ITV's evening debut hailed a hit as 400,000 viewers tune in to Sandown coverage
Sky Bet report turnover up 25 per cent on a typical night fixture
ITV Racing's first venture into evening racing proved a hit with television viewers and punters alike, with Sandown's Matchbook-sponsored Brigadier Gerard card on Thursday doing good business for both the network and bookmakers.
An estimated 393,000 people were already watching ITV4 when Frankie Dettori booted home favourite Without Parole in the Heron Stakes at 7.05pm, a figure that had risen to 407,000 when the field for the Henry II Stakes set off half an hour later.
The audience had dipped to 367,000 when the feature race got under way at 8.10pm, by which time ITV4 were up against such midweek staples as Emmerdale, Britain's Best Home Cook and the Chelsea Flower Show.
"We’ve got nothing to compare it to but I was thrilled for two reasons," said presenter Ed Chamberlin. "One, it shows ITV's commitment to racing, by adding to our portfolio. We’d already brought back the Craven meeting, we brought back the Arc and the Friday of the Ladbrokes Trophy meeting at Newbury. It’s nice to add another one.
"And two, to get people watching was terrific. I was amazed by the viewing figures. I think it’s sizeably more than you would get for a midweek festival."
Chamberlin shared the screen with a pared-down team of co-host Francesca Cumani and expert analyst Jason Weaver, while Frankie Dettori contributed in between riding commitments.
"I was very conscious people were coming in from work and they didn’t want it to be intense and in their face," added Chamberlin.
"It was a bit of a skeleton team for a number of reasons and hopefully it worked. What Francesca did was extraordinary: she took on the role of presenter, reporter and did her walking paddock stuff."
Bookmakers gave it a big thumbs-up, with Michael Shinners of Sky Bet reporting a 25 per cent increase in turnover on a typical evening meeting screened on At The Races or Racing UK.
He said: "It’s quite difficult to compare the same meeting year on year. It was dramatically up but, as a business, as we continue to grow, that’s probably not a fair assessment. But on what we would project for an evening meeting, we took 25 per cent more than we'd expect. That's huge, and we definitely encourage more of the same."
Coral's David Stevens said business was up on the night in shops and online.
He said: "Retail turnover on the card was healthy but, unsurprisingly, it was online where the upturn was most notable, and the decision of ITV4 to broadcast the meeting undoubtedly played an important role in that.
"We'd welcome additional quality evening meetings receiving
similar exposure in future and certainly would hope the evening coverage was not a one-off."
ITV Racing has yet to announce any further evening programme dates but one fixture thought to be under consideration is Newcastle's Gosforth Park Cup meeting on Friday, June 29, on the eve of Northumberland Plate day.
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