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April 24, 2020

BY RAY THOMAS, THE DAILY TELEGRAPH

Stay-at-home punters and sports-starved fans have tuned into Sky Racing’s Sydney autumn carnival coverage in record numbers.

The coronavirus pandemic forced most sports to shut down around the world but Australian horse racing has managed to continue, albeit in front of empty grandstands.

Sydney’s showpiece Autumn Carnival has virtually been the centre of the sporting universe and Sky Racing’s television ratings have soared for the eight Saturdays since the first Group 1 races were
run at Royal Randwick on February 29.

The highlights include:

 Sky Racing’s average audiences rose by 38 per cent over this eight-week period year on year reaching almost 300,000 viewers on each of the two days of The Star Championships — Sydney’s premier autumn racing days. This growth came on top of strong ratings for the previous year as a result of Winx having her final Sydney campaign.

 Sky Raceday on Channel 526, hosted by Andrew Martin, Tony Brassel and David Gately, has been the most popular program on the entire Foxtel platform for the past four Saturdays out-rating hit shows such as Midsomer Murders and Selling Houses Australia by approximately 30 per cent.

 The autumn carnival coverage was complemented by Sky Thoroughbred Central (Channel 528), featuring Greg Radley, Ron Dufficy and Lizzie Jelfs, which showcased Sydney racing to a growing national and international audience.

It is understood Sky Racing’s audience increases followed Channel Seven’s free-to-air coverage of the Sydney Autumn Racing Carnival, which included a 12 per cent increase in viewers across the crucial 25-54 age demographic while year on year. The audience ratings for racing are up 46 per cent with an average of nearly 200,000 viewers over the last four Saturdays.

The surge in television ratings was matched by strong demand growth on the Sky Racing app and TAB app. It is understood more than 40,000 views accessed the Sky Racing Active app during the five major Saturdays of the Sydney autumn carnival.

Significantly, the Sky Racing Active app is reaching high numbers of younger (18-35) racing fans and helping racing access this demographic.

Punters viewed Sky Racing coverage on the TAB app more than one million times on the first day of The Championships at Royal Randwick.

“We are pleased more viewers are watching Sky Racing’s unrivalled racing coverage in the ways that suit them best — whether that is digitally via TAB or Sky Racing Active, or through Foxtel,” Tabcorp’s Darren Pearce said.

“These are unprecedented times and we are proud of Sky Racing’s role in continuing to keep racing fans informed with the best racing vision, talent and tips, as well as reaching new audiences to help racing grow.

“We are also proud to support all racing codes through this period by ensuring the best mix of vision is available. We want to also acknowledge the phenomenal effort that the racing industry and all participants have put in to ensure the sport has remained operational throughout this period.”

Australian Turf Club CEO Jamie Barkley said the Sydney Autumn Racing Carnival has been a “huge success on and off the track.”

“Our broadcasters have attracted record viewers, on some days exceeding numbers set last year by Winx,” he said.

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