A big success: ITV racing anchor Chamberlin hails Grand National coverage
ITV’s coverage of last week’s Grand National meeting at Aintree was a significant improvement on the one that delivered a Bafta nomination last year, according to the channel’s lead racing presenter Ed Chamberlin, who on Monday hailed the event as the biggest and best television show he has been involved with during his 20 years in broadcasting.
While acknowledging the fine line he and his ITV colleagues had to walk to please both casual viewers and aficionados, the former Sky Sports presenter is satisfied his current employers and Aintree delivered a show that everyone could be proud of.
“It’s something else and I loved it,” he reflected on Monday. “I thought Aintree and the Jockey Club – Grant Rowley, Jessica Dalgliesh and John Baker and his team did an amazing job.
"The opening ceremony, with the Red Devils, Laura Wright and the military, gave the meeting real gravitas and it felt really special – bigger and better than last year, which I loved.”
While Grand National day itself drew only a small rise in viewing figures for the second edition of ITV's tenure, the average figures for Thursday and Friday were at their highest since 2005 and 2006 and, from where Chamberlin was standing, all three days felt like a success.
"My favourite thing of the whole week is down at the start, it was something I was adamant should be brought in and I love those shots. Hopefully it takes people right to the heart of it, which is what we’re trying to do.
“From the moment we went on air on Thursday it was very much building to 5.15pm on Saturday. We tried to make sure that by 5pm everyone was aware of all the different stories in the race and I think we did that well.”
Peak viewing figures for Grand National day
2018 (ITV) – 8.5 million
2017 (ITV) – 8.2 million
2016 (C4) – 10 million
2015 (C4) – 8.8 million
Saturday’s coverage drew a rise in viewers to 8.5 million, from a peak of 8.2m in 2017, and a 60 per cent share of the available audience. The average audience was 5.1m and the average share of overall television viewers was 41 per cent.
The network, which was expected to deliver an upturn in viewers, has yet to beat any of Channel 4's audiences for the National, which over four years peaked at 10m in 2016 and drew other figures of 8.9m, 8.5m and 8.8m.
Chamberlin said: “I’m always hoping for more and probably wouldn’t be happy with 11 million but the fact is that 8.5 million in the modern age is still pretty good.
"The Grand National is an enigma – you had seven million watching Don’t Push It in 2010 and then ten million watching Rule The World in 2016. When I saw the sunshine on Saturday morning I was one person who was cursing, but that’s no excuse.
"I can’t control that but, for me, that was the biggest and best television show in my 20 years of presenting, and to get a 60 per cent share is fantastic.”
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