TV Time: Does Racing Make Best Use of It?

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Laffit Pincay III and Randy Moss on set at Santa Anita Park Laffit Pincay III and Randy Moss on set at Santa Anita Park

In one sense, horse racing’s television presence has never had better continuity. After years of the major events rotating networks, racing’s high-profile properties are finally under one umbrella – the NBC Sports Group.

From the Road to the Kentucky Derby through the Triple Crown races to the summer staples at Saratoga and the Breeders’ Cup, partnerships with NBC have created stability for the sport and its fans.

But what might be the next step forward for racing on TV? Ratings have remained consistently low for most events outside of the Triple Crown, and it’s hard to argue, based on handle and attendance figures, that TV has been a significant driver of new fan interest.


For one thing, even though racing is on the same network throughout the year, NBC has several different partners in funding and creating the productions. The Jockey Club and the host racetracks collaborate on the Road to the Kentucky Derby. Churchill Downs, Inc. partners with NBC on the Derby, the Stronach Group for the Preakness, the New York Racing Association for the Belmont, and the Breeders’ Cup for the year-end championships. Each of those interests has its own vision, its own motivations, its own goals.

“At the end of the day, everybody kind of watches out for themselves,” said Billy Rapaport, an independent producer/director who has worked on racing telecasts since the 1980′s. “Having it under one roof, the way the NFL does, for example, could be better. But it would take a very unique, unifying person.”

Certainly, having a commissioner or a national “league office” for racing might help the sport harness its TV exposure for better results, but past efforts to unify the sport have failed, and there is little current progress on that front. What else might help racing parlay its television presence into new fans?

Rapaport believes racing’s unique opportunity is that it is unlike any other sport on TV. In most sports, the competition takes up nearly all of the TV time. In racing, the action lasts less than five minutes per hour.

“Horse racing should be a presentation. It should not be ‘covered’ like other sports,” Rapaport said.

“There’s so much focus on the brown horses running at the track that they lose what a racetrack is all about. What has been devalued in Thoroughbred racing programming is the on-track entertainment experience, and that’s what I think will save the sport.”

Rapaport said TV productions too often cut away to videotaped features instead of staying “live” at the track to convey the unique experience of the venue, whether it be Saratoga, Churchill Downs, or Santa Anita.

“How about cutting away live to the Jim Dandy bar at Saratoga?” he said. “The experience of the racetrack is hard to describe to people. One thing TV hasn’t done well is share that experience.”

In the Internet era, TV can also be a “billboard” – a means to an end. Television can drive people to online games and contests, and those interactive platforms in turn drive viewership. ESPN’s popular Streak for the Cash, for example, is a contest challenging people to correctly predict sporting events, many of which air on the network’s TV channels. With a large cash prize at stake each month, players pay attention to sports they might not have followed before. The game also encourages the skill of “handicapping,” obviously something racing would like to do.

One niche sport that has maintained a consistent TV presence for decades is bowling. The Professional Bowlers Association (PBA) still airs regularly on ESPN. Like horse racing, bowling pays for most of its TV coverage. It’s expensive but a necessity, said PBA commissioner Tom Clark.

“We need to be on TV just to maintain the fact that we exist,” Clark said. “For our model now, we need the hours on television to attract the sponsorship dollars that we require.”

Still, the PBA is looking for ways to be less reliant on TV and get the most bang for its buck with the exposure it does get. The new PBA League features teams “owned” by current and former pro athletes, including Terrell Owens, Jerome Bettis, Chris Paul, and Billie Jean King. The idea is to add an element of celebrity that might attract viewers and generate buzz on social media. The PBA has also cut production costs by taping several events at a time, then airing them over consecutive weekends.

“What we find is that most people who watch our shows don’t know what happened,” Clark said. “It hasn’t really impacted our audience numbers.”

