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Monday, April 13, 2009

Another TV Black Eye?

"Despite what you may hear or read, I feel that ESPN's commitment to Thoroughbred racing is as strong, if not stronger, than ever." ~ NTRA CEO's Blog, March 20, 2009

The commitment that just keeps on being broken. First it was Kentucky Oaks. The latest news is that that the WWL dropped the Preakness undercard on May 16th as well as Friday's "Black-Eyed Susan" Day on the 15th. Two cards I always enjoyed watching (in HD) and playing along. Now I'm not bashing the NTRA on this, as they don't control the Triple Crown series, the tracks do ("Triple Crown shoulder programming is handled not by the NTRA, but by the three tracks and their broadcast partners"), as astutely pointed out by the leader of our national trade group in the aforementioned blog.

So maybe it's time to dump college lacrosse-toting ESPN and find the right partner who is really committed to the sport and backs it up with more than words. We won't be missing Hank "Freezin' Fries" Goldberg, that's for sure. Confession: I would miss Randy Moss, however.

So what cable network would you want them to try? Versus (the former Outdoor Life Network) has been bantered around Twitterville - as they do an admirable job with NHL Hockey? How about Animal Planet - with their natural tie-in with the reality show, Jockeys? What if Bravo does a standup job with the Kentucky Oaks, could they be an interested party? How about USA network or TBS/TNT, both who have proven they can be an alternative to the nationals with baseball and basketball? Dare to dream, how about the NTRA Network? Maybe then they could bring back the NTRA National Pick 4 and televise all four races in their weekly broadcast and teach new fans how to play along.
I've posted a poll with these on the upper left sidebar, let me know what you think or if I missed a logical potential partner? Note: I did not include TVG/HRTV, both are picked up mainly on satellite systems...thinking cable TV here only.


Superfecta said...

We finally get TVG and HRTV now that we have FiOS (which is much cheaper and better than our old cable), so they are both appearing on more cable stations via that route; having said that, I wouldn't mind if racing went the way soccer does, with some key games on ESPN and the rest as part of my MLS Shootout package - it's extra revenue, after all, that way (and it means there's the off chance that some pubs and bars would put big races on).

I'm all for dumping Hank, but I'd like to keep Randy.

Wind Gatherer said...

The NTRA can't put together a memo let alone a nationally broadcast event. If they withdrew from the game I think it would be a giant step in the right direction.

TBS, TNT, VS are probably the only legitimate venues and VS is the realistic one.

ESPN can go spit.

Anonymous said...

ESPN puts on only a handful races a year because the horse racing industry $upports only a handful of races a year. It's simple economics. ESPN has a policy concerning LIVE sporting events. They leave them when they are finished. The Ark Derby went off at 6:50 (ET) and the ESPN2 broadcast started at 6:15 with first 15 mins airing on ESPN Classic. What did we really miss - about 10 minutes of content. So, chill out guys - we got 30 minutes of pre-race content for a 2-minute event. Btw, Hank gave out the exacta - the last two weeks. The same Hank who is the go to guy on ESPN for NFL gambling. He's most definitely rough around the edges but has quite a following in a sport (NFL) with 4000x the fan base as ours.

Anonymous said...

Btw, the ratings on TBS and TNT for repeats of Law and Order and old movies rate about 60% higher than any live horse race on cable TV

EquiSpace said...

Super: FiOS just became available in our area, nationally they have a 9-12% market share and are starting to gain ground...I wish I had the choice two years ago when I went with direcTV.

WG: Good point, as always.

Anon: You missed the point of the post which was ESPN has dropped two major days of racing it had covered in the past (Oaks day/Preak undercard) and looks to be starting to abandon racing. I wasn't questioning there not showing the first fifteen was a replay of the BG anyhow.

Re: Hank..Even I gave out the exacta on the Ark Derby in my Bluegrass Day post, so that's not saying much...

Thanks for reading and commenting.

Anonymous said...

The point is that ESPN did not "drop" coverage. Actually, quite the opposite. They are not in the business of losing money. If some entity wanted to pay the bills, the shows would be on the air. In the past, someone/some org was willing to take the risks associated with producing and selling the commercials (I believe Ray P. alluded to this in his blog a couple of weeks ago) however those days are over. It's 2009 and we;re in the worst economy of our lives, - reg season horse racing ( including undercard races on big days) is not exactly a great sell to advertisers (see EIGHT BELLES) as our demo is between 55 and dead. Sucks but it's the truth.

EquiSpace said...

