Racing boosts ITV4's share of viewing audience
ITV chief executive Adam Crozier revealed on Wednesday the addition of horseracing to the broadcaster's roster had helped boost ITV4's share of the viewing audience by 25 per cent year-on-year in 2017.
Crozier, who was speaking at the company's full-year results presentation, also said he did not believe gambling advertising was the main focus of concern within the government's ongoing review of gambling.
ITV, which won a four-year contract to televise British racing from January 1, is broadcasting 94 days of racing this year, 52 of which are on ITV4.
Crozier said ITV had enjoyed a good start to 2017 in share of viewing (SOV) across its "family" of channels, "including a strong performance from the digital channels with ITV2 up two per cent and ITV4 up by 25 per cent, helped by the performance of horseracing".
Later in the presentation, in answer to a question about ITV's digital channels, Crozier said ITV4 had been successful in attracting male viewers, "and horseracing is very much part of that".
The channel has been reluctant to give specific viewing figures, although the debut screening on ITV4 peaked at 419,000 - a 4.4 per cent share of the total TV audience - and averaged 325,000 viewers, below that achieved by Channel 4 for the equivalent weekend for the three previous years.
ITV's main channel has shown only one day's racing, although this Saturday's Doncaster and Newbury programme will become the second after a late promotion.
Last year the government announced it would examine gambling advertising as part of a wider investigation of gambling, including the much-heralded review of gaming machine stakes and prizes.
Bookmaker advertising is a critical component of ITV's business plan for showing racing so restrictions could be damaging.
However, Crozier said he thought gaming machines were the government's main area of interest. He said: "If you look at all the evidence on the gambling side there is virtually no evidence that suggests advertising is the issue and if you read a lot of what has been written it is actually about the physical machines in the retail outlets that is the real focus of concern for government."
Crozier said ITV had a "constant dialogue" with government about advertising.
He added: "There's no suggestion yet of what they do or don't want to do, or anything on timing. There is nothing to report at the moment and I don't think we have a view on what any outcome might be, if any change at all."
The government has said it will publish the findings of its review in the spring.