Channel 4 says new look “Morning Line” a success

It's just a year now since Channel 4 updated and relaunched its Saturday morning racing programme The Morning Line. It was probably due for a revamp, as the format had been virtually unchanged since it began 20 years ago.

The core features – preview of the day’s key races with the focus on those to be televised in the afternoon; highlighting The Racing Post's Pricewise selection; charity bets from the presenters; and interviews with a jockey, trainer or occasional celebrity, remain unchanged. Alongside the new set and refreshed logo there are a number of lighter touches aimed at making the programme more popular. Thus, we have viewer tweets scrolling across the bottom of the screen, music and captions to introduce the leading contenders for the main race, and a racing version of Top Gear’s "star in a reasonably priced car." In this, the studio guest has a minute to answer questions on racing, with his score going up on the leader board.

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Central to the new format has been the introduction of Nick Luck as the regular presenter, who producer Sophie Veats describes as "an excellent host who brings the best out of people." He certainly has a very relaxed and personable style, which has gone a long way to generating the lighter touch, which the programme now presents.

Jamie Aitchison, live sports editor at Channel 4 explained what they were aiming to do in the revamp. "We want to popularise it without losing the core audience. It's the core audience that so many programmes forget about and we know there are some people out there who haven't enjoyed some elements of the new programme. You're never going to satisfy everyone who wants an hour of betting and form."

It's taken some time for the new format to bed in. Aitchison acknowledges that first they tried to cram too much in, and that they had to pare back some of the new features a little bit. He said, "We’re aware of the need to be serious on the big days and cut back on the froth." We should see that serious emphasis over the next few weeks during the build up to Cheltenham.

That's not to say there won't be any further changes. One of the things they've tried is a live interview with a trainer from his yard via a Skype connection, but this suffered from technical problems. Veats thinks these are pretty much sorted out and plans to re-introduce those interviews.

Overall Channel 4 are happy with the changes and say that The Morning Line has improved its audience by an average of 2% and has also contributed to the 5% increase during 2011 in viewers of afternoon racing. The Morning Line looks set for a long and happy future.

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1 reply
  1. Avatar
    simon thould says:

    They’ve lost this member of the ‘core audience’. I want information about horse racing pure and simple, not ‘mickey mouse’ trivial quizzes. Talk about dumbing down!
    I also complained to the makers of Channel 4 racing that the constant use of excessive closeups during races excluded the majority of viewers with an interest in a horse not in view. I was told I was the only person who had complained about this. Is this true? There must be other viewers who haven’t been able to watch their horse through the race ( I can with ATR, unless tailed off of course when I have lost interest too!)
    This obsession with attracting new viewers/racegoers to the detriment of traditional supporters has ruined the sport I have followed for 60 years, National Hunt only. I don’t go racing on saturdays as the place plays music and is crowded with people only there to drink all day.
    Some courses I have been to are so ill-conceived that it is impossible to view the race at all, e.g.Exeter you can only see about 20% of the course from the standing area; Wincanton has you staring directly into a low winter sun and Bangor-on-Dee has it’s finish along the side of the course, face on to the crowd!
    Then the BHA ‘**** up’ the whip rules and the selection method I had used profitably for the last three years no longer works.
    Racing For Change has meant change for the worse. All parties referred to above should have heeded the maxim ” If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”
    There! I feel better now. Anyone else agree, or is it just me?

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