Australian horse racing viewing figures surge during lockdown

Horse racing in Sydney has seen a huge growth in television viewing figures, as it continues behind closed doors while most other sports are shut down completely.

The Brisbane Times reported that an average of 93,000 viewers in Sydney watched the group 1 Tancred Stakes at Rosehill on March 26, which was broadcast on free-to-air television. This audience was up 36.4 per cent on the previous year.

The following weekend, free-to-air broadcaster Seven saw a 41-per-cent spike in its television audience when an average 118,000 Sydney viewers watched The Championships at Randwick.

Due to the Australian government’s social distancing rules, Australian Turf Club officials have been forced to hold the majority of their autumn carnival races without spectators.

Jockey Glen Boss said that, while it was better to perform in front of crowds, the fact more people were watching the action at home was a welcome consolation. “It’s great to know more people are watching. You’d like to give them more emotion, but it’s hard when you return to scale and there’s nothing,” he said.

Boss added that he had received numerous messages from other sportsmen and women who would not normally be able to watch. “I did notice I had a lot more messages on Saturday night from people like [Collingwood Football Club president] Eddie McGuire, a few footballers, just a lot of people who wouldn’t normally watch the races on the weekend but must have been watching.”

The ratings spike is a timely reminder of the importance of live sport to communities enduring the lockdown. With very little high quality live sport taking place around the globe, events behind closed doors or in a virtual offering are now pulling in substantial audiences.