'Let us entertain you': Chamberlin delighted as one million tune into Cheltenham
ITV Racing's Ed Chamberlin has stressed the importance of the sport keeping people entertained during lockdown after the channel recorded a peak viewing figure of more than one million at Cheltenham on Saturday.
ITV's coverage performed strongly across the three days of the November meeting, which took place behind closed doors, with an average of 847,000 viewers, a peak of 1.09 million and an 8.3 per cent share on Saturday.
Sunday benefited from the switch to ITV from ITV4 with an average of 689,000 and peak of 907,000 roughly double the previous year and higher than the Saturday in 2019.
While Chamberlin was delighted with the figures, he was also keen to praise the collective effort in racing to provide a welcome distraction from the Covid-19 pandemic.
"We've got to keep the show on the road, not only for financial reasons but also to entertain people at home," he said. "For many, particularly the elderly, racing is the one bright light at the moment and it provides an escape for a few hours.
"I'm fully aware the lockdown works in our favour, but when I look at these figures, including getting over a million people watching on Saturday, I think what a great opportunity this is for racing in these difficult circumstances.
"I'd love to think when things return to normal we can convert these people to come racing and maybe want to become part of a syndicate, because hopefully they've enjoyed what they've seen over the last few months."
Racing has suffered some damaging episodes in recent days, with the controversial photo-finish at Cheltenham, farcical scenes at Fontwell when jockeys omitted a hurdle and the disqualification of Twin Star at Taunton due to Alexander Thorne's failure to weigh in.
However, Chamberlin believes there is still plenty for the sport to feel positive about.
"There were some frustrations at Cheltenham, Fontwell and Taunton, but the most important thing is racing keeps going with everyone adhering to the protocols," he said.
"I feel we've led the way in terms of how it's run behind closed doors and other sports are looking at the way racing has conducted itself."
Thursday's coverage of Taunton and Clonmel was the first of five extra afternoons of weekday racing, plus one additional Sunday, to be covered by ITV before the end of the year.
"It was great being able to shine the spotlight on Taunton and Clonmel and we're going to be able to do the same at other courses in the next few weeks," Chamberlin added.
ITV figures at Cheltenham
Average 348,000, share 4.6 per cent, peak 481,000
2018 ITV4 (the Friday was off in 2019)
Average 234,000, share 3.8 per cent, peak 346,000
Average 847,000, share 8.3 per cent, peak 1.09m
Average 601,000, share 7 per cent, peak 847,000
Average 689,000, share 6.7 per cent, peak 907,000
Average 310,000, share 3.4 per cent, peak 464,000
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