Clark said bowling’s core audience has bristled at the idea of taped matches, but they can watch them live online, and the PBA wants to reduce costs while keeping the TV product appealing to a wider audience. Pouring too much money into TV can backfire for sports with niche audiences.

“It comes down to when you’re on,” said Clark. “When you follow a highly-rated show, you do better. When you’re up against a highly-rated show, you won’t do as well.”

Rapaport agrees. Horse racing could also use creative thinking in how, when, and where it is presented. Is racing making the best use of its limited TV budget by primarily airing on traditional sports networks Saturdays from 4 to 6 p.m., sometimes against more popular mainstream sports? NBC/Comcast, for instance, has a wide portfolio of channels.

“You don’t have to be next to these other sports. How do we make them understand it’s more of an entertainment experience – the social, the fashion, the food,” Rapaport said. “Maybe it’s the Travel Channel. Maybe it’s FX. The sports side is covered. Are you gaining new fans from it?”

Some of Rapaport’s ideas include a dating game show or a treasure hunt at the track.

“There are so many fun things that can happen at a racetrack,” he said. “The bottom line is, racing needs to be presented, not covered.”

Another unique aspect of racing compared to other sports is that many of its stars hail from Spanish-speaking countries. Are there ways TV broadcasts can connect with this country’s growing Latino population? Bilingual interviews, for example?

“I think we are missing the boat. There’s a natural Hispanic element to the sport,” said Rapaport. “There are little nuances we can do to be more relevant in the current environment. It’s recognition of wanting to widen the circle and be inclusive.”

Celebrity, interactivity, entertainment, inclusiveness – these are particularly important elements for a sport where the action lasts two minutes, and there’s a half-hour between races. In a world with hundreds of TV channels and endless possibilities online, there may be no shortage of opportunities for racing to make better use of its limited TV time.

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  • Anton Chigurh

    The biggest mistake they make is yammering on about some human interest story on derby day while graded stakes are going on in the background. SHOW THE WHOLE CARD.

    • Quilla

      Please move that camera away from pretentious fools with microphones behind a table (or on a pony) and direct it toward what is happening on the track or in the winner’s circle. And when I was a kid, Ray, there used to be a Saturday afternoon horse racing program on TV sponsored by a beer company and hosted by Win Elliot. Seems as if Kelso ran every week. :)

      • Anton Chigurh

        I’m not so much against the talking heads as I am what they usually have to say. I often hear the complaint that there is too much time between races. I would argue just the opposite. Unless you’ve done some studying before the races I usually spend that time to figure my choice for the next race. By the time you handicap, use the facility, visit the concession stand I find that the 20 – 30 mins is just about right. If the talking heads spent that time going over each horses pps between them they could fill the time easily and engage and educate the folks at home.

        • Quilla

          O.K., pretentious comments from talking heads. :)

          When I’m watching the races on TV (as opposed to HRTV) I’d like to see a little more than self-absorbed hosts preen and chuckle or some ditz gush over hats and how little she knows about wagering. I commented on the Report about 3 months ago that NBC’s Triple Crown presentations were mind-numbingly awful and should have offered more interesting background information on the horses besides their odds.

          When NBC calls me I’m ready with a whole list of grievances and suggestions for improvement (Number 1: keep Bob Costas out of it). Just sayin’…

          • Maureen P

            Agree and also on Bob Costas and I am a race horse owner as well as a fan. Even when a horse I have interest in won a Stakes race there was no show of the winners circle, nor talking with owners/trainers!!! And he was defending champion. I also agree on showing sire and dam. I spoke to someone at TVG last year about that. Nothing happened. I said that is why some of us watch HRTV instead because sire/dam are shown. Most of us watching from home don’t have programs tp see this information.

          • Quilla

            I watched the streaming video of Wise Dan at Woodbine and the best part was watching his handlers love on him as they took him back to the barn. Sooooo much better to see that than a trio of egos spouting nonsense.

            And, yes, indeed, we need to see the names of the sire, dam, and dam’s sire.

