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Scottish National viewers down on ITV but audience share up

Ed Chamberlin on duty for ITV on a gloriously sunny Grand National day
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ITV lost more ground to Channel 4 in television ratings on Saturday when fewer than one million people watched the Coral Scottish Grand National – although the broadcaster will take comfort from an increased audience share. 

Despite being shown on ITV's main channel, the audience peaked at 900,000 when the big race was being run at 4pm, having hit one million on Channel 4 12 months earlier.

The programme averaged 542,000 viewers compared to 607,000 who watched Channel 4's coverage, but drew a bigger share of the available viewing audience with 7.4 per cent tuning into to ITV compared 6.4 per cent for Channel 4 last year.

The figures come two weeks after the audience for the Grand National, which many expected to increase under ITV, drew 8.2 million viewers, lower than that of any of the four Grand Nationals covered by Channel 4, which peaked at 10m a year ago. It was also a lower figure than that achieved by the BBC on all but two occasions in its post-2004 coverage.

Yet the audience share for the race peaked at 62 per cent of the total TV viewing public, equalling the modern record for a commercial station.

ITV policy is not to comment on viewing figures but sources pointed to a 21 per cent across-the-board slump in the total viewing audience at the weekend compared to last year, attributed to the continued fine weather which it is claimed was also a factor in the 27 per cent fall on Grand National Saturday. Without the fall ITV could have expected to attract 687,000 viewers, which would have been higher than Channel 4.

Vicentre (left) and Sam Twiston-Davies en route to Scottish Grand National victory

The network's start to its four-year exclusive deal for racing's terrestrial TV rights has garnered positive reviews – for programming split between ITV's main channel and ITV4 – if not audience increases, with a Racing Post special report revealing it has been watched by over three million fewer viewers than Channel 4 over the equivalent period.

The Scottish National was not on the original list of so-called crown jewel events guaranteed main channel coverage when the deal was first announced but was added later in a compromise to other tracks.

Commenting on the figures, Coral PR director Simon Clare said: "This is the fourth biggest betting race of the year and will be once again. We took more money on the Scottish National this year than the Champion Hurdle and the Stayers' Hurdle, the only other races which would threaten its position.

"I believe the race last year produced the fifth biggest TV audience on Channel 4 Racing and although the figures suggest the number of viewers is down, ITV achieved a bigger share than last year which is surely the most important metric. I watched the ITV afternoon show back in full and it was excellent, capturing fully the amazing atmosphere at Ayr racecourse"

The restoration of part of Newmarket's Craven meeting to the terrestrial schedule, having been dropped by Channel 4, drew an average audience of 204,000 last Thursday and peaked with 264,000.

This weekend's Opening Show on ITV4 will start at 8am on Saturday due to the station's live coverage of the Tour de Yorkshire cycling.

I watched the ITV afternoon show back in full and it was excellent, capturing fully the amazing atmosphere at Ayr racecourse
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