TELEVISION: Walker proves racing certainty

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The Independent Online
Fans of the motor racing commentator Murray Walker appears to have followed him en masse from the BBC to ITV.

ITV's broadcast of the Australian Grand Prix, its first Formula One race, on Sunday afternoon secured exactly the same ratings as the same race did when broadcast on the BBC last year. The race was seen by an average of 3.2 million viewers and peaked at 4 million for the final few laps. ITV expects to top the BBC's figures once statistics for the number of viewers on video is included in the ratings. Almost 900,000 people stayed up until 3am on Sunday morning to watch the race live compared with 800,000 the year before.

ITV plucked Formula One's five-year contract from the BBC last year for an estimated pounds 70m, and followed by poaching Walker, seen as the voice of motor sport. The contract is valuable to the network because it brings a young male audience direct from the BBC. Formula One's organising body is reported to be considering a flotation to take advantage of pay-per- view opportunities on digital television, worth a possible pounds 1bn a year.