A peak live UK television audience of more than 10 million watched Rule The World win the 2016 Crabbie's Grand National, according to overnight figures released today. The bumper Channel 4 audience at the race's new start time of 5.15pm was an increase of 12% from a 2015 peak of 8.9 million and represented a 59% share of all TV viewers at that time. The peak was one of the highest of any programme in the history of Channel 4.
The news comes on the back of a total 152,665 people attending the three days of the Crabbie's Grand National Festival, which included a record Grand Opening Day crowd, a Ladies Day attendance up by 2,006 people on last year and a 70,000 capped sell-out on Grand National Day.
John Baker, who runs Aintree as North West Regional Director for Jockey Club Racecourses, said:
"We're thrilled more than 10 million people just in the UK watched the world's greatest steeplechase at its new time of 5.15pm. That is one of the largest viewing audiences in British sport and will normally be Channel 4's biggest of the year across all its programming. The Crabbie's Grand National truly is the 'People's Race'.
"Around the world, hundreds of millions of people will have tuned in to watch, while a sell-out crowd of 70,000 people at Aintree enjoyed top-class racing and enhanced customer facilities. Many congratulations to Rule The World, Mouse Morris, Gigginstown House Stud and David Mullins on their victory."
Commenting on this being the last year of British Racing's terrestrial broadcast deal with Channel 4 before the rights move across to ITV, Baker said:
"We've enjoyed a fantastic relationship with the team at Channel 4 these past four Crabbie's Grand Nationals and I would like to pay tribute to their professionalism, hard work and world-class production each year. The team and the channel itself have done a huge amount to bring the story of the People's Race to life.
2017 sees the race move over to ITV as part of a minimum 94 days of British Racing that will be shown by the broadcaster next year.
"That is the most terrestrial TV coverage of any sport in the UK and a tremendous shop window to attract new fans and partners. We look forward to the reach, promotion and programming ITV will bring, and building a strong relationship with their team," added Baker.
This was also the last Grand National with Halewood International's Crabbie's brand as the title partner. The sponsorship of the Grand National Festival, including the Grand National itself, now passes to global healthcare firm Randox Health with is looking for major expansion within the UK, Ireland and overseas. Crabbie's will remain associated with the Grand National Festival as the new sponsor of the Grade 1 Top Novices' Hurdle. Baker said:
"I should like to thank Crabbie's brand owner, Halewood International, and in particular Judy Halewood and Peter Eaton, for their very generous and beneficial support of the Crabbie's Grand National these past three years. I am very pleased they will remain involved and associated with Aintree through sponsorship of the high value Grade 1 Top Novices’ Hurdle and the emotional 169th running of the world's greatest steeplechase was a great way to finish under their banner."
Since a series of modifications were made to the Grand National Course in 2013, all 158 runners in four Crabbie's Grand National races have returned safely. Baker added:
"2016 was the fourth Grand National since our £1.5 million of important changes on the course and with all horses and jockeys again returning safely those changes are working well. I'd also like to give credit to the jockeys for their professionalism in the big race."