            [Congratulations on your win!]

          • Nellie the Paint Pony

            Yes, Costas must go.

            Actually, TVG does show the sire/dam in their charts. HRTV does not.

          • Don Reed

            Bob Costas never shows up for these things. Just the Bob Costas bobblehead doll.

      • drvivianbell

        Kelso DID run every week … and win. ;-)

    • Mimi Hunter

      I’d be happy if they at least showed all the horses entered in the race instead of focusing on a few favorites. With the Derby they often don’t even mention some of the entries – or just pass some off with an ‘also ran’ type statement before the race is even run. NBC is allergic to horses and focuses on the people.

  • Charlie Davis

    He makes some good points.

    A dating game show and a treasure hunt are not good points.

    Taped horse racing will never draw a big audience because…you can’t bet on a race that’s already happened(unless you’re playing instant racing in KY). I like the creativity, but he forgets about the gambling aspect. If the TV time doesn’t bring more gamblers to the game, then it isn’t worth the investment.

    • RayPaulick

      Charlie, when I was a kid there was this show called “Let’s Go to the Races.” You’d get a card from the local grocery store with horses or numbers in each race, then watch that Saturday night to see if you won (prizes were tiered, depending on how many winners you had). The races were taped and racecalls changed, but it was horse racing on TV and helped introduce an Illinois farm kid to the sport. Fifty years later, I still like horse racing, and it’s all because of a taped show.

      http://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=1891&dat=19660117&id=q68fAAAAIBAJ&sjid=J9cEAAAAIBAJ&pg=1387,2141107

      • Charlie Davis

        Not to date you here Ray, but “when you were a kid”, was before the internet and instant access to information! We get everything instantly now, so I just don’t see it working. I see how it worked back then, but we live in a different time.

        The idea of sweepstakes type bet, with no handicapping required(or allowed), does interest me though. I think it’s a way to involve non-fans. I think Sweden does a great job of it, though I can’t remember the name of the bet. I just think the picks have to be in before the races, just like the lottery tickets have to be purchased before the draw. I mean, the lottery is televised, and they’re just drawing balls out of a box. Even if you don’t love horse racing like most of us do, I guarantee it’s more exciting than a lottery draw.

        • RayPaulick

          Please tell me more about this Internet thing.

          • Don Reed

            It’s a Madoff fake. Step back from your computer. All you see is illusion.

          • ThomBurchfield

            Ray: I will try to explain the Internet to you. The Internet is like a bunch of tubes screwed together with wire inside (as a senator from Alaska once told me.). The tubes are then screwed into desktop TV monitors all over the world. Thanks to the Internet you and I can watch all the TV shows we grew up loving: “Father Knows Best,” “My Little Margie,” and “Mr. Peepers.” (We can even watch horse racing, though the resolution is not always very good, being blurry and grainy and Sam Spears does not look as young as he should.) However, I must warn you, wonderful as the Internet is, THERE ARE LOTS AND LOTS OF ANGRY ANGRY PEOPLE that go on it, so if you are prone to saying things like “Dreamer’ is a kind of ridiculous movie about horse racing” you will feel you are being stampeded by a herd of very very angry equines. I hope this has been helpful.

        • Josh Potts

          The Swedish bet is called the V75.

        • Sal Carcia

          Charlie, does the general audience have any idea how to place even a win bet? The ADWs rarely advertise on these shows and if they did there are too many barriers to place a simple wager.

      • thevoiceoftruth69

        Ray, I thought you were in your 40′s.

        • RayPaulick

          I was, in the 90s.

          • Don Reed

            1890s.

      • kyle

        They had the same type of show in NY. You got your tickets along with your green stamps at checkout.

        • Chris Lowe

          S & H!

      • Sal Carcia

        It was a game where the whole audience participated. Horseracing is a participatory sport. TV does not really present a chance for a majority of the audience to participate. Fifteen million people watch the Derby. How many get a chance to put their opinion in action? And believe me, all fifteen million have one.

