The racing paper chase
Those taken aback by the Racing Post’s recent price hike, when the paper went to £2.90 every day, might be interested to know that someone else is going to have a stab at providing some competition.
Despite the demise some years back of The Sportsman as a daily competitor and Racing Plus, the Saturday-only paper which ceased publication earlier this year, the Post is to face another Saturday-only rival – The Racing Paper.
Launching next month on Grand National day, The Racing Paper comes from the stable which already publishes the highly respected weekly Rugby Paper and The Cricket Paper. But perhaps more important, it will be a sister paper to the monthly Racing Ahead magazine. For some time now Racing Ahead’s owner has been registered as The Racing Paper Limited suggesting that there were aspirations to produce a newspaper of the same name.
Indeed, an earlier incarnation of Racing Plus was associated with Racing Ahead.
The cover price has been announced at £1.80, which Racing Plus, published by the Press Association, charged until it raised it to £2.20 shortly before the plug was pulled.
Details are sketchy at the moment, but the Press Association could well be a content provider for The Racing Paper. Sports betting also appears to get a look-in.
It is a risky affair to challenge the Post and something which hindered Racing Plus was its poor online presence – a vital revenue stream in this day and age.
Racing Ahead magazine has a better online offering upon which its weekly stablemate could build, and there are already advertisers who spend money with the magazine albeit that bookmakers, who are the core spenders, don’t figure prominently among the monthly’s supporters.
Whilst The Rugby Paper and The Cricket Paper, together with other titles in the group, the Non-League Paper, the Football League Paper and Late Tackle, are well thought of in their respective sporting fields, those launched to cover golf and hockey are not currently publishing.
Whether or not The Racing Paper can survive remains to be seen, but coming from a publishing house with experience of producing sports titles gives it an advantage, but is there a gap in the market between the tabloid racing pull-outs and the comprehensive package offered by the Post?
On the evidence so far, the answer is no.
There will be disappointment that ITV Racing has seen a small decline in its audience for the 2018 Cheltenham Festival, albeit that in its second year of coverage it was still streets ahead of Channel 4.
The average daily audience for the four-day Festival was 885,750, down 4% on last year but still 30% higher than Channel 4 in 2016.
Across the four days, there were peaks and troughs in viewing numbers – Gold Cup day fell by 15% but Wednesday’s numbers were up on prior year by 15%.
That said, the Gold Cup was the most watched race, when the audience peaked at 1.63m. Ten other races covered by ITV also exceeded one-million viewers.
Coming off a very low base, there was an improved performance for The Opening Show on ITV4. It averaged 117,000 each day compared to 89,500 last year, and enjoyed its biggest audience on Gold Cup day with 147,000 viewers. But it is still a poor relation to the final Channel 4 Morning Line at Cheltenham which averaged 218,700 viewers a day.
The next test will be the Grand National which, of all the feature fixtures last year, was the only one where ITV did not beat Channel 4. Those at ITV Racing will be hoping for poor weather keeping people indoors because last year was a sunny day and there was a big drop-off in viewing numbers across all TV channels. And, even though ITV achieved a higher share of the total audience, the headline figure of a smaller audience for the Aintree race has continued to irritate.