On the first day, the Cheltenham Festival 2021 drew a historic crowd, with both the average and peak audiences considerably higher than the previous year.
ITV Racing attracted an audience of 1.1 million spectators, with a record of 1.5 million tuning in to watch Rachel Blackmore ride the much awaited Irish racehorse Honeysuckle to victory in the Champions Hurdle.
The increase in viewership has been attributed to the number of people employed at home or on furlough as a result of the current pandemic, as well as the lack of fans at the racetrack.
Highest tv ratings in over a decade
Nielsen Sports even predicted that the festival will see the highest tv ratings in over a decade, citing a 250,000 rise in overall television viewing attributed to people operating from home and furlough programmes.
According to the Racing Post, the overall viewership rose by 12 percent from the previous year, with peak viewing numbers up 7 percent, the best since records started in 2003.
Extension of coverage
The festival’s extension of ITV’s television coverage may have also led to the record-breaking numbers.
The free-to-air broadcaster and the Racecourse Media Group (RMG), which owns the rights to the four-day festival, have reached an agreement that will give the races more publicity.
ITV’s regular scheduling of five races a day was extended to six as a result of the launch, with the time for each race cut from 40 minutes to 35 minutes to compensate, with the main event scheduled to air at 3:05pm every day.