This year’s Cheltenham Festival is set to attract its biggest UK television audience in a decade, according to analysts.
The expected boost to viewing figures is a result of additional races being broadcast and the racecourse being closed to spectators, says Nielsen Sports.
Cheltenham Festival, the most eagerly anticipated week of National Hunt racing in the UK, begins today and concludes on Friday.
Organisers have upped the number of races being televised on free-to-air channels from five to six in response to fans remaining shut out due to Covid-19 rules.
Intervals between races have also been cut from 40 to 35 minutes.
The continued national lockdown means there are more people at home and therefore likely to tune in.
In addition, while betting shops remain closed, punters keen to follow their wagers have little choice but to watch from their sofas.
“We expect to see record numbers of people watching the Cheltenham Festival at home this year,” said Andy Milnes, head of client services at Nielsen Sports.
“The festival has responded well to its first occasion of going behind closed doors by televising more of its live races.
“This, combined with a reduction in waiting time between the races, should attract a huge amount of people to follow the festival on TV.
“This is a very attractive situation for sponsors. With increased broadcast output to a potentially record-breaking audience, we expect to see a significant rise in sponsorship value for brands.”
Last year’s Cheltenham Festival attracted a cumulative average TV audience of 3.7m.
This year’s anticipated increase in audience will sponsorship value generated by 25 per cent, according to Nielsen.