      • 4Bellwether666

        That promo was hot and exposed a ton of people to Horse racing…

      • Peter Berry

        We had the same show in Australia, called “Off To the Races,” hosted by leading race caller Bert Bryant. It was broadcast on Tuesdays at 3 p.m. (against Ben Casey and Flowerpot Men) and at 10:30 p.m. (against I Spy).

        • Chris Lowe

          Ben Casey and I Spy? Mr. Berry, you’re as old as I!

  • Isabel_NH

    Wow, I hate almost every idea the “expert” presented here:

    “How do we make them understand it’s more of an entertainment experience – the social, the fashion, the food,” Rapaport said. “Maybe it’s the Travel Channel. Maybe it’s FX. The sports side is covered. Are you gaining new fans from it? Some of Rapaport’s ideas include a dating game show or a treasure hunt at the track.” I hate dumb reality TV and certainly don’t tune into racing to get that! What a sad day when they moved Oaks day to the Oxygen Channel (does that even exist anymore?) and tried to make it a broadcast about “fashion” instead of racing.

    Casual fans love horse racing because of the HORSES. Like the person above said, why are you showing the same taped segment 4 times during the broadcast when there is actual RACING going on? I hate that.

    Years ago I was furious that they took the sire/dam info out of the infographics during the Breeder’s Cup Post Parades. It seems like an event designed to feature excellent BREEDING should contain info about the…well…BREEDING of the horses who are running.

    • Don Reed

      The Oxygen Channel merged with the “Stinkogens,” for which a third, new line on the Periodic Chart had to be created (it’s so radioactive, viewers’ eyeballs go WHOOOOSH after only 15 minutes of watching the OxyStink channel).

  • Bob Hope

    isabel NH has it right! The triple crown as well as other GRI races are breeders’ races. The progeny does mean something and offers the bridge to continuity. Good and great horses bring memories of their achievements via their progeny. Wagering jargon should have gone out of the telecast along with Hank Goldberg! Riding horses in races brings life and death in the closest proximity of any sport. it is a beautifully brilliant sport that has attracted some of the greatest sports writers, writers and artist in the world ! Get rid of the crap!

    • Sal Carcia

      It is a “beautifully brilliant sport.” Yes, yes, yes!

  • Right then, Right now

    What could be more important than listening to Matt Carothers’ lengthy diatribes about his hair (what color is it this week, Matt?), or Todd Schrupp’s new favorite band?

    • Don Reed

      MC’s hair fascinates me.

      It, in fact, fascinates millions of viewers around the world.

      Why, there are llamas in South America that would drop a hump at the drop of a hat just to be able run their hooves through that irresistible meadow of golden locks, the veritable 8th Wonder of the world.

  • hadrianmarcus

    When I turn on the NFL, the star of the show is the action on the field, not the fashion, not the food vendors, not a treasure hunt, not a game show. The stories are there for horse racing…the horses, the sires, the owners/trainers/jockeys, and the drama. When I see ‘experts’ recommend…creating new diversions from the on-track action, it tells me they have no faith in their own product. I hear the same crap every year….’we need to appeal to a broader audience, we need to appeal to a younger audience, we need to dumb the broadcasts down.’ Horse racing should not make NASCAR’s mistake…alter their product so much that rather than appeal to a broader audience, they lose a good portion of the one the small one they already have.
    Present the drama, present the beauty and danger of the sport, and don’t insult the intelligence of your audience.

    • RayPaulick

      Racing does have a challenge in that it’s 90 seconds to two minutes of “action” for a one or two-hour telecast.

      • Mimi Hunter

        But there are 20 horses in the Derby – I think that’s the largest field, and Belmont is the smallest [usually] – so there’s about 5 to10 minutes per horse. I think the time would be about the same for the Breeders’ Cup races. What is wrong with talking about the horses ? Instead of all the garbage they talk about.

