ITV will continue to be the terrestrial home of horse racing under the terms of a new contract which is expected to be signed this week. An ITV board meeting will, it is anticipated, bring an end to a process that became much more fraught and drawn-out than seemed possible, given that both sides have every reason to be pleased with their association since an initial four-year deal began in January 2017.
If rubber-stamped, the contract will mean the sport can continue to count on between 90 and 100 days of coverage per year, until at least the end of 2023, which will underpin its standing in the competitive sports environment. The Guardian understands ITV will pay more for its rights than under the previous contract, though the sum involved would pale into insignificance compared to the sums being lost to the sport due to the coronavirus crisis. As one insider put it: “Even £30m wouldn’t scratch the sides at the moment.”
The parties involved declined to comment again on Monday, with a formal press release still in the works, but it is understood that there has been a smoothing-over of the problems with the negotiations which have made headlines from time to time. The sport’s most important racedays will continue to appear on the main channel and will not be consigned en masse to ITV4, as was suggested at one stage.
Tuesday’s horse racing tips
Beverley 1.30 Noorban 2.00 J R Cavagin 2.30 Pull Harder Con 3.00 Brazen Prince 3.30 Ventura Rascal (nap) 4.00 Bottom Bay 4.30 Bollin Margaret 5.00 Phoenix Approach 5.30 DespoinaCatterick 1.45 Beechwood Donna 2.15 Dream House 2.45 Well Funded 3.15 Kaafy 3.45 Sanderbar 4.15 Midnite Bride 4.50 Tranchee (nb) 5.20 Havana Go 5.50 Dame DenaliLingfield 4.05 Cooloola 4.40 The Perfect Crown 5.10 Atletico 5.45 Gallardise 6.15 Roundabout Magic 6.45 French Polish 7.15 John Locke 7.45 Old Friend 8.15 ConfrerieSouthwell 4.20 Joly Maker 4.55 Damut I’m Out 5.30 Rebel Leader 6.00 Adjutant 6.30 Leroy Brown 7.00 Skylanna Breeze 7.30 No Cruise Yet 8.00 Miss Farage 8.30 Princess T
The widespread view is that ITV has done well with its return to the sport, winning a Bafta for its coverage of the 2017 Grand National and reviving viewing figures. In that context, it was a surprise that talks about an extension have taken so long to reach a conclusion, with expectation of a new deal having been high at the start of 2019.
Racing officials, slightly taken aback by ITV’s hard-nosed, commercial-minded approach to the talks, insist there is “no bad blood” now that the winning post is in sight.