There’s a brand new look and feel to the Attheraces television channel today. The cramped booth with its bank of screens, which always seemed to me that it was a cupboard under the stairs of someone’s house, has gone. In its place is a brand new purpose built studio in that aims to have its finger on the pulse of racing……in Milton Keynes.
The studio has a set that looking like any other news programme, and I guess that ATR want to try and increase their viewing figures beyond the two million a month they currently claim. The objective set out by chief executive Matthew Imi is laudable. He said, “We want to communicate as effectively as possible the excitement of what’s going on at our racecourse partners’ tracks.”
ATR expect to be able to feed in more live interviews and reaction from the racecourses during the live afternoon and evening programmes. And it’s good that they will continue to show live pictures from the tracks through the advertising breaks – not that these coincide with the races themselves now.
But what points to the more generalised approach to racing coverage is the changes to the morning line up. On the positive side this will feature a 15-minute racing news bulletin each hour from 0900 to 1200. ATR will continue to show the previous day’s racing in a 45 minute Racing Review slot at 0915.
Where I think the new format has done racing enthusiasts a disservice (or perhaps it just hasn’t explained its new structure very well) is in its treatment of features such as Get On and Irish Angle. ATR says it is keeping these, but simply removing their individual programme identities. They will be fitted into the new rolling news format under the banner of a series of Raceday Preview slots which make up the remainder of the morning schedule.
What ATR have not made clear is whether each of these will have a regular slot or whether they are competing with each other and developing news stories for airtime.
Of course there’s bound to be a bedding in period, and I’m not trying to judge the new approach before it has even begun operation. But I do think there’s a risk in this new approach of a degree of dumbing down in the hope of catching a wider audience. And there’s a risk in that of alienating some of their current viewers.
Excuse me now, I’m off to catch the first broadcast.