2020 Virtual Grand National: 4.8 million tune in to watch on ITV
Nearly five million people indulged in sporting fantasy on Saturday to watch Potters Corner triumph in the 2020 Virtual Grand National on ITV's main channel.
With racing in Britain halted until at least to the end of the month as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, the Virtual Grand National pulled in a peak audience of 4.8 million people – equivalent to 30 per cent of the television audience – with the average viewing figures for the 30-minute programme, which also included a Virtual Legends National won by Red Rum, coming in at 4.3m.
The programme, which was fronted by Nick Luck and included commentary on the two races by Stewart Machin, fell short of the numbers that would watch the Randox Health Grand National, which was viewed by nearly 10m in 2019.
However, it still drew in an audience larger than for most regular fixtures on ITV Racing, albeit under different circumstances, with 1.75m watching Anthony Van Dyck win last year's Derby, 1.44m tuning in for Al Boum Photo's Cheltenham Gold Cup last month and 940,000 viewing Enable's bid for a third Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe last October.
The audience for the computer-generated contest was also significantly up on last year's Virtual Grand National when 737,000 people viewed the programme.
The Virtual Grand National had gained increasing prominence over the past week and was covered extensively by the media on Saturday as the British public was requested to remain at home to help slow the spread of the coronavirus.
Interest was boosted by bookmakers taking bets on the race and pledging to donate any profits from the contest to the NHS Charities Together Covid-19 appeal. Firms reported on Saturday that the average bet on the race had been £2.
More 2020 Virtual Grand National news:
Bookmakers have pledged to donate any profits from betting on the Virtual Grand National to the NHS Charities COVID-19 Urgent Appeal. You can donate to this important cause here