ITV grabs WRC rights for 2004

In a shock move, ITV has won the rights to broadcast the World Rally Championship in the UK for the next three years from Channel 4, starting with the Monte Carlo Rally in a fortnight's time

ITV grabs WRC rights for 2004

ITV has added the WRC to its motorsport portfolio that includes the Formula 1 World Championship and the British Touring Car Championship. ITV1 will cover each of the 16 rallies in the 2004 WRC calendar with a one-hour programme on every Sunday afternoon of each event

The first broadcast, Rallye Automobile Monte Carlo, will be shown on January 25 at 3.45pm. In addition, ITV1 will broadcast a 30-minute magazine show previewing and reviewing each rally, plus extended coverage of Wales Rally GB.

Simon Long of ISC, the TV and commercial rights holders to WRC, said: "Channel 4 has played a key role in raising the profile of WRC in the UK during the past two years; their coverage has brought innovation and excitement to coverage of the sport.

"But ITV1's ability to give WRC a guaranteed regular Sunday afternoon slot - as part of its commitment to become the 'home of motorsport' - is critical to grow our fan base and establish a mainstream appointment slot for WRC in the UK."

Brian Barwick, ITV's Controller of Sport, said: "We are delighted to become the new home of the World Rally Championship - a year-round white knuckle ride in some of the most exotic locations in the world, featuring the ultimate test of both driver and car against the elements. We hope by giving it a regular Sunday afternoon slot we can attract not only the committed rally fan, but also bring a wider audience to the sport."

David Kerr, Channel 4's Head of Sport, said that he was not in a position to guarantee slots for the championship, due to its nature.

"We have enjoyed our association with the WRC and have been able to introduce some of the innovations that have allowed us to revolutionise coverage of sport on TV, including Virtual Spectator," he said. "However, the irregularity of the sport's calendar means that in an increasingly competitive television environment we are unable to continue guaranteeing the slots for it. We feel that the agreement is the best one for the sport and its fans and wish the WRC continued success in the future."

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