      • 4Bellwether666

        How about adding another race or two to the TV card even from another track??? Isn’t it Horse racing we want to watch???…

      • Chris Lowe

        Quite like baseball, lol!

  • Don Reed

    No.

  • Glimmerglass

    I frequently see the cry of “get rid of the human interest stories” however if anyone watched the NBC Saratoga coverage this year they largely did just that. Sure a couple 2 min packages showing a slight back story on a particular horse. Gone were the high quality prepackaged stories on the track history, the town, or even an attempt at conveying why the place is a step back in town.

    Instead it was watching paint dry with the announcers having to fill in all the dead space between races … and there is a lot of time. So you get a slew of tv ads and circular talk because the pre-done stories were trimmed back. It’s like watching baseball and that isn’t a compliment. So long, too slow, too boring between starts.

    They ought to revive ABC’s old offering of ‘the Bud Longshot’ at the very least. Give the viewers a reason to look at a horse that isn’t going off at 4/5. Also more remote cameras on the grounds – in the paddock, stabling, heck even on Union Ave – would help. If its too costly, then tap into NYRA and use Maggie Wolfndale with her feedback on the composure of horses being saddled.

    I get that the audience watching NBC instead of HRTV/TVG is likely the recreational viewer so hammering away the pick six pool and other wagering is secondary. Still they need to (1) increase the graphic size of the odds and post race pay offs and (2) do a better job of conveying that this is a wagering event. Wagering is legal and they won’t get struck down by God by mentioning gambling. Yet they act like its a dirty secret.

    Hopefully Fox Sports mentioning they want to focus more on the stats of racing with their coverage will inject a new level of grabbing the audiences’ attention.

    • Don Reed

      “Get rid of the human interest stories…”
      What the TV boobs never understand is that in order to do these kind of stories, they first have to find interesting humans.

  • 15percenttakeoutMonmouthpick4N

    .
    .
    When at the track, It’s about handicapping,Horses and hanging out with friends and always about gambling.
    It’s fun, Now make it look fun to the viewers :)

    • Sal Carcia

      Show the railbirds. Oh, forget it, you’d need a long delay with lots beep buttons. :)

      • Don Reed

        And a method of decontaminating the microphones.

        • Sal Carcia

          Heyyyy! Or is it: Hayyyyy!

          • Don Reed

            Hoe!

    • 4Bellwether666

      You would thank one of those big shots would have figured that out by now…But then again they don’t have a clue…ty…

  • Will LaTulippe

    Stop buying TV time by the hour. For example, the Fourstardave Handicap is a 1:35 race that doesn’t require a one-hour timeslot. 22 minutes in a 30 minute show. Feature on Wise Dan’s trainer, handicapping analysis of the race (which would admittedly be brief for this example, but longer for a bigger field), the race, talk to the winning jockey and trainer, prices, goodbye.

  • 14151617

    Why not the real Jockey’s of each track.Lot’s of cussing,screamin,drama.

    • Don Reed

      18192021.

      • LongTimeEconomist

        Don, is that the current tally of how many posts you have made on Paulick report?

        • Don Reed

          Counting even the ones that I had to ask Ray to kill off – because in retrospect, they should not have been sent – slightly less (fewer).

          (The killed-off ones went into the fewer sewer.)

          But who’s counting?

  • Genellen

    I made it a point to watch the Saratoga races on HRTV and really looked forward to seeing even a snippet about the jockey karaoke that raised funds for the Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund. They sure teased it enough. To my knowledge, not one clip was shown. What a lost opportunity. Sure, HRTV subscribers are the choir, but that would have been a fun part of the NBC Summer at Saratoga broadcast, to show that jockeys are multi-dimensional human beings who are part of a unique community of athletes who compete fiercely and yet are friends, as well as people who risk their lives multiple times a day and pull together to help each other when tragedy strikes.

