase terrestrial exposure of the sport should be applauded and hopefully evening programming is here to stay.”
If you are interested in this, you should read: Tom Kerr's take on weekday evening coverage of racing on terrestrial television