Who has hosted 'Countdown'? Colin Murray confirmed as permanent host

Anne Robinson, Colin Murray, Carol Vorderman and Richard Whiteley
Colin Murray has been named as the new Countdown host - but who has preceded him? (Channel 4/PA)

Colin Murray has been confirmed as the permanent host of Countdown after taking over temporarily from outgoing presenter Anne Robinson last summer.

The TV and radio presenter is known for hosting music and football shows, but will now join the esteemed list of stars who have fronted the long-running Channel 4 quiz show.

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He said: "It’s a career dream to be named as permanent anchor of one of television's most iconic programmes. I have been a fan since day one, been part of the family for over a decade, appearing on Dictionary Corner, and now I get the honour of guiding it into a fifth decade.

"However, I just don’t want Countdown to survive, I want it to thrive. During my caretaker stint we’ve seen more people tune back in, with close to a million [0.9m] watching the series final in December, and I want that to just be the beginning.

Colin Murray
Colin Murray will take over as the new host of Countdown. (PA)

"Countdown is a special show, and its stars will always be the letters and the numbers, but it’s more than that. Great afternoon company for people of all ages from all across the UK. Rachel, Susie and I are very excited for the year ahead. If you haven’t watched in a while, drop by and join us. Everyone is welcome."

Murray was previously a stand-in for Nick Hewer during the coronavirus pandemic so was a popular choice with fans when he took over.

Here's who has hosted the quiz show over the years before him.

Richard Whiteley 1982 - 2005

Richard Whiteley - British Tv Presenter And Reporter.  Presenter Of The Channel Four Game Show 'countdown',    11.10.1985. .   (Photo by Avalon/Getty Images)
Richard Whiteley was the original and longest-serving host. (Getty Images)

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The original and best-known host of Countdown was Richard Whiteley, who was with the quiz from its debut in 1982 until his death in June 2005.

Journalist and broadcaster Whiteley co-starred with Carol Vorderman, who found fame after joining the show during his tenure, and current Dictionary Corner lead Susie Dent also debuted alongside them in 2004.

Vorderman made an emotional tribute to her friend on Countdown after his death, saying "the clock stopped too soon", and since 2005 the series champions have been awarded the Richard Whiteley Memorial Trophy in tribute to him.

Des Lynam 2005 - 2006

Des Lynam attending the Tric Awards, London.   (Photo by Ian West - PA Images/PA Images via Getty Images)
Des Lynam had a short stint in charge. (PA)

Putting in a short stint as host after Whiteley's death was sports broadcaster Des Lynam, whose time on the show ran through until the end of 2006.

He had originally been contracted until the end of 2007, but quit after 18 months because of the long journey from his home in West Sussex to the studio in Leeds for filming.

Lynam has since returned as a Dictionary Corner guest.

Des O'Connor 2007 - 2008

Des O'Connor joins the cast of Dreamboats and Petticoats at the Playhouse theatre, London
Des O'Connor left the role to get back to theatre performing. (PA)

Lynam was succeeded by another short-term presenter, Des O'Connor, who put in two years at the helm.

The late performer and presenter eventually decided to leave Countdown at the end of 2008 as he wanted to get back to his roots in theatre work and entertainment.

Jeff Stelling 2009 - 2011

Hartlepool United Director and Sky TV Presenter Jeff Stelling  during the Vanarama National League match between Hartlepool United and Stockport County at Victoria Park, Hartlepool on Saturday 25th January 2020. (Photo by Mark Fletcher/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
Jeff Stelling swapped football for quizzing. (Getty Images)

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Next, the quiz show went for another sports presenter - Jeff Stelling, who had reportedly been in the running to replace Whiteley back in 2005.

Stelling was also joined by a new maths whizz when he began filming, Rachel Riley, who is still in the role now.

He decided to leave at the end of 2011 to get back to his day job presenting football coverage, but Stelling has since dipped his toes in the water of gameshow hosting again with two-series ITV show Alphabetical.

Nick Hewer 2012 - 2021

Nick Hewer at the LBC 97.3 40th birthday party, at Millbank Tower, in Westminster, central London.
Nick Hewer put in the best part of 10 years at Countdown. (PA)

After Whiteley, by far the longest-running host of Countdown has been Nick Hewer, who served from January 2012 until the end of 2021.

Best known as Lord Sugar's colleague and aide in The Apprentice, Hewer branched out into his own TV work as a popular presenter of the quiz.

He had a short break at the end of 2020 when the second coronavirus lockdown meant that he was unable to travel to film the show, with newly-announced Robinson replacement Colin Murray making his host debut as a stand-in.

Hewer decided to move on from the role in 2021, with Robinson taking over as the first female Countdown host.

Anne Robinson 2021 - 2022

Anne Robinson in the Countdown studio
Anne Robinson says Countdown was her TV 'swansong'. (Channel 4)

Anne Robinson announced she was quitting as host of Countdown after just less than a year in the role, with her time as host plagued by rumours that she didn't get on with co-stars Riley and Dent.

She said she wanted to concentrate on her family, home and garden - and hoped that Channel 4 would sign up another older woman as presenter, although they have now announced their decision to go with a younger man.

Read more: Anne Robinson says she's retired from TV after Countdown 'swansong'

On her decision to call time on her Countdown role, Robinson said: "I’ve had a blast hosting this wonderful show. And I stayed longer than I signed up for. Now it is time for an older woman to take the reins. I hope too I’ve encouraged TV bosses to realise that not all women at the wrong end of their seventies are in care homes playing bingo and watching conjuring tricks.

"In fact, the genius of Countdown is that it’s a brilliant way to keep the brain exercised. I run 5k most days of the week. And I can now do an anagram at twice the speed I could this time last year. But I have grandchildren, a large garden and a home in New York, all deserving more of my attention."

Countdown airs on weekdays at 2.10pm on Channel 4.

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