Anon: The TT headline is "ESPN networks DROP Preakness undercard races" so I have to respectfully disagree, they did drop them. I understand the economics, and if they don't work for the WWL let's find someone who will make it work.

We need to change that demographic somehow to make the networks want us.

What is your solution?

Anonymous said...

Our ratings are poor. Our demos are poor. Moving to a 2nd rate network is not the solution. We need to keep big time horse racing on ESPN (about 12 to 16 races a year plus the TC and BC is probably the right amount)so we can be somewhat relevant in the sports landscape. That costs money so we need continue to support the shows so we can get tracks to support the NTRA so they can pay for the TV. That's first and foremost because sooner or later - at the rate we're going - they'll only be the TC and BC and then just the TC and then just the Derby. SO, we need to support these shows or else. How do we get our demos and interest up is the age old question that needs fresh thinking. I'll get back to you on that one! This old guy needs his rest!

Anonymous said...

I think ESPN gives horseracing national coverage where more people can possibly be exposed to it. Any of those other networks will make it impossible for horseracing to gain a new fan base, which it so desperately needs. I have never understood why the great ads that are out there for horseracing are only used during horseracing shows. They should be used in other sport venues so people can get a clue what it's about.

Anonymous said...

Blah,Blah,Blah !!

Typical ESPN !!
Give us plenty of what we don't want to watch !

Love Moss & Bailey ,they do a great job.

Try being a Horse racing fan in Saratoga Springs & trying to watch racing.

I can get the local OTB telecast on cable,or I can get TVG on DirectTV,or HRTV on Dish network.
Who can afford all 3 ????

How about a Horse racing network available everywhere ??

You know, maybe you've heard of the NFL network,MLB Network,NBA TV,NHL Network,Tennis Channel ,Golf Channel ???

Oh , wait !! Nevermind the NTRA is too busy having Knee-Jerk reactions !!

What was I Thinking ???

Anonymous said...

I would love to know how many other sporting events have to pay for coverage.

Pull the Pocket said...

Is that your dog? I love retrievers!

Anyway, back on topic. Well not really. Your dog has TVG on. TVG is producing television right now, every day, and they are not doing a bad job. In fact, I watch TVG on BC day, rather than a network, because they cover the races, not the human interest stories, but that is just me. The point being: TVG is already there, a new network is not needed. Would it not make sense for TVG to produce this, then resell it to a network(s) starved for a live event, like Versus? In my understanding there is no rule where Versus has to produce the coverage to show the coverage, TVG just sells it as content.

In Canada there are outlets that would pick up coverage I am sure, like Game TV, which shows gambling, or our national sports channel. Ditto for the UK and Australia.

I think selling to the masses has long been tried, and has long failed. They are not watching, so reselling to targeted demographics, on the web, and on specialty channels all over the globe would prove to be a better plan for 2010 and beyond.


EquiSpace said...

PTP: That's not Tanner Jones (the infamous cockapoo who roams the Space Station), but just a random retriever...LOL

I like your points. The problem in the US (as pointed out by Anon 11:40's rant) is TVG is mainly only on direcTV and HRTV is on Dish. Superfecta points out FiOS is the only outlet currently picking up both. Power Cap has a good post today that mirrors your thoughts...

Teag said...

I am lucky enough to get both TVG and HRTV through AT&T. Of course I watch them, but I can't take them seriously as sports networks until they broadcast in HD. Call me spoiled, but watching non-HD sports nowadays is like eating day-old toast.

Anonymous said...

The undercard shows on the Derby and Preakness days don't matter much anyway when the networks opt not to SHOOOOOOOOOOOOOOW the actual races going on in the background.

How many times have you played a Derby pick-4 and found that one of your first couple of legs ran at just the precise time that ESPN was switching over to ABC/NBC, and never telecast?


SaratogaSpa said...

A niche network like Versus is the best shot. Sad to say but ESPN is just looking at the #'s ...and they aren't good.

Anonymous said...

The problem with both HRTV and TVG is the cost. ESPN/ABC are chumps. HRTV and TVG are smothered by the talking heads. What the industry needs is an IPTV based system that allows all tracks, all the time. This is the future of horse racing content delivery and it is coming. Imagine being able to key a button on your laptop and get the feed from any track on your television at any time. 12 months out. This will evolve into the NTRA fantasy channel you mention. Without the jarheads that run the NTRA!

Brian Russell said...

This is very bad. Many non-racing fans have parties and even bookies present for the Derby and Preakness undercards. Granted, this won't affect Louisville or Baltimore but it will the rest of the country.


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