  • Milezinni

    What the “horse people” have turned horse racing into, is absolutely destined to fail. There is no way to save it. The only way to fix this “sport”, is to get rid of everyone involved. All of them…..and that is going to have to involve jail time, or the people wont forgive. It’s not about perception, that cat is out of the bag, and there ain’t no putting it back. It’s about reality now, and “they” aren’t doing anything to fix it. They can’t.

    • 4Bellwether666

      “The Game” will never die unless “The Planet” does…

  • fb0252

    good to see marketing here as a subject!

  • Sal Carcia

    Gaming will be the next big trend on the internet. Horseracing has a real unique opportunity to jump out ahead here. It is a game (and a sport). Now, we just need to figure out a simple way to get the audience to play. Today’s ADW have to many barriers in order to get the majority of its viewers to play.

  • Jamie F

    Fantasy football has taken the NFL to a new level. Fans now watch games that they would normally care less about. If racing had a true fantasy horseracing game, I think it would help immensely. The ones that have run before or are out there now have been absolutely horrible. Only having 1 or 2 horses run per weekend or everyone in the contest having all the same big horses are just bad concepts. How bad would it suck if everyone in your fantasy football league had Adrian Peterson and Tom Brady. Borrrring. There needs to be a league with a draft and you can activate 10-12 horses every weekend for a season. Be able to trade and pick up horses off the waiver wire (in the barn?) and play an opponent every week. And then have a playoff and championship (during the Triple Crown?). Just finding someone to put up the money and do it is a whole other story. Imagine fans at BW3′s on a Saturday watching TVG and rooting on a $10K claimer at Calder cause he needs a place or better to win that week. Someday….

  • Don Reed

    Channel surfing a few nights ago. Stumbled upon an NBC evening game show. This is where we stand in the scheme of things.

    Two ladies were competing with each other to correctly answer the multi-choice questions displayed on the electronic screen.

    (How original! Ask Regis Philbin if anyone’s ever done anything like this before. Lorne Michaels, same, ask him if they’ve ever spoofed this sort of thing on SNL.)

    The question was (paraphrased):

    “What is the name of the bet in horseracing where you must pick the winner and the second-place finisher in a single race?”

    Their options:

    A) “Trifecta”; B) “Exacta”; C) “Show”; D) “Matt Carothers’s Hair.”

    The first contestant answered, “Show.”

    The host: “No, I’m sorry, that’s incorrect.”

    Second contestant (apparently not listening very carefully): “It’s ‘Show.’ ”

    Well, at least they didn’t select “D).”

    Good luck on getting that magic media elixir that will attract such people to the TV racing
    channels.

  • Lost In The Fog

    We’ve sunk to a new low when we are looking to bowling for answers about how to handle our TV exposure opportunities…

    The bettors and serious horse racing fans are watching TVG/HRTV where the challenges of filling the time are less relevant as those networks bounce from one live race to another live race at a different track. In a 30-minute period they can easily broadcast three to six different races. As a result the horse racing junkies and aficionados aren’t going to watch the NBC broadcasts regardless when TVG/HRTV better meet their needs for both action and simulcast wagering.

    The approach of NBC (and previously ABC/ESPN) has been wrong from the start. Showing a total of 120 seconds worth of action in a 60-minute+ broadcast window is a losing proposition unless you can surround those 120 seconds of action with content that is truly compelling to those who have only a passing interest in the sport. More of that additional compelling content could and should revolve around the star power of the athletes (both equine and human) competing in the races. Every major sport, with the exception of horse racing, thrives in part because of the star power of its participants. In horse racing we have very few equine athletes who are around long enough to even build a significant following because so many are retired to the breeding shed after a two-three year career on the track. As for the human athletes – the top jockeys who have longer careers – horse racing has virtually ignored the opportunity to build superstars. This represents an elemental failure.

