RACING: Clare Balding joins Channel 4 Racing

Channel 4 has announced that Clare Balding will join the broadcaster as lead presenter of its horse racing coverage from 2013.

The popular presenter, who received huge critical acclaim for her work during the Olympic Games, will work alongside a combination of familiar Channel 4 Racing faces and new talent to be announced later in the year, as the channel welcomes the arrival of all the sport’s premium events from next year, including the Grand National.

In conjunction with Balding’s arrival, Channel 4 has also announced that it has awarded IMG Sports Media the four-year production contract for the corporation’s exclusive racing coverage, taking over from the long-serving Highflyer Productions.

“I am absolutely thrilled that Channel 4 has asked me to be a part of their new racing team,” said Balding, who will also lead the channel’s exclusive Paralympic Games coverage.

“Racing is my ‘home’ sport and I am delighted that I will still be part of its coverage on TV.

“I am excited by Channel 4’s plans for their coverage and the way in which they have committed to expanding the profile of jockeys, trainers and horses.

“I look forward to working with IMG Sports Media who have a high quality reputation for sports programming.”

Balding’s previous Channel 4 credits include Crufts and Famous and Fearless, the short-lived celebrity stunt show she co-hosted with Chris Evans.

But she established herself as one of the UK’s top sports broadcasters through presenting the BBC TV’s horse racing coverage, anchoring events such as the Grand National and The Derby from 1998 to 2012.

Balding’s deal with Channel 4 is non-exclusive so she is free to work for other broadcasters, including the BBC, but she cannot present televised horse racing for any other channel.

Channel 4’s racing coverage will to adopt a new fresh look from 2013 onwards with sports media giant IMG winning the bid to take over the production of the broadcaster’s racing output.

IMG will produce around 90 days a year of live terrestrial horse racing coverage, in addition to the ‘Morning Line’ magazine show, featuring the Cheltenham Festival, Aintree’s Grand National meeting, the Derby Festival from Epsom Downs, Royal Ascot, Glorious Goodwood and the entire British Champions Series.

The deal, in operation from January 2013 till December 2016, runs alongside Channel 4’s four-year media agreement with Racecourse Media Group.

In addition, Channel 4 Racing sponsors, Dubai, have signed a new four-year extension deal until 2016.

“With the expertise of IMG Sports on board, I’m hugely excited about the future of racing on Channel 4,” said Jay Hunt, Channel 4’s chief creative officer.

“Clare Balding has shown over the last two weeks at the Olympics why she is rightly acclaimed as one of the UK’s leading broadcasters and I’m delighted that, in addition to presenting the London 2012 Paralympic Games on Channel 4 this autumn, she will lead our horse racing coverage from 2013.”

The IMG Sports Media production team that will be responsible for Channel 4’s racing coverage from January 2013 will bring together award-winning creative talent with renowned horseracing specialists. 

Carl Hicks, currently BBC Sport’s senior programme editor, will join IMG Sports Media to head up the team as Executive Producer having recently edited the corporation’s acclaimed London 2012 Olympic Games.

Hicks’ racing pedigree includes nine Grand Nationals, eight Royal Ascot’s, six Derby’s plus the Prix De L’Arc and others for BBC TV.

IMG has also committed to introduce a range of innovations including graphical enhancements, directed by Daryl Goodrich, whose film played a fundamental role in winning the London 2012 Olympic Games bid through to new contemporary editorial directions, compelling race coverage and robust journalism.

This will be delivered alongside new initiatives forged with the sport which aim to create an enhanced viewing experience from January 2013.

Jamie Aitchison, Channel 4’s Sports Editor, says: “After a rigorous and invaluable tender process, I am looking forward immensely to working with IMG Sports Media to deliver our vision for the sport.

“The winning bid hails the arrival of a new era in broadcasting for the sport at a time when the industry is moving forwards with real momentum. The hard work starts now as we head towards 2013 and the exciting challenges ahead.

“Clare’s arrival is superb news for Channel 4 and the production team. Quite simply she is the sports broadcaster of her era and for her to be heading up our coverage across the year is extremely exciting. Racing fans have a lot to look forward to.

“It is also fitting at this point to thank Highflyer TV for everything they have done for Channel 4 and British horse racing over many years.”

Graham Fry, managing director for worldwide sports production at IMG Sports Media, adds: “We are absolutely delighted to have been chosen as Channel 4’s production partner for horse racing in the UK for the next four years.

“This is a unique and exciting opportunity to bring a fresh approach to an outstanding portfolio of race days, many of them iconic sporting events.

“IMG has hand-picked an outstanding team of experienced and talented production professionals with vast expertise covering the sport.

“This allied to our strong in-house creative talent who have worked on major sporting events around the globe, will ensure that race viewers see a new and enhanced approach to the overall horse racing experience.”

The digital propositions for Channel 4’s racing coverage formed an important part of the tender process and Channel 4 and IMG Sports Media will relaunch channel4.com/racing and build new presences on other digital platforms.

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