After years of promises and disappointments, true two-way interactivity for horse-race wagering will reach 10 million TV sets nationwide this month through the Dish Network's launch March 2 of the TVG Interactive Horseracing channel.EchoStar Communications Corp.'s satellite service has begun rolling out the virtual channel to the 90% of its 11 million customers who can access its interactive services, a process that will take until the end of the month, the company said. It gives all of those subscribers the ability to access wagering and handicapping information for TVG's tracks by pushing a button on a Dish Network remote control. Viewers do not need any additional hardware to access the service, which comes with Dish's basic offering, its "Top 60" package that costs $31.99 a month.Only those who reside in the 12 states where TVG is allowed to open accounts can wager through the new interactive service, but everyone can access live odds, scratches, track conditions, and other information.
TVG's service is not a channel in the traditional sense in that it sits right on top of its current spot at Channel 405 on the Dish line-up. To access the interactive information, viewers press an on-screen icon. "This is the first horse-racing related application" for interactive television, said TVG president Ryan O'Hara in an interview. "It is one of the first sports-related ones, and is the most robust by far."EchoStar represents about 60% of TVG's nearly 14 million customers. Revenues at TVG reached about $39 million in 2004, a 37% increase from 2003, according to parent company Gemstar-TV Guide International's year-end financials.