    • LongTimeEconomist

      Excellent analysis, but remember that TV execs could not care less whether a viewer is a knowledgeable PR reader or some housewife in Dubuque who wants to see all the pretty hats on women in the crowd. All that counts to them is the number of eyeballs tuned in. Consequently, we will always get all those sappy segments in between races that are a total turn off to knowledgeable fans.

  • 4Bellwether666

    For starters all race Horses are not brown…

  • ROCnDOC

    I agree with Isabel..that is one laundry list of bad ideas. It doesn’t seem that complicated to me…quite simple actually- most people watch the races for 2 reasons: #1 – the HORSES..in fact, this probably should be number 1 and 2. Its all about the horses. So please before a race, especially a big race-detail ALL the horses. The public wants to know their stories and get to know them..show them in the barn, interacting with staff – we all know they have their own personalities – show the sweet tooth, show the badass…everybody loves things for different reasons…let the public bond with the horses. Have a bio- and pictures from a young age, never met anyone that didnt like a young horse. #2 – the other reason people watch is the fun and sport of trying to pick the winner. Very simple. How can we apply this more practically to racing? Steal a page from American Idol and use telephone “betting”. The public would not really be betting, but selecting their choice via telephone “bet”. The running tally could be shown as we await the race. The technology is simple and already available. This connects the viewer to the event. The hard core bettor is going to be on TVG,twinspires or the like…so doesnt relate to them…I’m talking about reaching the masses. The other key is moving races to nighttime primetime..I know its not popular,but look, Wrigley Field has lights now, everybody has to adjust to the times or fade away. Would be much easier to attain a big audience and apply the afore mentioned strategy. And lastly, after a big race, interview the owners please,allow their exuberance to be forwarded to the viewer…show the public that you don’t have to be a CEO, Hollywood mogul, or trustee brat to participate in this thrilling sport….as a lowly doctor I love to explain to my friends the unbelievable thrill experienced with a trip to the winner’s circle! The public needs to know that with partnerships and syndicates, they too can be a part of this amazing sport!

    • Maureen P

      Very well said. As a small owner I know what you mean, being left out of the experience the telecast doesn’t cover. When viewing a tape of my horse’s stakes win and seeing nothing of even the winner’s circle, let alone talk to any of us owners, was disheartening to say the least.

  • Kirk S.

    TV sports productions usually have two kinds of producers. Those that don’t know enough about the sport to do it justice and those who know too much and assume everyone knows the game the way they do. Either way you get extremes.

    The one thing most producers or execs in TV have in common in this: Contempt for the viewer. They get obsessed with ratings, numbers and other ambiguous data instead of thinking of having an audience of One. Entertain him, inform him but for gawd sakes, don’t insult his intelligence or bore him.

    Many of the posts on this topic get the idea. Get the viewer involved. NBC would be wise to invest in tech the way HBO and other entertainment channels have done by providing additional access to their telecast.

    By iPad, smart phone or PC, let the viewer explore the races, the venues, the back story of owners, trainers, jockeys and horses on their own. Have a section on how to bet the races, explaining everything from win, place and how bets to exotics, from exactas to the Pick 6.

    Working with whatever past performance provider is on the telecast, let them download the PPs for the race. Set up a Race Fantasy wagering app. Let the viewer “bet” on the races to see if they can pick the winner.

    Before some of you type “ADW,” let me remind you. It’s not legal in every state to have access to an ADW. And I bet many who live in a state with an ADW even know what it is. Interactive apps with networks can be a tool to let them find out on their own.

    All that real data can be used by the network, the track and other racing people to gauge how they are reaching the audience. The network can show the results, “For those of you who wagered with our Fantasy App, 38 percent of you….” You get the idea.

    But I am sorry, the packages about owners, hats, drinks and other nonsense will be a part of every telecast. That decision has been made and will continue to be made by suits in New York telling the suits at the track what they think will “keep viewers.”

  • nu-fan

    Could it be that the reason that TV is having a tough time finding enough viewers to watch horseracing is for the simple fact that the world is changing including how they value animals? Heard a news item, today, about how bull fighting is losing its audience in Spain because its citizens have changed their viewpoint about that sport. More are finding it brutal and animal abuse. Could the U.S. population also be increasingly viewing horseracing as a sport where horses are abused with drugs or breaking down on the track? The visuals of seeing the horses whipped doesn’t help much either. Perhaps, there are more people who do not find joy in this sport because of these and other issues. If that perception has validity, it really doesn’t make that much difference how the sport is packaged.

  • Hoops and Horses

    What this sport needs to do is something I have said for many years: Be much more flexible with scheduling of major races in general AND go into time slots that are NOT traditional for the sport. It’s something we already began to see last year with the Breeders’ Cup Classic in prime time for the first time ever and is something NBC now wants. That could actually expand as early as 2014 with NBC wanting the Breeders’ Cup to cover all of (east coast) Saturday prime time to 11:00 PM ET (plus an hour on Friday from 10:00-11:00 PM ET) as it at least gives NBC a chance to get some ratings on a night where TV ratings are outside of sports somewhere near the bottom of the ocean (and why lights I suspect beginning as early as next year will be a requirement of ANY track hosting the Breeders’ Cup, including Santa Anita). With live sports the only thing that does well in Saturday prime time (why we now have college football on Saturday nights on over-the-air networks now) and even Sunday prime time in the summer, the networks are more likely than ever to fill the bill with sports, and this even could expand to Friday nights in the future because of lifestyle changes.

    Horse Racing does have one advantage in this regard in that NBC does not grossly overpay the sport like the networks often do for other sports. With TV ratings early on Sunday evenings as bad as Saturday nights in some instances, it presents an opportunity for the sport next summer even if local merchants in Saratoga Springs would get sick to their stomachs over it: Making “Summer at Saratoga” a seven-week Sunday night series from 7:00-8:00 PM ET. This would mean NYRA would have to move first post on most Sundays to 2:00 PM locally and most of its traditional fixtures the last (1-2) race(s) of the Sunday program to accommodate such a time slot, with the last race on most Sundays in the fading twilight at 7:45 PM ET (7:35 PM on the final two Sundays, which can be done as I’ve seen races from the Harness track nearby and there is still daylight that late). Even with this, the Travers would remain in its more traditional Saturday slot though the Whitney, Sword Dancer and Alabama probably would be among the stakes events moved to Sunday evening for this.

    Thoroughbred racing also needs to work with Harness Racing in sometimes doing joint broadcasts. A perfect example of this would be (usually) the Saturday of the week after the Belmont Stakes, when Churchill Downs has their “other” big day (or in this case, night) of the spring meet, the card headlined by the Stephen Foster while Mohawk Raceway has the first major Harness stakes events of the year for three year olds, headlined by the North American Cup for male pacers, one of the most important events for that group. Churchill’s stakes and the stakes at Mohawk could be combined into a two-hour broadcast from 9:00-11:00 PM ET with special cross-breed Pick Sixes, Pick Fours, Pick Threes and Doubles offered. Other times, the sport needs to have tracks work together to put together made-for-TV race cards that can take up all of Saturday prime time from 8:00-11:00 PM ET, usually anchored by 1-3 major stakes events with 6-8 other more significant races done in a fast-paced format more in line with what “the milennials” (those born after 1980) want to see and when they want to see it.

    This is just some of what is needed to be done in this sport.

  • br

    Better Handicapping Information….. I want to see a host break down every horses chances and how likely they are to run their best. I would like in depth race replays illustrating those points and in depth analysis of key races those horses were in and what the horses he beat or beat him did next out. I want a full comprehensive review for peple to all make their best informed decisions while betting, because most new fans complain they don’t understand how to read a program…

  • 4Bellwether666

    Tell them to catch the “America’s Cup” races (NBC Sports channel) to see how its done…They need to open their ******* eyes???…For a change!!!…

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